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The Descendants (2011)


Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 235
Fresh: 209
Rotten: 26

Critics Consensus: Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace.

Average Rating: 8.8/10
Reviews Counted: 49
Fresh: 45
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: Funny, moving, and beautifully acted, The Descendants captures the unpredictable messiness of life with eloquence and uncommon grace.


Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 67,701


Movie Info

From Alexander Payne, the creator of the Oscar-winning Sideways, set in Hawaii, The Descendants is a sometimes humorous, sometimes tragic journey for Matt King (George Clooney) an indifferent husband and father of two girls, who is forced to re-examine his past and embrace his future when his wife suffers a boating accident off of Waikiki. The event leads to a rapprochement with his young daughters while Matt wrestles with a decision to sell the family's land handed down from Hawaiian royalty … More

R (for language including some sexual references)
Drama , Comedy
Directed By:
Written By:
Alexander Payne , Nat Faxon , Jim Rash
In Theaters:
Mar 13, 2012
Box Office:
Fox Searchlight Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Descendants

All Critics (236) | Top Critics (49) | Fresh (209) | Rotten (26) | DVD (8)

The Descendants is humane, decent, and close to real quality.

Full Review… | June 20, 2013
The New Republic
Top Critic

Payne is an unobtrusive director, a filmmaker who lets the script do the walking - in this case, perhaps too much.

Full Review… | January 24, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

One of the year's best films, a bubbly meditation on family and responsibility that weighs just enough to matter.

Full Review… | November 23, 2011
Detroit News
Top Critic

In the hands of writer-director Alexander Payne, Clooney has rarely seemed so much at home.

Full Review… | November 22, 2011
Miami Herald
Top Critic

In playing an everyman stranded between anger and duty, Clooney earns an emotional payoff that a lesser actor would simply demand.

Full Review… | November 22, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

With so many balls in the air the temptation is to rush from one plot strand to another, but Payne takes the opposite approach. He also captures the complexity of emotional reactions that grief stirs.

Full Review… | November 22, 2011
Arizona Republic
Top Critic

The Descendants is an exercise in why women are such horrible, despicable shrews. When this film isn't demonising its female characters for daring to be unhappy in their marriage, it's condescending them for showing too much emotion...

Full Review… | September 8, 2013

A truthful, warm-hearted, deeply moving film about loss, about death, about legacies and, yeah, family.

Full Review… | June 22, 2013

People looking for a good lei would be wise to say aloha to 'The Descendants,' Alexander Payne's Hawaiian-set luau in which laughter and tears combine for a cinematic feast.

Full Review… | May 25, 2013
The Patriot Ledger

A beautifully touching, tragic and amusing follow-up film from the director of Sideways.

Full Review… | March 4, 2013
Concrete Playground

The Descendants manages to even surpass those stratospheric expectations most fans will have walking into the theatre.

Full Review… | February 11, 2013
We Got This Covered

Like "Sideways" and "About Schmidt," "The Descendants" lets Alexander Payne show us the Other America and the Other Americans - little lives caught up in small but epic problems far away from the La La Land of Hollywood hype, sex and violence.

Full Review… | December 28, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Each year there are usually one or two films that don't deserve all of the insane praise they get (last year's The Fighter is a prime example) and it looks like "The Descendants" is one for this year.

Full Review… | September 18, 2012

Understandable when dealing with Payne's typically directionless protagonists, The Descendants occasionally feels like it is unsure of where it's going, yet it still always ambles along at a pleasant pace regardless.

Full Review… | September 13, 2012

A thoroughly rewarding assembled-for-adults dramedy that benefits immensely from both its island locale and one of George Clooney's finest performances.

Full Review… | August 27, 2012

The Descendants is a devastating and rewarding emotional journey.

Full Review… | May 8, 2012
2UE That Movie Show

Will keep you soaked in its melancholy until the very end...

Full Review… | May 3, 2012
Cinema Crazed

Sort of like a shotgun marriage between Jimmy Buffett and Harry Chapin.

Full Review… | April 30, 2012

There's some pretty tricky material for Payne and crew to navigate, but anchored by a terrific cast it's a journey of hurt and healing that lingers.

Full Review… | April 16, 2012
Spectrum (St. George, Utah)

overrated, but not a bad movie

Full Review… | April 6, 2012
7M Pictures

"The Descendants" goes on too long, but that's its only flaw. And frankly, I can see why Payne and his editor decided to go with this print instead of making some awfully tough decisions.

Full Review… | March 15, 2012
Movie Metropolis

George Clooney gives a wonderful lead performance in his new film The Descendants but Clooney has always been more than just a handsome face, he's a proper movie star and in that old Hollywood tradition, he's also an everyman, one of us.

Full Review… | March 10, 2012

No doubt the awards hype around the film will get people into cinemas but it doesn't warrant the attention considering Payne's previous work and Clooney has put in much better performances.

Full Review… | March 8, 2012
The Popcorn Junkie

Payne manages to give the film a lightness that makes it uplifting or at the least fulfilling, rather than depressing.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012
The Standard

full review at Movies for the Masses

Full Review… | February 17, 2012
Movies for the Masses

Audience Reviews for The Descendants


I don't expect too high for Alexander Payne's movies because even though a lot of people love his work, especially the critics, but he clearly wasn't one of my favorite.. But what I saw for after 2 hours are a masterpiece from Payne with an outstanding performance from George Clooney and a show stealer performance from Shailene Woodley.. The story is light, kinda boring a little, but it's stunning me..

