Universal acclaim - based on 39 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 38 out of 39
  2. Negative: 0 out of 39
  1. 88
    By the end of Capturing the Friedmans, we have more information, from both inside and outside the family, than we dreamed would be possible. We have many people telling us exactly what happened. And we have no idea of the truth. None.
  2. 88
    The film is as powerful as any narrative motion picture in telling a story that rips at the emotions.
  3. An extraordinary film; it may be the most haunting documentary since ''Crumb.''
  4. 88
    An unforgettable and complex portrait of a nuclear family in meltdown.
  5. 88
    It's a modern horror story that gets you where you live.
  6. A compulsively watchable movie that's also a provocative inquiry into the ability of the criminal-justice system to determine culpability and truth.
  7. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    As the Friedmans split apart like fissile neutrons, their story becomes five stories, none of which is remotely like the others.
  8. Overmatched by the strange and compelling true story that is its subject, this unfortunate film ends up both more disingenuous than it wants to admit and more awkward than it can easily acknowledge.
  9. In the entertainment culture that surrounds us, words like "harrowing," "anguishing," "unfathomable" or "horrifying" don't sell movie tickets. Capturing the Friedmans is all of these things and more.
  10. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Never less than gripping.
  11. 100
    A jarring, mesmerizing documentary.
  12. 100
    This remarkable, continually surprising documentary turns out to be something far richer and more complex, closer in spirit to "Crumb," another devastating film about a family's gradual self-destruction.
  13. By the end of the movie, it’s no longer possible to know anything with certainty -– so convoluted, contradictory, pathological, and long ago have the events become. It’s a movie that will have you talking and thinking for hours.
  14. 90
    First-time director Jarecki, better known as the co-founder of MovieFone, skillfully integrates the home-movie footage with his own thorough inquiry, weaving past and present into a patient, deeply engrossing piece of storytelling that's rich in ambiguities.
  15. 90
    Mr. Jarecki finds a way to show that denial and hope often grow from the same vine. Lives are built around the way they're harvested -- and this talented director has a feel for the soil.
  16. 83
    More than just a good crime story about the guilt or innocence of Arnold and Jesse Friedman. It's also a fascinating portrait of a seemingly normal middle-class family crumbling before our eyes.
  17. Isn't like the classic Japanese drama "Rashomon," which suggested that one person's perspective of an event gave him a different truth from the person standing elsewhere.
  18. 100
    Jarecki has created a tour de force of narrative ambiguity, and in doing so has made one of the most honest reality shows ever.
  19. 100
    A spellbinder of the rarest kind and quality. It opens audiences up to an infinite variety of emotional and intellectual nuances.
  20. This extraordinary film refracts truth through the prism of memory, until what you get is a tragedy of Shakespearean dimensions, full of sacrifice and betrayal.
  21. Utterly compelling account of a true-life criminal investigation where "truth" can never be pinned down.
  22. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Not since "Memento" has a movie served up such a provocative mind-bender, and the Sundance winner by first-time filmmaker Andrew Jarecki has the advantage of being true.
  23. What's most devastating in Capturing the Friedmans is how Jarecki puts the sureness of justice into doubt as he shows Truth (with a capital T) at the mercy of perspective and perception, context and emotion.
  24. 90
    Above all else, though, Capturing the Friedmans is a vividly personal, devastating story of a family that was hopelessly compromised years before it was scapegoated for crimes that two of its members may or may not have committed.
  25. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Riveting and so suggestive that you can't consume it passively: You have to brood on it.
  26. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    It’s like a nightmare that follows you around in daylight: you can’t quite decode it, you can’t shake it, you can’t stop turning it over and over in your mind. This is one queasily powerful movie.
  27. I've seen only a few films in my lifetime that so potently express the golden hopes of childhood and parenthood, as well as the inevitable decimation of that hopefulness -- that forward-looking bliss -- at the hands of catastrophe, or merely age, spite, and exhaustion. Or, as for the Friedmans, all of the above.
  28. 100
    To begin your career with a masterpiece is so remarkable a feat that one can only hope Jarecki finds another subject as rich as this family, which was obsessed with itself but needed a filmmaker to begin to see itself at all. [2 June 2003, p. 102]
  29. Jarecki shows off this footage as evidence of a truly dysfunctional family in various stages of denial. What it reveals at least as much is the modern phenomenon of reality-TV self-exposure carried to such lengths that, by comparison, the Osbournes look like the Cleavers.
  30. A prime candidate for a time capsule, to disclose a century hence the current state of some of our civilization's discontents, including the ability to be convinced that one is telling the truth even when one is lying.
  31. 80
    Andrew Jarecki could have done more to lay out the marriage of sexual and religious and social hysteria that made cases like this possible. But he deserves credit for having the guts to say, in this case and in so many like it, who suffered the most.
  32. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    There's a kind of rawness on the screen that most movies never approach.
  33. Capturing the Friedmans does not end after its credits roll; audiences will try the case over and over again in their heads. Jarecki does not judge, but leaves only tragic clues for us to ponder.
  34. 100
    The more you learn, the more questions you have about life in that Great Neck house. Leo Tolstoy wrote that "every unhappy family is unhappy in its own fashion," but not even he could have invented the Friedmans.
  35. In the midst of this emotional train wreck in motion, with angry outbursts and accusations, there are moments of levity, jokes and even a song or two. Strangely, it does not seem irreverent or bizarre but, rather, an expression of affection, as if love is tearing them apart.
  36. Reviewed by: Adam Smith
    Jarecki's film brilliantly illustrates the fallibility of memory, the slippery nature of 'facts' and even people's invention of events that may never have taken place.
  37. Reviewed by: Howard Karren
    Jarecki does a remarkable job with this easily exploitable material.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 37 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 22
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 22
  3. Negative: 4 out of 22
  1. Feb 19, 2011
    I felt that the directer had a clear agenda. After looking into the case - he left out numerous important facts that would have made the world of difference. He apparantly only interviewed a small number of victims and left out and/or minimized facts that would have contradicted an apparant agenda. If it was done on purpose or because of lack of research - shame on him Full Review »
  2. Dec 16, 2010
    close to an 8. I was surprised by this movie not expecting anything. Nicely done and it had my feelings for the persons doing the flip flop all the way through. I still want to know the "real" story but I don't feel cheated in any way. Must see movie. Full Review »