Generally favorable reviews - based on 46 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 46
  2. Negative: 1 out of 46
  1. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Sep 19, 2013
    The cast is remarkable. Five of the seven principal cast members own previous Oscar nominations.
  2. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Sep 30, 2013
    Is torture ever justifiable? A twisty, compelling, brilliantly acted (if sometimes difficult to watch) thriller, Prisoners, asks this question not in the usual contemporary context — anti-terrorism — but instead as a gruesome option deployed as a response to every parent’s worst nightmare.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Sep 9, 2013
    The thriller that's exciting, cathartic, and powerfully disturbing. Prisoners is that type of movie. It's rooted in 40 years of Hollywood revenge films, yet it also breaks audacious new ground.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Sep 19, 2013
    Some will write off Prisoners as shameless exploitation. But like Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River," to which it's been compared, Prisoners is so artfully shaped and forcefully developed that objections fade.
  5. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Sep 19, 2013
    Prisoners is infused with a poetic intensity that's rare in American thrillers. The closest cinematic comparisons would be "Zodiac," "In the Bedroom" and "Mystic River."
  6. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Sep 25, 2013
    It's a veritable shoo-in for an Oscar nod this year, and one of the more disturbing films to come out of a major studio in ages.
  7. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Sep 19, 2013
    Prisoners is the kind of movie that can quiet a room full of casual thrill-seekers. It absorbs and controls your attention with such assurance that you hold your breath for fear of distracting the people on screen, exhaling in relief or amazement at each new revelation
  8. Reviewed by: Scott Foundas
    Aug 31, 2013
    A spellbinding, sensationally effective thriller with a complex moral center.
  9. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Sep 16, 2013
    Villeneuve has what I keep looking for in directors: a charged sense of the way the world actually works.
  10. Reviewed by: Betsy Sharkey
    Sep 19, 2013
    Exciting, terrifying, worrisome stuff saturates every second of Prisoners, holding you captive, keeping you guessing until the bitter end.
  11. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Sep 1, 2013
    Before all else, Villneuve's grim chronicle of the fallout when two young girls vanish in a small town succeeds at crafting one powerfully suspenseful moment after another.
  12. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Sep 17, 2013
    When it comes to thrillers, this one is as good as it gets. Not for the squeamish, but for anyone who loves movies, it’s too exhilarating to miss.
  13. Reviewed by: Richard Roeper
    Sep 19, 2013
    Even with the stretched-out running time, Prisoners is one of the most intense moviegoing experiences of the year. You’ll never forget it.
  14. Reviewed by: William Goss
    Sep 5, 2013
    Rarely a moment is ever wasted, a consequence ignored, and though the climax is a corker, the final shot is even better. Prisoners requires and rewards your attention in equal measure. Be ready.
  15. Reviewed by: Rodrigo Perez
    Aug 31, 2013
    The picture is often graphic and pulls no punches in its disturbing violence, but its unflinching nature gives it a memorable sear that won't soon be forgotten.
  16. Reviewed by: Stephen Farber
    Aug 31, 2013
    Prisoners can at times be a hard film to watch, but thanks to all the talent involved, it’s even harder to shake off.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 533 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Negative: 10 out of 133
  1. Sep 20, 2013
    Prisoners is a deep dark film, with a first rate cinematography, breathtaking performances, riveting editing, incredible dialog, and pretty much one of the best movies of all year. What makes this movie distinctive, is the opening silent sequence, the atmosphere its self, it is chilling and a gripping thriller, it is a tense talk film that kept me at the edge of my seat. It is maybe the best performance ever coming from Hugh Jackman, he is magnificent in this movie, the villains and the good ones, everyone in this movie has something wrong with them, and this is one of the things that I loved in this film. Prisoners is one of the best movies all year and highly recommended, I loved Prisoners. Full Review »
  2. Sep 21, 2013
    I absolutely hated this movie.
    Judging by the critic reviews, it only got a high score from them because it's pretty and the style is
    interesting, I'm still trying to wrap my head around the fact that all the user scores are so high.

    I will admit that it's a visually pleasing movie, but not only does the mediocre plot drag on forever, it also relies on cheap tricks (like the plot "twist" near the end) and doesn't fill the expectations built up in the trailer (the truth behind the story was completely unbelievable)

    And even though most people seem to think the characters are well thought through, all I saw was tropes. Hugh Jackman's character is the ruthless badass who'd do anything to protect his child, his wife is a stereotypical mother, doing nothing but crying for her lost child.
    Detective Loki is the excellent detective with no social life, and the villains are your cookie cutter Hollywood serial killers.
    Joy's parents seemed to be the only characters who weren't one dimensional, yet they had some of the least screen time.

    One could argue that it's more about the message than the story itself, but an interesting message doesn't make up for a drab plot and poor character design.
    Full Review »
  3. Sep 22, 2013
    ...Terrible...First off, this was produced by Mark Wahlberg so you would think it would be, at the very least, mildly badass. Plus it has Hugh Jackman, Jake Gillyhall, the Black Guy from Ironman, and the kid from There Will Be Blood plays an assburger.
    That aside, the movie starts off like any other kidnap movie. Happy family, parents not paying attention, rapist scoops up the goods. Pretty standard. The suspect gets off clean, the police dont even contemplate anyone else as a possibility and Hugh Jackman takes justice into his own hands. Which sounds exciting right? Wrong. The plot proceeds to drag on for 2 and a half hours of blatantly cut and dry detective work, some moralistic struggles with Jackman and the mom giving Wolverine crap for not protecting them better. Which pisses me off cuz at least HE didnt spend the first week after their kid got snatched up drowning his sorrows in Zoloft and Puffs Plus Tissues. All that aside, this team of Oscar Award winners couldn't make up for the horrendous plot. Kinda makes me wonder if Jackman actually read the script or if that ability was taken with his kid. In the end, all I could feel was that the real Prisoners in this story was the audience themselves.
    Full Review »