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77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 33 Critics What's this?

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8.6

Universal acclaim- based on 17 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: The Devil and Daniel Johnston is a stunning portrait of a musical and artistic genius who nearly slipped away. Daniel Johnston, a manic-depressive genius singer/songwriter/artist, is revealed in this portrait of madness, creativity and love. (Sony Pictures Classics)
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. Whatever one's opinion of Johnston's art, this is documentary filmmaking at its finest.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Reviewed by: Daniel Wible
    70
    With this film, I believe that the strange and wonderful legend of Daniel Johnston will only continue to grow.
  7. A performer of formidable self-absorption, Johnston has inspired a film with the same trait, and the results are about what you might expect.

See all 33 Critic Reviews

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. Collapse
  2. Walt
    Apr 10, 2006
    10
    As a music junkie that has a bunch of his albums, I had an inkling of the crazy genius that is Daniel Johnston, but I wanted to find out more. This wonderful documentary exposes the lighter side and vastly darker side of Daniel Johnston. It is exceptionally well paced (except for the last 5 or 10 minutes that drag a bit), and very informative. Daniel Johnston is exposed through personal audio and video footage he and others took of him, pieces of his live performances, and interviews with his parents, friends, family and other musicians that know him. This is a wonderful and scary look at this cult music figure. The movie lays it all out there for you to see just who Daniel Johnston is. I drove 3 1/2 hours to NYC, and 3 1/2 hours back just to see this movie, and it was well worth the trip. Expand
  3. ChadS.
    Dec 10, 2007
    8
    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". Expand
  4. PaulJ.
    Oct 29, 2006
    5
    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. Expand