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Mean Creek (2003)



Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 119
Fresh: 107 | Rotten: 12

Mean Creek is an uncomfortably riveting glimpse into the casual cruelty of youth.


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 33 | Rotten: 4

Mean Creek is an uncomfortably riveting glimpse into the casual cruelty of youth.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 31,861

My Rating

Movie Info

Independent filmmaker Jacob Aaron Estes makes his feature debut with the coming-of-age drama Mean Creek. Rory Culkin, Ryan Kelley, Scott Mechlowicz, Josh Peck, Trevor Morgan, and Carly Schroeder are teenagers living in small-town Oregon. Some of the boys take a boat trip for a birthday celebration. When they get an idea to play a mean trick on the town bully, it suddenly goes too far. Soon they're forced to deal with the unexpected consequences of their actions. Mean Creek was workshopped at the



Jacob Estes

Jan 25, 2005


Paramount Classics - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (127) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (107) | Rotten (12) | DVD (30)

Estes' dark sunlit tale cuts like a knife.

October 19, 2004
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A low-key, low-budget thriller that reminds us just how cruel young people can be.

September 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Although it is a flawed film, with a first half that moves slowly and sometimes tediously, it is redeemed by a second half that is gripping, not only for its action but for its moral complexity.

September 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Arizona Republic
Arizona Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Estes has accomplished quite a bit here. In addition to providing a textbook example of suspense, he also makes us want to know what happens to these kids after the screen goes dark.

September 17, 2004 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

You could call Mean Creek a moral thriller. And the emotional currents the movie wades into are far more tricky than the gentle surface the kids' boat floats along.

September 17, 2004 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I never lived a story anything like this, but I understand the emotional life of this film -- and I'm betting you will, too.

September 17, 2004
Denver Rocky Mountain News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

This movie about teens is for adults only.

December 26, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

First time writer/ director Estes brings sensitivity and insight to this tale of teens pushed to extremes and forced to confront their sense of responsibility and morality

August 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

example of everything that is good in American independent cinema

August 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews

Follows a fluid narrative that never feels contrived, and leaves the audience with genuine sympathy for every single child involved.

August 25, 2005 Full Review Source: Film and Felt
Film and Felt

A mature, significant contribution to the unfornately growing trend of films that address teen violence (unfortunate in that we need the trend at all).

April 1, 2005 Full Review Source: Freeze Dried Movies
Freeze Dried Movies

A wonderful, if dreary, teen drama.

February 7, 2005

I've actually known my fair share of troubled kids, and this film is as accurate a depiction of them as I've ever seen.

January 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Aisle Seat
Aisle Seat

...a movie about moral choices, about learning what it is to be decent in the world.

January 27, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

We're forced to stare both the perpetrators and the victims full in the face, to see what made them the fools they are and what will come of the foolishness they commit.

January 15, 2005
Looking Closer

Angry kids on an unsupervised boat trip? Constant ominous music? Gee, wonder what's going to happen next.

January 4, 2005 Full Review Source: New Times
New Times

Striking, superbly crafted feature debut by Jacob Estes

November 14, 2004 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

An astute examination of youth culture that blows away Hollywood's pathetic attempts to get into the mind of a teen.

November 4, 2004 Full Review Source: Shadows on the Wall
Shadows on the Wall

First-time feature director Jacob Aaron Estes breathes life into a routine story with his talent for [emotional] detail.

October 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Las Vegas Mercury
Las Vegas Mercury

For a debut, it's downright startling.

October 28, 2004 Full Review Source: Planet Sick-Boy
Planet Sick-Boy

For all its hilarity (and there is a lot), Mean Girls is primarily a fascinatingly adroit dissection of high school culture.

October 6, 2004 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

A smartly written film that refuses to fall into the traps of the teenage stereotype.

September 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Oregon Herald

Estes' genius is in creating an atmosphere in the beginning that evokes kids-in-crisis predecessors, then shifting into a baroque mood for the canoe trip...

September 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Las Vegas CityLife

If you saw River's Edge, you may know where this glum, well-acted drama is headed right after it sets sail.

