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Pay It Forward (2000)



Average Rating: 5/10
Reviews Counted: 128
Fresh: 51 | Rotten: 77

Pay It Forward has strong performances from Spacey, Hunt, and Osment, but the movie itself is too emotionally manipulative and the ending is bad.


Average Rating: 4.3/10
Critic Reviews: 36
Fresh: 12 | Rotten: 24

Pay It Forward has strong performances from Spacey, Hunt, and Osment, but the movie itself is too emotionally manipulative and the ending is bad.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 271,581

My Rating

Movie Info

A young boy stumbles upon a simple way to change the world in this drama. Trevor (Haley Joel Osment) is a bright 11-year-old boy who comes from a troubled home; his mother Arlene (Helen Hunt) is an alcoholic trying to hold down two jobs to support her son, while Trevor's father Jon Bon Jovi) left his family behind some time ago. At school, Trevor's class is introduced to their new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet (Kevin Spacey), a guarded man with severe facial scars. Simonet gives his class


Drama, Romance

Leslie Dixon, Catherine Ryan Hyde

May 15, 2001


Warner Bros. Pictures - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (144) | Top Critics (40) | Fresh (51) | Rotten (77) | DVD (15)

Spacey and Hunt create interestingly layered characters who are hiding parts of themselves from themselves. And come Oscar time, Osment once again may be saying, 'I see tuxedoed people.'

November 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune | Comment (1)
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Less a worthy achievement than a nice try.

March 22, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With its smorgasbord of moralizings, Pay It Forward is a confusing welter of sentiment.

June 25, 2001 Full Review Source: New York Magazine
New York Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Not since Gump has there been such a pandering, faux-virtuous package of populist pap for Hollywood to shove in the faces of electioneering politicos and say: Look, we don't just market unwholesome swill to families, we market wholesome swill, too.

June 4, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's carried to an amazing degree by its performances.

January 1, 2000
Boston Globe
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Offers more potential than payoff.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A bit syrupy, but sentimental teens may enjoy it.

December 27, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Ironic, isn't it, that a film about human decency takes place in Vegas?

June 23, 2008 Full Review Source: | Comments (2)

The film seems manufactured to furrow a cynic's brow before bringing up their lunch.

October 18, 2007 Full Review Source: Bangor Daily News (Maine)
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

There is a clear-cut difference between 'Oscar bait' and 'Oscar worthy,' which Mimi Leder's sentimental crock of a drama illustrates all too well.

October 14, 2007 Full Review Source:

Despite a ton of good intentions, the picture is numbingly obvious and crushingly sentimental.

December 6, 2005 Full Review Source: One Guy's Opinion
One Guy's Opinion

It is a movie that will not only find but charm -- or should we say con? -- a certain kind of audience.

January 29, 2005 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

A fine, honest tale that gives full respect to the pain of yearning and the power of hope.

February 7, 2003 Full Review Source: Cincinnati Enquirer
Cincinnati Enquirer

Hopefully, I've now prevented three people from seeing this film, and now they will each prevent three other people from doing the same.

December 8, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Threat | Comment (1)
Film Threat

There is much to like in this film, not least of which is the positive message.

October 21, 2002 Full Review Source: San Diego Metropolitan
San Diego Metropolitan

Filled with calculated sentiment, this is not a movie but a feature-length shill for Academy Awards nominations.

June 21, 2002 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

even if you don't buy the idea... it's still quite possible to enjoy the movie as a love story involving two badly damaged souls.

June 15, 2002 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

Overlong, overpriced, overwrought sentimental bucket of slop.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

By the end of this movie, I have no desire to change the real world. I would just like to show the writers of this movie what it would be like if they lived in it for one day.

May 25, 2002 Full Review Source:

Sappy, forced, artificial and manipulative--but really well ACTED!

October 10, 2001 Full Review Source:

Optimistic, yet painfully honest, Pay it Forward is an excellent film for those who look for hope amidst the world's seemingly overwhelming bad news.

July 19, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

...too unfocused, too uninvolving, and ultimately too cloyingly sweet for my taste.

June 11, 2001
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for Pay It Forward

Decent movie.
February 12, 2014

Super Reviewer

A nice story but way to heavy handed and with gringeworthy performances. Much like her other films, director Mimi Leder concentrates on the less important factors of the story and lets the 'message' slip into the ether. Spacey and Hunt however, only have themselves to blame for their awful acting.
July 13, 2012

Super Reviewer

want to see it
June 7, 2012
Anatoliy Dudaev

Super Reviewer

July 29, 2010

Super Reviewer

    1. Sidney: Man, it's like, the world is a shit hole..excuse my French..and it's like..I just thought.. like.. BOOM! It's like the whole shit can be better!
    – Submitted by Sephia R (17 months ago)
    1. Ricki: Don't argue with an idiot.
    – Submitted by Ellina S (17 months ago)
    1. Jerry: You ever been on the street?
    2. Arlene McKinney: My mom took us pretty close.
    3. Jerry: Well, you can't know. Not until you look at a dumpster. But when you climb into that thing for the first time and you pull those newspapers over you, that's when you know you've messed your life up. Somebody comes along like your son, and gives me a leg up, I'll take it. Even from a kid, I'll take it.
    – Submitted by JuanYamanda R (18 months ago)
View all quotes (3)

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