• 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. Reviewed by: Felix Vasquez, Jr.
    There isn't really an overall arc present in Killer of Sheep, and that's the point. There's really nothing meant to be expressed in Killer of Sheep but the experience of poverty, and the inevitability of crime in the face of poverty.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 100
    Killer of Sheep is an urban pastoral--an episodic series of scenes that are sweet, sardonic, deeply sad, and very funny.
  11. The result is an American masterpiece, independent to the bone.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  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. 80
    In all honesty, Burnett's writing can be stiff and the acting in Killer of Sheep is indifferent. But the reason to see this film does not lie in the dialogue.
  17. 80
    Burnett used many kinds of African-American music on the soundtrack, and the movie itself has the bedraggled eloquence of an old blues record. The amateur actors, who occasionally burst into fury, combined with the black-and-white cinematography, bring the poverty of Watts closer to us emotionally.
  18. A lyrical, yet intensely rooted, tragic vision.
  19. 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.
  20. 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.
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. JabezH
    Sep 18, 2008
    I really wanted to like this movie. I didn't. It is mostly dull with a few interesting moments. Perhaps this film presents an exotic landscape to those who have never been poor and lived in bad urban areas. I couldn't help feeling like the kid I met on a dusty Andean road when I was in South America. When I said "what a view" about the incredible mountains in front of us, he turned, looked and then turned back to me with a quizzical look. "Where?" he said. It was nothing special to him. Film criticism must pay better than I thought. Full Review »
  2. 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 »
  3. dustinc
    Jan 18, 2010
    Look at all those critics getting off on the importance of this movie. did they forget the point of movies themselves? this was garbage, from start to finish. pure garbage. Full Review »