Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. 100
    The casting of Reeves in the lead role is inspired: who better than the star of "The Matrix" and its sequels, a trilogy that borrows heavily from Dick's sensibility and obsessions, to play a personality split through overindulgence in drugs and manipulation by outside forces he barely recognizes?
  2. Reviewed by: Duane Byrge
    Audiences will have to seek out their own peculiar diversions in order to last the whole course of this demi-dud.
  3. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    The most impressive thing about the film's technical wizardry is, finally, how unimpressive it is. One doesn't leave the movie with a mind blown by visual bedazzlement but with a soul shattered by the profound sense of tragedy Linklater and company so beautifully put across.
  4. It's one of the most faithful movie adaptations of any Dick story to date, and it comes from the scariest of all his books, as well as the truest.
  5. 75
    This gifted writer-director isn't out to dull the masses with cinematic opium. Embedded in the visionary headtrip of A Scanner Darkly is a hotly political call to arms.
  6. 75
    Doesn't quite live up to the promise of its opening sequence, but it's still an audacious offering during a season of brain-dead blockbusters.
  7. The visual style and lethargic pace can be frustrating -- at least if you're sober -- but the animated tragedy is still a success.
  8. 75
    But transforming full, live-action performances into quavering cartoons isn't inherently lyrical, and here it produces the jittery sense of a world dissolving into flat forms and buzzing prattle.
  9. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    There's conspiracy here, as there is in all of Dick's books, and it wraps the film up with a moving but somewhat neat bowtie.
  10. 63
    More than once during A Scanner Darkly, you find yourself wishing these characters would just shut up.
  11. Scanner is mostly all talk, and the talk is entertaining only when it's coming from Downey. The actor's long history of drug abuse taught him a thing or two about cooked behavior, and he gives some anxious run-on monologues that are very funny.
  12. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Definitely not for everyone. It's a very bleak story with uneven pacing and a narrative whose jumps in time are confusing and occasionally infuriating. But the post-apocalyptic mood blends well with its uniquely stylized look and surreal story.
  13. 63
    If ever there was a movie more destined to become a cult phenomenon, I don't know if I can name it.
  14. Smartly cast, in the sense that Reeves, gloomy and pained, and Harrelson, confused and explosive, both seem befuddled while Downey, as the devious, intellectual Barris, is befuddling.
  15. It's watchable, due to the rotoscoping technique...It's also as lightweight as the smoke rings blown by one of many perverse, dull characters.
  16. A rambling depiction of a junkie's descent into zombitude.
  17. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Its intelligence makes it near-essential viewing.
  18. 60
    Isn't as dark or sinister as its source material, but it comes closer than any other filmed attempts to this point. It may only be a decent movie, but it's a pretty fine PKD adaptation.
  19. As a whole, the film has too little character and/or plot development to sustain narrative interest. What A Scanner Darkly excels at is mood and tone.
  20. Probably the most faithful to the writer's tortured spirit. It's the kind of movie that gets under your skin - and stays there.
  21. The film is weirdly fascinating in its own maverick way.
  22. 75
    With everything this film has going for it - humor, intelligence and a splendid ensemble - Richard Linklater's nightmare drug movie, A Scanner Darkly, should be continually compelling. But it loses its fizz after a strong series of pops.
  23. In A Scanner Darkly, we're watching other people freak out, but the film is maddening to sit through because their freak-outs never become ours.
  24. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    What a breath of fresh air this stifling, claustrophobic, boldly uningratiating vision of an American subculture's last gasp imparts to its contrarian core audience. (Call me a hopeless addict: I've seen it three times.)
  25. The brilliance of A Scanner Darkly is how it suggests, without bombast or fanfare, the ways in which the real world has come to resemble the dark world of comic books.
  26. Without its animation, A Scanner Darkly would have made a fine cautionary tale about drug addiction, paranoia and institutional treachery in a police state. But with a technique that turns the existing live action into a two-dimensional cartoon, the movie goes one -- maybe even 10 -- better. It becomes its own living, breathing metaphor.
  27. 80
    There's no other filmmaker, living or dead, who could produce a futuristic sci-fi nightmare, a hipster comedy, a haunting film noir and a cartoon, all in the same movie.
  28. Reviewed by: Christopher Orr
    As they (Robert Downey Jr. and Woody Harrelson) bicker and banter, threaten one another with small household objects, and try (unsuccessfully) to determine the number of gears on a bicycle, they display a combination of irritability and incompetence that is the soul of comedy.
  29. 80
    Downey, who, having grasped that he's playing a cartoon character, delivers the most animated performance. (Midway through 2006, this supporting turn is the performance to beat in what seems the year's American movie to beat.)
  30. Rotoscoping makes certain sense for a film about cognitive dissonance and alternative realities, though both the vocal and gestural performances by Mr. Reeves, Mr. Harrelson and, in particular, the wonderful Mr. Downey make me wish that we were watching them in live action.
  31. Reviewed by: Justin Chang
    Deeply intriguing but almost too-faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's nightmarish 1977 novel.
  32. 67
    Which makes it all the more frustrating that the film doesn't quite work, and that it drags from episode to episode--some are brilliant, most merely intriguing--with little momentum.
  33. 75
    Turns out to be more ordinary than the recipe might suggest. Oh, it's dense and funny and assured, but it's also chatty and listless in a fashion that constrains a narrative film, which, however reluctantly, it is.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 135 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 46 out of 64
  2. Negative: 14 out of 64
  1. Feb 19, 2011
    Good animation flick. Im not to much of an animation movie fan but this has a good/wicked plot to it with a twist. Its a crazy animation that will leave some thinking wtf did I just watch. Its clearly NOT for everyone but for a person like me I enjoyed this flick very much. Full Review »
  2. Nov 14, 2011
    This film is a jigsaw puzzle. It's certainly not for everyone, and it requires patience and possibly repeat viewings in order to be fully understood and enjoyed. The acting is superb from all the cast, but Robert Downey Jr.'s performance stands out as the best by far. The animation style adds to the surreal atmosphere and matches the disturbing dystopian setting perfectly. It is done in such a way that it doesn't detract from the story or any actor's performance at all, and merely serves to enhance the audience's image of the characters' paranoid, drug-addled minds. There's perhaps a little too much to take in the first time you watch it, and the plot is sometimes a little less than coherent. However, it stays true to the book, and the message it is trying to convey is clear throughout the film. Full Review »
  3. Aug 7, 2011
    An amazing cast, with visionary ideas that scream of paranoia. Great visuals which make the audience feel like they are apart of this drug-centered dystopia. Many hidden meanings and plotlines lead to a more captivating experience and begs for multiple viewings. Interesting to say the least. Full Review »