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Man on Wire (2008)



Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 151
Fresh: 151 | Rotten: 0

James Marsh's doc about artist Phililppe Petit's artful caper brings you every ounce of suspense that can be wrung from a man on a (suspended) wire.


Average Rating: 8.5/10
Critic Reviews: 41
Fresh: 41 | Rotten: 0

James Marsh's doc about artist Phililppe Petit's artful caper brings you every ounce of suspense that can be wrung from a man on a (suspended) wire.



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Average Rating: 4.1/5
User Ratings: 26,655

My Rating

Movie Info

August 7, 1974. A young French man named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He danced on this wire for an hour with no safety net before he was arrested for what has become to be known as the "artistic crime of the century."


Documentary, Special Interest

Dec 9, 2008


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Latest News on Man on Wire

January 22, 2014:
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Wants To Reach the Clouds
He'll reportedly star in Robert Zemeckis' adaptation of memoirs penned by Philippe Petit ("Man on...
January 8, 2009:
Broadcast Film Critics Name Critics' Choice Winners
The 14th Annual Critics' Choice Awards were given on January 8, 2009, to honor the finest...


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All Critics (154) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (151) | Rotten (0) | DVD (6)

It all makes for an absorbing, mischievously amusing yarn, whose climax unfolds with unexpected emotional force.

May 7, 2009 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In this exhilarating, palm-moistening documentary by British filmmaker James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip), the twin towers are back to celebrate one of their finest moments.

November 10, 2008 Full Review Source:
Top Critic IconTop Critic

By any rational gauge, Petit's WTC obsession was flat-out crazy, but Marsh takes a limpid, nonjudgmental view of it all.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Christian Science Monitor
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The erasure of the towers adds poignance and irony to a documented event that is inherently thrilling and beautiful.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Though we know how it ends, it unfolds with suspense. And though it lacks any discussion of the towers' destruction, it succeeds as a tribute to their birth.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Houston Chronicle | Comments (2)
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's a story worth telling, yes -- but after 90 minutes, it's hard not to wonder if the storyteller can talk about anything else.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: AV Club | Comments (2)
AV Club
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The pains of the public eye are acknowledged just as much as the joy this artistic endeavour brought people.

April 8, 2011 Full Review Source: What Culture | Comment (1)
What Culture

Despite a known outcome, James Marsh's documentary offers sublime thrills - grafting the tense suspense of a heist film onto an existential dissection of artistic accomplishment and true friendship.

September 19, 2010 Full Review Source:

The tension builds incrementally, reaching almost unbearable heights at its dizzying climax.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Sight and Sound
Sight and Sound

click to read full review

March 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Movies for the Masses
Movies for the Masses

Interviewed today, Petit is a whale of a storyteller, and he recalls with relish the chilling details of that amazing day.

April 23, 2009 Full Review Source: Boston Phoenix
Boston Phoenix

Man On Wire's cinematic tension that in the wire Philippe Petit balanced on as he walked between the Twin Towers in the history-making high wire stunt shown in this compelling documentary. The film's also a poignant memorial to the hallowed Twin To

April 3, 2009 Full Review Source:

Not only a fun heist movie but also a moving tale of spiritual uplift and beauty.

February 27, 2009 Full Review Source: CHUD

The details of how the event was planned and staged are fascinating, but a crucial element missing from the film is good cinematography of the actual event.

February 8, 2009 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope | Comments (3)
Laramie Movie Scope

A feat like the one Philippe Petit pulled off deserves to be documented.

December 24, 2008 Full Review Source: Window to the Movies
Window to the Movies

I would have found it easier to get emotionally invested in Le Coup (rather than abstractly awed) if I had a better sense of his coup de foudre.

December 17, 2008 Full Review Source: Cinerina

Petit transforms his stories into mini-masterpieces of performance.

December 16, 2008 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

Man on Wire is absolutely breathtaking, a documentary as life-affirming as it is artistically intoxicating.

December 5, 2008 Full Review Source:

Present-day interviews and modern re-enactments provide the piece with its structure, but it's the awe-inspiring archival footage that makes this a giddy watch.

November 26, 2008 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

It's a great deal of fun, playing not unlike a crafty caper film with loads of spine-tingling suspense.

