User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 102 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 78 out of 102
  2. Negative: 10 out of 102
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  1. Nov 28, 2012
    8
    It may be overly sweet, but it's still an engaging film with one of Sean Penn's greatest performances sealed within it.
  2. Sep 27, 2011
    4
    I agree the movie was pretty cheesy and tacky for its taste but seriously, "I am Sam" doesn't deserve this much hate.
  3. SaraiV.
    Oct 13, 2006
    10
    This is the best movie ever!
  4. Nov 26, 2013
    0
    "You went full retard, man. Never go full retard. You don't buy that? Ask Sean Penn, 2001, "I Am Sam." Remember? Went full retard, went home empty handed..."

    Kirk Lazarus
  5. Feb 27, 2013
    10
    Why don't the critics like this? It was so realistic and wonderful. The critics are being bad at their job. >:l Yes watchers, pretty much all love this. This is EPICCCC
  6. Nov 10, 2010
    9
    A metascore of 28, must be a joke. i never thought my opinion would be so contrary to the critics. it was a beautiful movie and great casting. It is true what Chicago Sun-times wrote that every device of the movie is designed is to convince us Lucy must stay with Sam even though common sense makes it impossible to go the distance with the premise, but this doesn't make it a bad movie. IA metascore of 28, must be a joke. i never thought my opinion would be so contrary to the critics. it was a beautiful movie and great casting. It is true what Chicago Sun-times wrote that every device of the movie is designed is to convince us Lucy must stay with Sam even though common sense makes it impossible to go the distance with the premise, but this doesn't make it a bad movie. I would recommend it to anybody who looks for a touching movie, which also makes you laugh sometimes. Expand
  7. Jul 4, 2011
    10
    I truly loved it. what a great performance from penn as well as fanning's. A beautiful and lovely story with a great sense on values and the meaning of perseverance. Highly recommended. Metascore 28 doesn't give it credit
  8. Skip
    Aug 5, 2002
    10
    I had never heard of this movie when I first saw it on Pay Per View. I assume because of most of the completely lame negative reviews. Anyone giving this movie a 0 should be fired from his job, no excuses. This is one of the most touching movies I've ever seen. I've never wanted to immediately run out and buy a movie on DVD until now. This is THE breakthrough performance of I had never heard of this movie when I first saw it on Pay Per View. I assume because of most of the completely lame negative reviews. Anyone giving this movie a 0 should be fired from his job, no excuses. This is one of the most touching movies I've ever seen. I've never wanted to immediately run out and buy a movie on DVD until now. This is THE breakthrough performance of Shawn Penn's acting career. I've always wanted to like Penn but never could bring myself to like his acting until now. Wow! I laughed as the Titanic sunk and wanted to push Leonardo off the raft early, I truly felt for Sam and forgot often that I was even watching Penn. Absolute stunning performance. Expand
  9. MichaelF.
    Apr 1, 2002
    2
    So sappy, this movie really wants to be loved and really wants people to care for these characters. So poorly written and sappy. Penn is great, Fanning is great, but she is poorly directed with her acting, at times she seemed too smart. Michelle stank.
  10. ToddF.
    Jun 21, 2002
    9
    Man, some people really took strong exception to this movie. Let's all take a time out. For me I laughed and cried for two hours straight. I loved it. Of course Penn was good, but so was the girl who played his daughter. Also, this was again a great social film for the advancement of the Developmentally Disabled cause (awareness). And the actors, some of which are DD, were hilarious. Man, some people really took strong exception to this movie. Let's all take a time out. For me I laughed and cried for two hours straight. I loved it. Of course Penn was good, but so was the girl who played his daughter. Also, this was again a great social film for the advancement of the Developmentally Disabled cause (awareness). And the actors, some of which are DD, were hilarious. Yes the villians and plot outcomes in the movie are somewhat predictible. But I think its detractors just need a good swing in the park. This movie moved me more than any since Field of Dreams. I will see it again. Expand
