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Cry Freedom (1987)


Average Rating: 6.5/10
Reviews Counted: 21
Fresh: 17 | Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

Average Rating: 6.2/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 2

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.


Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 9,332



Movie Info

Richard Attenborough directed this dramatic story, based on actual events, about the friendship between two men struggling against apartheid in South Africa in the 1970s. Donald Woods (Kevin Kline) is a white liberal journalist in South Africa who begins to follow the activities of Stephen Biko (Denzel Washington), a courageous and outspoken black anti-apartheid activist. Woods and his wife Wendy (Penelope Wilton) get to know Biko, and they become friends, until Biko is brutally murdered at the … More

PG (adult situations/language, violence)
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Feb 23, 1999
MCA Universal Home Video



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Critic Reviews for Cry Freedom

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (17) | Rotten (4) | DVD (1)

Washington does a remarkable job of transforming himself into the articulte and mesmerizing black nationalist leader, whose refusal to keep silent led to his death in police custody and a subsequent coverup.

Full Review… | June 19, 2008
Top Critic

An implacable work of authority and compassion, Cry Freedom is political cinema at its best.

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

These are fine methods for delivering a civics lesson, which to some extent is what the Attenborough approach is all about. But for a film that aspires to entertain as well as educate, they are less helpful.

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

Cry Freedom is a sincere and valuable movie, and despite my fundamental reservations about it, I think it probably should be seen.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

In a country busier than Chile with oppression, violence and subjugation, the story of Woods' slow awakening is certainly not the most exciting, or revealing.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

Biko was unflappable, logical and witty in life, and Washington conveys that solidity onscreen.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

As a biopic, anti-Apartheid chronicle, the film is mediocre, but the young Denzel Washington is excellent, rendering an Oscar-nominated performance.

Full Review… | June 10, 2011

One of the best films to come out of the 1980s. Simply amazing.

July 23, 2008

A historical document as well as powerful, disturbing drama

June 8, 2006
Dispatch-Tribune Newspapers

Sincere and movie - but not enough Denzel.

November 11, 2005
Las Vegas Review-Journal

Often harrowing and naturalistic but ultimately self-important in its indictment of police-state politics.

June 3, 2005

One of the best films of 1987 with its searing condemnation of racism and violence in South Africa.

Full Review… | July 10, 2003
Spirituality and Practice

a Hollywood whitewashing of a potentially explosive story

July 29, 2002
Kalamazoo Gazette

Audience Reviews for Cry Freedom

Great Acting, very moving story.

Lenny Muggsy

Super Reviewer


Typically worthy and well-made biopic of Steven Biko and his death at the hands of the racist south african regime from Richard Attenborough. The first half of the film featuring the man himself played by Denzel in one of his best roles works better, as we get to know the man and his motives. It's harder to care about Kline's attempts to escape the country in the wake of Biko's death, but it's still fascinating stuff.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


Extraordinary true-life story of friendship between black activist and white newspaper editor in South Africa who told against the backdrop of a turbulent but beautiful land rich in everything but common humanity.

Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer

Good movie based on actual events in 70's S.Africa. Set during the apartheid an unlikely friendship between a white liberal and a black activist form the basis of the story. Kline and Washington are on top form, but it has a TV movie feel from beginning to end. I usually don't watch this genre of movie, as the depress the shit out of me, but one of my students was studying the book for his literature class so I thought I'd cut a few corners. Cry Freedom is a worthwhile watch, but you will be shocked by the level of cruelty done by the S, African government at that time.

Jonny Crumley

Super Reviewer

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