Waiting for 'Superman'


Universal acclaim - based on 31 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 29 out of 31
  2. Negative: 0 out of 31

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Critic Reviews

  1. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    This is more than an Important Documentary: it is engaging and, finally, enraging - as captivating as any "Superman" movie, and as poignant as a child's plea for help.
  2. This is a time when urgent issues are often explored in polemic documentaries, as well as a fateful moment when the future of public education is being debated with unprecedented intensity. Waiting for 'Superman' makes an invaluable addition to the debate.
  3. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Exhilarating, heartbreaking and righteous, Waiting for Superman is also a kind of high-minded thriller: Can the American education system be cured?
  4. Reviewed by: Scott Bowles
    It's an apt title. As divisive as the issue has become, it's hard to deny the power of Guggenheim's lingering shots on these children, waiting on a superhero who isn't going to come.
  5. Powerful, passionate, and potentially revolution-inducing documentary.
  6. By showing how fiercely dedicated idealists are making a difference, it is a call to arms.
  7. Much of the film is told compellingly and heartbreakingly through the wide-eyed innocence of five children.
  8. This is one of the most galvanizing documentaries I've ever seen.
  9. 88
    As a former president of the United States remarked, "Childrens do learn," and what they learn in the heartbreaking yet thrillingly hopeful documentary Waiting for 'Superman' is that adults are finally starting to notice how badly kids have been betrayed by teachers unions.
  10. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim's scathing, moving critique of American public education, makes you actually want to do something after you dry your eyes.
  11. 88
    This movie isn't just a necessity (listen up, do-nothing politicians) - it might change your future.
  12. 88
    Guggenheim, contends the American educational system is failing, which we have been told before. He dramatizes this failure in a painfully direct way, says what is wrong, says what is right.
  13. The most challenging obstacle encountered by reformers like Canada and Michelle Rhee, the embattled chancellor of education for Washington, D.C., are the unions extending tenure protection to teachers who underperform.
  14. 83
    Superman argues convincingly that everyone should have the right to a good education, not just folks lucky enough to score winning numbers: It should be a birthright, not a matter of chance.
  15. When a filmmaker like Guggenheim is capable of doing that with a topic as complex as the public education crisis, you know you're watching the work of an extraordinary storyteller.
  16. Why are innovative educators met with so much resistance? And why is our system falling so painfully short? Perhaps ­because so many of us don't realize just how dire things ­really are.
  17. A moving and effective film whose subject may lack the hot-button boxoffice appeal of the director's "An Inconvenient Truth" but is at least a crisis practically everyone agrees actually exists.
  18. 75
    The film is more overwhelming than uplifting.
  19. 75
    This is a patient, simmering movie. It's contemplative but without his usual smitten indulgences.
  20. 75
    Waiting For Superman may rub a little raw here and there, but if it stirs that memory in enough voting and tax-paying Americans, it has at least begun to do its job.
  21. I could have done without the clips from the old "Superman" TV show - strictly sugar to make the medicine go down, and a sign that the director doesn't fully trust his audience.
  22. 75
    The merits of its arguments can be debated on the Op-Ed pages, but at least the movie makes it clear that they desperately need to be.
  23. 75
    The most suspenseful sequence of any movie I've seen this year comes near the end of Waiting for Superman.
  24. 70
    This documentary about the public education crisis isn't as smart or rigorous as Bob Bowdon's shoestring production "The Cartel," which arrived in town earlier this year and quickly vanished. But the new movie is still an admirable exercise in straight talk.
  25. 70
    We need another movie, one that shows us why some charter schools work and others don't. And there's an issue that needs to be addressed by Guggenheim and such people as Bill Gates, who appears in the movie as an advocate for charter schools, which he has generously funded.It is the question of scale.
  26. 67
    Nobody can disagree that Waiting for Superman deals with a subject demanding attention. But it paints the engulfing problems of U.S. education with a brush too broad and samples too small to be definitive.
  27. Your heart goes out to all these kids, but Guggenheim's take on education stacks the deck against them even further by implying that only charters offer a ray of hope. Would that it were that simple.
  28. Ultimately, it may be the case that Guggenheim is a better instigator than filmmaker, as the debate about our educational system appears to be on the upswing at present. For this, rather than all the specifics of its argument and what it leaves out, Waiting for 'Superman' is essential viewing.
  29. Waiting for Superman raises important questions while wearing a big red heart on its chest, but inconvenient facts are its kryptonite.

Awards & Rankings

User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 47 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 16 out of 22
  2. Negative: 2 out of 22
  1. Sep 15, 2011
    Criticizing and mocking the American education using original techniques, "Waiting for Superman" clearly delivers the audience what it wants.
  2. Dec 14, 2011
    Waiting for 'Superman' may thematically be one of the most important documentaries in recent U.S. history. The educational system is in direWaiting for 'Superman' may thematically be one of the most important documentaries in recent U.S. history. The educational system is in dire need of help, and this film provides clear alternatives and points out who is to blame for the lack of willingness to cooperate and rejuvenate the system. Technically, the film is not that great. It is very long, and it lacks cohesion. It is all over the place and while it focuses on a number of families, it is still too large in scope. The D.C. focus is nice, but is not substantiate by any reasoning behind it. Was it because it was a success story? Or was it because it was D.C.? Or some other reason? Nonetheless, it has some good moments, and the ending sequences of the acceptance lottery are heartbreaking to say the least. Thematically excellent, technically not quite there. Good film, overall. 6/10 Full Review »
  3. Dec 23, 2010
    A must see film if you want to know why the education system doesn't work.
    It is done on the US but I think many of the problems can be
    A must see film if you want to know why the education system doesn't work.
    It is done on the US but I think many of the problems can be related to any other country like Canada.
    It is unexpectedly touching.
    The graphs, the story telling, all is well done. A time you wont regret.
    Full Review »