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Mysterious Skin (2005)


Average Rating: 7.3/10
Reviews Counted: 103
Fresh: 87
Rotten: 16

Critics Consensus: Bold performances and sensitive, spot-on direction make watching this difficult tale of trauma and abuse a thought-provoking, resonant experience.

Average Rating: 7.6/10
Reviews Counted: 32
Fresh: 29
Rotten: 3

Critics Consensus: Bold performances and sensitive, spot-on direction make watching this difficult tale of trauma and abuse a thought-provoking, resonant experience.


Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 37,100


Movie Info

"The summer I was eight years old, five hours disappeared from my life. Five hours, lost, gone without a trace..." These are the words of Brian Lackey, a troubled 18-year-old, growing up in the stiflingly small town of Hutchinson, KS. Plagued by nightmares, Brian believes that he may have been the victim of an alien abduction. Local Neil McCormick however, is the ultimate beautiful outsider. With a loving but promiscuous mother, Neil is wise beyond his years and curious about his developing … More

Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
Gregg Araki , Scott Heim
In Theaters:
Oct 25, 2005
Box Office:
Tartan Films/TLA Releasing - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Mysterious Skin

All Critics (113) | Top Critics (37) | Fresh (87) | Rotten (16) | DVD (15)

Gone is the gloomy nihilism of The Doom Generation and The Living End, replaced by a melancholy, but hopeful, affection toward people with the capacity to overcome tremendous psychological trauma.

Full Review… | July 29, 2005
Miami Herald
Top Critic

Araki's best film in a long time.

Full Review… | July 22, 2005
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic

The audience has gotten the point roughly 90 minutes before the characters do.

Full Review… | July 21, 2005
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

Manages to deal with its raw, awful subject matter in ways that are both challenging and illuminating.

July 21, 2005
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

This is a challenging and ultimately moving film that deserves to find a like-minded audience.

Full Review… | July 1, 2005
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

[...] For a movie about something as painful as child sexual abuse, Mysterious Skin doesn't repel. There's an allure to the images, which are as carefully posed and framed as figures in a softly illuminated dollhouse.

Full Review… | March 17, 2014
The Dissolve

Contains a few flat notes of community participation, but Araki locates all the necessary surges of hopelessness and misguided desire, ending victorious in his quest to adapt Scott Heim's provocative novel.

Full Review… | March 7, 2014

By exploring the taboo topic of paedophilia in a humanist manner that avoids sensationalising or heavy-handed verdicts, Araki's eloquent, sensitive film actually presents an indictment far stronger than any moral grandstander ever could.

Full Review… | November 7, 2012
Empire Magazine Australasia

a bizarre, beguiling coming-of-age drama

Full Review… | August 21, 2010
Cinema Writer

treads harrowing ground without falling into the pit of cliché

Full Review… | September 15, 2009
Old School Reviews

Araki's film is a wrenching examination of childhood trauma and abuse.

Full Review… | April 29, 2009
Cinema Crazed

"Mysterious Skin" is a devastating yet beautiful film that honors its fragile characters with vital respect.

Full Review… | April 15, 2009

Even with the numb dialogue and trite characterizations we've come to expect from Araki, Mysterious Skin might have worked with the right actor in the charismatic role of Neil.

Full Review… | March 1, 2007
Film Journal International

This one clearly has more meat on the plate than Araki's earlier more shallow and sensationalistic films.

Full Review… | July 20, 2006
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Gregg Araki nous offre son %u0153uvre la plus mature à ce jour.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006

Sensível e tristemente trágico, o filme é um doloroso estudo de personagens beneficiado por uma atuação estupenda de Gordon-Levitt.

January 3, 2006
Cinema em Cena

Gordon-Levitt's performance is nothing short of astonishing.

Full Review… | November 28, 2005
Lessons of Darkness

A raw and unadorned look at child abuse and its idiosyncratic repercussions.

Full Review… | October 30, 2005

Araki has given us his most mature work yet, a fiercely focused yet oddly dreamlike meditation on innocence and loss.

