User Score
8.2

Universal acclaim- based on 21 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 21
  2. Negative: 1 out of 21

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  1. Feb 19, 2012
    8
    The Village Voice and NY Post missed the boat on this one. Far too cynical in their reaction to this film. I think it's terrific - perhaps diminished only slightly by the fact that The Blind Side has already been released. But the coach's relationships with certain student-athletes is touching. The undersized kid who can't rely on a football scholarship to go to college, the once-institutionalized troublemaker who stirs the pot, the massive left tackle who needs some help to cash in on his golden ticket to play college and maybe pro ball - all compelling stories. But perhaps the most compelling for me was the coach's relationship with his own family, and the sacrifices he's had to make in terms of time with them in order to do what he loves. I'm sure coaches across the country will tell you that it's a fact of life in the profession, but I was proud to see this coach eventually tip the balance in their favor at a certain point so his kids wouldn't have to go virtually "fatherless" like he did as a young kid. Expand
  2. Apr 14, 2013
    9
    I found this a very inspirational film with insights into the lives of the players and the coaches alike. Admittedly, a lot of the focus is on Coach Courtney, but we do get glimpses of the lives of the players too. Not only star player O.C. Brown, but players like Montrail 'Money' Brown, who struggles with a bad injury part-way through the season. It was great to see how both the coach and his team-mates stood by him throughout. Also there was bad boy Chavis Daniels, who had problems with discipline but overcame them to become an iatrical part of the team. Even if, like me, you’re not particularly a fan of the game this inspirational film is well worth a look!

    SteelMonster’s verdict: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

    My score: 8.9/10
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  3. Mar 2, 2012
    7
    North Memphis looks rough. Its houses are collapsing, its public infrastructure is crumbling, and its prospects on the horizon look like its bringing more of the same. Undefeated says life in North Memphis was not always like this, but once the Firestone plant closed and took the jobs away, this part of the city was forgotten. The residents feel they are not only second class citizens in Tennessee, which focuses more on Nashville in the center and Knoxville in the east, but second class in their own city. One bright spot is a brand new, state of the art high school; the new home of the Manassas Tigers. Entering Manassas High School, however, is more akin to going through airport security than going to a place to learn. During his first football meeting of the year with his team, Coach Bill Courtney mentions starting players getting shot, jail sentences, and academic suspensions, issues a coach may encounter throughout their entire career, but these are issues he has dealt with in the past two weeks. North Memphis is definitely not Dillon, Texas and Manassas High School resembles nothing of the Friday Night Lights Dillon Panthers; this is real life.

    Coach Courtney spends the vast majority of his time preaching character, discipline, and respect to a crowd of high school kids who do not seem very interested in receiving those messages. They are more concerned with fighting amongst themselves than focusing on beating the other team on the football field. Instead of studying plays in film sessions or running through football fundamentals, Coach constantly has to break up fights, convince the kids not to drop out of school, and remind them that a manâ
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  4. Feb 15, 2012
    9
    "Undefeated" is a truly moving, remarkably compelling verite-style Academy Award nominated documentary focusing on three underprivileged student-athletes from inner-city Memphis and the volunteer coach trying to help them beat the odds on and off the field. When I saw this film at the 2011 DOC NYC film-festival (where it was awarded with a special Grand Jury Prize) I often had to remind myself that I was watching a documentary as the narrative unfolds with all the emotion and entertainment of a scripted feature -- and then some. I've seen the film described as a "real-life Friday Night Lights", which is a fair comparison... but Undefeated goes deeper. If you're not a football fan, fear not. Football is only the prism through which this film tells its story. Undefeated, at its core, is a character piece and the journey you take with volunteer coach Bill Courtney and three of his players (O.C. Brown, Chavis Daniels and Montrail "Money" Brown) is one you will not soon forget. Going in I expected the familiar cliches of an inspirational sports film, I experienced a something so surprising and moving that I honestly believe it will set the paradigm for how similar stories will be told going forward.

    9 out 10
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  5. Mar 1, 2012
    10
    Don't mistake this for an "inspirational football movie." This Oscar winner for Best Documentary feature is not only best documentary of year, it may be the best film of the year. A true example of verite filmmaking -- inspiring, but not saccharine... emotional, but not manipulative... we see the film's characters with their warts and all. Also steers clear of advocacy of any kind (which the shortsighted have used as one of the very few critiques of the film) and allows the viewer to draw their own conclusions and start their own conversations. Collapse
  6. Mar 1, 2012
    10
    Wow! I wasn't expecting to blown away by this film, but that's exactly what happened. While I'm usually cynical at the Academy's choices, this is one film that richly deserved its Oscar. Coming from someone who has no interest in football (perhaps even a distaste for it), it's absolutely astonishing how engrossed I was by this story. Just one word of warning: Bring tissues. You're gonna need em. Expand
  7. Mar 1, 2012
    9
    And the Oscar goes to....the best film of the year, Undefeated. Compared to Blind Side and Friday Night Lights. Better than both quite frankly. Extraordinary.
  8. Mar 18, 2013
    9
    Undefeated is a documentary that follows a single season of a high school team in Memphis Tennessee, the Manassas Tigers. The film follows the whole team but really focuses in on four people, the coach and three players. One of the first things the coach says to the camera is, "football doesn't build character, football reveals character". This line may seem corny, but as we go on the journey with this team, and specifically these three players, we get an understanding of how true this line is.

    All three of these kids come from difficult situations with more than their share of obstacles to overcome. As we watch their stories unfold in this short period of their life we feel like we get to know these players. We grow to care for them, we rejoice with them when they succeed and our heart breaks with them when their situations get the better of them. Their stories are the emotional crux of the film. To read their stories in a review would not do them justice, their stories need to be experienced within the film. It is a journey worth taking.

