Metascore
77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 31 out of 33
  2. Negative: 0 out of 33
  1. Feuerzeig's film - everything a good documentary should be - is a story of family, friendship, art and fame, as seen through the prisms of exceptional beauty and deepest pain.
  2. Reviewed by: Joel Selvin
    100
    A one-of-a-kind cinematic experience. This musician may not be a genius along the lines of Brain Wilson, as Feuerzeig claims, but Johnston has a knack for revealing innermost thoughts in an offhand way that is eerie and uncanny.
  3. 100
    The offhand wit and casual self-revelation of Johnston's best words draw you deeper into the mysteries of his character. Feuerzeig is a music-lover to his bones.
  4. 91
    By the time Feuerzeig gets to his final shot--an artful portrait of Johnston's parents, with their son looming over them like a curse--he's emerged with the most harrowing and aesthetically keen portrait of madness and artistic inspiration since "Crumb."
  5. Whatever one's opinion of Johnston's art, this is documentary filmmaking at its finest.
  6. 88
    No wonder Kurt Cobain was a fan. But it's the way Feuerzeig walks with him on the line between creativity and madness that digs this haunting and hypnotic film into your memory.
  7. With humor, honesty and awe, Feuerzeig's portrait may love Daniel Johnston, but it won't give his parents much hope.
  8. Reviewed by: Dan DeLuca
    88
    There are frightening moments, as when he attacks an elderly woman he thinks is possessed by devils. And revelatory, heartbreaking ones, which can make you think that maybe he is a genius, after all.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    88
    The casual listener is easily put off, but by the end of the film, even a newcomer can see the magic that made fans of Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth and led the estimable Yo La Tengo, Pearl Jam and Wilco to cover Johnston's remarkable body of work.
  10. A fascinating and lovingly crafted musical documentary that nevertheless misunderstands its own subject.
  11. Chronicles the eerie and oddly inspiring story of Johnston's ongoing battles to survive - both as artist and human being.
  12. 83
    You wouldn't want to be Daniel Johnston, or even know him too well. But see this film and you won't forget him.
  13. Reviewed by: Steve O'Hagan
    80
    Occasionally slides into a breathless fan tribute, but nonetheless an affectionate and candid portrait of a troubled artist.
  14. Reviewed by: Greg Burk
    80
    Some of his mystical encounters are just too spooky and amazing to reveal here, and Feuerzeig (director of previous documentaries on Jon Hendricks and Half Japanese) weaves them into the story with excellent timing and a psychedelic eye, aided by editor Tyler Hubby and cinematographer Fortunato Procopio.
  15. 80
    Jeff Feuerzeig's tremendous documentary runs on the motive force of intelligent fandom and radiates an ineffable grace.
  16. Jeff Feuerzeig, who won the best-director award at the 2005 Sundance festival, cobbles together a moving portrait of the artist as his own ghost, using a wealth of material provided by Mr. Johnston, from home movies to audiocassette diaries to dozens of original, and often heartbreakingly beautiful, songs.
  17. Reviewed by: Raoul Hernandez
    78
    At the end of the day, Johnston's childlike stream of unrequited love landed him on MTV, Atlantic Records, and now a feature-length theatrical recounting of his life. Take that, Satan.
  18. 75
    Watching the movie, I was reminded of the documentary "Crumb"...There is a line that sometimes runs between genius and madness, sometimes encircles them.
  19. 75
    Feuerzeig presents an unyieldingly sympathetic but always fascinating portrait of an artist whose mental illness became inseparable from his art, with one often fueling the other.
  20. 75
    You don't have to be a fan of Daniel Johnston, an underground artist and singer-songwriter whose manic-depression has kept him from realizing his full potential, to appreciate director Jeff Feuerzeig's documentary.
  21. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    75
    Jeff Feuerzeig's film is as good a portrait of the artist as a beloved basket case as you'll see, but it's kept from greatness by the questions it refuses to ask itself.
  22. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    75
    One thing not open to question is that the real heroes of this movie are Johnston's family, particularly his aging parents, who for all their heartbreak are palpably full of love and forbearance for their disturbed and, yes, talented boy.
  23. An uncomfortably fascinating document of a man whose bipolar disorder and artistic ambitions are inextricably connected.
  24. With more sympathy for Johnston's suffering and less reveling in the fruits of his madness, The Devil and Daniel Johnston could have been a great film instead of a disturbing one.
  25. Reviewed by: Daniel Wible
    70
    With this film, I believe that the strange and wonderful legend of Daniel Johnston will only continue to grow.
  26. 70
    As its title suggests, the picture is something of a ballad, an ode to an elusive character who's both quintessentially human and so outlandish he almost seems unreal.
  27. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    70
    Surprisingly diverting as a case study: not only of a talented misfit sublimating like mad to keep his loneliness from consuming him but also of a fringe artistic community (which includes the makers of this film) that rallies to give him the reinforcement he craves.
  28. In many ways, The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a beautiful work, a painstakingly crafted portrait of a talented self-saboteur--a man consistently done in by a vicious mental illness. But it's not as compelling as one would hope.
  29. Devil leads us into that dark, uncharted valley where evil, genius, divine inspiration, insanity -- and other unfathomable mysteries -- commingle. It also examines the hyperbolic industry of instant celebrity and ultimately shows us the complex algebraic equation that is Daniel Johnston's life.
  30. 70
    Johnston's childish, repetitive tunes prove that he's no Brian Wilson (or even Roky Erickson), which makes you wonder whether Feuerzeig is examining the singer's exploitation or participating in it.
  31. Feuerzeig leaves a lot of territory unexplored. Why did people overlook his suffering and bizarre behavior for so long? Were they cold-hearted profiteers, onlookers enjoying a freak show or honestly ignorant of his troubles? Are there links between Johnston's creativity and madness?
  32. Reviewed by: Dennis Harvey
    60
    Picture is particularly well-crafted, managing to avoid the ambulance-chasing tenor that might easily have turned this into a voyeuristic freakshow.
  33. A performer of formidable self-absorption, Johnston has inspired a film with the same trait, and the results are about what you might expect.
User Score
8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 17 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Negative: 0 out of 4
  1. Jun 10, 2011
    10
    I actually think Daniel Johnston was mis-diagnosed. I think he is on the autistic spectrum and originally had aspergers, but lack of understanding of his condition due to mis-diagnosis, accompanied by his drug use made his condition worse. He is totally a genius in what he was interested in, as are most people with aspergers. Full Review »