Generally favorable reviews - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 20
  2. Negative: 0 out of 20
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Dec 6, 2012
    The case transfixed a racially polarized New York City. The teens were labeled as a "wolf pack" by the news media, led by the New York tabloids.
  2. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Nov 30, 2012
    What we do see, among much else that is damning, are archival NYPD videotapes of the boys being interrogated by detectives who press them to implicate one another in exchange for a leniency that never materialized.
  3. Reviewed by: Lisa Schwarzbaum
    Nov 20, 2012
    This patient, righteous documentary by Ken Burns, David McMahon, and Sarah Burns recounts the story of justice undone (a serial rapist confessed) with extensive interviews, a thorough use of archival footage, and a less-than felicitous use of ominous-rumble music that unnecessarily insists, Isn't this an outrage?
  4. Reviewed by: Wesley Morris
    Dec 13, 2012
    If the second hour or so isn't as strong as the first, it's because the filmmaking fails to rise to the injustice that's befallen its subjects since their exoneration. It can't, really.
  5. Reviewed by: Michael Phillips
    Dec 6, 2012
    An unusually good documentary about an outlandish miscarriage of justice.
  6. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Dec 13, 2012
    If there's one thing missing, it's a sense of purposeful, immediate outrage. You can't help but wonder why this film wasn't made 20 years ago, when it could have saved these men some time behind bars.
  7. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Nov 20, 2012
    With an editing approach that seamlessly blends past and present, Central Park Five contains a fluid, engaging storytelling that does away with the dry voiceover commentary and theatrical music choices that typically account for the narrative flow of most Burns films.
  8. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Nov 23, 2012
    Its greatest advantage over the book is that this is a story well-documented in moving pictures. In addition to recent interviews with the five, the filmmakers deftly marshal news footage, clips from the supposed confessions, and trenchant analysis.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 15 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 5 out of 5
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 5
  3. Negative: 0 out of 5
  1. Dec 2, 2012
    I was fortunate to screen this heartbreaking film with one of the directors and two of the CP 5 - three really excellent people. In lieu of writing a full review, I'd just like to urge everyone who reads this to say only one when when placed into custody - "lawyer." By doing so, it's not like pleading the 5th - no fact-finder or judge is going to presume you're guilty of anything. These kids were absolutely bullied, but we can't assume that our government is run by angels, as Alexis de Tocqueville suggested - we have to protect ourselves. So if you feel you've been wrongly detained - don't say more than that single word - lawyer - until you've had a chance to discuss your situation with your legal representative, whether he or she is someone you or your family finds, or the court appoints to you. This is NOT the same as not cooperating with a police investigation when you're not in custody. But when YOUR freedom is at stake, don't hang yourself with your own words. The admissions by these boys - which were coerced - overwhelmed the jury and directly led to their jail sentences. I'm so sorry it happened that way. Again, when you're Mirandized, listen to the words, close your mouth, and ask for a lawyer. Full Review »
  2. Oct 3, 2013
    "The Central Park Five" serves as a warning about legal incompetence, innocent lives destroyed, and a judicial system vulnerable to manipulation. The documentary details a nightmare scenario for five Harlem teenagers facing hard time, and the condemnation of America for a crime they didn't commit. The production sets the situation immediately, introducing the viewer to NYC in the 1980s, where Wall Street is in the process of rebuilding its reputation, while crack ravages the inner city, creating an explosive racial divide.

    The film examines the infamous 1989 Central Park Jogger case, where a young white woman is brutally beaten and raped in New York's Central Park. At the same time, a group of five young black and Latino teenagers were quickly arrested for the crime and imprisoned. Following swift arrests by law enforcement officials, the prosecutors proudly declared the conviction as a step forward in the reclamation of a the city. Despite the lack of concrete evidence, all five are found guilty on multiple charges. Raymond Santana, Yusef Salaam, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, and Kharey Wise each spent between six to 13 years in prison, professing their innocence, while maintaining that it was a coerced confession to the crime. However, a chance encounter between the oldest of them and convicted serial rapist Matias Reyes, who years later yields his free admission of sole responsibility for the crime, and the claim is further substantiated with DNA evidence.

    The documentary's approach seamlessly blends past and present, re-examines the assault, and walks you through what happened to the teenagers, from their arrest through their exoneration. Burns captures the complexity of history with startling results, yet "The Central Park Five" isn't quite as comprehensive as hoped, and fails to add anything substantively new to the story. Additionally, an element of balance is missing that would have turned a very good documentary into an exceptional one.

    "The Central Park Five" presents the facts of the case with clarity, and it is a courageous, revealing look at the often complex and broken legal system in the United States. Unfortunately, there is no avoiding the conclusion presented by historian Craig Steven Wilder: "Rather than tying [the case] up in a bow and thinking that there was something we can take away from it, and that we'll be better people, I think what we really need to realize is that we're not very good people."
    Full Review »
  3. Jan 18, 2013
    i am a documental buff. i read a couple reviews of this great investigative piece. it remained so: a sum-up of chronological facts that make up a very powerful story. but the docu lacks broll, images, archive stock... so many images of the iconic 80s are part of the story of these 5 kids and couldve definitely added force and rhythm to this very interesting investigation but... alas, the filmmakers stick to the story as if in a sociology class. great film, anyway. Full Review »