Metascore
74

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: A.O. Scott
    Mar 29, 2012
    90
    Bully forces you to confront not the cruelty of specific children - who have their own problems, and their good sides as well - but rather the extent to which that cruelty is embedded in our schools and therefore in our society as a whole.
  2. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Mar 29, 2012
    90
    A documentary as vivid as any horror film, as heartbreaking as any Oscar-worthy drama.
  3. Reviewed by: Peter Travers
    Mar 30, 2012
    88
    The best social documents on film do more than show you what's wrong in the world – they make it personal. Bully does that with a passion.
  4. Reviewed by: Claudia Puig
    Mar 29, 2012
    88
    Bully forces audiences to face actions that are unthinkable, inexcusable and excruciatingly sad. It offers no solutions, only the testimony of brave youths.
  5. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Mar 28, 2012
    88
    The purpose of Bully is to educate and promote discussion. If the problem is not solved, there will be more Columbines and additional stories like Tyler and Ty's.
  6. Reviewed by: Rex Reed
    Mar 28, 2012
    88
    Lee Hirsch is certainly one who is making a difference. I endorse him and his brave, powerful movie and urge you to see it for yourself. You might leave Bully with rage, but you will not leave Bully with indifference.
  7. Reviewed by: Bob Mondello
    Mar 30, 2012
    85
    All I can add to the discussion is the fervent hope that any parents, teachers, administrators or students who see it will immediately start clamoring for it to be shown at their next PTA meeting.
  8. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Apr 12, 2012
    83
    Some movies uses make-believe to make you squirm or cry or rise to righteous anger. Bully does all of that with reality.
  9. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Mar 28, 2012
    83
    As long as the MPAA is issuing its cavalier decrees, though, they're the ones acting like bullies.
  10. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Apr 14, 2012
    80
    This is nothing if not an important film. It is important for the bullied to see, if for no other reason than to realize they aren't alone, and it is important for the bullies to see as well as for the parents of both groups so everyone can understand just how devastating the problem is.
  11. Reviewed by: Joe Morgenstern
    Mar 29, 2012
    80
    The film's power is undercut by its narrow geographic focus, which seems to associate bullying with conservative or working-class areas in red states. The filmmakers could easily have found similar cases involving the children of urban sophisticates.
  12. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Mar 29, 2012
    80
    If you feel like you've already read quite a bit about the documentary Bully, you have. But that still won't prepare you for the experience of seeing it.
  13. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Mar 29, 2012
    80
    An earnest and moving documentary made for and about tormented preteens and teenagers.
  14. Reviewed by: David Rooney
    Mar 28, 2012
    80
    An intimate reflection on the bullying epidemic that makes its points quietly and succinctly.
  15. Reviewed by: Ronnie Scheib
    Mar 25, 2012
    80
    Lee Hirsch's "The Bully Project" serves as a call to action against abuse of students by their peers as it follows, over the course of a year, five sobering case histories of unrelenting schoolyard persecution.
  16. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Apr 12, 2012
    75
    The best Hirsch's film can do, in the end, is remind us that bullying means more than we admit, and its effects aren't always immediately clear, even to loved ones.
  17. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Apr 11, 2012
    75
    Bully is a sincere documentary but not a great one. We feel sympathy for the victims, and their parents or friends, but the film helplessly seems to treat bullying as a problem without a solution.
  18. Reviewed by: Steve Persall
    Apr 11, 2012
    75
    Bully is no more incisive than a Dateline NBC segment on the subject, although with a PG-13 rating it now can be a classroom tool for discussion.
  19. 75
    Indeed, like all bureaucracies, the educational version is a bit of a bully itself. In Sioux City at least, the official response to bullying is to recognize its existence but to deny it's an "overwhelming issue," and retreat behind the comforting bromide that "kids will be kids."
  20. Reviewed by: Lou Lumenick
    Mar 30, 2012
    75
    It's powerful stuff, and probably a more effective approach than a series of talking heads decrying bullying, which is estimated to affect 18 million American children.
  21. Reviewed by: Barbara VanDenburgh
    Apr 14, 2012
    70
    It's true that the language in the film can be harsh -- but it's also very obvious that kids are hearing this kind of language in schools every day, much of it directed at them.
  22. Reviewed by: Benjamin Mercer
    Mar 27, 2012
    70
    It has a clear and calm approach to storytelling and some interest in the quality of its handheld images.
  23. Reviewed by: David Denby
    Mar 26, 2012
    70
    Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen, the filmmakers who made the moving documentary Bully, don't try to answer any questions. They avoid charts and graphs, talking heads and sociology. Their approach is more direct and, perhaps, more effective.