    No less emotional is the story of the coach of this team. On the surface he may seem like one of a thousand coaches in this country, I can only hope this is the case. As the film unfolds and he shares more of his journey our respect for him grows and grows. Football is important to him, but way more important is the way he connects with the young men he coaches. he understands how important it is for young men to have an adult male to care for them, to connect with them, and to kick them in the butt when they need it. This coach seems to be a truly humble man with a true heart for the young men he coaches.

    Undefeated is a great, emotional watch. Not only one of the best documentaries I have seen in a long time but one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.
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  9. Apr 9, 2014
    9
    Touching and inspirational, Undefeated manages to make you feel invested in the lives of these kids and coaches at Manassas High School within the first thirty minutes. On the surface, sure, it is a film about football, but the film manages to rise above its subject matter and give you an intimate look at the lives of these kids as they try to get out of the inner city and make something out of themselves. At the end of the day, rather than a run of the mill sports film, Undefeated is a unique look at people with their backs against the wall attempting to not be defined by where they came from. Expand
  10. Jan 25, 2013
    8
    It has become a new thing of amusement for sports fans to research old rants of coaches, particularly football coaches, that they gave in a live press conference while currently in the heat of the moment. Quite possibly the most iconic was the professional and motivating Herm Edwards sending a message to his players saying, "you play to win the game" after Herm's New York Jets lost to the Cleveland Browns in 2002. The rant I thought of during Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin's documentary Undefeated was Jim Mora's "Playoffs?!" remake when asked about the Colts' future after a devastating loss. "I just hope we can win a game!" he stated shortly after.

    It's that kind of mentality I feel that the Manassas High School football team and their long-suffering coach, Bill Courtney occupied for a long, long time, as the school's team, which existed for 110 years, never won a playoff game and have become the devastating team that you look on the schedule and cite as an easy win if you play them. The school is located in Manassas, Virginia, and is grossly underfunded, along with possessing an athletic program unfit for even a third-rate school. The kids need to get by with what they have, and that's not much. Coming from a prestigious and often highly-regarded public high school, I look on with great sympathy and possess deep gratefulness in what I was born into.

    Undefeated primarily focuses on Manassas High School football team's 2009 year, where they plan to turn things around for the better (not like they could get any worse). They figure that since they're at rock bottom, they can only go up from there, and Bill Courtney plans to turn the team around, putting heavy emphasis on character and frequently telling them, "character is not how you handle successes, because anyone can bask in the glory of a win, but how you handle failures," and that is a bold and admirable message for an unpaid coach to tell his players. He believes in them, even when their previous record was 0-10. You won't find too many high school coaches who take the game as seriously as Courtney, or are prepared to give them advice they can use off the field or when they hang up their jerseys and helmets to pursue other things.

    Courtney explains that the school is so underfunded athletically that they considered taking part in "pay games," which involves the team traveling miles across the state to face a team they have no chance in beating and accepting a $3,000 - $4,000 in exchange for brutal humiliation. When your only option to get money is to belittle your self-esteem, you really need help in some way, shape, or form. Thankfully, Courtney has a reliable lineup, involving O.C. Brown, a senior whose passion is more suited for the field than the classroom, the quick and dependable Montrail "Money" Brown, and a man by the name of Chavis Daniels, who is the team goon, often causing trouble and possessing a very suspicious anger problem. Courtney accepts the challenge with no regret at all, and often connects personally with many of his players. There's a touching scene in the latter half when O.C. and Courtney are traveling somewhere in a car together when O.C. tells the coach that he is attracted to another girl. As a result, Courtney hands over a small bottle of cologne telling him to use it conservatively and he will get all the ladies he wants. The warm, innocuous, yet comforting feeling of bonding goes right to the viewer's heart in just a wonderful scene.

    The film chronicles the 2009 season, showing modest beginnings, but a wonderfully unbelievable conclusion with opportunities soaring for the team, players, and school. We also see how the players not only adapt to the new opportunities, but also the inevitable ones, like college approaching their line of vision and high school entering their rear-view mirror. Courtney devastatingly explains that once the football season ends, some kids recognize that they have a 2.0 grade point average, a 14 on their ACT, and no scholarship, resulting in almost nowhere to go. It's a depressing state of affairs, especially for kids who have no other experience other than the kind they obtained on the field.

    Undefeated is a nicely made documentary that had the honor of beating Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory at the 2012 Oscars for Best Documentary Feature. The film will without a doubt will strike an emotional chord for some audiences, yet despite being a true story, there's something about hearing the perfunctory tale of a coach turning a ragtag bunch of half-wits into a winning team, real or not, that feels sort of artificial. Yet there is a divine humanity in this story that isn't ignored, and the result, in the long run, was a long-overdue one Manassas will cherish for another 110 years. It's light years more efficient than a cliche-ridden tale like Rudy, I suppose.
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Metascore
71

Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 29
  2. Negative: 1 out of 29
  1. Reviewed by: Tom Dawson
    Jul 28, 2012
    60
    Familiar territory, especially if you've seen "Hoop Dreams" and "Friday Night Lights," but the intimate style offers its own rewards.
  2. Reviewed by: Joe Williams
    Apr 6, 2012
    75
    Unlike the benchmark sports documentary "Hoop Dreams," Undefeated doesn't have a deep penetration of poverty and race in its playbook, but it does have enough heart to make substantial forward progress.
  3. Reviewed by: Marjorie Baumgarten
    Apr 4, 2012
    67
    Even though the film relies on many of the clichés of the form, Undefeated is a masterfully crafted work that honestly scores a touchdown.