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Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple (2006)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 50
Fresh: 47 | Rotten: 3

Director Stanley Nelson avoids editorializing and sensationalizing in Jonestown, letting the CIA photos and film speak for themselves, and giving a voice to the surviving victims.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 22
Fresh: 19 | Rotten: 3

Director Stanley Nelson avoids editorializing and sensationalizing in Jonestown, letting the CIA photos and film speak for themselves, and giving a voice to the surviving victims.



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 3,877

My Rating

Movie Info

On Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 members of Peoples Temple died in the largest mass suicide/murder in history. What drew so many people across racial and class lines to the Peoples Temple? How could a diverse group of 900 people be convinced to commit suicide? What was a California congregation doing in the jungles of Guyana? And who was Jim Jones to command such loyalty that parents would murder their own children? Using never before seen archival footage and survivor interviews, "Jonestown: The



Apr 10, 2007

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All Critics (52) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (47) | Rotten (3) | DVD (3)

Jonestown is a somber and non-exploitive reconstruction of the events that led the members of the Peoples Temple.

April 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Stanley Nelson revisits the 1978 mass suicide of Jim Jones and his flock in Guyana, savoring the horror but offering no new insights.

April 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comment (1)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ultimately, the film doesn't entirely answer the massive 'why' at the center of this story -- that answer died on that day in 1978 -- but it's a haunting exploration of an event of unspeakable sadness, which still resonates decades later.

February 2, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Times
Seattle Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A somber, solid documentary [parading] the whole bleak tale before us again, complete with those disturbing scenes of hundreds of corpses in their tees and shorts and flip-flops strewn about facedown in the mud of Jonestown, Guyana.

February 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The last half hour of Jonestown is almost unwatchable. Video footage of the assault on the congressman's delegation gives way to audio of Jones exhorting people to 'die with a degree of dignity' as children shriek in the background.

January 12, 2007 Full Review Source: Boston Globe
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Jonestown is not an easy movie to watch. But it's a solid presentation of an important chapter in American and religious history. Haunting is the only word that truly fits.

December 8, 2006 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Nelson's thought-provoking documentary investigation into the life and times of preacher Jim Jones raises a fistful of public policy questions that are still knocking around today.

May 5, 2010 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Frightening, grueling, and needed in an age where religious fanaticism of all kind reigns...

July 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Cinema Crazed
Cinema Crazed

The combination of these materials and the new interviews reconstruct a story few really know.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

As much as it leaves open individual questions of devotion and need, the film does make clear the dangers of seeking solace and identity in the embrace of such a complex ego.

February 24, 2007 Full Review Source: PopMatters

It is a frightening epitaph for what is surely one of the 20th century's most heartbreaking cautionary tales against giving one up to the will of another.

February 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Seattle Post-Intelligencer

The documentary, directed by Stanley Nelson, incorporates rare footage and recordings with a history of Jones and the Peoples Temple. The film's planned airing on PBS will expose many more viewers to this important slice of history.

January 11, 2007 Full Review Source: Murphy's Movie Reviews
Murphy's Movie Reviews

Relying on previously unseen film footage, still photos and voice recordings, Jonestown paints a portrait of a fantastically charismatic preacher.

December 22, 2006 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

Nelson gives plenty of time to the intelligent, articulate members who provide riveting details about those days nearly 30 years ago and their reflections now, but he doesn't provide historical context for the events.

November 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

More than a record of one horrific moment in history or the cautionary tale of the road to hell being paved with good intentions.

November 15, 2006 Full Review Source: Killer Movie Reviews
Killer Movie Reviews

From idealistic beginnings to the horror-movie ending, a singular episode of history is peeled open to expose a raw and ugly core.

November 10, 2006 Full Review Source: Oregonian

Nelson's film helps us understand that Jonestown may be history, but the tremendous loss still resonates.

November 3, 2006 Full Review Source: Contra Costa Times
Contra Costa Times

Audience Reviews for Jonestown: The Life and Death of Peoples Temple

The Jonestown Massacre was one of the most shocking moments of the late 1970's. Over 900 Cult members committed suicide by drinking Kool-Aid laced with cyanide. This documentary chronicles the history leading up to that event and features interviews with members of the People Temple Church. This was a chilling film that exposed the church for what it was, and it also reveals the story that was hidden from the public eye. Well shot, disturbing, and engaging from the first frame onwards, this is a standout documentary about one of the most shocking tragedies of the 20th century. Here being interviewed are people who left the Church and journalists who have written on the church and the subsequent massacre in 1978. This is a truly unique documentary as there has never been a cult quite like this before or since. This is a hard film to watch due to its subject, but to those interested in the topic, this is a must watch. The film has some riveting footage from the day of the massacre, and eye witness accounts of what happened. Captivating and unforgettable, the film is one of the finest documentaries I've seen. Jim Jones was a mad man, and how he ordered 900+ people to kill themselves is absolutely sickening. The last half of the documentary is truly hard to watch, as the former members of the Peoples Temple describe what happened on November 18, 1978. That was a senseless act ordered by a lunatic, there was nothing to gain with the act, and many people lost their lives for nothing. This is an eye opening, disturbing and powerful documentary that is definitely not for the faint of heart.
November 22, 2013
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

An interesting look at a horrifying piece of history and at just how crazy religious fanatics (and their followers) can be.
March 21, 2008
Robert C

Super Reviewer

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