  24. 70
    Bully is repetitive and not especially artful, but children who allow themselves to see the world through the eyes of the film's victims will never be the same.
  25. Reviewed by: Sam Adams
    Mar 28, 2012
    67
    There are many appalling moments witnessed and described in Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully: children beaten and humiliated, ostracized by their peers and misunderstood by their parents, left to face an apparently heartless world without a soul to turn to.
  26. Reviewed by: Stephanie Zacharek
    Mar 29, 2012
    65
    Bully is much better when it sticks to simple storytelling. And storytelling, not grandstanding, is the thing that just might grab the attention of, say, school administrators, people who can have some effect on how bullies are dealt with.
  27. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Apr 13, 2012
    63
    Bully is a good start to a necessary conversation, but its loving voice is likely to be drowned out by haters who hide their own wounded hearts behind Internet pseudonyms and broadcast microphones.
  28. Reviewed by: Ann Hornaday
    Apr 12, 2012
    63
    This intimate, straightforward, often wrenching portrait of five families dealing with bullying and its aftermath doesn't hold many surprises at a time when such campaigns as "It Gets Better" and special programming on kids' cable networks are bringing the issue to the fore.
  29. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Apr 12, 2012
    63
    Bully contains some moments of real alarm and, in the school bus, one nightmarish motif.
  30. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Mar 31, 2012
    60
    Incredibly enough, it seems many people still believe that bullying is just a matter of "kids being kids." Until that attitude changes, this film should be considered required viewing for every parent, teacher and teenager in America.
  31. Reviewed by: Nick Schager
    Mar 29, 2012
    60
    Graceful cinematography captures the loneliness and isolation of these kids with understatement, even when the director succumbs to twinkling piano that pulls a tad too hard on the heartstrings.
  32. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Mar 27, 2012
    60
    This antibullying advocacy group could not be more well-intentioned or needed, but suddenly, the sneaking suspicion that you've merely been watching an extended PSA for the grassroots organization starts to take hold.
  33. Reviewed by: Kalvin Henely
    Mar 27, 2012
    50
    Leaves us moved by poignant scenes of victims' shattered lives, but, for reasons unclear, keeps the bullies themselves largely out of our reach.
User Score
7.3

Generally favorable reviews- based on 42 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 15
  2. Negative: 1 out of 15
  1. Mar 30, 2012
    7
    Hard hitting, thought provoking, heart-rending and timely, "Bully" is a documentary that approaches an all too familiarly overlooked subjectHard hitting, thought provoking, heart-rending and timely, "Bully" is a documentary that approaches an all too familiarly overlooked subject in a way that hasn't yet been explored; its graceful, and sure to pull on the heartstrings. However, unlike its unimpeachable intent and central message, "Bully," the film, undermines the totality of the subject by avoiding to satisfy it on an intellectual level; not a single interview with the titular contributors (bullies) or even a mere statistic solidifying the real-life gravity of the issue. For everytime a tear is shed, another opportunity is flubbed away from making it truly great and equally, memorable. As it is, "Bully," is a "cause for change" docupic that does offer moments of arising deep-seated pathos and stirring those around those emotions, but the erratic editing and the degree of simplicity derived from the omission of key tangibles, keeps back what could have been a game-changing medium for ages to come. Still among the best documentaries of 2012. Full Review »
  2. Mar 30, 2012
    10
    Awesome documentary really. The development of the documental y really exactly. Bully is a demand for this actual problem that much kids live,Awesome documentary really. The development of the documental y really exactly. Bully is a demand for this actual problem that much kids live, and be a good pack. Full Review »
  3. Jun 9, 2013
    5
    You know, I don't need this to tell me what I think everybody already knows: Bullying is bad. This is all just a collaboration of tear jerkingYou know, I don't need this to tell me what I think everybody already knows: Bullying is bad. This is all just a collaboration of tear jerking families; please note that I do feel bad for the families who's children are being put in these horrible situations and in no way am I ignoring the seriousness of the topic, but that's all this is. It just shows these families who's kids are being bullied, and that's it. The major problem with this is that it doesn't offer any solution, and personally I think because there is no solution. Bullying is evil; to an extent, and we all know that with good there's always going to be bad. It's how the world works and we may wish for a world of purity and innocence, but then it wouldn't be called living. Unfortunately though some people have bigger misfortunes than others, we feel sympathy for them for their loss, but it seems almost wrong to release their stories as a theatrical film. That's another thing that bothered me, if the director wanted to spread the word of this, why didn't he/she just put it on a website or something? The film wasn't a great success at the box office, so is it because people don't care or because they don't want to see a cruel and just downright depressing feature. I personally think that one could get the message across better if they made it not as depressing, but at least offered some positive atmosphere as well. Full Review »