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21 Grams (2003)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 178
Fresh: 143 | Rotten: 35

Alejandro González Iñárritu deftly weaves an uncommonly structured narrative with panache in 21 Grams, a stylish, haunting drama full of fine performances.


Average Rating: 7.9/10
Critic Reviews: 38
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 5

Alejandro González Iñárritu deftly weaves an uncommonly structured narrative with panache in 21 Grams, a stylish, haunting drama full of fine performances.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 208,586

My Rating

Movie Info

Mexican filmmaker Alejandro González Iñárritu makes his first English-language feature with the downbeat drama 21 Grams. Set in an unnamed U.S. urban center, the film uses a nonlinear structure to piece together the intertwined lives of three very different people. Paul (Sean Penn) is a math teacher with a heart problem and a troubled marriage to British wife Mary (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Christine (Naomi Watts) is a former drug addict who lives with her husband, Michael (Danny Huston), and her

Mar 16, 2004


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All Critics (189) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (143) | Rotten (35) | DVD (23)

Challenges and provokes in unexpected ways.

December 26, 2003
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[An]uncommonly ambitious, superbly acted, frustratingly flawed drama.

December 26, 2003 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Establishes [Inarritu] as a major cinematic force.

December 26, 2003 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle
Houston Chronicle
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You won't soon forget the world that Gonzalez Inarritu creates.

December 26, 2003
Denver Rocky Mountain News
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Fascinating because of the way the story is told -- and because of the existential issues that it forces you to consider.

December 26, 2003 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
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The performances, the way Inarritu deconstructs and reconstructs the narrative, the grainy, gritty feel and look, all lead to the rare sort of experience that only a truly great film can offer.

December 25, 2003
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Thought-provoking film not for tweens/young teens.

August 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media | Comments (6)
Common Sense Media

A highly emotional, thought provoking drama that easily lives up to the hype, 21 Grams is a film that has all of its bases covered: script, acting and direction.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Matt's Movie Reviews
Matt's Movie Reviews

"21 Grams" commands a running discourse that runs as a constant thematic thread through all of humanity. The movie delivers life as a floating mysterious entity that we all share. It's very few films that achieve anything remotely close.

April 18, 2009 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

Une oeuvre d'une rare intensité dramatique qui n'a aucunement besoin de suivre un cheminement narratif classique pour susciter une vive réaction chez le spectateur

February 5, 2008 Full Review Source: Panorama

The structure simply doesn't let any of the characters build an arc of growth or despair.

July 23, 2007 Full Review Source:

The story never grabbed me, and the jumps in narrative time seemed arbitrary, soon becoming a distressing obstacle rather than a narrative lynchpin. Not as good as it wants to be.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

The performances, by and large, outweigh the film's unnecessary metaphorical gunk.

May 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Lessons of Darkness
Lessons of Darkness

Quel est le poids de l'amour, de la vengeance et de la culpabilité? À vous de le découvrir.

December 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Panorama

... a hurricane of melodrama and implausibly accelerating crises that seem orchestrated merely to turn up the intensity. ... At 125 minutes, [it] feels more like 240.

December 6, 2004
Looking Closer

21 Grams thrashes wildly...exhorting us to feel something. Apart from the fleeting satisfaction of its structural parlor game, I felt exhausted boredom.

September 30, 2004

Absorbs you and dissects its tale of life, death, and re-birth with inventive force.

August 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Oregon Herald

21 Grams achieves its objectives and, despite its flaws, is thoroughly entertaining.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: FilmFocus

21 intelligent, well-written, and told with a unique style, and it features some of the best acting presently available.

March 31, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Quips Online
Film Quips Online

its boldly atomised narrative, its labyrinthine circularity and its no-nonsense performances make 21 Grams... well worth the weight.

March 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Gazette

A bleak, rather obvious melodrama disguised by a tricksy, time-splicing structure.

