The Staircase Image
Metascore
95

Universal acclaim - based on 9 Critics What's this?

User Score
6.7

Generally favorable reviews- based on 15 Ratings

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  • Summary: An 8-part documentary series about the celebrated trial of Michael Peterson, a writer who is accused of murdering his wife, executive Kathleen Peterson, who was found dead at the bottom of a staircase in their home.
  • Genre(s): Drama, Talk & Interview, Documentary

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The Staircase

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Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 9 out of 9
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 9
  3. Negative: 0 out of 9
  1. Chicago Tribune
    Reviewed by: Maureen Ryan
    Apr 20, 2018
    100
    The documentary keeps adding layers of complexity to the tale until one is entirely hooked by its ambiguities and twists and turns -- and soon, as with a great novel, one can't wait to see what happens next.
  2. Reviewed by: Joy Press
    Apr 20, 2018
    100
    Lestrade’s cameras pull us farther into the legal system than Law & Order or Court TV ever could, and the result is chilling.
  3. Reviewed by: Virginia Heffernan
    Apr 20, 2018
    100
    It may seem ludicrous to say that a movie running more than six hours is well edited, but The Staircase, by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade, is. And not only is the editing prize-worthy, but the whole film is also so brilliantly conceived, reported, filmed and paced that you may come to wish it were twice as long.
  4. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Apr 20, 2018
    100
    The eight-part feature, which aired on the Sundance Channel in 2005, is absolutely gripping and illustrates just how powerful documentary filmmaking can be.
  5. Reviewed by: Whet Moser
    Apr 20, 2018
    90
    Makes a compelling companion piece to Netflix’s hit series in its remarkable similarities and considerable differences. On the most basic level, it’s like a proof of concept for the documentary serials that follow.
  6. Reviewed by: Tony Dokoupil
    Apr 20, 2018
    90
    The Staircase is the scariest portrait of criminal justice since the nonfiction film that helped launch the modern innocence movement, Errol Morris’s The Thin Blue Line. It’s scarier, in fact, because The Staircase isn’t based on re-creations but on original footage, a front-row view of legal truth as it’s feathered into existence, manufactured from guesses and conjecture, and sold to a jury as more or less believable fiction.
  7. Reviewed by: Nathan Rabin
    Apr 20, 2018
    90
    There's a surprising amount of humor in the series, as when a sassy male prostitute admits in court that his client base included many professionals, including attorneys and at least one judge, but the series' power, gravity, and urgency come because viewers are never allowed to forget that a man's life and a family's future is at stake.

See all 9 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 7
  2. Negative: 3 out of 7
  1. Jun 20, 2018
    10
    I never heard of writer Michael Peterson and his case. When Netflix offered this series I immediately wanted to see it. I love crimeI never heard of writer Michael Peterson and his case. When Netflix offered this series I immediately wanted to see it. I love crime mysteries, and I also highly enjoyed Making A Murderer. The Staircase is indeed very much a mystery. Episode after episode I doubted Peterson's innocence. (I havent finished the series completely yet) I dont understand his family, they absolutely believe him he did not murder women. Well, I found that very painfull and scary.