  11. TonyK.
    Aug 20, 2002
    9
    This film is why I am not paying much attention to Metascores anymore. A Metascore of 23 just goes to show how too many hours sitting in film appreciation classes in university analyzing every minute detail of a film obliterates what the rest of the movie-going public has in common. That is a sense of a good story and empathy with characters. I was impressed with Laura Dern. She played a This film is why I am not paying much attention to Metascores anymore. A Metascore of 23 just goes to show how too many hours sitting in film appreciation classes in university analyzing every minute detail of a film obliterates what the rest of the movie-going public has in common. That is a sense of a good story and empathy with characters. I was impressed with Laura Dern. She played a truly caring mom 100% attached to this little girl that did not want her. I would definitely watch this movie again. I would just try not to cry so much! Expand
  12. Comrade
    Apr 8, 2004
    9
    You sick people who didn't like this movie...unbelievable. it made me cry and everyone i know loved it.
  13. Cooleycoolbum
    Jul 2, 2004
    10
    I love this movie!!! this and 'Once Were Warriors' are the saddest, best and most tearry movies ever!!! if you want a good cry and a full heart, see this! masterpiece!
  14. [Anonymous]
    Jul 1, 2005
    7
    Underrated...Sean Penn's performance deserves much more respect. The ending is a little too ideal and too happy, but enchanting altogether. Sure, things see-saw too much in the middle, but Penn does bring out the feelings and mentality of his character.
  15. Gilbert
    Nov 20, 2002
    5
    Why do critics insist on drawing unfavourable parallels with genuine, horrifying physical pain? "Corrective Cranial Abuse would be better than I Am Sam"; well, no, it wouldn't, actually. It's just a film. Not a very good film (there is no reason, not a one reason, why it should be two hours and ten minutes long) but not entirely without merit - Sean Penn's great (autopilot Why do critics insist on drawing unfavourable parallels with genuine, horrifying physical pain? "Corrective Cranial Abuse would be better than I Am Sam"; well, no, it wouldn't, actually. It's just a film. Not a very good film (there is no reason, not a one reason, why it should be two hours and ten minutes long) but not entirely without merit - Sean Penn's great (autopilot notwithstanding) and it's heart's in the right place. Its chest. Behind its ribcage. Expand
  16. Nick"PiecebyPiece"S.
    Jan 13, 2002
    7
    This is a beautifully acted piece with a sweet message behind it. Perhaps the director sometimes gets a little heavy-handed with imagery and camera tricks but it's still a heart-warming film. This is not a film for cynics but for those who are looking for a simple story with amazing actors. I hope Penn gets nominated for an Oscar and the little girl deserves one as well. It's This is a beautifully acted piece with a sweet message behind it. Perhaps the director sometimes gets a little heavy-handed with imagery and camera tricks but it's still a heart-warming film. This is not a film for cynics but for those who are looking for a simple story with amazing actors. I hope Penn gets nominated for an Oscar and the little girl deserves one as well. It's sad that this film is getting panned everywhere because of being too sappy. It was definitely worth the two hours of time I spent and I left the theatre with a very satisfied feeling. Expand
  17. RyanM.
    Jan 28, 2002
    8
    Overall, the performances power the film, and even though it's pretty much "been there, done that" material, it works like a charm.
  18. ChadS.
    Jan 30, 2002
    4
    Instead of compassion, I felt irritation towards Sam, which is not the intent of the director since the film's aim is to jerk tears. Bad customer service and being behind someone who is slow in paying the cashier are situations that annoy us. That Sam is the cause of these two inconveniences is a mistake on the screenwriter's part. Pfeiffer rescues this film.
  19. BlaineH.
    Apr 8, 2002
    6
    Sean Penn portrayed a perfect picture of the hardships and difficulty involved in being mentaly challenged.
