Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 35
  2. Negative: 4 out of 35
  1. 75
    The movie is essentially a morality play, and it's not a surprise to learn that Larry Cohen, the writer, came up with the idea 20 years ago--when there were still phone booths and morality plays.
  2. 75
    The best pure thriller of 2003 to-date.
  3. 75
    A tabloidy, nail-biting thriller.
  4. It's an energetic stunt of a movie, and it wants to make us sweat like it's 1974.
  5. 75
    Farrell is a dynamo. And Kiefer Sutherland, whose sniper role is essentially a voice on the phone, matches Farrell subtle shift for subtle shift.
  6. The result is a movie that combines a seriousness of purpose with an impish delight in craft, in a way Hitchcock would have appreciated.
  7. 60
    The payoff doesn't quite equal the intensity of the spectacularly squirm-inducing premise, but Farrell takes his showboating star turn and runs with it.
  8. Has undertones of serious commentary on American violence, thanks to the screenplay by Larry Cohen, who often uses horror-film plots to explore cracks and contradictions in society.
  9. Bogus on every level, right down to its half-hearted trick ending.
  10. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Short, suspenseful, funny, and profane, the film's a throwback to the neat little B-level thrillers the entertainment industry used to crank out by the dozen in the post- World War II era and the early days of TV.
  11. Provides a reminder of the power of unadorned drama and language -- whole torrents of eloquent words -- in the service of a nifty idea.
  12. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The premise is admittedly a killer--fun to think about, fun to see realized, not so fun to see screwed up in the last half-hour.
  13. 50
    Loud and frantic and filled with all sorts of business, but it's also empty and inert, a creative exercise that would have played better as a 30-minute short.
  14. Without question, the whole thing's absurd -- this is, remember, about a guy stuck in a phone booth -- but for its first 40 minutes or so it's also mildly entertaining, fueled by the nuttiness of the setup and Schumacher's energy.
  15. 40
    Schumacher choose to start the movie in outer space? The opening shot epitomizes everything wrong with Phone Booth: Given the chance to stage human drama on an intimate, suffocating scale, Schumacher begins in the endless expanse of the void, tricked out with gratuitous CGI effects.
  16. 50
    Proves that a movie can be true to life and still seem utterly preposterous.
  17. It's a movie perfectly designed for tossing back popcorn (the jumbo kind so you don't have to leave your seat during the show); not until later do you get the empty feeling that you've swallowed an entire bucket of popped air.
  18. A perverse kind of payback for every terrorizing cabbie, bullying streetwalker, insulting bike messenger and screaming corner grocer in Manhattan.
  19. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Gussied up with a host of filmmaking tricks in an attempt to keep things lively, this intensely acted little exercise just doesn't have enough going for it, with the exception of gradually growing interest in lead Colin Farrell.
  20. Farrell, adding to the case for his impending stardom, locks into his role with the laser precision of the sniper's rifle scope.
  21. 30
    A movie that's laughable without, alas, even being enjoyably awful.
  22. Can't spoil the ending, except to say that it spoils itself.
  23. 58
    Schumacher's depictions of street life are cartoonishly ludicrous and riddled with cliches -- a pair of garish hookers, for instance, can't be excused simply because one is played with engaging vigor by Paula Jai Parker.
  24. A high-concept hostage drama of absolutely no value to anyone -- except maybe Bell Atlantic, whose titular street-corner pay phone is on screen for almost every agonizing frame.
  25. What keeps Phone Booth going, despite its premise, is the acting and the writing, both of which are top-notch.
  26. 50
    Phone Booth may not be awful, but it's puny.
  27. 50
    Best appreciated as hilarious pulp metaphor, which, not coincidentally, happens to be one of the screenwriter's specialties.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Superficially gritty yet soullessly slick melodrama.
  29. Phone Booth is 82 New York minutes long, all of them exciting.
  30. 40
    At only 84 minutes, Phone Booth's brevity turns out to be its only saving grace.
  31. The movie's so hung up (pardon) on its gimmick it never transcends it; might have been better had Kiefer called Moviefone.
  32. 75
    A lean, mean tension machine, setting up its premise, executing it with smarts, throwing in enough twists to keep things interesting, and wrapping it up before anyone can get fatigued or reflective. It's on the money.
  33. 50
    The situation is suspenseful and unique enough to hold our attention for a time.
  34. Reviewed by: Clint Morris
    It spends little time on exposition, instead quickly getting into the thrust of the movie. For a film like this, it’s advantageous, grabbing the audience almost immediately after the opening credits.
  35. Reviewed by: D. Parvaz
    Gripping in parts, tedious in others, the film works best when the action is brisk.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 134 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 56
  2. Negative: 15 out of 56
  1. Nov 23, 2011
    I really liked this film. I thought it was interesting from start to finish. Good acting, Interesting story, and it all happens in a phone booth. Really good film. Full Review »
  2. Jul 3, 2014
    Phone Booth is a no-holds-barred, edge-of-your-seat thrill ride that is "The Godfather" of popcorn movies. It delivers thrill after thrill while keeping a short 91 minute runtime. The best part of it and the reason it's so successful as a heart-pounding thriller is that at any given moment, someone could die. In fact, towards the end, the movie starts to partially show some kind of matter-of-fact message about the human condition; a rarity in this genre. Full Review »
  3. Sep 28, 2011
    "Phonebooth" demonstrates that Director Joel Schumacher, despite the massive Cliches and disjointed script he created, can actually direct decent movies. Full Review »