Sanjaya 丘耀文

Super Reviewer


I honestly don't know how he does it. This is the 4th out of 5 films directed by Alexander Payne that I've seen, and he once again knocks it out of the park.

And, like his other films, it's a blend of humor and sadness, though I think this one might be the least funny, and the most emotionally stirring. It's rather depressing, but it's also quite real, which is what I love and hate about his films, since they can be really hard to watch at times, yet they are films that are must-sees.

The story here revolves around Matt King, a disillusioned workaholic lawyer in Hawaii who is forced to re-examine his life after his wife becomes comatose following a boating accident. Even before the accident he already had a lot on his plate: work consumes him, and, even more pressing, he has been wrestling with the decision to sell his family's land which had been handed down from Hawaiian royalty and missionaries. That, and as he puts it, "I was the understudy parent", so his relations with his 10 and 17 year-old daughters isn't exactly wonderful.

Like I said, despite the heavy plot, which is one heck of an emotional roller coaster, there are some wonderfully funny and wry moments, and some really finely observed moments in general. That, and Payne has one tremendous cast to work with. Clooney takes the lead and really sells the complexities of the situations that Matt finds himself dealing with. Amara Miller and especially Shailene Woodley are wonderful as his daughters, and I feel like this film will be to Woodley what Winter's Bone was for Jennifer Lawrence. And we can't forget the great supproting roles from familiar faces like Beau Bridges, Robert Forster, and Matthew Lillard, who surprisingly really nails a more dramatic role. I was amazed by his work. Nick Krause is also by far the primary comic relief here, though he also pulls off a really profound and poignant scene with Clooney, that, even though I kinda expected it, was still great when it happened.

When the end credits began to roll, I was stunned. I really wasn't sure I had felt about this movie, as it was a lot to take in. I was initially thinking that I would give it somewhere between a 4 and 5, but was honestly unsure about what it really deserved. Well, I slept on it, gave it some more thought, and, even though I gave this same grade to two other Payne films, it gets a 4.5 from me. I feel okay about this, but at the same time, I have a lingering thought in my mind that, while Payne's films do deserve this type of praise, I think I might be falling into that rut where, like other directors, I find it almost impossible to get too negative or grant that low of a score. I hope I'm wrong though, and that Alexander Payne really is one of the greatest directors of his time, and of all time.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


A masterpiece. A film that has such a real and intense punch but still manages to bring your spirits up. One of the years best and most extraordinary movies. An absolute gem of a film that is deeply moving, dramatic and often funny. A mature, well-acted dramatic comedy that is deeply satisfying and well-character developed. It`s heartfelt, tender, compelling and wonderfully entertaining. Director, Alexander Payne crafts an humorous and tragic story that surpasses most of his past work. The characters and story are wonderful and real. A powerful and unforgettable movie. A breathtaking and astonishing piece of work that has your attention all the way to the end. George Clooney is magnificent, he gives one of the greatest performances of his career, and certainly his best performance to date. Clooeny is a movie star with no signs of slowing down, his gives great depth, humor and emotional vulnerability to his character. Shailene Woodley gives a great and confident performance. Star, Clooney and Director, Payne are a match made in movie heaven. I absolutely loved this movie

Al S

Super Reviewer


This family drama is set in the tropical paradise of Hawaii, while playing up the fact that living in a beautiful place doesn't settle your qualms. A family of four is rocked by the injuring of their mother in a speedboat accident while out with friends. Her sudden lack of awareness makes it difficult for her husband, her rebel of a daughter, and her even younger and impressionable daughter. The main character is Matt King, an entrusted Hawaiian descendant of the original royal family of the islands, about to parcel off a huge amount of untouched land to a large resort at the behest of all his cousins and other relatives. The film follows King (Clooney) in a deadpanned performance as a grieving husband, who is maddened at revelations concerning just how misguided their parenting was, and the true nature of their dysfunctional marriage. Their children are played by Shailene Woodley and Amara Miller, who both give extraordinarily deep performances as a rebellious and misunderstood teenage girl, and a lovable and yet misguided little girl, who is trying to get through her mother's coma and subsequent death. Clooney is quite stoic and yet is constantly being thrown into situations where his faith in his marriage are tested, he starts wondering whether his lineage means he deserves his land or the sale of it, and wonders whether his parenting will be enough once the day comes when his wife will no longer be with them. It's a film that centers mostly on loss in the way of death, but also a broken marriage, raising your children to love their heritage but also respect you even when you're flawed, and the indignities of respecting the dead while also not forgiving them. A beautifully written, directed, and acted film that truly shows loss in all forms.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

The Descendants Quotes

Matt King:
Hey, I'm doing you a favor. I could go out there and fuck you up, so get a better attitude!
– Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
Matt King:
My friends on the mainland think just because I live in Hawaii, I live in paradise. Like a permanent vacation. We're all just out here sipping Mai Tais, shaking our hips, and catching waves. Are they insane?
– Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
Alexandra King:
Hey, Scottie! Raina's a fucked-up hoe-bag and you need to stay away from her! And she's going to be a meth-head and she's gonna get used by stupid guys! She's a twat! Say it!
– Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
Matt King:
I don't want my daughters growing up entitled and spoiled. And I agree with my father - you give your children enough money to do something but not enough to do nothing.
– Submitted by Adam O (10 months ago)
Matt King:
Come after me if you want. It will just make us closer.
– Submitted by In Your D (23 months ago)
Matt King:
You give your children enough money to do something, but not enough to do nothing.
– Submitted by Prem Y (2 years ago)

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