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Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist

Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (1997)



Average Rating: 8.9/10
Critic Reviews: 6
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 0

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 1,784

My Rating

Movie Info

This documentary profiles poet/performance artist Bob Flanagan, who was born with cystic fibrosis. Flanagan explains, with engaging humor, how his obsession with controlled, self-inflicted pain has helped him to deal with his uncontrollable suffering. His philosophy forces one to look at sado-masochism with fresh eyes. The film includes explicit scenes of genital self-mutilation. ~ Bhob Stewart, Rovi

Sep 23, 2003

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All Critics (28) | Top Critics (8) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (2) | DVD (9)

This bold, intense, and uncompromising expose of S&M takes audiences to places thay have not been before; in moments, it's tough to watch but quite rewarding at the end.

February 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Flanagan and Rose prove to be an exceptionally creative and intelligent couple who were able to turn their obsessions into art, albeit of a highly specialized kind and involving at times an overwhelmingly brutal exhibitionism.

February 14, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most agonizing films I have ever seen.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Does a remarkable thing in presenting extreme, sometimes revolting material and simultaneously making us like and admire Flanagan.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

One of the most unlikely inspirational films ever made.

May 27, 2006 Full Review Source:

The film is sad and funny and flat-out fascinating.

January 5, 2004 Full Review

The title alone of Kirby Dick's alleged documentary Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist practically screams: "This is not your standard biopic!"

September 14, 2003 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine


August 25, 2003 Full Review Source:

It contains language and depicts sexual acts that most will find appalling and intolerable, and this fact overshadows any enticing human element the film tries to extend.

June 25, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

There's never quite been a movie like Sick, which isn't interesting enough, alas, to make its repellent and morbid episodes bearable.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Sacramento Bee
Sacramento Bee

Under the shackles, the film implies, is an unbroken human spirit triumphantly determined to not only stay alive, but actually enjoy himself while doing so.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: eye WEEKLY

For those willing to endure its more harrowing moments, Kirby Dick's documentary about Los Angeles artist Bob Flanagan is a touching and rewarding look at a charismatic and defiant man.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

One of the funniest, most disturbing and poignant explorations of human nature ever made.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Film Threat
Film Threat

Whatever you want to call Sick, it's anything but a piece of exploitative voyeurism, by turns sombre, hilarious, wince-inducing and inspiring.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

The story is uplifting, strangely enough, because Bob was able to live with the constant pain and discomforts of the disease by finding his own identity...

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

An exploration of sickness of the body and sickness of the mind on several profound levels.

January 1, 2000
Jam! Movies

An entirely engrossing (but not incredibly artistic) documentary.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: E! Online
E! Online

Audience Reviews for Sick: The Life and Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist

It's content is shocking but it's heart is good. Bob Flanagan's legacy is a pure one even though I wont seem so at first glance. This is an astonishing account of one man's life and his unfortunate death, or maybe one man's death and his unfortunate life as he would probably put it. I see Bob Flanagan as probably the most positive person of all time, he knew his life was going to be short and painful so he decided he'd start to try and enjoy it. People who state that the most shocking scene was the one including the nail and the penis obviously weren't concentrating properly as Bob Flanagan's death is one of the most horrific, heartbreaking, shocking but strangely reassuring and beautiful (based on his suffering) scenes ever caught on film. His poem 'Why?' is the powerful conclusion to the film that breaks the heart as well as lifts it and puts silence to anyone who thinks he was psychologically unsound or indeed sick in the head. This is a must see documentary but not for the fainthearted.
November 7, 2012

Super Reviewer

An extremely interesting artist who provides a deep glimpse into the nature of pain. He demonstrates, mostly with his body, the clear, yet often confounding, large gap between unwanted pain and consensual pain. If you've ever been intrigued, excited, or outright confused by masochism, let Bob give you a colorful education on the matter.

Also worth noting is how impeccable director Kirby Dick is when it comes to picking subjects for his documentaries. This was his first international hit, and it is quite clear why it was so hailed, especially in the era before the internet where self-documented extreme masochistic acts were not a google search away or conveniently categorized on BMEzine..
August 10, 2010

Super Reviewer

Insightful documentary on Bob Flanagan who fought cystic fribrosis by becoming a masochist. Not just any old masochist. No, he became a super masochist; doing to his body what few others had the desire to do, let alone the nerve.

Introduced to most from NIN's "Happiness In Slavery" video, he's not just a pervert or a weirdo, but a person who has spent everyday facing his mortality and found a way to survive and to outlast an illness that should have killed him in his childhood.
June 4, 2008
El Hombre Invisible

Super Reviewer

[font=Century Gothic]"Sick" is a documentary that starts out with Bob Flanagan, performance artist, reading his own obituary. Flanagan suffered from cystic fibrosis since he was a child and was not given long to live. But he beat the odds, by using masochism as a coping mechanism(coupled with a healthy sense of humor) and eventually became involved in a submissive, loving, and long-term relationship with his partner, Sheree Rose.(As a 17 year-old cystic fibrosis survivor, Sara, who gets to meet Flanagan through the Make-A-Wish Foundation, puts it, masochism is being able to have some control over your body.) [/font]

[font=Century Gothic]This is not an easy movie to watch, however, as it is extremely graphic in its depictions of Flanagan's illness and sexuality. At the same time, the documentary uses these images to attack taboos concerning sickness, sadomasochism and death. [/font]
August 19, 2006
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Sick: The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (DE)
  • Sick - The Life & Death of Bob Flanagan, Supermasochist (UK)
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