Mixed or average reviews - based on 34 Critics What's this?

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Generally favorable reviews- based on 14 Ratings

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  • Starring: , ,
  • Summary: A fictional story inspired by actual events, the film chronicles the journey of two women, a struggling mother played by Maggie Gyllenhaal, and a veteran teacher played by Viola Davis, who embark on a mission to turn around their kids' failing school. Against all odds and countless obstacles, they persevere and ultimately succeed, providing a better education and better life for their children, as well as other kids in their community. (20th Century Fox) Collapse
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 34
  2. Negative: 8 out of 34
  1. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Sep 26, 2012
    Won't Back Down says that whatever your feelings about the subject, lack of change cannot be the answer to our public-education crisis. Trying to cram an informational exposé and a vintage inspirational awards-bait weeper into one movie, Won't Back Down is awkward at times, yet it's also passionate in a surprisingly smart way. It makes a genuine drama out of impossible issues.
  2. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Sep 28, 2012
    Hollywood has never been the best arena to hash out policy debates. But social-issue movies can have real societal impact. That's why Won't Back Down, which presses a lot of hot buttons, deserves to be taken seriously, and criticized seriously, on its own terms.
  3. Reviewed by: Amy Nicholson
    Sep 26, 2012
    Won't Back Down makes grand drama of bureaucracy, positioning Gyllenhaal as the knight slaying 400 pages of government paperwork in order to wrest control of her daughter's elementary school. It's rousing - if not thrilling - stuff.
  4. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Sep 26, 2012
    Grossly oversimplifying the issue at hand, writer-director Daniel Barnz's disingenuous pot-stirrer plays to audiences' emotions rather than their intelligence, offering meaty roles for Maggie Gyllenhaal as a determined single mom, and Viola Davis as the good egg among a rotten batch of teachers, while reducing everyone else to cardboard characterizations.
  5. Reviewed by: Alison Willmore
    Sep 27, 2012
    The film is all for teaching as a calling. What it doesn't do is offer it the dignity of also being a job.
  6. Reviewed by: Andrew O'Hehir
    Sep 26, 2012
    So teachers' unions don't care about kids. Oh, and luck is a foxy lady. This is what I took away from the inept and bizarre Won't Back Down, a set of right-wing anti-union talking points disguised (with very limited success) as a mainstream motion-picture-type product.
  7. Reviewed by: Kenneth Turan
    Sep 27, 2012
    This poor film is so shamelessly manipulative and hopelessly bogus it will make you bite your tongue in regret and despair.

See all 34 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 2 out of 6
  2. Negative: 1 out of 6
  1. Sep 28, 2012
    To Wont Back Down Critics: I am an Urban parent, so the question on the table: "Are parents suppose to sit back and continue to allow education systems to continue to fail to effectively educate and keep safe millions of children because the defenders of "failure as an option" are not ready to embrace change in how we deliver education to children? The Bottom line: if parents don't protect their children who will? FYI the fictional parent Maggie was the actual "trigger" not some law! She saw a problem in the school and it "triggered" her into action! Don Expand
  2. Mar 29, 2013
    I give the premise of the film and the acting a solid 9. Topics about education are extremely important for our society to grasp. The film itself was heavy-handed but it had to be. You cannot be subtle or make plot twists more important that the purpose of your film. While it doesn't make for the most compelling overall story possible, it does the trick that it needs to do. As a film, it wasn't perfect by any means but I would still recommend it as a viewing to anyone who cares about the state of our educational system which should be everyone. I do not think that the teacher's union portrayal was entirely accurate but like I said before, this film was from a particular point-of-view, and a passionate one that is worth viewing. Expand
  3. Nov 13, 2014
    "Won't Back Down" 10 Scale Rating: 5.0 (Mediocre) ...

    The Good: A hot topic that deserves attention and certainly is a good idea for a
    film. Viola Davis was great, which is starting be expected from her in every performance. There are some very good dramatic scenes in the film. It could have used more, but the few that it did have were well done.

    The Bad: Maggie Gyllenhaal almost single-handedly ruined the film. Her character was supposed to be the tough as nails mom trying to get a better education for her daughter. Instead she grated on me and was extremely annoying. Sadly, the film as a whole also falls flat and misses the mark. It mostly glosses over the real issues and over simplifies it.
  4. Sep 30, 2012
    To me, "Won't Back Down" is a disappointment just like "Good Deeds." I love Viola Davis. Her Oscar performance in The Help was incredible. But why are you starring in a film that is led with some heated outrage over to promote a parent trigger movement and critics are baffled on identical vehicle to billionaire Philip Anschutz, who is the founder of Major League Soccer and worked for films like "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe." "Won't Back Down" is a paltry movie. The cast looks good, but the script and the story looks too boring. Sending a message won't help the audiences that much. And I think it's gonna cost them at the box office. Expand
  5. Jul 7, 2013
    If you thought The Impossible was a shameless film aimed directly at your tear ducts then you should watch Won't Back Down because you ain't seen nothing yet. Won't Back Down follows Jamie Fitzpatrick (Maggie Gyllenhaal), a single mother with a child who is struggling to read and how she joins force with a teacher, Nona Alberts (Viola Davis) to try and turn around their failing school, the failing school both their children attend. They must do so while going up against a combative bureaucracy trying to hide the schools failing grades under the metaphorical rug. Won't Back Down is manipulative film making at its very worse as the film tries to force you to care about a cause that is led by one of the most unpleasant people. Jamie is an in your face offensive women who finds this cause and instead of doing what any normal person would do, talk to people about it she rams statistics down their throats making the central story of the film a cause I honestly could not care about. The worst aspect is that Won't Back Down is based on a true story and a real mother doing the best for her child but this film turns her into a reprehensible attention seeker and the film spends so much time telling the story of this supposedly courageous woman that it almost forgets that there's even a kid driving everything this character is doing. Despite all that the film also shows Nona's life and as a character Nona is a believable and entertaining woman who is by far the best thing about the film. She is realistic, often caustic but for good reason and she is beautifully portrayed by Viola Davis. If anything Maggie Gyllenhaal gets a bad deal as she is stuck with an emotionless character with no redeeming features at all, even her concern for her child turns into some kind of search for attention. A disappointing film about something real and wonderful that's ruined by bad characterization and a truly awful script that makes people out to be ad men as they constantly speak in slogans, speeches and sales pitches, its shameless viewer manipulation that makes me physically sick. Expand