March 16, 2004 Full Review Source: BBC

[O]ne of those rare pure examples of the highest form of collaborative art ... It is as sweet and hurtful as life itself.

March 11, 2004 Full Review
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Could stand to lose at least 21 minutes-the film implodes under the somber weight of its own pretentiousness

February 21, 2004 Full Review Source:

Uno sabe que está ante un gran director cuando para conmovernos no hace falta más que un excelente grupo de actores, una cámara y una buena historia.

February 15, 2004 Full Review Source: Uruguay Total
Uruguay Total

A non-linear, emotionally escalating collage of three lives on a tragic collision course, the film is blessed with innovative storytelling and raw, stellar performances.

February 3, 2004 Full Review Source: SPLICEDWire

The movie becomes a mosaic of moments... the cinematic equal of Rubik's Cube

January 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

Audience Reviews for 21 Grams

I do enjoy films that employ interwoven storylines and movies that feature non-linear narratives. Sometimes, I like films that employ both. However, I don't like all films like that, or think that all films that use such techniques need to be done that way. This is one of those films.

This is a look at the lives of three broken people: a feverishly born again ex-con, a critically ill college professor, and a housewife with a tainted past. Their lives intersect following a bad car accident, and the films looks at their lives before, during, and after the crash, examining the consequences of things, and the interplay that goes on between them.

This is some intereting stuff, and I didn't mind that it was downbeat and depressing as all hell; I just didn't care for the jarring editing or feel that this needed to be told out of chronological order. It really seemed to have no other purpose than to tell a story in a unique way or to be interesting. That doesn't work when this sort of thing is old hat and the way it is done doesn't make things more interesting. It really just makes things seem jumbled and fractured, and not in a good way.

At least the story arcs are rather engaging, and the film has decent characters played by wonderful actors who give some compelling and great performances. My favorite was definitely Del Toro, though Watts gives a bold and courageous performance, while Penn seemed more low key though still commanding and powerful. I could have used a bit more Leo and definitely some more DuVall, but at least we got to see them at all.

The film brings up some interesting concepts and has a lot of nice things to offer, but I think it would have fared far better had they just played it straight. Doing something like this seemingly just for the sake of it takes away all of the powerful that the thing had in the first place, kinda like using Dutch angles without really understanding why they're effective when used properly.

So yeah, this film is decent, and has its moments, but it's a mess and doesn't hold up as being as strong as it should have been, so I'm on the fence, but mostly leaning towards a thumbs up.
May 29, 2012
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

'21 Grams'. Bleak, utterly depressing, and completely mesmerising.

Naomi Watts, Benicio Del Toro and Sean Penn all turned in fantastic performances, with Watts my stand-out, and the nonlinear telling of this tale worked well in creating a sense of dread over and over.
November 5, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Paul: There is a number hidden in every act of life.
    – Submitted by Frances H (10 days ago)
    1. Jack: God even knows when a single hair moves on your head.
    – Submitted by Frances H (10 days ago)
    1. Paul: [quoting a Poem] The earth turned to bring us closer. It turned on itself and in us, until it finally brought us together in this dream.
    – Submitted by Karen M (20 months ago)
    1. Paul: How many lives do we live? How many times do we die? They say we all lose 21 grams... at the exact moment of our death. Everyone. And how much fits into 21 grams? How much is lost? When do we lose 21 grams? How much goes with them? How much is gained? How much is gained? Twenty-one grams. The weight of a stack of five nickels. The weight of a hummingbird. A chocolate bar. How much did 21 grams weigh?
    – Submitted by Alejandro O (2 years ago)
    1. Christine: You know what I thought when mom died? I couldn't understand how you could talk to people again, how you could laugh... again. I couldn't understand how you could play with us. And no, no that's a lie, life does not just go on.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
    1. Paul: Did you know that eating alone could cause kidney damage? And that's BAD.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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Foreign Titles

  • 21 Gramm (DE)
  • 21 grammes (FR)
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