  20. AdlerE.
    Jun 17, 2002
    8
    I have always thought of Shawn Penn as an out-of-control, brat who is full of himself. I really didn't care for him as an actor or individual (a la Modonna/Penn period). The first few minutes of this movie only served to confirm my beliefs. I though "just another Rainman remake." I was wrong, Penn was magnifiant and breathed new life into a character mastered by the likes of Dustan I have always thought of Shawn Penn as an out-of-control, brat who is full of himself. I really didn't care for him as an actor or individual (a la Modonna/Penn period). The first few minutes of this movie only served to confirm my beliefs. I though "just another Rainman remake." I was wrong, Penn was magnifiant and breathed new life into a character mastered by the likes of Dustan Hoffman. I am a new fan of Shawn Penn. See this movie, don't believe the so-so reviews, this ones special. Expand
  21. DannyC.
    Jun 22, 2002
    10
    This is definitely my favorite movie of all time. Incredible acting by Penn and Pfeiffer together. Cried during the whole movie! Great picture.
  22. WesC.
    Jun 24, 2002
    8
    Loved this movie enough from the first time I saw it that I bought the DVD the day it came out. Wonderful acting... good blend of humor and thought provoking drama... don't see this movie if you'll be frustrated by it's emotional story line...
  23. SteveD.
    Sep 18, 2002
    10
    I loved this movie i think it is one the best ever made. Sean penn should have won many awards for this movie i have seen this movie three times it just breaks my heart. I just start bawling from the strart to the very end of the movie every time i see it.
  24. PatC.
    Dec 30, 2003
    8
    I normally wouldn't miss a chance to trivialize Sean Penn for his politics, but I thought he did a good job here. I don't think the critics have any idea that this was a totally realistic portrayal of our family law system in action. It savages families with completely competent parents on a daily basis, so what chance did Sam have? Or perhaps Sam had a head start, since the I normally wouldn't miss a chance to trivialize Sean Penn for his politics, but I thought he did a good job here. I don't think the critics have any idea that this was a totally realistic portrayal of our family law system in action. It savages families with completely competent parents on a daily basis, so what chance did Sam have? Or perhaps Sam had a head start, since the better parent one is, the more likely our system will drive one insane. This is one movie where the criticism, not the movie, is contrived, insipid and clueless. Only animals without backbones could see it as a tear jerker. It is a protest of the callousness of bureaucrat-as-parent and government-knows-best, and it should enrage any truly caring person. The films flaws: It drags a bit, and don't expect a pro bono lawyer to charge in to save your kids anytime soon. But I guess we all need to realize that politically correct thought requires us to consider parenthood as optional, perhaps archaic. Or perhaps most critics come from broken homes. In any event, here they truly are, as Channing Pollock noted, "legless men who teach running." Expand
  25. Sarah
    Apr 12, 2004
    9
    I'm surprised this movie got such low ratings! I thought it was amazing. i cried, laughed and cried some more. I wish more movies were as touching as this one was.
  26. MrVoid
    Aug 7, 2004
    8
    It does have a few terrible plot holes but on the whole it's a sensitive and passionate tale. Sean Penn is marvellous in his role and he does excellently not to trivialise or turn the charachter of Sam into a charicature.
  27. IanK.
    Jan 8, 2005
    9
    Are the friggin' critics serious? From Simon Birch to I Am Sam...they are passing these movies along like there bad! This and Simon Birch are two of the greatest movies i've ever seen! And yet you give snoozers like About Schmidt good reviews!
  28. ShannonC.
    Mar 12, 2002
    9
    VERY good movie. Would go see it 10 more times. Brought me to tears, it even moved my husband.
  29. SchoolTeacher
    Mar 7, 2002
    1
    I'm afraid I'd have to agree with all the above negative comments. It was so poorly written and predictably sappy that I had to force myself to sit through it. However, I was intrigued by Penn's acting.
  30. TeresaR.
    Jun 23, 2002
    10
    Sean Penn is brillant!! He deserves an award for his performance!
  31. SheydaM.A.
    Jul 18, 2002
    10
    This is such an amazing film i cant believ everyone who saw it id not cry these days all films are about is sex and hard hitting action , penn is just too good actually everyone is just to good.
  32. BenM.
    Aug 4, 2002
    10
    This wasn't that bad at all! Maybe not the best movie in the world, but there are many many more worse movies.
