Generally favorable reviews - based on 28 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 28
  2. Negative: 0 out of 28
  1. A prison movie of unusual richness and jarring power.
  2. 88
    Carandiru, which ends with actual footage of the prison being demolished in 2002, marks a terrific comeback for Babenco - it's the roughest picture of life behind bars since "Midnight Express."
  3. 80
    Babenco's kindly, concerned eye seeks out the humanity in even the worst of his characters, and by the time he re-creates the massacre, with shocking power and force, one has been equally captivated and appalled at the world he shows. The result is one of the richest prison movies in years.
  4. 80
    The film splits the difference between the brutal reality of the cable-TV prison series "Oz" and the romanticized fantasy of "The Shawshank Redemption" and provides a vivid, well-rounded gallery of inmate portraits.
  5. Reviewed by: Kevin Crust
    Carandiru is Babenco's fourth film set inside some type of incarceration facility and meshes his documentary style and fondness for realism with the escapism of storytelling found in "Kiss of the Spider Woman." It plunges us deep inside a corrupt system and its sincere empathy creates a stirring mix of emotions.
  6. Exudes a throbbing flesh-and-blood intensity so compelling that it's impossible to avert your eyes.
  7. It is Carandiru's ability to humanize its central characters ... that gives the movie its wrenching, tragic power
  8. The movie is powerful, if numbing. What movie about a massacre isn't?
  9. No element in the story, or collection of stories, has much novelty: yet the picture grips, because we sense that the director clearly knows he is treating familiar material and forges ahead out of passion.
  10. 80
    Long, grim, but utterly engrossing.
  11. 78
    It has the resonant feel of myth, buoyed by simultaneously vicious and compassionate performances from the men on both sides of the bars.
  12. 75
    In a prison filled with vivid, Dickensian characters, several stand out. There is, for example, the unlikely couple of Lady Di (Rodrigo Santoro), tall and muscular, and No Way (Gero Camilo), a stunted little man. They are the great loves of each other's lives.
  13. Harrowing, realistic, humanistic.
  14. Searing and hypnotic docudrama.
  15. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The warden implores the prisoners to relinquish their weapons, and out of the cells come flying a zillion blades of all sizes. In a Mel Brooks movie, this bit would be funny. Here, it sums up the chilling situation in five seconds.
  16. 75
    Angry and tragic, Carandiru is finally, in its own way, uplifting.
  17. Lays on the compassion a little thick, yet its heartfelt squalor stays with you.
  18. The movie observes and dramatizes, yet seeks no overriding social moral.
  19. Babenco does a better job with place than with people: His explosively overcrowded jail is a teeming tenement, which makes the inevitable climax feel, finally, like something real.
  20. Reviewed by: Aaron Hillis
    Stylistically, Carandiru is definitely less monochromatic than an "Oz" rerun.
  21. A sprawling prison drama that seeks, by turns, to endear itself and then traumatize its audience.
  22. Reviewed by: Staff (Not credited)
    A large, magnificent cast brings this story vividly to life, supported by superb art direction and technical contributions. Capped by Babenco's vigorous, often ferocious direction, the film is a towering achievement, offering an unforgettable portrayal of the lives and plight of the forgotten.
  23. Reviewed by: Deborah Young
    A low-structure, high-involvement Brazilian free-for-all destined to take its place among hellish prison films, Carandiru plants a fist in the viewer's stomach.
  24. 50
    Director Hector Babenco's sentimental, unconvincing adaptation of Varella's book, is a soft, simplistic look at a tough, complicated subject.
  25. 50
    This film's rhythms suggest nothing so much as a weirdly macho telenovela, full of family drama, isn't-it-ironic humor and maudlin twists of cruel fate.
  26. 50
    Babenco's hard work is undercut by his squarely theatrical notion of realism: Specifically, how did the touring company for "West Side Story" wind up in such an awful spot?
  27. 50
    Carandiru's every scene is cut from factory-issue prison-genre cloth to fit jailhouse stock characters.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Jan 4, 2014
    A realidade exposta no filme de arrepiar, Carandiru interessante mostrando com detalhes o que aconteceu na antiga casa deA realidade exposta no filme de arrepiar, Carandiru interessante mostrando com detalhes o que aconteceu na antiga casa de dentenção................. Full Review »
  2. chitrav.
    Oct 7, 2007
    This is a movie which is a compelling depiction of humanity:who decides whom to judge and why ? Glad this prison is closed now but what about This is a movie which is a compelling depiction of humanity:who decides whom to judge and why ? Glad this prison is closed now but what about the international prison Guantanomo..three hundred Pakistanis alone there taken in connivance with the country's government! Full Review »