Generally favorable reviews - based on 11 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 11
  2. Negative: 2 out of 11
  1. 100
    Apart from its pure entertainment value - this is the best American crime movie in years - it is an important statement about a time and a condition that should not be forgotten. The Academy loves to honor prestigious movies in which long-ago crimes are rectified in far-away places. Here is a nominee with the ink still wet on its pages.
  2. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    A powerful drama about the murder of three civil-rights workers in the South. Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe are FBI men investigating. A legitimate Oscar contender. [6 Jan 1989, p.5D]
  3. Reviewed by: Desson Howe
    Mississippi Burning speeds down the complicated, painful path of civil rights in search of a good thriller. Surprisingly, it finds it
  4. Reviewed by: Barry Mcllhenney
    With remarkable performances, aggressive direction and a cracking pace, this is superb cinema, even if the historical accuracy leaves much to be desired.
  5. Reviewed by: Wayne King
    For those who know such places, Mr. Parker, who is English, evokes the texture, the gritty, fly-specked Southernness, the brooding sense of small-town menace, the racial hatred, with considerable accuracy.
  6. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Though its credibility is undermined by a fanciful ending, Mississippi Burning captures much of the truth in its telling of the impact of a 1964 FBI probe into the murders of three civil rights workers.
  7. 80
    Parker, a director of breadth, not depth, never supplies the big answers, but he does powerfully depict the climate of the Confederacy in the "Freedom Summer" of 1964.
  8. Reviewed by: Judy Stone
    Parker recreates the hate-and-fear-filled atmosphere in that small Southern town with broad brush strokes. But in the end, all of his spectacular fires send out a lot more heat than light. [13 Jan 1989, p.E1]
  9. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Mississippi Burning is visually splendid. Director Parker and his crew have created a film that is unquestionably watchable. As a history lesson, however, it's laughable.
  10. Reviewed by: John Koch
    Mississippi Burning plays loose with truth, turning the history of the civil rights movement on its head. The filmmakers shamelessly transform what was ultimately a triumph of due process and nonviolent civil disobedience into an ugly might-makes-right spectacle. It's "Dirty Harry" coming at you from the left. [27 Jan 1989, p.72]
  11. The glorification of the FBI, the obfuscation about Jim Crow laws, and the absurd melodramatics may all have been well-intentioned, but the understanding about the past and the present of racism that emerges is depressingly thin.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 30 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 3
  2. Negative: 0 out of 3
  1. Jul 25, 2013
    Although based on real events, the filmmakers go to great lengths to make it clear that this is a work of fiction. As such it works very well; it is a very powerful drama that puts the fight for civil rights to the fore. I must say I found it quite thought provoking, very well made and really well shot. The performances were all excellent with (for me), Gene Hackman standing out; although I thought Willem Dafoe was very good and Brad Dourif was excellent as the loathsome Deputy Pell. I also have to mention a couple of small roles; it was nice to see both Stephen Tobolowsky as Clayton Townley and R. Lee Ermey as Mayor Tilman; I know they didn’t have an awful lot to do, but they were both quality. Over all, an interesting drama that kept me interested all the way through a definite ‘must’ for any cinephile.

    SteelMonster’s verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    My score: 8.7/10.
    Full Review »
  2. Jan 4, 2013
    This film is a classic. It is truly gripping with the detectives playing two sensational performances. In particular, the violent scene at the barbers shop is excellent. The film also plays with all the emotions and sometimes is painful to watch as we witness the cruelty and suffering caused by the KKK in Mississippi. Full Review »
  3. Jul 28, 2012
    Comprised mostly of racial abuse and interrogations, this portrayal of a certain historical event is flawed because it is all jumbled together, thinly veiled as a historical masterpiece. The difficulty of using these racial themes within film is the accuracy that it is shown in order to be of certain historical value. It is one thing that you use an event from history and go slightly off track to improve it, it is another thing that you take an event from history and change it around into a complete mess that disrupts the perhaps flawless construction of history. Of course, this film is of little entertainment value, not because of the violent, horrific aspects, but because of the intensity. It wasn't all doom and gloom in the 1960's, but I suppose you could expect that from something titled 'Mississippi Burning'. At least the ending provided something a little more cheerful, despite the fact many people had been killed in the process. Full Review »