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Capturing the Friedmans (2003)



Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 147
Fresh: 143 | Rotten: 4

A haunting depiction of a disintegrating family, and a powerful argument on the elusiveness of truth.


Average Rating: 8.5/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 40 | Rotten: 1

A haunting depiction of a disintegrating family, and a powerful argument on the elusiveness of truth.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 9,231

My Rating

Movie Info

The Friedmans are a seemingly typical, upper-middle-class Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes. Caught up in hysteria and with their community in an uproar, the family undergoes a media onslaught. The film inquires not just into the life of a family but into a community, a legal system, and an era.


Documentary, Special Interest

Jan 27, 2004


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All Critics (154) | Top Critics (43) | Fresh (143) | Rotten (4) | DVD (19)

Without a doubt a disconcertingly engrossing, difficult-to-shake experience.

July 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Disturbing, yet undeniably fascinating.

July 25, 2003 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
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It takes the concept of reality television and twists it into a shocking but poignant art form.

July 25, 2003
Arizona Republic
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Watching this remarkable production is like going on safari to that creepy world. It's a fascinating place to visit, but you wouldn't, not for a minute, want to live there.

July 22, 2003
Orlando Sentinel
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The MPAA doesn't have a rating for queasy-making and heartbreaking. If it did, then Capturing the Friedmans would carry an advisory.

July 22, 2003 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
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A documentary you won't be able to shake.

July 19, 2003
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Captivating and intense. Mature teens+.

January 1, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Like the darkest pop song Billy Joel never wrote, "Friedmans" hauntingly asked how far faith goes when it comes to family, how much mercy we'd grant them based merely on our memories and how forgiveness sometimes endures years of fury before it's granted.

September 25, 2010 Full Review Source:

Probing into the elusive nature of truth, through the prism of one Jewish family, this is one of the most perplexing and disturbing docus in American film history

June 30, 2005
EmanuelLevy.Com insane document, a slice of life that we probably should never have seen. But now that we have seen it, it's too late to deny its crippling poignancy...

January 2, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

Much of this information could have been delivered in a way that respected the Friedmans, even if they did not respect each other.

December 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Looking Closer
Looking Closer

The Friedmans are a case study in family dysfunction.

June 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY)

Grown men and women, in broad daylight and friendly company, would not lightly name some of the worst terrors of our world.

May 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Low IQ Canadian

A different kind of horror is portrayed in Capturing the Friedmans -- the disintegration of a family after the father secret life is exposed.

April 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Las Vegas CityLife

Director Jarecki takes his time in presenting the divergent points of view. But even at nearly two hours, one still feels there is a lack of information.

April 19, 2004 Full Review Source:

inspires in the viewer something which was conspicuously absent from the original trial - reasonable doubt.

April 2, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Gazette

This film is an American dream gone awry.

March 8, 2004 Full Review

Uma história absurdamente trágica e - o que é ainda mais grave - que representa um grave sintoma de uma sociedade em que a mídia ganhou poderes de polícia, juiz e executor.

February 25, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinema em Cena
Cinema em Cena

Even more compelling is the way it tackles faulty human memories.

February 2, 2004 comes away with a sense of angered sensationalism...Clearly, this odd and probing documentary is affecting in its seedy uncertainty.

January 27, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Eye
Movie Eye

Director Andrew Jarecki mounts a convincing argument but declines to work up the kind of scalding condemnation of the justice system that his findings would seem to demand.

January 21, 2004 Full Review Source: Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus
Bryant Frazer's Deep Focus

Full of bracingly honest self-examination, raw humour and a fascinating vein of hysteria and emotion, but its real power is in the intimate examination of family ties.

January 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

It's compelling as hell, and it's a glimpse into the personal hell of a family torn apart by ugly acts.

January 5, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinerina

Capturing the Friedmans is an unforgettable film that will have you talking long afterwards.

January 1, 2004 Full Review

Successfully [holds] up reality to our ideals, creating a portrait of devastation.

December 19, 2003 Full Review Source: Window to the Movies
Window to the Movies

It uses the documentary format to search for knowledge, not to polemicize it.

November 22, 2003 Full Review

Audience Reviews for Capturing the Friedmans

Its a fun fact that this film is in the "special interest" category, eh?
September 9, 2013

Super Reviewer

"Who do you believe?"

Documentary on the Friedmans, a seemingly typical, upper-middleclass Jewish family whose world is instantly transformed when the father and his youngest son are arrested and charged with shocking and horrible crimes.

Documentary film-making has taken a step up in recent years with an increasing number winning high acclaim. It's not surprising that a documentary as interesting and as personal as Capturing the Friedmans is one of the most highly rated, and director Andrew Jarecki's insight into a real-life family being torn apart fully deserves it's acclaim. Great documentaries are films that manage to tell a story while remaining objective, and even though this film handles the ever controversial theme of paedophilia; the director allows the relevant parties to tell the story as they remember it, and ultimately the viewer is left with only the facts surrounding the case, which can then be used to form an opinion. The real life case that the film handles is that of the trial of Arnold and Jessie Friedman. Arnold Friedman was arrested in 1987 on more than 400 charges against young boys aged 7 to 11, while Jessie Friedman was tried for several sexual acts against young boys that were studying in his father's computer class. The film follows their story told through relatives and people involved in the case.

Perhaps the most astounding thing about this film is the fact that it was made. Most families wouldn't want documentary filmmakers (not to mention the world at large) getting in on their personal lives, but I suppose it did give them a chance to tell the story as they see it. The themes that the documentary handles are indeed harrowing, as aside from the obvious implications of being a paedophile; we've also got the destruction of a family unit, as well as statements of hatred from most of the family members. Andrew Jarecki keeps things moving by splicing real-life footage with testimonies from people involved with the case and the opinions of those close to the convicted. There are several facts that are presented, and some may believe that these are attempts to sway the audience; but the director only allows the actual facts to stand as the truth, while the personal opinions of those close to the central family are kept plainly as opinions. The film never makes a big thing of its central plot, and it's obvious that the director prefers to keep his eye on the family, which ensures that the resulting film is ultimately more frightening. Overall, this is a compelling watch and comes highly recommended.
September 20, 2011
Lorenzo von Matterhorn

Super Reviewer

I love how this was structured as mystery of sorts, and how nobody was ever strictly villainized. I also love that David Friedman is a clown for a living. You can't make this stuff up, guys.
April 28, 2011

Super Reviewer

Shocking documentary, filmed almost by mistake as Andrew Jarecki was doing a film about kids entertainers at the time. Don't watch alone as you will want someone to talk about it with straight after!
September 29, 2009

Super Reviewer

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