Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. It's an immensely successful movie - and far and away the most emotionally charged, psychologically uneasy and diabolically suspenseful thriller Polanski's made since his heyday. [27 Jan 1995, p. 26]
  2. Death and the Maiden doesn't always escape its contraption origins, but it ends with one of the most honest-and poetic- reckonings of human evil in modern movies. It's Polanski braying at his own bitter moon.
  3. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    As vivid and suspenseful as Roman Polanski has made this claustrophobic tale of a torture victim turning the tables on her putative tormentor, one is still left with a film in which each character represents a mouthpiece for an ideology.
  4. 89
    Death and the Maiden is a streamlined razor-ride of a movie: taut, riveting, and a psychological horror show that will leave nail-marks in your palms for days afterwards.
  5. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    The material is well served by director Roman Polanski, who knows well how to instill a subtle, claustrophobic sense of dread in an audience and has put together a rather elegant potboiler.
  6. Reviewed by: Kim Newman
    Even by their high standards, the performances of Weaver and Kingsley here are impressive, and Polanski ratchetts up the tension nicely. A chilling and thought-provoking piece.
  7. Reviewed by: Caryn James
    Mr. Polanski's brilliance with the camera turns Ariel Dorfman's well-meaning but pretentious play about human rights into a harrowing experience.
  8. 75
    Polanski, working from a fluid script by Dorfman and Rafael Yglesias ("Fearless"), gives the story its due. He creates an atmosphere of claustrophobic tension to rival his "Knife in the Water" and "Repulsion".
  9. 75
    Death and the Maiden is all about acting. In other hands, even given the same director, this might have been a dreary slog.
  10. Polanski directs the film without a wasting a moment. The occasional humor does nothing to relieve tension but, as in a Hitchcock picture, has a way of increasing it.
  11. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Death and the Maiden never fulfills the evocative promise of those initial frames...Beyond that, you have to settle for a craftsman working with more precision than inspiration. But Polanski at half-speed is still hard to beat. [27 Jan 1995, pg. E.1]
  12. 70
    It's an exceptionally intelligent and controlled piece of direction, and for once Polanski didn't hide his emotions in a death's-head grin. The movie is raw and passionate and unresolved in a way that's unique among his work.
  13. Even though he's psychologically expanded his source, the material is a bit too schematic to work as much more than a scaled-down thriller.
  14. Sigourney Weaver isn't quite up to her most demanding scenes, but Ben Kingsley is expertly enigmatic as the stranger, and Stuart Wilson is excellent as the husband who doesn't know whom to believe. [27 Jan 1995, p. 14]
  15. Reviewed by: Scott Rosenberg
    There's not much mystery here; there's only one outcome that could possibly make dramatic sense. And once you realize that, there's not much to do besides watch some very adept performers chew on their lines.
  16. 60
    Polanski stages some lovely moments, particularly Paulina's candlelit dinner in her closet. But he also undercuts the high-minded ideals of Dorfman's original by exposing its radical chic pretentions.
  17. 50
    Polanski abandons all attempts at subtlety. The resulting production ends up far too heavy-handed to be considered powerful drama.
  18. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    Polanski touch -- apart from a little suspense here and there -- is limited. And the story, which Ariel Dorfman adapted from his radical-chic play, is too contrived and smug to really hold.
  19. 40
    Weaver's overacting and Dorfman's bold-faced dialogue oversell the scenario. Only Kingsley's sly turn gives Death And The Maiden any real feeling of disquiet.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 12 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 4 out of 5
  2. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. JayH
    May 10, 2009
    Intense and compelling, excellent direction by Roman Polanski. Sigourney Weaver and Ben Kingsley are amazing. Never a dull moment, very fast pacing. Fascinating story. I was not fully satisfied by the ending, but not sure if there would be any better way Full Review »
  2. Sep 19, 2013
    Simply one of the best movies done on the aftermath of the South American dictatorships. We should never forget the tyranny of the Catholic Church over the centuries and the legacy it left behind. You don't know if she is crazy or not. She was an unknown at the time but you could tell she was on her way up. Full Review »
  3. Oct 7, 2011
    Simply awesome: one place only, but... The film is smart and leaded by three amazing actors. The highlight are the numerous dialogues between complicated characters, with every defends his own point of view. And no flashback, no "tadam!" revelations, the viewer makes his own reflections, and it's the evidence it is a good movie... Full Review »