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
    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
    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
    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.
User Score

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
    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 »
  2. ChadS.
    Dec 10, 2007
    To the uninitiated, the lucky ones whose lives weren't destroyed by music snobbery, watch Stephen Frears' "High Fidelity" to understand indie fandom. It'll help you better deal with the guy who thinks that Daniel Johnston is better than Brian Wilson. He's not. Johnston is an acquired taste(you have to understand the aesthetics of indie-rock). His music is for people who thinks Jonathan Richman doesn't keep it real enough. "The Devil and Daniel Johnston", however, along with Jonathan Caouette's "Tarnation", is another stunning example of how the proliferation of home-movie cameras during the eighties produced a treasure trove of archival footage. Without it, you don't have a movie, because the subject matter wouldn't be interesting enough. If you're befuddled by the accolades thrown Johnston's way, think of how radical the Sex Pistols sounded next to Fleetwood Mac. Johnston doesn't play punk rock, but he captures that do-it-yourself spirit, which used to be the ethos of alternative music before "Teen Spirit" commodified amateurism. To the uninitiated, "The Devil and Daniel Johnston" will seem like an inside joke, or worse, a black comedy like Hal Ashby's "Being There". Full Review »
  3. PaulJ.
    Oct 29, 2006
    The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a well enough done film, and benefits greatly from archival film from various sources, but ultimately is somewhat difficult to appreciate if you are not a manic music fan of some sort. You certainly do feel sorry for Daniel Johnston, his has been a rough life, and I give the filmmakers credit there, for this could easily degenerated into a "this guy was nuts" sort of thing. And if you get the DVD, whatch the extras, as parts of his obsessions are more fully explained. But ultimately, for the non-manic non-Dylan type music non-fan, the film gets a little tedious, so I don't regret watching it, but it was really not the best film of the year. Daniel Johnston has done some amazing things over the years, and you certainly get a good feel for what he's been through, and maybe just at the end appreciate the progress in treatment as you can see him clear up some (hopefully not at the loss of his art), but still a bit of a slog at times. Full Review »