Universal acclaim - based on 33 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 33
  2. Negative: 1 out of 33
  1. Reviewed by: Peter Brunette
    It's a superb cinematic work and an appropriately serious one, given its subject matter and its intentions.
  2. 100
    The film is visually masterful. It's in black and white, of course.
  3. What makes The White Ribbon a big movie, an important movie, is that Haneke's point extends beyond pre-Nazi Germany.
  4. 100
    The ends remain loose in The White Ribbon.’ But that lack of closure is thrilling. Haneke lays his movie and its mysteries at our feet, leaving us to ask, “What in tarnation?’’
  5. A stark, contemplative and hauntingly brilliant film.
  6. 100
    Shot in spectacular black-and-white by cinematographer Christian Berger, and marvelously acted by a first-rate German ensemble, The White Ribbon captures a mood of thickening tension and mounting violence.
  7. 100
    Detailed yet oblique, leisurely but compelling, perfectly cast and irreproachably acted, the movie has a seductively novelistic texture complete with a less-than-omniscient narrator.
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    A kind of mashup of "Our Town" and "Village of the Damned," the film is both draining and enthralling.
  9. 100
    Haneke’s latest is essentially an inquiry into the roots of a certain kind of evil.
  10. We don't go to Michael Haneke films for comfort, but to gaze through a glass darkly. That vision -- tense, provocative and unnerving -- is on full display in The White Ribbon, which could be considered a culmination of this difficult director's brilliant career.
  11. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Immaculately crafted in beautiful black-and-white and entirely absorbing through its longish running time, Michael Haneke’s The White Ribbon nonetheless proves a difficult film to entirely embrace.
  12. Haneke (Caché) has created a morality tale that concludes with the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand: one more example of a solitary act of violence that unleashes a cataclysm.
  13. 88
    This haunting film never pushes itself on you. It trusts you to suss out the horror that lies beneath the veneer of innocence. You'll be knocked for a loop.
  14. Haneke’s vision is gripping. The craftsmanship, classically shaped narrative and icy visual beauty cannot be denied.
  15. 88
    The White Ribbon is one of the finest films that ever repelled me, a holiday in the abyss.
  16. 88
    As in all powerful films, the content unfolds onion-like, with each level being peeled back to show something fascinating beneath.
  17. 88
    Haneke tells this tale a bit too patiently for my taste. But the metaphors are unmistakable, as is the power of the film’s message.
  18. 83
    The tension between the comely and comforting manner of the film and its undecided and beguiling content is, arguably, Haneke’s signature touch.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 86 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 12 out of 14
  2. Negative: 0 out of 14
  1. Aug 26, 2010
    The movie is nothing more than a dark tale of metaphors and anti-humanism. Set in a small pre-World War I village in Germany, Haneke unravels schemes that he uses to signify the rise of fascism by the need for control - no characters are left without faults, and the more that is revealed, the more we realize that the village will inevitably spiral into chaos. The plot itself is provoking, but the movie would be nothing without Haneke's methodical direction, weaving bleakness with uncertainty and paranoia in a way that is sure to gnaw at your soul. Full Review »
  2. Mar 25, 2013
    The story of a small village in Germany right before World War I. The White Ribbon is an emotional experience but not of the feel good sort. This film does not really have a central character, and only two characters that we can root for. While most movies with bleak story lines try to move our emotions from dark to light, Haneke takes the opposite approach. While the mood is never light, it still manages to become harsher and darker as the story progresses.

    Someone seems to be targeting the citizens of this small village. A handful of them are brutally injured at separate times and with no witnesses. As the search towards finding the culprit takes place we get to know many of the folks in the village. The teacher in the village is the one character that we can have a positive response to and he is also the narrator of the story. So we learn what is happening as he does. The women and children in this story are more seen than heard and that is the way that the men of the village want it. We see the harsh treatment of them throughout the film and it is hard not to have a visceral response to the abuse they are subjected to.

    This film thrives under Haneke's hand. Everything that is great about it is owed to him. The pace is slow and steady, so the viewers response grows with the film. Each shot is beautifully framed, the black and white setting is brilliant for this story. The dialogue is sharp and ambiguous. This is the type of film that I will not be in a hurry to revisit. However I am glad I did once and it will stick with me for a long time.
    Full Review »
  3. Jun 10, 2011
    an absolutely disturbing film and needs to be hailed as one of the best films of its decade. I've only watched two of Michael Haneke's films (the other being Cache) too realise that this man is a genius. it is a simple story, but to create that level of unease and uncertainty requires sheer craft. Great film. Full Review »