  33. Char
    Aug 4, 2002
    10
    For one, i am sam actively avoids all the sentimentality these professional reviews complain about. rather than focusing on drivel, it puts us into sam's perspective using subjective POV filmmaking. this is why the film is highly stylistic in its directorial and editorial choices -- another intentional device that the "professional critics" complain about. when sam's world isFor one, i am sam actively avoids all the sentimentality these professional reviews complain about. rather than focusing on drivel, it puts us into sam's perspective using subjective POV filmmaking. this is why the film is highly stylistic in its directorial and editorial choices -- another intentional device that the "professional critics" complain about. when sam's world is spinning, the camera spins. when sam's world is moving so fast that he cannot keep up, the picture cuts so quickly that we can barely keep up. it's brilliant -- honest -- fair -- moving -- and quite clearly rockets beyond antiques like rainman and forest gump into a new, poetic realm of synchronous emotional intensity and truth. it doesn't pander to the politically correct. it doesn't try to pull at your heartstrings at all. it's telling a story, quite deftly, and this in itself should and will draw you in. Expand
  34. GlennP.
    Aug 6, 2002
    0
    Worst 3 hours of my life.
  35. LisaC.
    Jul 11, 2003
    9
    I saw the trailer for this movie and it sparked an intrest to go and see this film. Watching it made me cry , sympathise and laugh with the character. This a touching drama guaranteed to touch the heart. With a great script and great performances from all the actors and actresses invloved.
  36. JenniferE.
    Apr 15, 2004
    8
    I, too, loved the movie! I laughed, I cried...I gained a new respect for Sean Penn. I thought it fantastic! Yes, the camera work got a teensy bit annoying at times, it's easy to over look. Fling away your doubts on owning or renting this film!
  37. JulsP.
    Aug 7, 2004
    10
    Very marvelous movie!!!!!! those who rated this film below 1 are like stones!!!!!!
  38. Beercan
    Jan 12, 2005
    4
    I Am Sam is so focused on drawing audience tears and hitting them with a "message" that it forgets to become a real movie. As the retarded father trying to raise his daughter, Sean Penn is somehow both magnetic and utterly excruciating. So's the movie.
  39. nickic.
    Jul 16, 2005
    8
    Loveable, and just the kind of movie with enough heart that you wish it could be so. Really liked the characters and the music. Have bought the soundtrack and listened to it often. Don't know what the critics are thinking!
  40. Lear'sFool
    Nov 26, 2002
    10
    I would have rated this a 20 but the rating only goes out to 10. I really liked this movie. I think this is the most effective and most powerful movie I've ever seen. Forget about its similarity to kramer vs kramer, its emotional chick flick quality or their ripping off of beatles songs. Critics who give this movie a bad rating just because of these factors are nothing but morons I would have rated this a 20 but the rating only goes out to 10. I really liked this movie. I think this is the most effective and most powerful movie I've ever seen. Forget about its similarity to kramer vs kramer, its emotional chick flick quality or their ripping off of beatles songs. Critics who give this movie a bad rating just because of these factors are nothing but morons with an IQ of a rock. Rate this movie according to its dues not because its a rip off of starbucks etc. etc. All movies borrow their elements from other movies. All movies exaggerate things. It's natural. But not all movies can patch up borrowed elements to create something very powerful. Not all over exagerated movies are effective. I would go on but I don't know the limit for this so I'll keep it short. I am sam is an effective movie because it is an accurate depiction of human nature based on psychological and humanistic point of view. Unlike other movies it is also interesting to note that it takes the watcher in a roller coaster ride where each arc is as powerful as the next- unlike other movies. Free your mind from biases. Watch the movie and you'll see what I mean. Collapse
  41. AndrewJ.
    Nov 5, 2002
    7
    Plot was a little sketchy, but Penn's character is great.
  42. IanW.
    Feb 11, 2002
    10
    Awesome, best acting I've seen in a long time.
  43. BrentR.
    Jun 21, 2002
    5
    Although a completly watchable movie... Sean Penn gives a repeat performance of Dustin Hoffman's Rain Man. Also the story is completely absurd and would never happen that way.
