Universal acclaim - based on 36 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 34 out of 36
  2. Negative: 0 out of 36
Watch On
  1. 100
    At the end we are left with the reflection that human consciousness is the great miracle of evolution, and all the rest (sight, sound, taste, hearing, smell, touch) are simply a toolbox that consciousness has supplied for itself.
  2. 88
    The movie will wipe you out. Schnabel's previous two films (Basquiat, Before Night Falls) also focused on artists. But this is his best film yet, a high-wire act of visual daring and unquenchable spirit.
  3. 100
    You won't have a more viscerally emotional experience at the movies this year.
  4. In a film that overwhelmingly avoids happy-faced pronouncements, this one sticks out.
  5. The movie has done what those who've cherished the book might have thought impossible -- intensified its singular beauty by roving as free and fearlessly as Bauby's mind did.
  6. The most beautiful movie ever made about a man who could only move one eyelid -- almost dangerously beautiful.
  7. Simultaneously uplifting and melancholy, suffused with an unexpected sense of possibility as much as the inevitable sense of loss.
  8. 88
    He even calls the majestic view from one of the hospital landings his Cinecittà, after the legendary Italian film studio. The movie is a Cinecittà of the mind.
  9. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Amalric is extraordinary, creating a character literally without moving a muscle.
  10. The film is a masterpiece in which “locked-in” syndrome becomes the human condition.
  11. It is wonderful: a rhapsodic adaptation of a memoir, a visual marvel that wraps its subject in screen romanticism without romanticizing his affliction. It left me feeling euphoric.
  12. 90
    In his memoir Mr. Bauby performed a heroic feat of alchemy, turning horror into wisdom, and Mr. Schnabel, following his example and paying tribute to his accomplishment, has turned pity into joy.
  13. 100
    The picture is so imaginatively made, so attuned to sensual pleasure, so keyed in to the indescribable something that makes life life, that it speaks of something far more elemental than mere filmmaking skill: This is what movies, at their best, can be.
  14. Moviegoers are turned off by depressing topics, yet "Diving Bell" supplies something film fans claim they want: pure escapism, the chance to experience extreme sensations virtually none of us will ever have.
  15. 100
    Thanks to Bauby's courageous and honest writing, and Schnabel's poetic interpretation, what could have been a portrait of impotence and suffering becomes a lively exploration of consciousness and a soaring ode to liberation.
  16. 91
    Mathieu Amalric, best known as an arms dealer in "Munich." In a role that strips him entirely of vanity and denies him virtually every expressive tool, Amalric makes a genuinely touching impression.
  17. The adjective “inspirational” doesn't do justice to the quality of Schnabel's film.
  18. The film is more than laborious eye-blinking - it's also dazzling visually, its potent imagery conjured by cinematographer Janusz Kaminski. But finally, Diving Bell is about something imperceptible: consciousness.
  19. The movie never falls into gushy moments of inspiration and Schnabel never tries to manipulate any particular response from the audience. We're left to make of it what we will.
  20. 100
    The Diving Bell and the Butterfly provides an ecstatic lift for movielovers, despite the tragic subject.
  21. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    Schnabel, screenwriter Ronald Harwood and Spielberg's great cinematographer Janusz Kaminski have found a way to take us inside Bauby's mind--his memories, his fantasies, his loves and lusts--transforming a story of physical entrapment and spiritual renewal into exhilarating images.
  22. 100
    Schnabel’s movie, based on the calm and exquisite little book that Bauby wrote in the hospital, is a gloriously unlocked experience, with some of the freest and most creative uses of the camera and some of the most daring, cruel, and heartbreaking emotional explorations that have appeared in recent movies.
  23. 91
    Schnabel's sleepy, drifty, at times morbidly funny film tackles something more ambitious, by getting into the head of someone who's trying to get out of there himself.
  24. Reviewed by: Glenn Kenny
    Every performer in the international cast -- Seigner, de Bankole, von Sydow (magnificent as Bauby's father), and the late Jean-Pierre Cassel to name but a few -- completely disappears into each of their roles, which I think is as much a testament to Schnabel's talents as to theirs.
  25. 100
    he Diving Bell and the Butterfly fuses experimental techniques with a highly accessible and sometimes humorous narrative; it’s deeply personal yet universal in its humanism.
  26. Director Julian Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood have performed a small miracle in adapting for the screen Jean-Dominique Bauby's autobiography The Diving Bell and the Butterfly.
  27. Reviewed by: Matthew Sorrento
    Schnabel's film is so steeped in the visual that it is surely the purest of cinema.
  28. Reviewed by: Josh Rosenblatt
    Could easily have tipped over into melodrama, but Schnabel is too much an artist to let that happen; he realizes that in order to make his hero truly substantial, and not just sympathetic, he has to present him as an ordinary man making the best of extraordinarily lousy circumstances. By doing so he’s created a character we not only marvel at but identify with.
  29. Reviewed by: Dana Stevens
    With the help of brilliant French actor Mathieu Amalric, Spielberg's longtime cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, and screenwriter Ronald Harwood (The Pianist), Schnabel has made a marvelous film that uses images with as much grace and flair as Bauby used words.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 165 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 44 out of 50
  2. Negative: 3 out of 50
  1. Paul
    Mar 20, 2008
    I dont like many films. They bore me. I want real stories. The art is in the story-telling not the action. A good story is not one whose I dont like many films. They bore me. I want real stories. The art is in the story-telling not the action. A good story is not one whose content is WOW. It's one which is well told. A good story teller can captivate you with tales of how he does his grocery shopping. The plot of this film is simple. Man enters coma. Man tries to get better. Man writes book. The End. No guns. No fighting. No sex. Beautifully told. The French have a nack for producing films with a strong artistic bent. Beautifully shot. Dripping with philosophyical weight. This is one such movie. Every 5 minutes a new seed for thought is planted, allowed to flourish and cut down. I implore you to watch this film if you have a concentration span of more than 5 minutes. Typical of criticisms are responses like those ushered by the Time magazine reviewer where he "began to hear a subversive voice whispering in my ear, and what it was saying was, "Could you blink a little faster, pal?" " I cant help but notice the irony when the film questions our "want it all, now" culture by contrasting his life as the editor of a superficial magazine with one where he is forced to think. Indeed it is in this contrast that much character development lies. In subtleties rather than plotlines reminiscent of epic Shakesperean tragedies. Go see it. Full Review »
  2. Jun 18, 2012
    The French drama film provides an exceptionally powerful message that nothing is as precious as our consciousness through a miraculous andThe French drama film provides an exceptionally powerful message that nothing is as precious as our consciousness through a miraculous and inspirational story of a guy who lost almost all of his physical senses except for only one, his consciousness. Despite how naturally the story progressed, the movie evokes such powerful inner subject of life that it is difficult not to be aware and realize the fact of how blessed we are to be born and be well at present time. An immensely inspirational film. Full Review »
  3. bda
    May 2, 2009
    Schnabel nailed it.