    Both crime scenes were covered in blood by head trauma, so it really looks like murder, but my aunt also died by falling down the stairs. My family told me this also triggered a blood bath. My aunt also died that same day she fell. So when you walk up the strairs and fall flat backwards, your head makes a huge bang, but you dont expect that many lacerations as in the cases of Peterson. I still dont know what happened.
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  2. Oct 30, 2018
    9
    I don't understand people who watch documentaries or Doc-Series and expect it to entertain them them same way that other pure entertainmentI don't understand people who watch documentaries or Doc-Series and expect it to entertain them them same way that other pure entertainment shows do. Whatever. This series is similar to shows like, "The making of a murderer" and to a lesser extent, "I am Innocent". I have a penchant for Forensic based shows and true crime based shows so I know what to expect when I engage in them. I find the entertainment value in the gradual discovery of evidence , revelations on how the evidence may have been mishandled, the discovery of foul play by law enforcement officials, District Attorneys who appear to have hidden agendas (probably the upward mobility of their careers), so called forensic experts and even judges who mysteriously allow or not allow certain objections or prejudicial testimonies permitted in their courtroom.
    On a personal note, I find it fascinating to try and figure out who is lying. I came from a broken home that stayed together where everyone was and still are liars and so that's where the genesis of that fascination was seeded in me. Suffice it to say, I've watched a lot of ," Forensic Files" What I've learned is that when a case gets this convoluted, almost everyone is lying for different reasons with the possible exception of whom I perceive to be the wrongly accused. This show has done an excellent job of documenting what is in my view, a huge miscarriage of justice over many many years. I often wonder why so-called families of victims carry so much weight in the courtroom when in reality, they are almost unfailingly blind to any facts that do not support their carnal rage for revenge regardless of mountains of evidence to the contrary. In this case the two sisters of the victim. One of whom is monstrously crazy, blood thirsty for revenge and an intensely detestable wind bag. One gets the impression that the wind bag somehow has some kind of pull with the politicians or law enforcement officials in that county. Why are they considered the family when the victim left behind 4/5 offspring who support the accused? This show is thought provoking but unfortunately also provokes those who are unreasonable, seemingly numb to other truths but the ones that support their lust for revenge or their opinion which was formed before all of the facts that have and continue to, come to light.
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  3. Aug 6, 2018
    7
    The Staircase is a perfectly fine documentary series about a murder case that suffered from the prosecution's determination to get MichaelThe Staircase is a perfectly fine documentary series about a murder case that suffered from the prosecution's determination to get Michael convicted, regardless of what the evidence actually showed. There's nothing here many of us haven't seen before, but it's well done and shines a light on a key weakness in our justice system, as many other modern documentary series have done . Expand
  4. Jul 19, 2018
    6
    I watched The Thin Blue Line in 1988. The originality of that film and the invention of that type of docu-drama struck me as very importantI watched The Thin Blue Line in 1988. The originality of that film and the invention of that type of docu-drama struck me as very important work. I've watched several documentaries about The Thin Blue Line. I think it is something everyone should be familiar with.

    Subsequent to that experience I have attempted many times to watch various forms of reality-film/TV - and, I can't do it. I become incredibly bored after watching a few minutes of any (and I mean every) reality film (or TV series). I know many people enjoy the genre and I make no judgements regarding them. I do watch a few minutes of very important reality film to stay abreast of current popular culture - but, it is very unenjoyable work for me.

    I saw that The Staircase had a Metascore of 98 and I felt I owed it to myself to give a reality-docu-drama another try... at least one scored so highly by so many knowledgeable individuals.

    I am up to episode 9 and I am bored out of my friggin mind. I am in actual mental pain as I watch this film series. I will watch all 13 episodes - but, this is the last reality film I will ever watch in entirety.
    *************************
    So, it's been a couple of days. A forced myself to watch the remaining 4 episodes of The Staircase. I did see some redeeming value by the time the 13 episodes completed. There were some important viewpoints regarding the American justice system that were made. So, I'm going to raise my rating from 3 to 6. If you are somewhat uninformed about the American criminal justice system works - then, perhaps you would like to see The Staircase.

    So - assuming that 99% of Americans have watched at least a couple of episodes of the TV series "Law & Order" - how do they compare?

    The Staircase is "reality TV" and therefore has normal, real people as the primary characters and they are therefore not as interesting as professional, charismatic Hollywood quality actors. Just how uninteresting are these normal-reality characters? To, me I would avoid any of them at a standup social event. I would go to the bathroom if that's what I had to do to keep from getting trapped into a conversation with them. They are very nice normal people who no one would want to listen to for 10 hours. And to me - that's the problem with reality TV and The Staircase.