Full Review… | September 30, 2005
Kansas City Star

A superb achievement.

Full Review… | September 2, 2005
Combustible Celluloid

A riveting original that some may find almost too agonising to experience

Full Review… | August 30, 2005
Urban Cinefile

Sweet and disturbing at the same time.

Full Review… | August 19, 2005
Las Vegas Weekly

Delicately balances the sordid and rough with the childlike and fantastic...

August 15, 2005
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

From a moralistic point of view, is it good that Araki is exposing the awful horrors of sex abuse? OK, I'll buy that. As a pedophilic expose, is it too much? For me, yes it was.

July 28, 2005
South Florida Sun-Sentinel

Audience Reviews for Mysterious Skin

A college freshman who believes he was abducted by aliens searches for his old Little League teammate, now a male prostitute, thinking he holds the clue to the mysterious events of his childhood. Something like MIDNIGHT COWBOY with a bit of "The X Files" thrown in, this painful and graphic drama explores how similar traumas can produce opposite effects.

Greg S

Super Reviewer


Mysterious Skin has an interesting idea for its plot, and frankly is a pretty disturbing film. The film has an engaging story and a good cast. At the center of the film is Joseph Gordon Levitt in the role of Neil McCormick, who is a homosexual hustler and has had a dark childhood by being sexually assaulted by his pedophile baseball coach. Mysterious Skin then follows Neil on his quest to finding what actually happened those many years ago, as many of those events were a blur. The film is terrific, but as I've said it's also fairly disturbing. The cast do a fine job here and the story has enough momentum to keep you entertained, eve3n though it's fairly slow, the story is always engaging and dramatic. Actor Joseph Gordon Levitt is excellent in the role of Neil, and he really brings out one of his best performances. I felt that Levitt added a certain a certain cocky innocence to character. Mysterious Skin is a well crafted film by director Greg Araki, however because of its story; it won't appeal to many viewers. This is really the type of film that can divide an audience. Despite the subject matter, Mysterious Skin is a solid film with minimal flaws. The great cast and directing keep this film afloat and everyone involved really make this a good film. Mysterious Skin is a terrific drama film that you shouldn't pass up on, love it or hate it, this is a powerful film.

Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Honestly speaking, I did not expected what I have seen in this movie. I did not read the story line because I like surprise. I just look at the genre and that's it. But for this, I looked at the rating and saw this. It does happens in real life, yeah sad but true. But this is not my taste. It's very disturbing.

Dead Angel

Super Reviewer


I was completely taken from the story. It was already inferred from the first 5 minutes but leaves such a large trail of "what really happened" behind. Its not a classic but definitely worth watching. Might be hard to watch to some viewers but satisfying in the end.

paul o.
paul oh

Super Reviewer

Mysterious Skin Quotes

Mrs. McCormick:
You'll always be my baby.
– Submitted by Lillian H (21 months ago)
Neil McCormick:
And as we sat there listening to the carolers, I wanted to tell Brian it was over now and everything would be okay. But that was a lie, plus, I couldn't speak anyway. I wish there was some way for us to go back and undo the past. But there wasn't. There was nothing we could do. So I just stayed silent and trying to telepathically communicate how sorry I was about what had happened. And I thought of all the grief and sadness and fucked up suffering in the world, and it made me want to escape. I wished with all my heart that we could just leave this world behind. Rise like two angels in the night and magically... disappear.
– Submitted by Nikoleta P (2 years ago)
Wendy Peterson:
I see the way you look at him.
Eric Preston:
He's so beautiful. I can't help it. He's like a god.
Wendy Peterson:
You don't have to tell me, I was infatuated with him too once. But I know all Neil's secrets and there's shit don't even want to know about. Trust me. Once I'm gone, you'll be all Neil has...and you have to understand one thing. Where normal people have a heart, Neil McCormick's has a bottomless black hole. And if you don't watch out, you can fall in and get lost forever.
– Submitted by viktor g (2 years ago)
Neil McCormick:
I hate it when they look like Tarzan and sound like Jane.
– Submitted by Sara H (2 years ago)

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