Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 20
  2. Negative: 2 out of 20

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Critic Reviews

  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. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 70
    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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. USA Today
    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]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 9 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 amongBasically 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 »