    OK - how about the social issues addressed in The Staircase versus a typical Law&Order episode. Here, somehow - I think The Staircase is superior. Granted The Staircase took 13 episodes to make its point and that verbosity gives it an edge over 1 episode of Law&Order. Law&Order is a fairly smart show - somewhat geared more to individuals who might think a little as they watch... yet, there is something - somehow dumbed-down to standard-TV level of thinking about Law&Order. Somehow, The Staircase gives you more to think about.

    And now I'm going to go way out of the box and I'm going to say something outrageous - and probably lose any credibility...

    I suggest that the social issues raised in the Staircase are more important - especially in today's American justice system - than those raised in the movies To Kill a Mockingbird and Twelve Angry Men. Perhaps this is why the professional reviews metacritic score is 98
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  5. Jul 18, 2018
    2
    I don't understand the reviews I'm seeing. While the subject matter is interesting and I want to know more, IT'S SO BORING!! Do we reallyI don't understand the reviews I'm seeing. While the subject matter is interesting and I want to know more, IT'S SO BORING!! Do we really need to see 15 minutes of his defense team discussing all the minutiae of the case? I feel like I'm reliving EVERY SECOND of this man's life from the moment he was accused until the final verdict! UGH! EDIT MUCH? Apparently not!

    I keep starting an episode and stopping it because it's EXCRUCIATING waiting for them to get to the POINT! It's like hearing my grandma tell me a 45 minute story about her 45 minute trip to the grocery store.

    I'm trying my best to get through this, but WOW! C'mon Netflix, you can do better.
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  6. Jun 15, 2018
    1
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. MOST UNLIKEABLE CENTRAL CHARACTER EVER
    I largely am in full agreement with Amy Glynn from Paste Magazine who sees Mike Peterson as a thoroughly unattractive egotist who simply loses any pity of the so called State Bureaucracy victim.
    To me he is one of the ugliest and loathsome characters since Miss Haversham by Dickens.
    Why so unlikeable?
    1. Social class is always obnoxious when the super Rich try to buy justice with High class legals
    2.. What normal person invites cameras into every minute of their post traumatic experience?? Where is the genuine remorse? Why does Kathleen disappear to a minor side character or a fictitious soul partner who lived in delirious happiness?
    3. Mike's well kept secret life with homosexual affairs on the side and in cyberspace. His outright LIE in court in the first trial that Kathleen knew of these liaisons. It is only at the last minutes of episode 13 that Mike admits he never shared this but that Kathleen knew it intuitively. What BS!
    4. If Mike lies about this key issue what else has he locked in the vault about that night of gross death.
    I now have a pathological fear of all stairwells. No satisfactory explanation is made of the accident/ murder by either side. Deep inside you know the truth has never been told by Mike Peterson.
    5. Mike as a famous writer and journalist is strangely unintelligible and vague when he enters deep soliloquies. That weird little laugh is totally irritating. His attempt at being Hamlet and digging into his multiple personalities fails miserably. He seems illiterate at so many levels.
    6. His closing conclusion by plagiarising Will's R and J " we are all punish ED!!" Is pathetic because he has been playing a self conscious role all 13 hours long... and we as the audience have been punish ED having to endure his narcissistic self important pontificating about Corruption In The Legal System.
    7. As a protagonist Mike Peterson is unbelievable. I am with the Jury. He is guilty of murdering his audience with his endless mirror gazing of this self made home movie.
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  7. Jul 26, 2018
    0
    This review contains spoilers, click expand to view. Justice was not served... The District Attorney's Office is corrupt, the first district attorney I can't belive has ever been elected to a Judge JOKE!!! He knew the expert's they used were liars, Peterson talks very early in series about how he wrote about the DA being incompetent, this was the DA's revenge to put Peterson behind bars no matter what it required, lieing, cheating or what ever was necessary for a guilty verdict, the whole popker as the murder weapon is a complete joke. Expand

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