Generally favorable reviews - based on 34 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 32 out of 34
  2. Negative: 0 out of 34
  1. 89
    As good, old-fashioned dorkfests go, it doesn't get much better than the National Spelling Bee, with its arcane words, bespectacled competitors, and stinging little bell.
  2. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    At its most unsettling level, Spellbound asks us to consider what words are for and what childhood should be. It's as profound as anything you'll see this year, and, yes, it should have won the Oscar.
  3. The terrific Spellbound really isn't about the ability to tear words apart letter by letter. It's about nerve-wracking competitiveness.
  4. 88
    Boasts all of the drama and suspense of any reality TV show, but it actually stars smart people. And they're kids.
  5. Thrilling little epic set in the bewildering arena of the English language.
  6. At a time when so many in this country are at odds about what represents America at its best, it's refreshing and then some to see a film that everyone can agree is an example of exactly that.
  7. I love this movie, and I love the pride, spirit and sportsmanship of the kids who represent the best of American pluck and luck.
  8. 91
    The end result is the best documentary you'll see this year, as thrilling a competition as any Super Bowl and as suspenseful a story as any Hitchcock film.
  9. Reviewed by: Brooke Hauser
    While it may be excruciating to watch a speller miss a word by a letter, it's just as exciting to watch another kid jump the hurdle.
  10. 88
    By the time they're onstage, your pulse is pounding right along with theirs. Spell this movie: g-r-e-a-t.
  11. Reviewed by: Carla Meyer
    Resembles a Christopher Guest movie in that it follows obsessed, socially awkward folks on a seminal journey in their lives.
  12. Not only is it an enormously entertaining study of a curiously American institution, it also manages to be a nail-biting competition film, an engrossing group character study and a wonderfully graceful comedy of manners.
  13. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The movie becomes a nail-biter, the audience hanging on every letter. Who could have anticipated that a spelling competition would yield such a heartbreaking thriller?
  14. Enough drama, humor and unfiltered nail-biting suspense to put all the thrill-mongering screenwriters in Hollywood to shame.
  15. 90
    Just might be the most action-packed suspense thriller of the summer.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 25 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 14 out of 16
  2. Negative: 0 out of 16
  1. Jan 22, 2012
    This movie completely changed my outlook on life. I was 7 when I first saw it in theaters, and I was completely blown away. I was very impressionable, as so many 7 year olds are, and for the first month or so after I watched it, I had it decided that I too, was going to be a spelling bee kid. Obviously I didn't really stick with my plans of being a nationally ranked speller, but, a year ago, when I watched the movie again, I realized the impact this film had on me had just about nothing to do with spelling. Spellbound provides revealing insight on being the best, regardless of what hobby, sport, or subject you're trying to excel at. Surprisingly compelling, Spellbound ranks near the top of my list as far as documentaries go. Full Review »
  2. ChristopherJ.
    Mar 20, 2007
    A documentary that exposes the lifestyles of the nerdy and almost-famous spelling bee contest. The kids are fascinating and the parents are what you'd expect them to be: strange. Full Review »