  44. Richard
    Jul 15, 2002
    7
    Michelle Pfeiffer's really the rock here, turning the typical heartless lawyer character on its ear and making it seem real, even when she's given some of those unplayable lines. Excellent work from Dianne Wiest and Richard Schiff. We've been in this kind of story several times and it raises more questions than it feels like answering, but it's well-intentioned and the Michelle Pfeiffer's really the rock here, turning the typical heartless lawyer character on its ear and making it seem real, even when she's given some of those unplayable lines. Excellent work from Dianne Wiest and Richard Schiff. We've been in this kind of story several times and it raises more questions than it feels like answering, but it's well-intentioned and the big showdown scene between Penn and Pfeiffer is rewarding. Expand
  45. JeffM.
    Aug 13, 2002
    4
    Occasionally competent, often embarrasing. The second half of the film isn't half bad, but it's hard to forgive the fact that the filmaker is trying to wring tears out of almost every single scene. The movie spends the first 2 acts demonstrating why Sam (albeit a nice enough person) is not fit to raise the child beyond her attained age, then spends the final 3rd expecting you to Occasionally competent, often embarrasing. The second half of the film isn't half bad, but it's hard to forgive the fact that the filmaker is trying to wring tears out of almost every single scene. The movie spends the first 2 acts demonstrating why Sam (albeit a nice enough person) is not fit to raise the child beyond her attained age, then spends the final 3rd expecting you to root for him to win the case. Expand
  46. KeithE.
    Sep 19, 2003
    8
    Good movie. Sean Penn really brings out the character in Sam. He is lovable, and despite his flaws, he is a good man and great father. Tugs on the old heart strings. *sob* Must see!! Plus all the Beatle cover songs in the movie are phenomenal.
  47. BillH.
    Aug 18, 2005
    10
    This is the best movie that I have ever seen, it made you sad,it made you happy, and filled you with unbelievable joy at the same time.
  48. JimmyCritic
    Dec 11, 2003
    10
    Metascore : 28 // how can that be possible? this movie is one of the best movies ever. they must've use a shovel to dig the dirt out of this movie [althought none will be visible to the naked eye]. i recommend this movie to all movie lovers. GO WATCH IT!
  49. Jul 8, 2014
    10
    Truly an amazing Masterpiece, a very deep yet touching movie, i don't always watch a Drama, but this one is Different, i highly recommend it ( it's a must ! )
  50. Jan 19, 2015
    0
    Erin Cochran ... directs this mess like a substitute teacher soldiering through a day's work for a day's pay. The camera shakes uncontrollably. [I am Sam] is ludicrous, manipulative and shamelessly over-sentimental.
  51. Dec 14, 2014
    9
    I don't understand why this movie received such terrible reviews from the critics, because it is one of the best film I have seen ever. Period. A film involving a true ethical dilemma. It hard not to get emotionally involved with the film. Sean Penn is amazing in the lead role, which if it had have been released a different it likely would have won him an Oscar (Penn lost the 2002 toI don't understand why this movie received such terrible reviews from the critics, because it is one of the best film I have seen ever. Period. A film involving a true ethical dilemma. It hard not to get emotionally involved with the film. Sean Penn is amazing in the lead role, which if it had have been released a different it likely would have won him an Oscar (Penn lost the 2002 to Denzel Washington for his role in Training Day, which is hard to object). Michelle Pfeiffer was also great in her role as she develops more and more throughout the film. Sam is a character that is as lovable as any character could ever be. His meetings with his friends are great scenes to watch, they are very cute. Expand
Metascore
28

Generally unfavorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 33
  2. Negative: 19 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    40
    As the director of this noble weepie, Nelson so overuses visual tricks -- zooms, zip pans and multiple perspectives on a simple scene -- that she turns the viewer into an exasperated parent; this is a directorial style in need of a spanking.
  2. 40
    By-the-numbers Oscar bait -- but Penn does manage, against such odds, to make us see Sam as a person, not a performance.
  3. 30
    Contrived, manipulative and shamelessly sentimental, this film is notable for the courageous reach of Sean Penn, who gives a bold, heartfelt performance.