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71

Generally favorable reviews - based on 29 Critics What's this?

User Score
8.1

Universal acclaim- based on 18 Ratings

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  • Summary: A perennial whipping boy, in recent decades Manassas had gone so far as to sell their home games to the highest bidder, but that all changed in the spring of 2004 when Bill Courtney, a former high school football coach turned lumber salesman, volunteered to lend a hand. When he arrived, the team consisted of 17 players, some timeworn equipment and a patch of grass masquerading as a practice field. Focusing more on winning young men than football games, the football program nevertheless began resurrecting itself and, in 2009, features the most talented team Manassas has ever fielded; a team that seems poised to end the playoff jinx that has plagued the school since time immemorial. (The Weinstein Company)

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 25 out of 29
  2. Negative: 1 out of 29
  1. Reviewed by: Shawn Levy
    Mar 29, 2012
    91
    Undefeated puts us inside his locker room, and you simply cannot fail to be moved by the human affection, commitment and passion you feel there.
  2. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Feb 29, 2012
    88
    Undefeated is an emotional and effective film.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Feb 15, 2012
    83
    For a documentary that's almost engineered to lift your heart, Undefeated is very well done.
  4. Reviewed by: Joe Leydon
    Feb 14, 2012
    80
    Enjoyably upbeat and intelligently inspiring.
  5. Reviewed by: Peter Hartlaub
    Mar 1, 2012
    75
    Undefeated is filled with wonderful narratives, which impressed academy voters enough to garner an Academy Award this week. It's a credit to directors Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Daniels that the personal stories of the kids and coaches resonate more than the wins and losses.
  6. Reviewed by: Mary Pols
    Feb 17, 2012
    70
    Undefeated is well-edited by director Daniel Lindsay and beautifully photographed by his co-director T.J. Martin - the shacks of North Memphis look poetically disheveled as shot from a moving car - but it is telling that the coach emerges as the "star" of this documentary.
  7. Reviewed by: Kyle Smith
    Feb 17, 2012
    25
    This indie documentary is egregiously Hollywood in spirit. That a take-charge white football coach can buck up a place like Manassas HS with some gridiron grit is a lie we want to believe.

See all 29 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 10 out of 10
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 10
  3. Negative: 0 out of 10
  1. 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
  2. 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
  3. 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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  4. 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. Expand
  5. 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
  6. 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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  7. 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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See all 10 User Reviews

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