• Release Date: Mar 30, 2007

Universal acclaim - based on 21 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 21 out of 21
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 21
  3. Negative: 0 out of 21
  1. Burnett's documentarian empathy, coupled with his easygoing skill as a dramatic essayist, result in a film that doesn't look, feel or breathe like any American work of its generation.
  2. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Brilliantly conceived, imaginatively structured, superbly written, stylishly composed and photographed, and very often wryly funny, Killer of Sheep lives up to its official designation as a national treasure.
  3. 100
    A milestone of eloquent understatement that captures the daily life of have-nots as few American movies have.
  4. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Burnett creates an insistently poetic, devastatingly ironic world and work.
  5. It is the most influential movie you've never seen, deeply affecting many artists and experimental directors who saw it on the museum circuit in 1977 and 1978.
  6. 100
    Killer of Sheep is a miracle movie because it's receiving its first theatrical release 30 years after it was made and because, as a movie, it's miraculous.
  7. Way ahead of its time 30 years ago, and just as stunning today, Killer of Sheep is one of those marvels of original moviemaking that keeps hope of artistic independence alive.
  8. Free of the ghetto clich├ęs that fill the movies made by people who have never lived in one, Killer of Sheep is a strongly individual portrait of black, working-class America.
  9. 100
    Killer of Sheep is an urban pastoral--an episodic series of scenes that are sweet, sardonic, deeply sad, and very funny.
  10. The result is an American masterpiece, independent to the bone.
  11. 100
    See Killer of Sheep, and see it again and again. It's one of those truly rare movies that just get better and better.
  12. Shot on a year's worth of weekends on a minuscule budget (less than $20,000), this remarkable work--conceivably the best single feature about ghetto life that we have--was selected for preservation by the National Film Registry as one of the key works of the American cinema, an ironic and belated form of recognition for a film that has had virtually no distribution. It shouldn't be missed.
  13. A lyrical, yet intensely rooted, tragic vision.
  14. One of the strengths of Killer of Sheep, one of the reasons it has not dated, is that the naturalness and simplicity with which it unfolds give it the texture of a story told from the inside.
  15. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Seeing Killer of Sheep is an experience as simple and indelible as watching Bresson's "Pickpocket" or De Sica's "Bicycle Thieves" for the first time. Despite its aesthetic debt to European art cinema, Burnett's film is quintessentially American in its tone and subject matter. If there's any modern-day equivalent for the movie's matter-of-fact gaze on the ravages of urban poverty, it's the HBO series "The Wire."
  16. A delicately poetic, essentially plotless vision, unblinking but not unhopeful, of life in Watts, where little but the ghetto's name recognition had changed a decade after the riots.
  17. 83
    Having heard tell of its wonders for decades, I found the actual movie less transporting than I'd been led to expect. It's clearly a brilliant debut.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 31 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 15
  2. Negative: 8 out of 15
  1. Aug 27, 2010
    Just as "The Velvet Underground & Nico" spurred wannabe musicians to actually go forth with their dreams, "Killer of Sheep" opened up the door to independent filmmaking to anyone with a camera and the vision. As a film, the 'story' relies on a series of episodic scenes (accompanied by an incredible soundtrack) to depict poverty in the Watts ghetto. This is both the film's greatest strength and weakness, because even though the neorealist style forces the viewer to experience the hardships with authentic intimacy, the lack of character development or plot makes the impression somewhat empty, (though not without a profound effect) Full Review »
  2. Feb 15, 2011
    After watching this movie twice, I have concluded that (1) the emperor wears no clothes and (2) if you think highly of this movie, you are PRETENTIOUS. Please, be honest for a moment. You read all the critical acclaim this movie has garnered (it's the only reason you saw it in the first place) and you don't want to seem like the person that "doesn't get it." Permit me to help you feel better about yourself: this movie was unwatchably bad. You know it; I know it; and now I give you license to be truthful.
    Imagine for a moment if this movie was filmed in color. The "artsy" feel is instantly removed. All that is left is intolerably bad acting and no story. People have written that this movie has a nontraditional storyline. If you want a nontraditional story of life in an impoverished neighborhood, drive to an impoverished neighborhood and hang out for a while. You would never do this for two reasons: it's a stupid idea and you would be insanely pretentious to do this. That's all this movie has to offer.
    Full Review »
  3. Sep 26, 2010
    I get that this movie is a quiet serious look at poverty and all that, but in the end it is just plain boring. I don't mind slow paced movies, but this is too much, heavy handed and bad. Full Review »