Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 28
  2. Negative: 2 out of 28
Watch On
  1. Reviewed by: Ali Catterall
    Mar 19, 2014
    Philosophically complex, spiritual but anti-religious, harrowing yet hopeful.
  2. True art is a journey to somewhere you've never been, and there has never been a movie quite like Breaking the Waves.
  3. One of the most haunting and vital movies of the year.
  4. 100
    Not many movies like this get made, because not many filmmakers are so bold, angry and defiant.
  5. Reviewed by: Dave Kehr
    One of the most emotionally devastating movies of the decade.
  6. 100
    Not only one of the best films of the year, it's one of the best films of the decade.
  7. A movie about the passions of simple people, and it's done with such extraordinary empathy and commitment that it all but pulls you under. [29 November 1996, Friday, p.A]
  8. Reviewed by: Scott Tobias
    Apr 14, 2014
    The simplified, handheld camerawork and the idea of “cutting for emotion” rather than continuity gets the most out of his actors, who are free to clash and improvise within a scene without worrying about hitting their marks.
  9. 90
    "Waves" is a spellbinder.
  10. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    There are few movies around that take such huge risks: this is high-wire filmmaking, without a net of irony.
  11. A narrative path leading from the sincere to the ludicrous, and culminating in a final image of flabbergasting transcendance, gives Breaking the Waves its surprising power.
  12. 90
    What Von Trier arrives at is a complex, contemporary, and deeply moving exploration of faith.
  13. Reviewed by: David Stratton
    Watson is a major find as Bess. Graced with delicate, expressive features, she gives an extraordinary performance.
  14. With this artlessly profound and affecting story of love, von Trier emerges as one of those blessed filmmakers who've managed to blend their early stylistic flamboyance with enough human empathy to make their work both visually and emotionally compelling.
  15. 88
    If not for a somewhat forced catharsis during the epilogue (the weakest segment of the movie), Breaking the Waves would have been more wrenching than it is.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 45 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 11 out of 14
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 14
  3. Negative: 3 out of 14
  1. LauraG
    Sep 22, 2008
    You just can't close your mouth once the movie has finished.
  2. JayH
    Aug 30, 2009
    Emotionally, the film is devastating, and it is certainly not a cheery movie. The performances are rich and deep, Emily Watson is amazing. I Emotionally, the film is devastating, and it is certainly not a cheery movie. The performances are rich and deep, Emily Watson is amazing. I was a bit disappointed in the ending however, but it is a very well crafted film. Full Review »
  3. antoñete
    Dec 29, 2006
    Unforgettable masterpiece with a masterclass perfomance by Emily Watson as Bess McNeill.