Metascore
89

Universal acclaim - based on 30 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 27 out of 30
  2. Negative: 1 out of 30
  1. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Sep 13, 2013
    100
    The Act of Killing is exemplary as a history lesson, a character study and a powerful argument for confronting the past.
  2. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Aug 15, 2013
    100
    In The Act of Killing, director Joshua Oppenheimer pulls off the impossible: He confronts great, incomprehensible evil and puts a human face on it.
  3. Reviewed by: Bill Stamets
    Aug 15, 2013
    100
    [A] stunning “documentary of the imagination."
  4. Reviewed by: Janice Page
    Aug 3, 2013
    100
    The Act of Killing is one of the most extraordinary films you’ll ever encounter, not to mention one of the craziest filmmaking concepts anywhere.
  5. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Jul 26, 2013
    100
    The Act of Killing is a must-see.
  6. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Jul 25, 2013
    100
    It's a mind-bending film, devastating and disorienting, that disturbs us in ways we're not used to being disturbed, raising questions about the nature of documentary, the persistence of evil, and the intertwined ways movies function in our culture and in our minds.
  7. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Jul 25, 2013
    100
    This feature-length documentary, currently entering national release, may be one of the most horrifying films you'll ever see, and one of the most edifying.
  8. Reviewed by: Steven Boone
    Jul 19, 2013
    100
    This masterpiece about propaganda, cinema and vanity as instruments of power and terror ends on an excruciatingly sustained, righteous money shot: a monster who could have been a good man suffocates on the truth.
  9. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Jul 18, 2013
    100
    The cumulative impact is devastating, and very far from a simple Western condemnation of another country’s brutality. In forcing viewers to hear the boasts of genocide’s perpetrators, The Act of Killing puts a harsh spotlight on all celebrations of bloodshed, from Hollywood to the op-ed pages.
  10. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Jul 18, 2013
    100
    The horror of The Act of Killing does not dissipate easily or yield to anything like clarity.
  11. Reviewed by: Ignatiy Vishnevetsky
    Jul 17, 2013
    100
    By tackling one man’s sense of right and wrong (or lack thereof), Oppenheimer is ultimately tackling human nature.
  12. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Jul 16, 2013
    100
    More terrifying than any horror film, and more intellectually adventurous than just about any 2013 release so far, The Act of Killing is a major achievement, a work about genocide that rightly earns its place alongside Shoah as a supreme testament to the cinema's capacity for inquiry, confrontation, and remembrance.
  13. Reviewed by: Jessica Kiang
    Mar 18, 2013
    100
    Presenting a terrifying view of a hidden holocaust and a moral apocalypse in which the most basic humanities have become twisted beyond recognition, The Act of Killing is a towering achievement in filmmaking, documentary or otherwise.
  14. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Mar 18, 2013
    100
    It is a gut-churning film: and a radical dive into history, grabbing the past in a way a conventional documentary would not.
  15. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Mar 18, 2013
    91
    Playing make believe with murderers, Oppenheimer risks the possibility of empowering them. However, by humanizing psychopathic behavior, The Act of Killing is unparalleled in its unsettling perspective on the dementias associated with dictatorial extremes.
  16. Reviewed by: Bill Goodykoontz
    Aug 1, 2013
    90
    The Act of Killing is a horrifying film, a surreal experience that explores the limits of human cruelty. It’s a film that is absolutely hard to watch. It’s also a film that absolutely should be seen.
  17. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Jul 19, 2013
    90
    Filmmaker Joshua Oppenheimer is obviously treading on dicey moral ground here, empowering killers to tell their story when they've never been called to account for the barbarism that brought them to power.
  18. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Jul 17, 2013
    90
    The Act Of Killing raises all kinds of provocative questions about the sins of nations in transition, and about how important it is for those in power to control the narrative.
  19. 90
    The resulting film is bizarre to the point of ­trippiness, yet it’s one of the most lucid portraits of evil I’ve ever seen.
  20. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Aug 7, 2013
    89
    It comes as little surprise that Errol Morris and Werner Herzog, both masters of sly documentaries in which the subjects nail themselves with their own words, are the executive producers of Oppenheimer’s film.
