Generally favorable reviews - based on 23 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 23
  2. Negative: 0 out of 23

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Critic Reviews

  1. In addition to its own merits as a social and cultural document, Broomfield's film continues the welcome trend of more and more nonfiction movies finding their way to theater screens and attracting wide general audiences.
  2. On the eve of Wuornos' 2002 execution, Broomfield digs deep into her abusive hell of a background (beatings, incest, sleeping homeless in the frozen Michigan woods) as well as her quasi-psychotic defense mechanisms.
  3. 88
    No one should have to endure the life that Aileen Wuornos led, and we leave the movie believing that if someone, somehow, had been able to help that little girl, her seven victims would never have died.
  4. 80
    It makes an eloquent case against the death penalty, especially when imposed on the mentally incompetent. For if one thing is clear by the time she went to the execution chamber, it's that Wuornos is barking mad, her eyes wild and vengeful, yet also, on some level, already dead.
  5. She was guilty, no doubt, but as this immensely moving film makes clear, Aileen Wuornos was also heartbreakingly human.
  6. 80
    The pacing is perfect and there’s no shortage of interesting revelations, and let’s face it, there aren’t many more subjects under the sun that are more interesting than serial killers. Consider "Aileen" to be an essential viewing companion to its dramatic narrative counterpart.
  7. Engrossing, educational, amusing and disturbing. And who could ask for more than that from a film?
  8. Although Broomfield's grandstanding has provoked charges of hypocrisy, this is a genuinely moral work that raises unsettling questions about the haphazard application of the death penalty, and it's certainly more complex and affecting than the fictionalized portrait of Wuornos in "Monster."
  9. It becomes unmistakably clear that Wuornos’ wretched childhood and young life is representative of a deep failure within American society to adequately protect our young and defenseless. This becomes part of the movie’s argument against capital punishment.
  10. The filmmaker's ego and ethics aside, there's no denying the power of Wuornos' behavior here.
  11. 75
    Shocking and indispensable viewing.
  12. Sometimes demure, sometimes funny and other times flat-out crazed, Wuornos was effusive and confrontational when Broomfield filmed her just before her 2002 execution in Florida.
  13. 75
    Never buys into Wuornos' bizarre claims or questions her guilt in the murders. It does, however, make a powerful argument against capital punishment, no matter which side of the debate you happen to take.
  14. 75
    Aileen is Broomfield working compassionately. Perhaps it's only because he knows he can't save Wuornos that he can offer her as she might have been: part wounded animal, part self-destructive martyr, and all tragedy.
  15. The most damning account of the failure of the criminal justice system in America anyone is ever likely to see.
  16. Presents itself as an anguished brief against capital punishment, especially the execution of people who are legally insane...But the timing of its release smacks of the very exploitation that Mr. Bloomfield condemns.
  17. 63
    A sobering, if exploitative, portrait of the real-life hitchhiking hooker portrayed so realistically by Charlize Theron in "Monster."
  18. Though one can question the movie's quality as a documentary -- Broomfield is a dogged but often annoying interviewer, and Churchill's photography is sometimes slapdash -- Aileen raises such troubling issues that it stays, hellishly, in your mind.
  19. Reviewed by: Ronnie Scheib
    It's the interviews with Aileen herself that steal the show as she insists her mind is being controlled by radio waves -- her Mad Hatter personality beyond the scope of Broomfield's disingenuous tone to interpret.
  20. 60
    Broomfield's investigatory technique remains a frustrating pileup of unfocused Q&As and misplaced credulity. But when Broomfield travels to her Michigan hometown, he pieces together a life blighted at breech-birth: a grotesque of abandonment, incest, physical and sexual abuse, pregnancy at 13, and homelessness.
  21. Wuornos was unambiguous about one thing: She wanted to die. In the end, that's the only assurance the movie provides. It's an odd kind of closure for her and for us.
  22. 50
    Broomfield's documentaries present life on the fringes as one long, sick joke. The joke still works, but in Life And Death Of A Serial Killer, it leaves a bitter aftertaste.
  23. Broomfield's film is typically self-aggrandizing but filled with unsettling moments.

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