The Descendants (2011)



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

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

Rating: R (for language including some sexual references)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Alexander Payne, Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 13, 2012
Box Office: $82.6M
Fox Searchlight Pictures - Official Site


as Matt King

as Alexandra King

as Scottie King

as Cousin Hugh

as Elizabeth King

as Scott Thorson

as Julie Speer

as Brian Speer

as Scottie's Teacher

as School Counselor

as Lani Higgins

as Matt's Secretary Noe

as Cousin Ralph

as Cousin Hal

as Cousin Milo

as Cousin Stan

as Cousin Six

as Cousin Wink

as Cousin Connie

as Cousin Dave

as Dr. Johnston

as Kai Mitchell

as Mark Mitchell

as Troy Cook

as Dorm Supervisor

as Alex's Roommate

as Alex's Drunken Frien...

as Alice "Tutu" Thorson

as Hotel Clerk

as Grief Counselor

as Barry Thorson

as Tahiti Nui Singer (K...

as Tahiti Nui Singer (K...

as Tahiti Nui Singer (K...

as Elizabeth King
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Descendants

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Critic Reviews for The Descendants

All Critics (238) | Top Critics (49)

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

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

Mr. Payne's undeniable knack for naturalism makes "The Descendants" a wholly persuasive and heartfelt experience.

Full Review… | October 7, 2015
Critic's Notebook

I enjoyed Clooney's performance enormously without ever buying it for a second.

Full Review… | May 3, 2015
Philadelphia Weekly

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

Audience Reviews for The Descendants

Clooney is an unlikely lawyer in Hawaii preparing for the deal of the century when his wife goes into a coma through an boating accident. What happens next, presented in a touching family drama kind of way, is the interpersonal family business of burying the dead, warts and all. Not bad, and a depiction of Hawaii not usually seen.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


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

The Descendants Quotes

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– Submitted by Adam O (22 months ago)

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