Universal acclaim - based on 40 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 37 out of 40
  2. Negative: 0 out of 40
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  1. A great movie on a powerful, essential subject -- the Holocaust years in Poland -- directed with such artistry and skill that, as we watch, the barriers of the screen seem to melt away.
  2. One of the great Holocaust films.
  3. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    There are three Poles in The Pianist -- Szpilman, Polanski, and Frederic Chopin. Of the three, fittingly, Chopin speaks the loudest.
  4. 100
    Roman Polanski's new movie may be the greatest historical film centered on an enigmatic character since Lawrence of Arabia.
  5. 88
    Nothing can detract from the film as a portrait of hell so shattering it's impossible to shake.
  6. 88
    The closing scenes of the movie involve Szpilman's confrontation with a German captain named Wilm Hosenfeld -- Polanski's direction of this scene, his use of pause and nuance, is masterful.
  7. 88
    If The Pianist isn't quite as devastating as "Schindler's List" -- the movie with which all other Holocaust movies must be compared -- it's because Polanski isn't interested in an expansive view of the war.
  8. The power of the arts to transcend cultural differences is presumably what moves the German to spare Szpilman, and, perhaps, is the key to Polanski's salvation as well.
  9. To the extent that movies bear the residue of their filmmakers' autobiographies, I found The Pianist particularly compelling.
  10. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    With this 2002 Cannes Film Festival best-picture winner, Polanski skips the quirky flourishes and simply brings history to life.
  11. 88
    Crafted without a whiff of melodrama, this motion picture takes a steady, unflinching look at the plight of Jews in Warsaw.
  12. Polanski's view of life is like that of Greek tragedy, with the same cold comfort that tragedy implies; from the larger perspective which art gives us, we know even horrors eventually pass.
  13. After an hour, The Pianist stops being the Holocaust movie and becomes a Holocaust movie.
  14. Has a sense of emotional urgency and deep-dwelling grief.
  15. 75
    The Pianist recalls "Schindler's List," even down to its weakness: Just as Spielberg's film turned sentimental in its final half hour, Polanski's work, too, has a schmaltz coda. But that doesn't make The Pianist any less effective.
  16. Reviewed by: Ken Fox
    Polanski's film is an unqualified success both dramatically and artistically.
  17. Reviewed by: Darrin Keene
    Does the world need another Holocaust film? When the director is Roman Polanski, the answer is an unequivocal “yes."
  18. Reviewed by: Phil Hall
    At the risk of being called an anti-Semite, I would like to propose a moratorium on Holocaust movies -- While it would be crass to discount the importance of the subject, at the same time one has to admit there is some degree of excess going on here.
  19. 89
    Szpilman takes to performing sonatas in thin air, eyes closed, those jittery fingers stroking nothing but air. It's a wonderful moment in a wonderful, ghastly film, and one of the most moving arguments for the redemptive powers of art ever made.
  20. The result is a movie, and Cannes Palme d'Or winner, of riveting power and sadness, a great match of film and filmmaker -- and star, too.
  21. 91
    It's no wonder that Polanski, himself an artist who has survived a series of nightmares, should tell it so naturally and powerfully.
  22. Offers nothing new. It's actually one of Polanski's more conventional films and, ultimately, it's hard to recommend it with a clear conscience.
  23. 100
    The director seems to be saying that, for survivors, art may be a way back to our finer selves -- extraordinary.
  24. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    The best film of 2002.
  25. 100
    Polanski, himself a survivor of Nazi-occupied Poland, has created a near-masterpiece.
  26. 100
    A beautiful story, told in measured cadences by a master of old-timey narrative compression and expression.
  27. Polanski’s strongest and most personally felt movie.
  28. 90
    There have been other films dealing with the Jewish ghettos during the Nazi occupation of Poland -- some very good -- but The Pianist, the latest feature from Roman Polanski, may be the best.
  29. Never before has a fiction film so clearly and to such devastating effect laid out the calculation of the Nazi machinery of death and its irrationality.
  30. Polanski, who was a Jewish child in Krakow when the Germans arrived in September 1939, presents Szpilman's story with bleak, acid humor and with a ruthless objectivity that encompasses both cynicism and compassion.
  31. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    This powerful, precision-made movie offers hope as well -- an act of kindness from a German officer that saves the pianist’s life, the music that sustains his soul.
  32. The results are masterful, admirably unsentimental, and never boring, if also a little stodgy.
  33. 80
    Polanski, wisely, doesn't interpret or explain. He seems to have decided that in the face of such meticulously planned horror, the best one can do is get the details right.
  34. Reviewed by: Richard Schickel
    A raw, unblinking film. It teaches that in dire circumstances our only obligation is to our own survival; all else -- culture, ideology, even love -- is a dispensable luxury.
  35. To name only one of its predecessors -- for me, the towering one -- doesn't "Schindler's List" do everything that Polanski achieves and more?
  36. 70
    Through Brody's remarkably controlled, self-effacing performance, Polanski succeeds in making his hero an invisible man, but the sights he conjures are surprisingly artless and ordinary, familiar from a dozen other Holocaust dramas. Among the casualties in The Pianist is a great director's imagination.
  37. 70
    Suffers from over-explanation. The movie maintains tremendous momentum through the Szpilman family's deportation. The second half is another story.
  38. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Surprisingly lacks a feeling of personal urgency and insight that would have made it a distinctive, even unique contribution to the considerable number of films that deal with the war in general and Holocaust in particular.
  39. 70
    The movie is about preservation and restoration and the power of art. But with what gain in knowledge? It's as if Szpilman had no soul, and no will, apart from an endless desire to tickle the keys. [13 January 2003, p. 90]
  40. Astonishing visually and problematic dramatically.
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 286 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 86 out of 95
  2. Negative: 7 out of 95
  1. Aug 2, 2011
    I especially appreciate this movie for portraying people as real as it gets. There are no only good or bad sides here. It shows us that theI especially appreciate this movie for portraying people as real as it gets. There are no only good or bad sides here. It shows us that the war never really changed poeple to mindless warmongering zombies. There were bad and good people everywhere. The story of a young Jewish radio pianist is interesting as the perspective is shown from his secret flat provided by the Polish. Everything he experienced most of the time was viewing from his apartment`s window. The apocalyptic reality of ghettos also have some time in this movie so we can see how he Germans treated their slaves. The character played by Adrien Brody is likeable and interesting to the point we want to stick with the story. And in this movie we see another page of history which is Germans destroying Warsaw. In the end I felt sorry for Wilm Hosenfeld and I reflected upon how unjust and random war is. Full Review »
  2. Aug 31, 2010
    The Pianist brights a completely new perception to the "war" genre; instead of depicting the protagonist as heroic, noble, or courageous, heThe Pianist brights a completely new perception to the "war" genre; instead of depicting the protagonist as heroic, noble, or courageous, he is simply portrayed as the man caught in the midst of it. This provides the film with a sobering sense of realism, and will emotionally devastate, and aesthetically astound viewers, not the mention the superlative performance from Adrien Brody. Improves on each viewing. Full Review »
  3. Aug 27, 2014
    An entirely new perspective on the dark times of the Holocaust, The Pianist is a poignant masterpiece. Adrien Brody's portrayal of Szpilman isAn entirely new perspective on the dark times of the Holocaust, The Pianist is a poignant masterpiece. Adrien Brody's portrayal of Szpilman is staggering and awe-inspiring. Roman Polanski has had many greats during his career, but this just may be his finest work. Full Review »