Metascore
84

Universal acclaim - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. Reviewed by: Christopher Sharrett
    100
    Sling Blade is about a society barely holding on by its fingernails, the home and hearth hardly a place of respite. Unlike "The Ice Storm" or "The Sweet Hereafter," Sling Blade is devoid of the creature comforts of middle-class life that at least allow people the degraded hobbies that keep them functioning. [May, 1998]
  2. A story that's startling, soulful and absolutely unforgettable.
  3. 100
    Like the eloquent, darkly funny dialogue, the film's characters, setting and cadences draw us into its world, with all its terrors and tenderness. What emerges is a masterpiece of Southern storytelling that draws a sharp line between good and evil.
  4. Who is Billy Bob Thornton? The question fascinates after seeing Sling Blade, the extraordinary first film that he wrote and directed and in which he plays the leading role. [Feb. 10, 1997]
  5. It's a beautiful contraption of a movie, a gothic backwoods fable that uses its naive yet murderous hero to walk a fine line between sentimentality and dread.
  6. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    90
    Sling Blade is perhaps the year's most impressive debut because it is an uncompromisingly told tale with a minimum of frills.
  7. Reviewed by: Tom Keogh
    90
    The lure of Sling Blade is both elemental and hauntingly familiar, and I would not be surprised if Thornton's breakthrough film is one day considered a classic in its own right.
  8. Catches you up so firmly in its world that you find yourself accepting whatever Thornton presents right up to its deeply ironic finish.
  9. Takes you down paths full of primitive, almost biblical implications, but it also finds comic relief in moments of palpable tension.
  10. Perhaps the most remarkable thing here is Thornton's nuanced performance, but the film has other rare virtues: all the characters are fully and richly fleshed out (with some unexpected turns by John Ritter and singer Dwight Yoakam), and the story's construction is carefully measured.
  11. Thornton, who wrote, directed, and stars in Sling Blade, has created an unforgettable character and situation, a film that's sure to become an American classic.
  12. 88
    There is pain, humor, irony and sweetness in the character, and a voice and manner so distinctive, he is the most memorable movie character I've seen in a long time.
  13. Reviewed by: Marc Caro
    88
    Resonates like the best of Southern fiction.
  14. Reviewed by: Richard T. Jameson
    87
    What evolves among them is a kind of realistic fairy tale, sustained by the sweet gravity and guttural, deadpan minimalism of Thornton's performance.
  15. 80
    A remarkably moving and disturbing film about the possibility of belonging and the genealogy of violence.
  16. Reviewed by: Sean Means
    80
    (Thornton) proves his mettle as an actor, writer and director with this bleakly comic and surprisingly tender movie.
  17. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    80
    (Thornton) does a remarkable job in all three categories, but what you're likely to remember most clearly is his performance.
  18. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    80
    Marked by some powerful scenes, fine performances and colorful dialogue, this talented directorial debut by actor-writer Billy Bob Thornton has its effectiveness diluted by serious overlength and a rather monotonous, unmodulated tone.
  19. Reviewed by: Gary Susman
    80
    Thornton has written himself the role of a lifetime, yet he plays Karl with neither condescension nor saintliness.
  20. Billy Bob Thornton wrote, directed and stars in this compassionate, occasionally funny, character-driven movie about a mentally unstable man who takes the best interests of children very seriously.
  21. 75
    The narrative is little more than a flimsy envelope -- it's the men and women who are sealed within that make Sling Blade worth watching.
  22. 75
    Builds slowly but passionately, not dancing to some Hollywood tune, but finding its characters where they are and letting them be who they are.
  23. Reviewed by: Frank Lovece
    70
    The atmosphere is Southern Gothic pure enough to do Carson McCullers proud -- grotesque, sentimental and dankly nasty -- and Thornton manages not to undermine his own writing.
  24. Reviewed by: Dwight Garner
    70
    It's Thornton's rough and nuanced performance as Karl, not his modest filmmaking skills, that sucks you so quickly into Sling Blade's vortex.
  25. I can't help thinking, though, that maybe Thornton was too ambitious in trying to wear three hats.
  26. Thornton is sadly affecting in the film's central role.
User Score
8.9

Universal acclaim- based on 66 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 35 out of 35
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 35
  3. Negative: 0 out of 35
  1. Aug 24, 2013
    10
    A masterful script. Outstanding acting Thorton is spellbinding in the lead role. His opening scene is without doubt the best I've seen.This is storytelling at its finest and directed with confidence, conviction and ease. Light and shade, humour and a fierce undercurrent of tension. To every film fan watch it now! Full Review »
  2. May 4, 2014
    10
    Billy Bob Thornton succesfully makes himself a centre of this film : a director, a screenwriter and a leading role, but you will clearly remember one of those, an extraordinary performance. A tagline : "Sometimes a hero comes from the most unlikely place." may has a different point of view, beautiful and dark come up, but it's nothing to do to this film. This film makes Southern storytelling / drama genre more powerful and stronger. Full Review »
  3. Apr 8, 2014
    10
    This film manages to be beautiful and dark all at the same time. Although it's very intense in places and really puts you on edge with heightened emotion and great acting, it leaves you feeling warm and with a refreshed love of humanity. Thornton's performance is so hauntingly amazing that you hardly even recognise him as Carl. His entire body and persona becomes transformed, more so than any other actor playing any part I've seen. The young Lucas Black gives a phenomenal performance as Frank as well. He's just so natural. I really can't praise this film enough. Thornton is a genius in my eyes and it's perfectly clear how he managed to bag himself Angelina Jolie at one point. Full Review »