Mixed or average reviews - based on 35 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 35
  2. Negative: 4 out of 35
  1. 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.
  2. 50
    Phone Booth may not be awful, but it's puny.
  3. 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.
  4. A perverse kind of payback for every terrorizing cabbie, bullying streetwalker, insulting bike messenger and screaming corner grocer in Manhattan.
  5. 50
    Proves that a movie can be true to life and still seem utterly preposterous.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  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. The movie's so hung up (pardon) on its gimmick it never transcends it; might have been better had Kiefer called Moviefone.
  10. It's an energetic stunt of a movie, and it wants to make us sweat like it's 1974.
  11. 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.
  12. 50
    The situation is suspenseful and unique enough to hold our attention for a time.
  13. 40
    At only 84 minutes, Phone Booth's brevity turns out to be its only saving grace.
  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. 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.
  16. Farrell, adding to the case for his impending stardom, locks into his role with the laser precision of the sniper's rifle scope.
  17. 75
    A tabloidy, nail-biting thriller.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 75
    The best pure thriller of 2003 to-date.
  21. 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.
  22. 30
    A movie that's laughable without, alas, even being enjoyably awful.
  23. The result is a movie that combines a seriousness of purpose with an impish delight in craft, in a way Hitchcock would have appreciated.
  24. Reviewed by: D. Parvaz
    Gripping in parts, tedious in others, the film works best when the action is brisk.
  25. 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.
  26. 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.
  27. Can't spoil the ending, except to say that it spoils itself.
  28. Bogus on every level, right down to its half-hearted trick ending.
  29. 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.
  30. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Superficially gritty yet soullessly slick melodrama.
  31. 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.
  32. 50
    Best appreciated as hilarious pulp metaphor, which, not coincidentally, happens to be one of the screenwriter's specialties.
  33. Provides a reminder of the power of unadorned drama and language -- whole torrents of eloquent words -- in the service of a nifty idea.
  34. Phone Booth is 82 New York minutes long, all of them exciting.
  35. What keeps Phone Booth going, despite its premise, is the acting and the writing, both of which are top-notch.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 110 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 55
  2. Negative: 15 out of 55
  1. 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 »
  2. JG.
    Oct 13, 2006
    Now this is American cinema at its finest. A truly powerful and life-changing film. Phone Booth transports you to a whole other world. This movie takes you on an exciting journey full of twists and turns that you just simply don't want to end. Colin Farrell gives us a riveting performance, he demands our full attention right from start to finish, restoring our faith and love in him once again. Quite possibly the most triumphant achievement of his career. Phone Booth is a magnificent exhibition of raw talent and ingenuity. A shotgun hat trick of a movie that will linger in your thoughts long after you have shut off the DVD player, turned the light down and slipped into bed. Bravo! Full Review »
  3. JasonL.
    Apr 30, 2003
    [**POTENTIAL MINOR SPOILERS**] Have you ever seen a movie that you would actually pay money to watch more than once? What if I told you that this film had a setting of only one main location, two main actors and three supporting cast members? While these elements don?t make up what a classic movie sounds like on paper, add director Joel Schumacher (Bad Company, 8mm) into the mix, along with screenwriter Larry Cohen, who had this story handed down to him by Alfred Hitchcock himself about 30 years ago, and you have the perfect blend of blackmail, violence and extortion: Phone Booth. The story begins by showing a glimpse into the life of Stu Shepard (Daredevil?s Colin Farrell). Stu is a New York hustler that people love to hate. He is egotistical, two-faced to everyone he knows and does what he can for personal gratification. He even fantasizes about cheating on his wife Kelly (Pitch Black's Radha Mitchell) and the object of that desire is Pamela McFadden (Dawson Creek?s Katie Holmes). Pam is a young actress trying to get her first break, while Stu has been grooming her for the big time. To avoid having his calls to Pam appear on his cellular phone bill, Stu calls her from the lone phone booth left in the heart of NYC. However, things would be different on this day. Upon hanging up, he receives a call that would turn his whole world upside down. The caller (24?s Kiefer Sutherland) is a sniper, who has been targeting high-profile underhanded suits, just like Stu. He has a few simple rules so that Stu does not meet the same fate that two others had before him: don?t leave the booth, don?t tell anyone who he?s talking to, and most importantly, don?t hang up. To prove his seriousness, the caller shoots and kills a pimp who tries to physically remove Stu from the booth for taking too much time with his call. This, as expected, does not help matters, and the fallen pimp?s hookers now believe it was indeed Stu who committed the murder. Soon, the NYPD and numerous media outlets are covering this serious situation. Things become increasingly difficult for Stu Shepard as Kelly and Pam both show up. In the meantime, the caller continues to play various mind games, while the sympathetic NYPD Captain Ramey (Twilight Zone?s Forest Whitaker) tries to solve the issue. During all of this, Stu tries to maintain his sanity and not risk any more lives. His lies no longer matter. As a result, he must now search his soul, discover himself and attempt to outsmart the caller, taking the game to a whole new level. The cinematography is outstanding. Schumacher uses the right angle for every shot, and manages to keep everyone?s attention with quick pans and abrupt cuts. In the end, the 80-minute movie seems longer but not because it is boring. The biggest payoff comes with the twist ending that changes the film?s outcome within sixty seconds. There was not one bad performance in Phone Booth. Farrell?s ability to convert his Irish brogue to a Brooklyn drawl makes his performance as Bullseye in Daredevil look like a child?s school play when compared to the Broadway-level of acting he manages here. While Mitchell and Holmes did not have lengthy parts, their roles added just enough to the story and they managed to perform up to the standards of their characters. Forest Whitaker was a surprisingly great addition to the cast and his role as a sympathetic cop is one that?s not often seen, and should thus be welcomed. However, all of these actors are outshined by Kiefer Sutherland, who ends up being extremely creepy and one of the best antagonists in recent movie history by just using his voice. Will this win Best Picture at next year?s Academy Awards? It probably won?t. However, with a great story, top-notch directing and a cast with great chemistry, what more could you ask for? Out of a possible five stars, I give this the limit of five with desires to go even higher. While I would go see it again and again, not everyone has the same tastes. However, I would put down the $8 for a ticket to see the flick at least once. If nothing else, it will make you stop and think: the next time you enter a phone booth, just who will be watching? Full Review »