Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 20
  2. Negative: 2 out of 20
  1. 100
    Most movies stress the agony of art (think of Kirk Douglas' Van Gogh in "Lust for Life"). Schnabel's exceptional film honors his friend by showing the act of creation as a natural high.
  2. 88
    The New York art world quickly makes Basquiat a star. His work is good (when you see it in the movie, you can feel why people liked it so much), but his story is better: from a cardboard box to a gallery opening!
  3. Basquiat is an engrossing spectacle, but by the end, as a zoned-out Basquiat stands regally in a cruising Jeep, we realize that Schnabel has reconfigured his story as a kind of ghostly myth, and that we've never completely seen the man behind it.
  4. Reviewed by: Glen Helfand
    For a first feature, this surprisingly likeable film might just revitalize Schnabel's persona in art circles, as well as make a splash with hip young filmgoers.
  5. It's also quite energetic -- there isn't a boring shot anywhere, and writer-director Schnabel is clearly enjoying himself as he plays with expressionist sound, neo-Eisensteinian edits, and all sorts of other filmic ideas.
  6. It's smart and good-hearted and boasts an amazingly good score, but the film is limited by the very private nature of the man it portrays.
  7. Well, the movie suffers slightly from that tendency -- the portrait shows definite signs of airbrushing. But it's rendered with enough intelligence, and performed with sufficient grace, to offer us an occasionally compelling, curiously upbeat look behind the lacquered image and into the complicated self.
  8. Written and directed by Julian Schnabel, himself a gifted painter, this is one of the rare art-world movies that succeeds as both human drama and visual artistry.
  9. Reviewed by: Cathleen McGuigan
    All the ingredients for a classic doomed-by-overnight-success movie can be found in the trajectory of Jean Michel Basquiat's short, sad life.
  10. Reviewed by: Emanuel Levy
    As writer and director, Schnabel should be commended for avoiding Hollywood's biopic cliches about artists, as Basquiat's meteoric rise to fame and tragic death at the age of 27 would have fit perfectly the timeworn formula.
  11. But the film, written and directed by fellow artist Julian Schnabel, is so tender in its affections, these omissions and poetic licenses seem like the embellishments of a good friend.
  12. Reviewed by: Staff(not credited)
    Schnabel at least manages to tell a fairly coherent story. The bad news: It's not a very interesting story, and Schnabel doesn't have the chops to make it one by sheer strength of filmmaking prowess.
  13. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The movie meanders without a rudimentary sense of the dramatic, yet it remains intermittently interesting thanks to a surprisingly voluminous cast of usual suspects from the world of independent cinema. [14 Aug 1996 Pg.09.D]
  14. 63
    According to Schnabel, the movie is intended to celebrate the man's life, not to mourn his death, so Basquiat's last days are not shown. It's one of many miscalculations made by the director, because, when the end credits roll, we're left without a sense of closure.
  15. But the film's central figure remains a cipher, the subject of a colorful scrapbook rather than a revealing portrait.
  16. Despite its inadequacies, Basquiat presents a fascinating glimpse of the Eighties art scene, due in large measure to several stunning performances.
  17. 50
    Despite the movie's suffocating sense of chic Soho hipness, it touches on all the square cliches about the tragic life of the misunderstood artist.
  18. Reviewed by: Jake Hamilton
    Oddly enough, the film scores with Bowie's spellbinding take on the ageing Warhol. Without this comedic but beautiful performance and an offbeat soundtrack, this is little more than wet paint.
  19. A paint-by-numbers version of an artist's life, Basquiat is amusing for all the wrong reasons, especially at those horrible moments when you realize you're supposed to be taking it seriously.
  20. Reviewed by: David Bonetti
    Schnabel can't decide whether he wants to tell a traditional rise-and-fall morality tale or make an art film. His attempt at telling Basquiat's story straightforwardly collapses under its own banality.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 7 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 0 out of 1
  2. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Oct 19, 2012
    Basically a surprisingly old fashion biopic - late 1930s, 1940s style.....but Jake Hamilton of "Empire" magazine that you have sited among your critics' responses has hit the nail-on-head when he sites DAVID BOWIE's utterly delightful and indeed mesmerizing performance as Andy every scene he was in I eagerly awaited EVERY WORD that Bowie's Warhol had to say......a truly amazing and fascinating performance by Bowie- a real treat !!...for this reason I am giving the film a 5 instead of a 2 rating Full Review »