November 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Une oeuvre d'une puissance dramatique inouïe

October 29, 2008 Full Review Source: Panorama

This is a fascinating account of a moment from history that will never be repeated.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source:

A highly entertaining and extremely accessible film.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Screen International
Screen International

Audience Reviews for Man on Wire

A stuntman/performer dreams up a stunt impossible to ignore in the modern day world full of been there, done that. True enough, I wondered what's the big deal, "a guy on a tightrope", blah, blah, blah, yada, yada. Fueling these thoughts, the man himself, Monsieur Petit, seems a shameless attention hog, one whom it inadvertently pleases one to ignor. But then, the stunt itself ... jaw droppingly, utterly un-friggen-believable! See it.
May 28, 2013

Super Reviewer

A beatific documentary about a sole subject, this film was basically all about the feat that Petite pulled off, which comes off as sentimental and assured. Still, I would have liked to see a broader view of the accomplishment, one that possibly exaggerated Petite's abilities, showed more backstory, and the way he became a wire walker. Not much is shown on Petite's abilities other than his illegal yet masterful attempts at walking across some of the most famous locations in the world. The subject of the entire documentary wasn't given credence to showcase himself, except in interviews. In said interviews he comes off as childish, imaginative, and has a memory like a steel trap. Instead of truly looking into the depth of the subject the film uses interviews, and those dowdy recreations that pop up on episodes of America's Most Wanted. Though I found the footage of him walking on the wire truly ingratiating and just as feel good as they were purposing it to be, it didn't reel me in with anything all too interesting or new. Beside that the aftermath of the event wasn't shown in a true light and was further romanticized by Petite's ex, who viewed his infidelity as kismet rather than the delusions of a newly made icon. Most of the film covers the buildup to the event, assembling the crew, getting past security, and rigging the equipment up on the top floors of the newly created World Trade Center towers. It varies between flashbacks and interviews and that becomes quite confusing and annoying to boot. Really, it has its moments and was touching at times, but otherwise it was just wishy washy and slightly unpleasant.
June 4, 2012

Super Reviewer

In the tradition of a heist film, this documentary depicts a high-wire artist's attempt at walking between the Twin Towers.
Made in 2008, Man on Wire elides all discussion of 9/11, and even though this was probably better for the film -- after all, what can they really say of any importance? -- watching Philippe Petit and his cohorts break into the WTC with enough equipment to set up their wire made me think that I was watching what could have been a terrorist attack instead of a crazy, effervescent Frenchman with a God complex. The film might have made me uncomfortable, but I think it's better to say that I was uncomfortable watching it.
Petit is nuts. But from a distance, he's fun to watch. I think my favorite moment was when, describing how he was looking for a small fishing wire in the dark, Petit said -- as though this is the most reasonable thing to do, right out of the "How to Find Fishing Wire in the Dark" manual, -- "I stripped naked so that with all my body I could feel for the wire." Who thinks that? Next time I lose my keys in my office, I'll give it a try.
Other critics have called the film's climax "exhilarating" and said that the film's result takes on an adventure-movie level of suspense, and though I didn't feel this, I did find the film as a whole to be entertaining and fun but not with much sophistication. The "follow your dreams" mantra that provides the film's moral center feels contrived, like something out of a Cracker Jack box.
Overall, I liked Man on Wire, and now that there are movie-goers too young to fully remember 9/11, this documentary may serve as a tribute to buildings' existence rather than a reminder of their destruction.
January 16, 2012
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Philippe Petit: If I die, what a beautiful death! 

"1974. 1350 feet up. The artistic crime of the century."

Wow, I was completely taken aback by Man on Wire. I loved the creativity by the director, James Marsh. He made the movie feel less like a documentary and more like a thriller in the way he presented it. I loved the black and white reenactments throughout. It added much more depth to the story we were listening to. The first part of the movie where the people involved in helping Philippe, and Philippe himself talked about the van ride to the towers felt so much like a bank robbery. Then later in the film, I was thrilled to find out that Philippe looked at it in the exact same way. Everything they were doing was like a heist. They had to scout out the buildings, make fake I.D. cards, sneak into the building at night, and sneak by guards. The only difference between this and a heist is the end result. 

Man on Wire is a fabulous documentary on a compelling man, Philippe Petit, and his dream to tightrope between the World Trade Centers. Why? There is no why. He was sitting in a dentist office, reading a magazine, where he saw a picture of what the towers would look like when they were finished and fell in love with the idea. Philippe is a man of extreme enthusiasm, excitement, and concentration. He's so energetic, always running around and constantly laughing and smiling. But when he gets on a rope, his face turns to stone and he is in a state of the deepest concentration you are likely to see. 

It's impossible to not be astonished by what he did. Watching him from the ground, a speck of color, hovering in the sky would have been amazing. There is a moment in the movie where he admits that when he first saw them, he said it's impossible, but let's get to work. That's his attitude. He just wants to walk between the towers, no matter what the risk. Even if he dies, he will go out doing what he loves and that's beautiful. It doesn't hurt that he also had the support of many people. His friends wanted to see him out on that wire just as much as he did. That's pretty obvious when we listen to their interviews and watch them begin to tear up when talking about it. This wasn't just Philippe; he couldn't have done it by himself. In the end, it was for everyone involved.

I expected this to be great from the perfect reviews, which hardly ever happens. What I didn't expect was for the movie do be so beautiful. It's obvious going in that the story is going to be an engrossing one. But Marsh's skills take the story to a whole new level and this documentary to a whole new level. I love documentaries and watch them frequently, and this is a new favorite of mine.
January 10, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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