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A Time to Kill (1996)


Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 34
Rotten: 17

Critics Consensus: Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances.

Average Rating: 6.1/10
Reviews Counted: 14
Fresh: 8
Rotten: 6

Critics Consensus: Overlong and superficial, A Time to Kill nonetheless succeeds on the strength of its skillful craftsmanship and top-notch performances.


Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 93,839



Movie Info

Carl Lee Hailey (Samuel L. Jackson) takes the law into his own hands after the legal system fails to adequately punish the men who brutally raped and beat his daughter, leaving her for dead. Normally, a distraught father could count on some judicial sympathy in those circumstances. Unfortunately, Carl and his daughter are black, and the assailants are white, and all the events take place in the South. Indeed, so inflammatory is the situation, that the local KKK (led by Kiefer Sutherland) becomes … More

R (adult situations/language, violence)
Mystery & Suspense , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Akiva Goldsman
In Theaters:
Aug 22, 1997
Warner Home Video


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Critic Reviews for A Time to Kill

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (34) | Rotten (17) | DVD (4)

A likable -- maybe even lovable -- movie.

Full Review… | June 14, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Although it has its share of implausibilities, A Time To Kill is generally the most satisfying of the John Grisham screen adaptations to date.

Full Review… | October 8, 2008
Top Critic

Justice may be blind, but rarely have courtroom dramas presumed quite so heavily on cultural myopia as this heinous version of John Grisham's first novel.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

If the film doesn't add up to a cogent legal argument, neither does it have trouble delivering 2 hours and 20 minutes' worth of sturdy, highly charged drama.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

Untrained as an actor, with only three minor roles to his credit, McConaughey holds the screen against Samuel L. Jackson, Sandra Bullock and Kevin Spacey, and completely justifies the buzz surrounding his role...

Full Review… | June 18, 2002
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic

McConaughey, 26, is dynamite in a performance of smarts, sexiness, scrappy humor and unmistakable star sizzle.

June 6, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

What craven offal!

Full Review… | June 14, 2009
TV Guide's Movie Guide

A gritty, intense and engaging courtroom drama.

Full Review… | June 14, 2009

Only a screenplay by Akiva Goldsman could make things worse--and lo and behold, speak of the devil and Old Scratch appears.

Full Review… | April 1, 2009
Film Freak Central

With Joel Schumacher's tasteful but second-rate-Sidney-Lumet direction and Akiva Goldsman's nuts-and-bolts script, these boys have created a surprisingly stirring indictment of racism.

Full Review… | August 13, 2006
Entertainment Asylum

Looks aren't enough. In the lead, McConaughey isn't there.

July 4, 2004
F5 (Wichita, KS)

McConaughey nails with such laconic grace that some critics are comparing him to the young Paul Newman and to Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Full Review… | June 23, 2004

The best Grisham to hit the screen yet.

Full Review… | January 2, 2004

Dumbed down debate on the death penalty.

July 23, 2003
Juicy Cerebellum

Insight into black/white relations is superficial -- disappointing when you consider that the moral of the story is supposed to be how large a role race plays in the execution of justice.

May 14, 2003
Palo Alto Weekly

Gripping suspense in this southern set drama. Sandra Bullock is oddly matched to McConaughey who lights the fire. Unfortunately, Samuel L. Jackson waits in the wings.

April 23, 2003

This may be a case where you have to read the book to appreciate the film, but if that's true, the film hasn't done its job.

Full Review… | March 16, 2003
Laramie Movie Scope

Nothing more than an entry in Matthew McConaughey's filmography.

Full Review… | February 14, 2003

Proves that imaginative lawyers can sometimes tease justice out of her hiding places.

Full Review… | August 27, 2002
Spirituality and Practice

There are no surprises here except for the indecipherable motivations and exacting length of two hours and twenty minutes.

Full Review… | June 5, 2002
Boxoffice Magazine

Audience Reviews for A Time to Kill


I still believe this is one of the best grisham film adaptaions.

John Manard

Super Reviewer


The book must be also powerfull ,nothing left but to find out ...

Eliza Norton

Super Reviewer

This incredibly enthralling court drama tries to juggle a lot of themes at the same time and yet succeeds. Race issues in the southern US meet the question of taking law into your own hands to punish those who deserve it. The film can rely on a gripping script and a stellar cast. The dialogs, while sometimes not without stereotypes, are spot on most of the time and deliver strong scenes that demand everything from the actors. McConaughey, Jackson and Spacey all deliver. It's probably physically impossible not to be moved one way or another by the events of this film, even if you catch yourself realizing how it is playing you. The result is so well filmed and delivered that it is nothing less than one of the strongest and most exciting court dramas ever put on film.

Jens S.

Super Reviewer

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Kevin Spacey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson, Charles S. Dutton, Oliver Platt, Brenda Fricker, Donald Sutherland, Ashley Judd, Tonea Stewart, John Diehl, Chris Cooper, Nicky Katt, Kurtwood Smith, Beth Grant, Joe Seneca, Anthony Heald, Alexandra Kyle, Kiefer Sutherland

Director: Joel Schumacher

Summary: When two white men brutally rape a young black girl in a small Mississippi town, the child's vengeful father (Samuel L. Jackson) fears their acquittal and takes the law into his own hands. But as his trial date approaches, all hell breaks loose. Aided by lawyer Jake Brigance (Matthew McConaughey) and his spunky legal assistant (Sandra Bullock), the father fights to stay out of prison and salve his daughter's terrible memories.

My Thoughts: "By far one of the best movies I have ever seen. All the performances where outstanding. Some of my favorite actors are in this movie so that was a plus. But more then anything, it was the story line that brought me to watch this movie that I have seen multiple times. The best John Grisham story put to film. The story is tragic, sickening, and intense. But inspiring as well."


Super Reviewer

A Time to Kill Quotes

Jake Brigance:
Now Imagine She's White.
– Submitted by Alex K (5 months ago)
Carl Lee Hailey:
Yes They Deserved To Die And I Hope They Burn In Hell!
– Submitted by Alex K (5 months ago)
Jake Brigance:
I want to tell you a story. I'm going to ask you all to close your eyes while I tell you the story. I want you to listen to me. I want you to listen to yourselves. Go ahead. Close your eyes, please. This is a story about a little girl walking home from the grocery store one sunny afternoon. I want you to picture this little girl. Suddenly a truck races up. Two men jump out and grab her. They drag her into a nearby field and they tie her up and they rip her clothes from her body. Now they climb on. First one, then the other, raping her, shattering everything innocent and pure with a vicious thrust in a fog of drunken breath and sweat. And when they're done, after they've killed her tiny womb, murdered any chance for her to have children, to have life beyond her own, they decide to use her for target practice. They start throwing full beer cans at her. They throw them so hard that it tears the flesh all the way to her bones. Then they urinate on her. Now comes the hanging. They have a rope. They tie a noose. Imagine the noose going tight around her neck and with a sudden blinding jerk she's pulled into the air and her feet and legs go kicking. They don't find the ground. The hanging branch isn't strong enough. It snaps and she falls back to the earth. So they pick her up, throw her in the back of the truck and drive out to Foggy Creek Bridge. Pitch her over the edge. And she drops some thirty feet down to the creek bottom below. Can you see her? Her raped, beaten, broken body soaked in their urine, soaked in their semen, soaked in her blood, left to die. Can you see her? I want you to picture that little girl. Now imagine she's white!
– Submitted by MarieBella C (2 years ago)
Carl Lee Hailey:
Yes they deserve to die and I hope they burn in Hell!
– Submitted by Harrison C (3 years ago)

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