Generally favorable reviews - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40

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Critic Reviews

  1. 100
    This is one of the greatest performances in the history of the cinema.
  2. 91
    This is harsh and acid stuff, but it's exhilarating on a number of counts. For one thing, Jenkins moves with real authority between scenes of low life, tender intimacy and gripping violence; made on the cheap, her film has the iron certainty of the best art.
  3. 90
    Monster is a compassionate picture without any obvious agenda. And it's effective precisely because it's not a polemic.
  4. This is a powerhouse of a film, but not for the obvious reasons that it's about a female serial killer, scampering lesbians and whatever. The project's strength instead emerges from a sense of nobility and purpose in honoring its characters.
  5. Theron has rendered herself 100 percent unrecognizable. Not since Robert De Niro morphed into hulk dimensions to play heavyweight boxer Jake La Motta in "Raging Bull" has there been a transformation this powerful and effective.
  6. It is Theron who transmutes and sustains this journey through the lower depths.
  7. The New Yorker
    Reviewed by: David Denby
    If the notoriously squeamish and slumberous members of the Academy can pull themselves together and face Monster, they should know whom to vote for as the best actress of the year. [26 January 2004, p. 84]
  8. Reviewed by: Mark Sells
    A film that you can appreciate, but it’s also one that may be difficult to watch. Because it is so course, because it is so authentic, and because the characters are so real, you feel a closeness to Lee that may be uncomfortable.
  9. Doesn’t provide any answers, and that’s both its strength and weakness.
  10. 88
    A compelling, thought-provoking, and unsettling drama.
  11. Challenges audiences with an unrelieved portrait of self-destruction and horrific violence. American movies don't get much grimmer than this.
  12. Theron breaks through with a ferocious performance--a real career-changer.
  13. 80
    In her feature-film debut, writer-director Patty Jenkins combines the gritty, claustrophobic neo-realism of "Dahmer" with the unlikely gutter romanticism of "Boys Don't Cry," creating a haunting portrait of how a person can feel so desperate and hopeless that murdering for a few crumpled bills and maybe a beat-up car can begin to seem like a reasonable option.
  14. An okay movie made nearly great by one great thing: the bravura, mercilessly watchable performance of Charlize Theron.
  15. 80
    Jenkins' film ranks as one of the past year's very best. Like "In Cold Blood," "The Onion Field" and "Dead Man Walking" before it, her picture provides a mesmerizing portrait of the human side of evil.
  16. Reviewed by: Anna Smith
    There’s enough dark humour to entertain.
  17. In Monster Theron undergoes one of the most startling transformations in the history of movies.
  18. Any which way you describe this uncompromising movie, it will never sound palatable. Still, it features one of the most spectacular physical transformations by an actress hungry for a meaty role. I haven't used the term "tour de force" in all of 2003, but now it is time.
  19. 75
    Jenkins doesn't stint on the sickening reality of Wuornos' abhorrent behavior -- it's Theron's complex, deeply felt depiction of a thoroughly messed-up soul that forces us to look beyond the monstrous nature of her acts.
  20. Theron is nearly unrecognizable in the role. She's also astonishingly good. Obscuring the movie star has liberated the actress.
  21. If you can endure watching it, you won't forget this grim cautionary tale for a long time.
  22. I don't think it's a great movie -- though Theron's is a near-great performance -- but it's not one you can easily forget.
  23. Monster brings the horror stories of everyday life down to a recognizable level -- even as the actress inhabiting that story remains startlingly unrecognizable.
  24. It's the kind of stunt that gets Oscar nominations and accolades. Theron turns it into a raw, bristling performance that deserves them.
  25. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    A gruesome, helpless spiral barely saved by an actress locating humanity where few would have cared to bother.
  26. 75
    Theron's transformation in Monster goes far beyond mere appearance. As Wuornos, the actress gets to display a blunt, graceless physicality that is rarely needed in women's roles, which are traditionally internal.
