The Great Debaters (2007)



Critic Consensus: A wonderful cast and top-notch script elevate The Great Debaters beyond a familiar formula for a touching, uplifting drama.

Movie Info

True story of professor Melvin B. Tolson who formed a debate team at a small, African American college in the 1930s. The team went on to beat Harvard in the national debate championships.

Rating: PG-13 (for depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Robert Eisele, Jeffrey Porro
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 13, 2008
Box Office: $30.0M


as Melvin B. Tolson

as Henry Lowe

as Samantha Booke

as James Farmer Jr.

as Hamilton Burgess

as Dr. James Farmer Sr.

as Ruth Tolson

as Sheriff Dozier

as Pearl Farmer

as Helen Farmer

as Nathaniel Farmer

as Pig Owner

as Pig Farmer

as Dunbar Reed

as Harland Osbourne

as Harvard Debater No. ...

as Harvard Debater No. ...

as Harvard Dean

as Wilson

as Paul Quinn Debater #...

as Paul Quinn Debate Ju...

as Paul Quinn Debater #...

as Dr. Jennings

as Paul Quinn Debate Ju...

as Oklahoma City Colleg...

as Oklahoma City Colleg...

as Clementine

as Captain Wainwright

as Enormous Man

as Security Guard

as Radio Announcer at H...

as White Man at Lynchin...

as William Taylor

as White Labor Organize...

as White Sharecropper #...

as White Sharecropper #...

as Prairie View Profess...

as Howard Debater #1

as Juke Joint Musician ...

as Juke Joint Musician ...

as Juke Joint Musician ...

as Juke Joint Musician ...

as Fisk Professor

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Great Debaters

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Critic Reviews for The Great Debaters

All Critics (136) | Top Critics (45)

As for Mr. Parker and Ms. Smollett, there's no debating what awaits them -- stardom, very soon.

Full Review… | January 3, 2008
Wall Street Journal
Top Critic

Washington directed as well as starred, and it is clear he has no trouble wearing both hats at once

Full Review… | September 8, 2008

This is a wonderfully acted and directed movie, that has something important to say

| August 22, 2008
Sin Magazine

I was having mediocre day and I walked out of the movie totally pumped up and ready for the rest of the day, even though it was 10pm at night.

Full Review… | June 1, 2008

There's a real organic sense in the film of how young minds can be nurtured and energized way beyond sex, sports and slacker attitude, into caring and evolving kid works-in-progress. And how debating can be pretty cool too, who knew?

Full Review… | May 2, 2008

The acting is great and care is taken to develop these characters into people we can root for.

Full Review… | April 10, 2008
Laramie Movie Scope

Audience Reviews for The Great Debaters


Inspiring American story that''s told much like a sports movie - very much a "feel-good" film, not amazing but quite enjoyable.

Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer


an amazing film without question. let me start with my disclaimer, denzel admitted to knowingly and willfully changing major facts in this story for the purpose of manufacturing extra "inspiration". I am strongly against this practice in films based on true stories. if the story is worth telling, tell it the way it happened, if you need to change the story too much then its not worth telling. the acting on every front was absolutely phenomenal, the story despite the inaccuracies was beautiful, and the film was shot well and very engaging.

danny d

Super Reviewer

When it comes to the racial issues touched upon in this film, we only skim the surface, but when it comes to the art of debating, this film is more than a regular formula drama of similar subject matter. It's engrossing, well-written, inspiring, and powerfully acted all round. I would expect nothing less than stardom for Nate Parker and Jurnee Smollett very soon.

Raymond Wieser
Raymond Wieser

Super Reviewer

The Great Debaters Quotes

– Submitted by Jesse K (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Agbomeji O (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Vishal S (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Mani K (3 years ago)

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