Generally favorable reviews - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 24 out of 36
  2. Negative: 2 out of 36
  1. 90
    The cast playing these eccentric characters is magnificent...This is definitely one of the most unique comedies you’ll see all year.
  2. Jon Heder in the magnificent Napoleon Dynamite, is one of the most winning movie creations in years.
  3. Reviewed by: Melissa Levine
    It's charming. It's hilarious. It is perhaps the most beautifully crafted, lovingly rendered portrait of extreme geekitude ever to grace the screen. It's Napoleon Dynamite.
  4. If you're sick of the gross-out gags and sex jokes of contemporary teen comedy, this defiant blast of idiosyncratic individuality just could be your tonic.
  5. Thrusts us into a high school senior year like no other.
  6. More than a deadpan comedy about oddball losers. This dork has his day, and this story has its touching subtext -- growing pains relieved by unlikely hope.
  7. I laughed. And I laughed primarily over Heder's hilarious performance. You ain't seen nothing till you've seen Napoleon attack that tether ball.
  8. For older and more reflective viewers, it’s a quirky, fresh slice-of-life more inviting than a tater-tot pyramid.
  9. 75
    Hess and his terrific cast -- Heder is geek perfection -- make their own kind of deadpan hilarity. You'll laugh till it hurts. Sweet.
  10. 75
    There's plenty of humor in the film, but the movie is often a little uncomfortable to watch, and Napoleon is not an easy guy to like. Rooting for him takes effort.
  11. May not make you laugh out loud - it's too sly and subtle for that - but it will have you smiling every minute, and often grinning widely at its weirded-out charm. Nerdiness will never seem the same.
  12. 75
    Refreshing for its simplicity and its originality in a marketplace dominated by soulless blockbusters.
  13. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    An inspired dead-end stunt that keeps delivering snarky laughs far longer than it has any right to.
  14. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    While Solondz's world is a hell hole and Anderson's "Rushmore" is a place of high-toned and often poignant whimsy, Napoleon Dynamite's unceasing burlesque creates a world that is pretty much a cartoon--and it's a damn funny cartoon to boot.
  15. Reviewed by: Karen Karbo
    A cult classic-in-the-making.
  16. A diverting and loosely connected series of episodes about the most bizarre screen family of 2004.
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    An absurdist piece about a rural community of clueless cretins who careen through life like poorly played pinballs, Napoleon Dynamite represents the definition of the comedy of condescension and ridicule.
  18. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Both Hesses and a surprisingly large number of their very talented cast and crew are graduates of Brigham Young University's film program: Could BYU one day join the esteemed ranks of USC and NYU?
  19. Reviewed by: Devin Gordon
    This achingly funny film is a string of vignettes with no real plot, so it has periods of pointlessness--come to think of it, it's all pointless. But it has "cult classic" written all over it.
  20. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Napoleon Dynamite is too low-wattage to be a true nerd anthem, but it's charming in retrospect.
  21. 70
    Toward the end the freak-show humor begins to yield diminishing returns, but for most of its length this delivers a steady stream of uncomfortable gut laughs.
  22. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    There isn't much Napoleonic grandeur in this Idaho-set high school comedy, which in spite of its most condescending instincts, does have its moments.
  23. With the exception of one truly glorious dance solo, the movie treats its hero - and his equally uncool family - with undisguised disdain.
  24. 63
    As slight as the picture is, though, its hero is an indelible creation.
  25. Reviewed by: Helen O'Hara
    As long as you don't mind making fun of the afflicted, there are some killer comic moments.
  26. 60
    Sure, it quickly turns into a one-note exercise in laughing at the yokels, but at least it has a vision.
  27. The performances, even those by trained actors like Mr. Ramirez and Ms. Majorino, have the hesitant, blinking opacity that some directors look for in nonprofessional casts. Their awkwardness is charming, and part of the point of the movie, but it also makes for some dull stretches and thwarts your ability to regard the characters with sympathy rather than mere curiosity.
  28. A one-note, lightweight, condescending comedy about the rubes of Idaho.
  29. It's fairly entertaining--but not the second coming of indie comedy some notices might lead you to expect.
  30. Has to be enjoyed in spurts. There's no cohesive story, just a series of opportunities for the title character (Jon Heder) to strut his gawky stuff.
  31. So deadpan a film is Napoleon Dynamite, the story and the name of a gangly high school misfit in Preston, Idaho, that I can't say whether it was intended as a character study or a comedy.
  32. 50
    At the end of Napoleon Dynamite, you're glad the geeks have their day (even Kip's chat-mate turns out be a winner); you're also relieved to be rid of them.
  33. Filmmaker Jared Hess (who cowrote the script with his wife, Jerusha Hess) installs Napoleon front and center as a punchline in and of himself -- and as that dispiriting product of narrative defeat, a symbol.
  34. Reviewed by: Kevin Crust
    It's a simple collection of sight gags and pratfalls that mines the overly familiar turf of awkward adolescence without bringing anything truly original to the experience.
  35. 38
    There is a kind of studied stupidity that sometimes passes as humor, and Jared Hess' Napoleon Dynamite pushes it as far as it can go.
  36. 30
    If Napoleon Dynamite really is, as reported, a semiautobiographical exercise, it is one of the most astoundingly self-hating such exercises in memory.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 570 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 70 out of 387
  1. MannyC.
    Jul 20, 2004
    What gets me is how this thing killed at Sundance?!? What a terrible, unnessessary, boring self-degrading film. Jared Hess is a loser, Jon What gets me is how this thing killed at Sundance?!? What a terrible, unnessessary, boring self-degrading film. Jared Hess is a loser, Jon Heder is a loser and will never act again. Cheap, unapolagetic writing; sorry and tired sight gags. Tim P. gave this a ten "becasue were all dorks". Tim even dorks need a plot, and a reason to be dorks. Dorks also need a supporting cast and something better to do than help Mexican dorks. We're all dorks, but were all not Napoleon Dynamite, and we all dont concern ourselves with sorry talk show guests of people, and while we all may be dorks, my and probably even your movie wouldnt suck as much as this one does. Full Review »
  2. brad
    Aug 28, 2005
    Not that funny, not that clever. Laughed only once. Disjointed, boring story.
  3. Jan 8, 2011
    Napoleon Dynamite is definitely not my kind of comedy. As Roger Ebert called it "studied stupidity," the film just shows how stupid one is. OrNapoleon Dynamite is definitely not my kind of comedy. As Roger Ebert called it "studied stupidity," the film just shows how stupid one is. Or awkward. Or both, really. Which, not being American, does not resonate with me at all. Yes, maybe many Americans feel that way about themselves, but god - this was just a horrible film! It is one of those films that does not really have a point to itself, I feel. Maybe it does, but the entire experience totally goes passed me. I could not even finish it all the way, quite frankly. I could feel my IQ fall with every minute... Definitely would avoid this by all means. Full Review »