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Soul Surfer (2011)


Average Rating: 5.3/10
Reviews Counted: 101
Fresh: 46
Rotten: 55

Critics Consensus: There's an amazing true story at the heart of Soul Surfer -- and unfortunately, it's drowned by waves of Hollywood cheese.

Average Rating: 5.2/10
Reviews Counted: 30
Fresh: 10
Rotten: 20

Critics Consensus: There's an amazing true story at the heart of Soul Surfer -- and unfortunately, it's drowned by waves of Hollywood cheese.


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 40,634


Movie Info

Bethany (AnnaSophia Robb) was born to surf. A natural talent who took to the waves at a young age, she was leading an idyllic life on Kauai, participating in national surf competitions with her best friend Alana (Lorraine Nicholson), when everything changed. On Halloween morning, a 14-foot tiger shark came out of nowhere and seemed to shatter all her dreams. Soul Surfer reveals Bethany's fight to recover from her ordeal and how she grappled with the question of her future. Strengthened by the … More

PG (for an intense accident sequence and some thematic material)
Drama , Action & Adventure , Sports & Fitness
Directed By:
In Theaters:
Aug 2, 2011
Box Office:
TriStar/FilmDistrict - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Soul Surfer

All Critics (101) | Top Critics (30) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (55) | DVD (3)

A succession of would-be rousing clichés.

Full Review… | September 21, 2011
Time Out
Top Critic

Soul Surfer seems simply too sugar-coated to be true.

Full Review… | May 6, 2011
Top Critic

You wonder why this movie isn't a documentary, rather than a synthetic feature film with the heroine's arm digitally removed.

Full Review… | April 10, 2011
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Hamilton is played, blandly, by Anna Sophia Robb, and her devoted parents, less bland, are played by Dennis Quaid and Helen Hunt. The surfing footage, much of it shot off the coast of Kauai, is not bland at all.

Full Review… | April 9, 2011
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

It's Bethany and Alana's friendship - its sturdiness and vulnerability, its laughs and sincere apologies - that rules the day.

Full Review… | April 8, 2011
Denver Post
Top Critic

A by-the-numbers biopic about young surfer Bethany Hamilton.

Full Review… | April 8, 2011
New York Daily News
Top Critic

A solid and inspiring story about faith and family.

Full Review… | June 30, 2013
Big Hollywood

A well-intentioned, big-hearted, wannabe-crowd-pleaser that just happens to be so incompetently made that it might be rejected by Oprah's channel.

Full Review… | June 23, 2013

The best faith-based film ever made, an uplifting, entertaining and wonderfully-acted account of surfer Bethany Hamilton's life before and after a shark bit her arm off in the waters off her favorite Hawaiian beach.

Full Review… | January 9, 2013
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

All that separates this from made-for-TV territory is another strong turn from gifted young lead AnnaSophia Robb.

Full Review… | April 8, 2012

A well-meaning, handsomely staged biopic of the top Hawaii-based surfing star Bethany Hamilton who lost her arm to a shark in 2003 at the age of 13...

Full Review… | September 25, 2011
Observer [UK]

It's ultimately let down by some heavy-handed sentimentality, an over-abundance of Bible-bashing and some dodgy CGI sequences.

Full Review… | September 24, 2011

Essential viewing for any injured armed forces veteran or contender for next year's Paralympics.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Birmingham Mail

Sure, the film has its mawkish moments, but it's a remarkable, well-intentioned tale that deserves to ride its wave rather than to wipe out on it.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Radio Times

The film is sincere and even a little sanctimonious in the way it depicts Hamilton's family, strong Christian values and work with post-tsunami orphans in Phuket.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Daily Express

Clearly Bethany was quite a girl but this film prompts one simply to say "Amen".

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
This is London

With a tale this strong, what could go wrong? Pretty much everything, as it turns out, with the story buffeted into oblivion by a tidal wave of syrup.

Full Review… | September 23, 2011
Daily Mirror [UK]

The film that follows is thin and frothy, though watch out for that final sentimental upsurge. It could drag and lift you against your will.

Full Review… | September 22, 2011

It's clear that Quaid learned nothing from Jaws 3.

Full Review… | September 22, 2011
Daily Telegraph

A surf film employing massive amounts of CG is incredible for all the wrong reasons.

Full Review… | September 22, 2011
Little White Lies

In the end, the platitudes take over completely, but the inspirational story is still worth telling.

Full Review… | September 22, 2011
Shadows on the Wall

Unless you like your inspiration in heavy-handed doses, you might be better off watching the real thing - on YouTube.

Full Review… | September 21, 2011
Sky Movies

An amazing true story for sure, but this earnest dramatisation is so wholesome, it feels like being stuck in a never-ending Activia advert.

Full Review… | September 19, 2011
Total Film

Inspiring true story wipes out on underdog clichés and waves of melodramatic Hollywood cheese.

Full Review… | September 9, 2011
American Profile

Faith-based...With its sports-movie structure and Hollywood production values, Soul Surfer is a creditable crossover picture; it just could've done with more nuance. [Blu-ray]

Full Review… | August 4, 2011
Groucho Reviews

Audience Reviews for Soul Surfer

I like how the RottenTomatoes consensus put it: "There's an amazing true story at the heart of Soul Surfer -- and unfortunately, it's drowned by waves of Hollywood cheese." Yup, with material like this, it's hard to go wrong, but boy, it was freaking cheesy. I found myself cringing a lot at the laughably and poorly written dialogue, the mediocre acting (Sorry Carrie Underwood, you're a devout Christian and an EXCELLENT musician, which is all very inspiring, but acting ain't your thing), and the poor execution in storytelling. "What's up, Disney Channel?" As a Christian, I find myself cringing at the attempt to make an inspiring Christian-themed movie, but surprisingly, "Soul Surfer" as a Christian movie, wasn't THAT bad compared to the many other Christian movies. Let me tell you, there are some horrifyingly, awful Christian movies out there.

