Universal acclaim - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 28 out of 29
  2. Negative: 0 out of 29
  1. 100
    A very funny, sometimes very sad documentary.
  2. Smith's gleeful, touching documentary records the agony and the ecstasy of realizing your dream, and intangible ways that such dreams help keep people alive.
  3. That's why American Movie cuts so deep: It's about the American dream, about not giving up, about being true to yourself.
  4. 100
    A revealing, intimate, quirky and generous portrait of nothing less than the American Dream.
  5. Reviewed by: Janet Maslin
    The rare documentary that combines a wildly charismatic subject with an elegant structure...not-to-be-missed.
  6. As quintessential a story of American ambition as Welles' own "Citizen Kane."
  7. Reviewed by: Sara Raskin
    Near-perfect editing, and cleverly poignant dialogue.
  8. 90
    This unassuming, insistently entertaining documentary has the virtue of a great subject.
  9. Reviewed by: Ernest Hardy
    Though a little long, the film takes us right inside both the creative impulse and the margins of American life. Its triumph is to show those two things as being deeply, wonderfully connected.
  10. Reviewed by: Russel Smith
    A revealing, heart- and mind-engaging insight into a uniquely American character type many of us may have known.
  11. Of all the many documentaries that take you along on a movie shoot, one of my all-time favorites is this delightfully scrappy, sometimes poignant, often hilarious show.
  12. Hysterical-depressing, vividly sobering.
  13. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    This thorough original is a wall-to-wall exercise in gallows humor, a movie whose full funny/sad effect doesn't hit until you reflect upon the subject and the cast of characters.
  14. 83
    But this is pretty honest and true filmmaking, nonetheless; try as you might, you can't detect the leer of the satirist.
  15. 80
    Brilliant, mind-boggling.
  16. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Wildly entertaining and quite poignant.
  17. 80
    Touching, frequently hilarious.
  18. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    A chronicle of the exasperating circumstances that yield cinema gold -- or lead. It almost doesn't matter which; it's the process that counts here.
  19. 80
    Hilarious and often moving.
  20. Reviewed by: Andrea C. Basora
    Like its subject, American Movie works entirely on its own quirky terms.
  21. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    As I watched American Movie, a lot of it struck me as untranscendent misery. But in hindsight it seems less hopeless.
  22. 80
    Often coming across as simultaneously out of control and self-possessed, Borchardt can't have been an easy target, but the filmmakers seem to have nailed him.
  23. A tacit auteur-to-auteur endorsement of the inalienable right to make movies--regardless of talent or sobriety or adult responsibilities--is what gives American Movie its uneasy kick.
  24. 70
    Although I don't begrudge Borchardt his year of fame, what he doesn't seem to understand about his exploitation creeps me out.
  25. Although overly long at 107 minutes, American Movie is an incisive, largely absorbing work and a far more mature effort than Smith's "American Job."
  26. 63
    Frequently hilarious, if overlong.
  27. It's never entirely clear whether Borchardt is also an object of ridicule for documentarian Chris Smith.
  28. Reviewed by: Jay Carr
    It seems more a geek show than a slab of marketing wizardry.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 23 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 9
  2. Negative: 2 out of 9
  1. Oct 21, 2011
    It's clear to me in reading the negative reviews that those people really missed the point of what this whole film was about. To this day, this movie remains one of my favorite documentaries of all time. The more you watch it, the more you realize that there is a little Mark Borschardt in all of us, a wild-eyed dreamer. While the realities of his life are stark and his relationships with his family and children seem dysfunctional, he is an entertaining figure with idealism that is larger than life. Full Review »