Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 29
  2. Negative: 0 out of 29
Watch On
  1. 80
    It all sounds like a recipe for the most noxious liberal jerk-off movie since "Crash," but in the hands of writer-director Richard LaGravenese, Freedom Writers turns out to be a superb piece of mainstream entertainment -- not an agonized debate over the principles of modern education à la "The History Boys," but a simple, straightforward and surprisingly affecting story of one woman who managed to make a difference.
  2. 75
    Freedom Writers delivers the expected messages about hope and the ability to change one's destiny, and does it in a manner that it is emotionally and intellectually satisfying.
  3. Hilary Swank gives a powerhouse performance as a maverick high school teacher in Freedom Writers, an often gripping and sometimes even inspiring film drama taken from the real-life story of Erin Gruwell.
  4. Erin Gruwell (Hilary Swank) is real, and for all the dramatic license that writer/director Richard LaGravenese takes in his film, her story -- and the stories of her students -- are moving.
  5. 75
    Though the film seldom strays from formula, there's something strangely moving about Swank's conviction that, in spite of everything, people are really good at heart.
  6. I say bring 'em on, if the stories can be told as well, as convincingly and as inspirationally as Richard LaGravenese's Freedom Writers, an educational fantasy that happens to be mostly true.
  7. Overall Freedom Writers is a noble effort. At a time when New Year's resolutions to change already are falling by the wayside, you can't help but be moved by a group of young people who followed through on their resolve.
  8. The movie is based on the life of California high school teacher Erin Gruwell, played with captivating honesty by Hilary Swank, yet it feels like the usual Hollywood exaggerations.
  9. 75
    Freedom Writers is the rare inspirational-teacher film that is filled with genuine, jaw-dropping coups of real-life poetry.
  10. 75
    What makes Freedom Writers work is the very thing that makes it seem like a drag: predictable inspiration.
  11. Square, sincere, and proud of it.
  12. If you've seen "To Sir, With Love," "Dead Poet's Society," "The Corn is Green," or "Stand and Deliver" - to take a random sample - you've already seen much of this movie. Swank is good, though, and so is Patrick Dempsey as her suffering husband.
  13. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    It takes the bold approach of being earnest, honest and unafraid to be called naive. As a result, it's extremely affecting.
  14. In Freedom Writers Hilary Swank uses neediness to fine effect in a film with a strong emotional tug and smartly laid foundation.
  15. 70
    Dramatically, the movie never veers from its predictable course, but Swank's performance renders the point moot. There likely was a better, more original movie to be made focusing more on the Freedom Writers themselves, but if this more conventional direction had to be taken, it's hard to imagine a more affecting version.
  16. 70
    Luckily LaGravenese has incorporated some of the real students' piercingly honest diary entries and rounded up an engaging cast of unknowns and young actors (April Hernandez, Kristin Herrera, Hunter Parrish) to channel their anger and hopelessness.
  17. 63
    Formulaic though it is, the story hits the right emotional buttons and promises that hope and dogged work trump despair.
  18. 63
    Swank's character, Erin Gruwell, is a real educator who, in the years following the Rodney King riots, coaxed her students into writing about their bullet-riddled lives.
  19. 63
    Leave it to Hilary Swank. Even when her film's pace lags behind its cliches, she sparks this true story, about a California teacher who sparks her students, with the passion the subject demands.
  20. It offers a sort of Chinese food poignancy, the kind that may seem satisfying at the time but ultimately leaves us hungering for more, for something authentic.
  21. The film is both too short and too long at two hours-plus. Not enough time is spent with the teens and far too much with their teacher.
  22. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Freedom Writers is an earnest, well-meaning attempt at inspirational teen drama. It has some moving scenes and honest observations, based on a school in Long Beach, Calif., but the movie sinks under the weight of formula and stereotypes.
  23. 50
    Freedom Writers is prone to throwing in unnecessary plot developments, so it never quite succeeds as anything more than "Dangerous Minds" Redux.
  24. In the recent "Half Nelson," a similarly themed classroom pic, liberalism struggled to balance its lingering hopes with its systemic despair. That film was pure fiction, yet felt absolutely true. This one is apparent fact, yet seems abjectly false.
  25. Reviewed by: Rob Nelson
    Reaction shots of the class's befuddled white boy are played for cheap laughs, but writer-director Richard LaGravenese otherwise keeps it real by recruiting cinematographer Jim Denault from Indieville High and Imelda Staunton--here playing Bitchy Old Department Head.
  26. The movie itself offers few real answers to the problems teachers face.
  27. 40
    For my money, no movie comes close to capturing the high school experience like "The Substitute."
  28. Reviewed by: Liz Beardsworth
    Despite solid work from the engaging cast, there’s nothing new here to distinguish Freedom Writers.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 64 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. FreshB.
    Feb 18, 2009
    Word up homies i seen a lot from da hood and its all about claiming property. This movie is dope as HELL! Live strong.
  2. Jun 14, 2014
    It really...did...not...need to be made. As if these school stories about troubled teenagers had't become a formulaic and rely too much onIt really...did...not...need to be made. As if these school stories about troubled teenagers had't become a formulaic and rely too much on lachrymose story-lines of inner-city school teaching. In truth, all except the non-minority I felt sympathetic to. I'm not racist, but every other character is either a waste, thug, or junkie. And in Hilary Swanks character, I can pitifully admire her insistence on teaching these, "students", how to live life not in the ghetto's. Once is about enough. Full Review »
  3. May 4, 2013
    It is very sad that this was a true story, but also a very brilliant piece of work, I am so happy that this movie wasn't so pompus. UsuallyIt is very sad that this was a true story, but also a very brilliant piece of work, I am so happy that this movie wasn't so pompus. Usually movies about race always end up blaming white people who did nothing wrong, but this movie is just flat out touching and entertaining. One of my all time favorites. Full Review »