  21. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Mar 18, 2013
    88
    In Joshua Oppenheimer's extraordinary The Act of Killing, film becomes the medium for a bold historical reckoning--and in more ways than one.
  22. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    Jul 18, 2013
    80
    Among the most profound, formally complex, and emotionally overpowering documentaries I’ve ever seen. It’s also, by turns and sometimes at once, luridly seductive and darkly comic and physically revolting — a movie that makes you want to laugh and cry and retch and run out of the theater, both to escape the awful things the film is showing you and to tell everyone you know that they need to see it, too.
  23. Reviewed by: Keith Uhlich
    Jul 16, 2013
    80
    Fortunately, Oppenheimer keeps the film focused on the highly complicated Anwar — a charismatic devil if ever there was one — observing as this strange reckoning with the past slowly breaks down his defenses.
  24. Reviewed by: Tim Robey
    Jul 3, 2013
    80
    You’ve never seen a documentary like The Act of Killing. If you saw too many like it, your hold on sanity might fray, which is not so much the film’s fault as that of its bloodcurdling subject. This movie is essential.
  25. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Mar 18, 2013
    80
    Never before has anyone made a documentary like The Act of Killing, and the filmmakers seem at a loss in terms of how to organize the many threads of what they capture...Still, essential and enraging, The Act of Killing is a film that begs to be seen, then never watched again.
  26. Reviewed by: Matt Patches
    Jul 16, 2013
    79
    The most gut-wrenching 'making of' documentary ever made.
  27. Reviewed by: Anthony Lane
    Jul 15, 2013
    70
    The project gave me pause. Although Oppenheimer has called it “a documentary of the imagination,” whatever that means, would a measure of investigation have spoiled it? We hear that Congo personally exterminated a thousand people. Does that figure stand up, and does it not matter more than his dawning remorse? There is no disputing that we are right at the heart of darkness, but around it is a larger body of evidence, which awaits another explorer.
  28. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Aug 16, 2013
    60
    It's also a touch tedious at times, as it's not always clear where Oppenheimer is going.
  29. Reviewed by: Joe Neumaier
    Jul 18, 2013
    60
    Can’t-look-away stuff, though it’s tough to believe your eyes and ears.
  30. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Jul 26, 2013
    25
    The effect is intended to be ghastly – which it certainly is – but I was equally repelled by this film’s conceit. Oppenheimer allows murderous thugs free rein to preen their atrocities, and then fobs it all off as some kind of exalted art thing. This is more than an aesthetic crime; it’s a moral crime.
User Score
8.5

Universal acclaim- based on 72 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 7 out of 10
  2. Negative: 2 out of 10
  1. Sep 11, 2013
    0
    Going into The Act of Killing I expected to be shocked and appalled and I was but not for the reasons I imagined. A fearless look at a group of people alive today and their inner most thoughts about a dark time in Indonesian history. The kicker? These people are monsters and director Joshua Oppenheimer is unfortunately giving them a voice. The film follows Oppenheimer as he interviews a group of Indonesian death squad executioners responsible for the mass communist genocide that took place in 1965, a horrific period in Indonesian history carried out by these so called subjects. The film is crass and lacks any kind of remorse as it ridicules the children of those who died, shows the wonderful lives that these killers now have and glorifies an action that took over a million lives. The Act of Killing is a disgraceful picture designed to disturb as to inspire action. However Oppenheimer must know the futility of his struggle and the inevitability of his failure so his creation of this rubbish only serves to entertain his interviewees. Not only does the film give them a pulpit to shout out their propaganda but it also treats it all as alright, a necessary evil. The Act of Killing breaks the cardinal rule of documentary film making, it doesn't have anything in it worth telling the rest of the world, it doesn't have a purpose beyond mocking the dead. Full Review »
  2. Feb 17, 2014
    10
    Great documentary. Shows the twisted state of morality in the mind of all the killers like never before in the cinema. The question how some human can do it has been answered by an intelligent concept. Full Review »
  3. Jan 16, 2014
    4
    The Act of Killing has some of the most horrific things humans can do to each other but in the end what was the point? All these men are still walking free and no punishments have be taken against them. The movie just revisits the past without dealing with the now. As a movie, its too long and has an ending that is unintentionally funny. Full Review »