September 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Audience Reviews for Mean Creek

Truly haunting and riveting. Outstanding performances, incredible script with compelling characters and a huge emotional core help make ''Mean Creek'', in my view, pretty much a masterpiece. It delves into the cruel side of the minds of teenagers and proves a very dark but accurate view of how horrible the consequences of an immature action can be. Fantastic.
August 31, 2011
Liam Gadd

Super Reviewer

Prepare for a downer. Mean Creek is depressing, slow moving, and excellent. While some may complain that everything seems to happen at a snails pace, but I believe that the unsettlingly realistic film's pacing worked to it's advantage. Throughout the first hour of the film you know something terrible is going to happen, and the suspense builds to what for me was a constant feeling of dread. By the time that moment comes I was completely emotionally invested and it made the second half of the movie all the more intense. Mean Creek is not for anyone looking for a nice light watch, but if you have the patience and stomach for it then your in for a great movie.
January 31, 2011

Super Reviewer

A devastating movie concerning the ultimate revenge plot amongst some young kids, who aim to get back at a high school bully (Josh Peck). Peck is a revelation in this movie, and the overall cast is phenomenal. It is disturbing, but extremely effective in many ways, and even though it has its share of problems (the two dads plot seems a bit out there), the ending is also haunting and completely unforgettable. Although "Straw Dogs" remains the ultimate revenge-bully film, this comes awful close to toppling it.
November 10, 2010
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

"Mean Creek," the debut film from writer/director Jacob Aaron Estes, is so-so. It's an intriguing idea, but Estes cannot quite pull it off. He particularly shows himself weak with actors. The cast of unknown, inexperienced teenagers seemed lost in most scenes, as if they had no feel for their characters. Especially disastrous is Scott Mechlowicz's crushingly fake depiction of a dangerous bad boy.

Rory Culkin, the only well-known actor in the cast, gives by far the best performance, but he does not have much dialogue. (If you want to see a masterful performance from a child actor, see Culkin's work in 2000's "You Can Count on Me," filmed when he was just 10.)

The story is set in a small town in Oregon, where a troubled boy takes out his anxiety and frustration on his peers, walloping them and berating them with almost no provocation. Several kids, with aid from their bored older brothers, scheme to give this boy his comeuppance. But surprises come when the group starts to see that this bully is really disabled. Gradually it also becomes clear that the supposed good kids humiliate each other verbally in as sadistic a way as the bully does. Estes appears to be making a point about the ubiquitous sadism that plagues youth culture.

The film gets quite dramatic when the bullying teen goes out of control and tragedy strikes. But I found the increase in drama rather predictable. Yet it was interesting to ponder how rivalries between children often get right up to the threshold of violence. Why do so many of our children become bloodthirsty vis-a-vis their peers? Estes has thoughtful questions but hasn't yet mastered the cinematic medium through which he can explore them. But he is a filmmaker to watch. His next film, "The Details," is due in 2010 and stars Tobey Maguire.
December 18, 2009
Bill D 2007
William Dunmyer

Super Reviewer

    1. Millie: Sam, what's going on here with George?
    2. Sam: Oh, it's nothing bad. It's just a joke.
    3. Millie: What kind of joke?
    4. Sam: Well, we are planning on stripping him, throwing him in the river, and then we are gonna make him run home naked. We have a plan and it involves a dare.
    5. Millie: A dare?
    6. Sam: Yeah. See, the only reason I didn't tell you before... [Sam gets interrupted by Millie]
    7. Millie: Who said I wanted to be a part of this?
    8. Sam: What about this? [Sam snaps his fingers]
    9. Millie: What's that?
    10. Sam: If you could snap your fingers right now, and he would drop dead in his tracks, would you do it?
    11. Millie: It's totally mean, Sam.
    12. Sam: He's mean.
    13. Millie: He's a stupid fat kid. He's got problems, but he's obviously... Promise me you won't do anything to him.
    14. Sam: It's not just me.
    15. Millie: Promise me or I go back to the car.
    16. Sam: All right, I promise. I'll tell Rocky.
    – Submitted by MarieBella C (19 months ago)
    1. Sam: You know, if we hurt him, we'd be just as bad as him.
    – Submitted by Chad E (2 years ago)
View all quotes (2)

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