Universal acclaim - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. 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.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard T. Jameson
    What evolves among them is a kind of realistic fairy tale, sustained by the sweet gravity and guttural, deadpan minimalism of Thornton's performance.
  3. A story that's startling, soulful and absolutely unforgettable.
  4. 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.
  5. Reviewed by: Marc Caro
    Resonates like the best of Southern fiction.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. I can't help thinking, though, that maybe Thornton was too ambitious in trying to wear three hats.
  10. Reviewed by: Frank Lovece
    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.
  11. 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.
  12. Reviewed by: Robert Abele
    Sling Blade is perhaps the year's most impressive debut because it is an uncompromisingly told tale with a minimum of frills.
  13. Catches you up so firmly in its world that you find yourself accepting whatever Thornton presents right up to its deeply ironic finish.
  14. Takes you down paths full of primitive, almost biblical implications, but it also finds comic relief in moments of palpable tension.
  15. 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.
  16. 80
    A remarkably moving and disturbing film about the possibility of belonging and the genealogy of violence.
  17. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    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.
  18. Reviewed by: Dwight Garner
    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.
  19. Thornton is sadly affecting in the film's central role.
  20. Reviewed by: Christopher Sharrett
    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]
  21. 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.
  22. 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]
  23. Reviewed by: Tom Keogh
    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.
  24. Reviewed by: Sean Means
    (Thornton) proves his mettle as an actor, writer and director with this bleakly comic and surprisingly tender movie.
  25. Reviewed by: John Hartl
    (Thornton) does a remarkable job in all three categories, but what you're likely to remember most clearly is his performance.
  26. Reviewed by: Gary Susman
    Thornton has written himself the role of a lifetime, yet he plays Karl with neither condescension nor saintliness.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 69 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
    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. MsG
    Dec 24, 2006
    As a mental health professional, Billy Bob's portrayal was excellent and moving. This story is all too common and realistic about people in psychiatric hospitals, from Karl's character to the sadistic rapist in the hospital to Doyle's drunken abusiveness. Excellent portrayal of too common a life for many. Full Review »
  3. May 4, 2014
    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 »