  27. As angry, deluded, vulnerable and confused as Aileen is, the character remains an enigma. Apart from serving as an opportunity for Theron's emotionally deep-dredging performance, the movie doesn't know why it exists.
  28. Writer-director Patty Jenkins makes an impressive debut, showing savvy that often eludes old pros.
  29. 75
    There's Theron, like a force of nature, compelling us to go beyond TV-movie supposition and look Wuornos straight in the eye. Her raw and riveting performance makes Monster an experience you won't forget.
  30. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Gritty and compelling as Monster is, the script's not entirely satisfying elaboration of the central relationship and Ricci's somewhat ungiving performance limit the material to that of a superior telemovie rather than something emotionally richer, like "Boys Don't Cry."
  31. 70
    This gifted actress (Charlize Theron), who hasn't always chosen her roles well, treats this as her big chance to show what she can do, and she's convincing enough that you're not constantly looking for a Hollywood star of more than average pulchritude under all the cosmetic baggage.
  32. The movie's biggest disappointment is the vague, unfocused performance of Ms. Ricci, an actress known for taking risky, unsympathetic roles. Here she seems somewhat intimidated by her character.
  33. Wall Street Journal
    Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    A seasoned director might have known when to ask Ms. Theron to do less, or nothing at all; as things stand, she acts at every single moment. But what brave and ferocious acting she does.
  34. Honest curiosity and observation are what make this work, and in this respect Christina Ricci (as Wuornos's lover, Selby Wall) is almost as good as Theron.
  35. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Proves more irksome than moving.
  36. 60
    Theron's empathetic victim-wrath and elemental female outrage almost trump the otherwise cartoonish gender-bending and award-grubbing po' folk put-on.
  37. Ricci's less flashy characterization of the immature Selby is equally skilled and meshes seamlessly with Theron's uncompromising performance.
  38. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Apart from Theron and Christina Ricci as her lover, there's nothing in Monster that rises above the level of doggedly well-meaning, although the film is worth seeing for the acting and as a sort of palate-teaser for Broomfield and Churchill's documentary.
  39. 50
    Falls victim to flimsy characters and a love story that strains reality.
  40. Phony choppers and a startling resemblance to Jon Voight aren't enough to transform Theron into Wuornos, and I didn't buy either the performance or the character for a second.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 121 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 42 out of 56
  2. Negative: 4 out of 56
  1. May 25, 2011
    Charlize Theron delivers with one of the best acting performances of cinema history, and shows she truly deserves an oscar for this one. theCharlize Theron delivers with one of the best acting performances of cinema history, and shows she truly deserves an oscar for this one. the script seems nice but sometimes it's quite boring or predictable. Full Review »
  2. Sep 1, 2014
    Charlize Theron gives one of the greatest performances of all-time in her embodiment of a serial killer. Monster will challenge your mind andCharlize Theron gives one of the greatest performances of all-time in her embodiment of a serial killer. Monster will challenge your mind and where you heart stands. It's moving. Full Review »
  3. Aug 15, 2014
    This one is a pretty good biopic that provides a fair picture of a serial killer, who is portrayed brilliantly by Charlize Theron, who goesThis one is a pretty good biopic that provides a fair picture of a serial killer, who is portrayed brilliantly by Charlize Theron, who goes from being of the most beautiful women in Hollywood in many films to one of the ugliest people I have ever seen in this one in an amazing transformation. Christina Ricci's performance here is also quite strong, though she does get overshadowed by Theron's towering performance. As with many biopics, this one struggles to drum up enough drama to keep you interested, though it managed to always remain something that was intriguing to watch unfold. Ultimately, there is just not much to say about this one. For the most part, it is your usual biopic, except this time it is about a serial killer. The film does many things well, but none of it is great, except for Theron's performance, which really makes the film. There is nothing I can really point to that I did not enjoy here, I just did not love any of it. As a whole, Monster is a pretty good little film that packs a powerful performance from Charlize Theron. Full Review »