Elephant - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Elephant Reviews

Top Critic
David Denby
New Yorker
April 24, 2013
Gus Van Sant's fascinating, mysterious, semidocumentary meditation on the Columbine massacre is not very satisfying, but it's still something to see.
Top Critic
Joe Morgenstern
Wall Street Journal
April 24, 2013
What I'll remember most vividly about Gus Van Sant's extraordinary "Elephant" is not the violent climax but the state of grace that precedes it.
Top Critic
Scott Tobias
AV Club
April 24, 2013
Elephant creates gorgeous, wide-open spaces that allow viewers the freedom to reflect without having a point-of-view imposed on them.
Top Critic
Christy Lemire
Associated Press
April 24, 2013
The approach is oddly riveting, though, because the tension builds slowly, and you know what's going to happen at the end of the day.
Top Critic

Time Out
January 26, 2006
The film doesn't try to explain, but to put us in a subjective time and space, a place where it's impossible not to feel the abject horror of random violence.
Top Critic
Peter Rainer
New York Magazine/Vulture
August 7, 2004
Elephant is a lurid tease posing as an art film.
Top Critic
Bill Muller
Arizona Republic
January 22, 2004
A living, breathing work that's distinctively different from the regular hyper-reality of Hollywood films.
| Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Roger Moore
Orlando Sentinel
December 19, 2003
Van Sant, whose films often connect, sensitively, with the thinking of young people, has made a film that says things are wrong with kids today. We're missing the obvious.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
Rene Rodriguez
Miami Herald
November 21, 2003
Elephant makes the Columbine shootings seem both abstract yet more painful and vivid.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
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Carrie Rickey
Philadelphia Inquirer
November 20, 2003
Elephant is the film equivalent of Maya Lin's Vietnam monument, that collective gravestone to the fallen, in the way it employs abstract means to quantify the loss of life and elicit a profound sense of grief.
| Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Wesley Morris
Boston Globe
November 14, 2003
An 86-minute cosmic provocation to rethink how we talk about the unspeakable, the scapegoats we look for, the effigies we burn.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Eric Harrison
Houston Chronicle
November 13, 2003
We ask: Who are these people? Which ones are troubled enough to bring guns to school? What are their lives like? What made them this way?
Full Review | Original Score: A
Top Critic
Peter Howell
Toronto Star
November 7, 2003
The film is understatement at its most powerful.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/5
Top Critic
John Hartl
Seattle Times
November 7, 2003
While most of the characters are little more than sketches, Van Sant and his collection of young, mostly inexperienced actors make them recognizable and genuine.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Ruthe Stein
San Francisco Chronicle
November 7, 2003
A spellbinding piece of filmmaking.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Rick Groen
Globe and Mail
November 7, 2003
The most fluid of films, it glides through its 81 minutes with a mesmerizing ease, skating on smooth tracking shots down the corridors of an American high school and into the heart of an American malaise.
Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Tom Long
Detroit News
November 7, 2003
As movies go, it's wholly predictable, occasionally and intentionally dull, and apparently quite lazy.
| Original Score: D
Top Critic
Ann Hornaday
Washington Post
November 7, 2003
A small, improvisatory, quiet movie whose modesty and lack of preening self-importance mask what is actually a remarkably ambitious and bravura piece of filmmaking.
Top Critic
Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post
November 7, 2003
It is hard to make absolute sense of. Yet it invites us to feel quite strongly about our conclusions.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Terry Lawson
Detroit Free Press
November 7, 2003
Bold and impressionistic.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Robert Denerstein
Denver Rocky Mountain News
November 7, 2003
I don't think Van Sant's movie provides us with enough of an answer to be regarded as anything more than an experiment.
| Original Score: C
Top Critic
Roger Ebert
Chicago Sun-Times
November 7, 2003
It simply looks at the day as it unfolds, and that is a brave and radical act; it refuses to supply reasons and assign cures, so that we can close the case and move on.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Jonathan Rosenbaum
Chicago Reader
November 7, 2003
Startling and brilliant.
Full Review | Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Desson Thomson
Washington Post
November 7, 2003
An understated, hypnotic stroke of brilliance.
Top Critic
Glenn Lovell
San Jose Mercury News
November 6, 2003
Evasive and maddening? You bet. Brilliant, enlightening? That, too. From where I sit, it's the most important American movie of the year.
| Original Score: 4/4
Top Critic
Chris Vognar
Dallas Morning News
November 6, 2003
Elephant demands a commitment to sticking with a nontraditional story. There's no three-act structure here, no consolation at the end of the line.
Full Review | Original Score: A-
Top Critic
Michael Wilmington
Chicago Tribune
November 6, 2003
An exercise in voyeurism and a trancelike plunge into the dark side of American teen life that can both fascinate and repel you.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
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Richard Roeper
Ebert & Roeper
November 3, 2003
... a brilliant film.
Top Critic
Stephen Whitty
Newark Star-Ledger
October 30, 2003
The movie itself has no feeling.
Top Critic
October 27, 2003
Elephant hurts you in ways you don't see coming; its combination of the orchestrated and the raw gets past your defenses.
Top Critic
Charles Taylor
Salon.com
October 26, 2003
It would be crediting Elephant with too much depth to call it Van Sant's examination of Columbine. It's more like his Columbine art project.
Top Critic
Jami Bernard
New York Daily News
October 24, 2003
The film is infuriating.
Full Review | Original Score: 2/4
Top Critic
Scott Foundas
L.A. Weekly
October 24, 2003
Welcome to Abercrombie & Fitch -- The Movie.
Top Critic
Lou Lumenick
New York Post
October 23, 2003
The minimalist Elephant is not going to satisfy audiences who need everything spelled out for them, but others will find it a refreshing approach to social problems that defy facile explanations.
| Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Manohla Dargis
Los Angeles Times
October 23, 2003
An unblinking look at our mania for murder, the film is a stunning response to an American tragedy that in its senselessness and human cost embodies the larger tragedy of this country's blood lust.
Full Review | Original Score: 5/5
Top Critic
Peter Travers
Rolling Stone
October 23, 2003
Unique and unforgettable.
| Original Score: 3.5/4
Top Critic
Gene Seymour
Newsday
October 23, 2003
Gus Van Sant's Columbine-inspired tone poem shatters your nerves while stranding your heart somewhere in deep space.
Full Review | Original Score: 3/4
Top Critic
Lisa Schwarzbaum
Entertainment Weekly
October 22, 2003
From the first images of drilling footballers and swirling clouds in an autumnal sky, Van Sant conjures the feeling of suburban school-year everydayness with Proustian power.
Full Review | Original Score: B
Top Critic
J. Hoberman
Village Voice
October 21, 2003
Uneven though he may be, Van Sant rivals Steven Soderbergh as the mad scientist of commercial filmmakers -- and the wildly polarizing Elephant is his most successful experiment to date.
Top Critic
Elvis Mitchell
New York Times
October 9, 2003
By making the camera an observer, we get a perspective that often comes out of horror movies, a choice that whips the ordinary with the terrifying, an unforgettable mix.
Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5
Top Critic
Rex Reed
New York Observer
October 8, 2003
Elephant is so contrived and minimalistic that it has the dramatic effect of a line drawing.
Top Critic
Todd McCarthy
Variety
May 29, 2003
To make a film about something like the Columbine student shootings incident and provide no insight or enlightenment would seem to be pointless at best and irresponsible at worst, and that is what Gus Van Sant has done in Elephant.
Top Critic
Kirk Honeycutt
Hollywood Reporter
May 21, 2003
The film lacks insight. We learn nothing that advances our understanding of these tragedies beyond the initial news reports.