You'll be pleasantly welcomed by the B-movie feel "Soul Surfer" has. It's not preachy or pretentious; deep down, there's a lot of purity and heart injected into this movie. There's a particular scene involving the Bethany, the main protagonist, that effectively agitates the audience's emotions, all without a word being said. Even the message was good-hearted, pure, and a relief, especially among a movie industry filled with dark and unsettling themes. Surprisingly, "Soul Surfer" as a Christian movie, manages to catch a couple of waves, but that's where it ends. The movie suffers from horrible pacing issues, mainly due to the fact that the incident that occurs, and the result afterwards are the only solid material "Soul Surfer" has for its narrative. The spaces in between are nothing more than fillers, and what dull fillers they are. The editing is sporadically all over the place, and the dialogue makes me shudder.

Phew, this is one big cheeseball. Nevertheless, it's a good movie for children and is a surprisingly effective Christian-themed film -- just don't take your film critique crew to watch this. There IS an amazing true story at the heart of Soul Surfer -- and unfortunately, it's drowned by waves of Hollywood cheese... to the max.

Albert Kim
Albert Kim

Super Reviewer


Way too shallow. The true story it's trying to tell is inspiring and exciting, but the story in the movie wasn't.

The shark attack could've been a really cool scene, but it's over in like 3 seconds. It's kind of unbelievable that a shark would just do that. The shark probably wouldn't have even stuck his head out of the water. It just seemed a little unrealistic, I'd kind of like to hear what really happened to Bethany in the water with the shark.

The movie itself is very cheesy and I wasn't really "inspired" at all. I think the credits were the best part where you actually got to see Bethany surf. The credits were my favorite, everything else needed some work. Especially the acting on Anasophia Robb (sp?). You just got your arm bitten off by a shark...let's see some real tears and emotional breakdowns. She seemed way too calm about the entire ordeal.

Japes .

Super Reviewer

What an incredible true story of Hawaiian female champion surfer, Brittany Hamilton (Anna SophiaRobb) has the perfect-est life with the perfect-est family until, one day, the CGI-est shark comes along and chomps off her arm, that shocked me, while she's hanging 10. Set in Hawaii, this is one of the most beautiful - and kid-friendly - films to feature dismemberment.
It's okay because Brittany's misfortune will lead her down a path that teaches her the power of love. All of the soul in Soul Surfer is like guzzling maple syrup while someone tries to make you cry.
Finely calibrated to the tween market, this story of triumph over adversity rides on an upbeat soundtrack and plenty of surf action. Director Sean McNamara speeds along/above/behind the waves with frenetic vigour, but also captures the sport's meditative nature.

Dean McKenna

Super Reviewer


Although I may be a sucker for heartfelt true stories, this film truly represents the courage and inspiration that Bethany Hamilton had not only on her peers, but her inspiration across the entire nation. Annasophia Robb was a perfect choice as the lead star and the entire cast holds their own as well. This film definitely is filled with hollywood cheese and some of the dialogue might be pretty corny at times, but the story is told so beautifully that the cheesy lines actually sent chills down my spine. The acting may be average, but why does such a moving story need amazing acting, it hides everything and makes you love all the characters. Soul Surfer is an extremely powerful story and I would really like to call it a great film, but it is not quite that high, because the film revolves around the shark that bit off her arm, which was done kind of poorly in my opinion and nobody reacted the way they were supposed to. Overall, this film is very good and I was moved!

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

Soul Surfer Quotes

Bethany Hamilton:
Sarah's really bumming me out.
Cheri Hamilton:
Any particular reason?
Bethany Hamilton:
Yeah. So, I told her I'm not coming to Mexico. I mean, she knows that I have two important competitions coming up, right? I mean she knows how much I've put into this, you know, how much you and the whole family put into this.
Cheri Hamilton:
So what's her angle?
Bethany Hamilton:
That going to Mexcio to help kids is really important. And I know it is, I mean, I really, really wish I could go. It's just... I've got to stay and train for regionals. It's like she's counting on me now, like I'm the only person in the entire world who can do this.
Cheri Hamilton:
It's your call.
Bethany Hamilton:
Great. Now I feel even worse.
Cheri Hamilton:
That's good. A small step in a good direction.
– Submitted by Karen C (2 years ago)
Bethany Hamilton:
What's his name?
Sarah Hill:
They don't know. He hasn't said a word, he won't even smile.
– Submitted by Karen C (2 years ago)
Sarah Hill:
I don't know why terrible things happen to us sometimes. But I have to believe something good is going to come out of this.
– Submitted by Jed G (2 years ago)
Bethany Hamilton:
Surfing isn't the most important thing in life. Love is. I've had the chance to embrace more people with one arm than I ever could with two.
– Submitted by Nusfish K (2 years ago)
Tom Hamilton:
I don't need easy. I just need possible.
– Submitted by Nusfish K (2 years ago)
Bethany Hamilton:
Love is bigger than any tidal wave or fear.
– Submitted by Nusfish K (2 years ago)

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