• PG, 2 hr. 1 min.
  • Drama
  • Directed By:
    Daniel Barnz
    In Theaters:
    Sep 28, 2012 Wide
    On DVD:
    Jan 15, 2013
  • 20th Century Fox


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Won't Back Down Reviews

Page 1 of 25
Cynthia S

Super Reviewer

February 17, 2014
3 3/4's--Very inspirational, and heartwarming. Made-for-tvish. A sad statement on the condition of the American education system, but depicts a good step for improvement. Well acted. Nicely done..
Daniel P

Super Reviewer

December 30, 2013
It's a film with a big heart, but it's just so schlocky... Maggie Gyllenhaal plays essentially the same role she did in Crazy Heart, and the supporting ensemble does alright, but as a whole the project is sentimentally overwrought and occasionally veers into Lifetime territory. I appreciate the value of the story, but it's just not much of a movie... "fighting the system" has become a predictable formula, and this particular film does nothing others haven't done already.
Everett J

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2013
"Won't Back Down" is a movie about two mothers(Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) who are fed up with their children's failing school. They decide to risk everything to make a difference by going against the teacher unions and set out to do a school take over with the other parents and change things for the better for the kids. It's an inspirational movie, even though it runs a tad long and some of the background plot doesn't really go anywhere and just bogs the movie down some. Gyllenhaal does ok, but Viola Davis is fantastic. She is one of the best actresses today without a doubt. Whether your for or against unions it doesn't matter, because this movie is about making a difference for children. Emily liked and it made it all the way through, so if that happens I can almost guarantee all women will like it. Guys, probably not, but it's okay for a one time watch.
Joshua S

Super Reviewer

February 27, 2013
Won't Back Down is a prime example of a movie that suffers from a weak script and average direction, but is saved by excellent and noteworthy performances. Having grand aspirations regarding the failing education system in urban public schools, it ultimately gives no solid solutions and overgeneralizes the myriad problems regarding said topic. Quite obviously, the movie leans heavily toward the right politically. (Damn those corrupt Teacher's Unions! If only everything ran like a business! That would fix urban blight!) Nevertheless, the performances given by Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal and the supporting cast keep the whole venture afloat. And it holds together better than "white savior" schlock like The Help. But when compared to other movies in its particular sub-genre such as Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me, or when its message is seriously analyzed, it doesn't quite make the grade.
Philip P

Super Reviewer

May 9, 2012
I somewhat expected to be let down by the Viola Davis/Maggie Gyllenhaal vehicle that seemed to be purely inspirational for the purposes of honorable performances hoping to get noticed by Oscar. Though Won't Back Down is anything but subtle about its purpose and wears its heart on its sleeve proudly, it isn't anywhere near deserving of the fate it suffered at the box office. In fact, it is a rather affirming film that succeeds in large part to its strong lead performances that aren't as showy or as cheesy as I expected. Though Gyllenhaal certainly has the flashier role, she is able to subdue much of the typical aspects of what one might expect from her type of character by allowing the most important factor to never be forgotten, that she is in fact a mother first. Letting that sink in allows us to go along with the story written and directed by Daniel Barnz (who's had similar failure with Beastly) but knows as a writer how to navigate his way through a ton of information and streamline it into what the audience needs to grasp in order to maintain the main points of the story. He does that well here considering the difficult processes and massive amount of details likely required to do what these women decide to take on. The negative aspect to this though is his inability to pace his final product better. By the time we get to the halfway mark it feels like it should be drawing to a close. Viola Davis displays her strong instincts here but adds layers of uncertainty and regret for good measure. Despite glancing at my watch a few times throughout I still rather enjoyed the film for what it was and what it was trying to say. There is also the charming supporting cast that features Oscar Isaac and Rosie Perez that add nothing if not a little forgiveness for the overall films shortcomings.
January 7, 2014
omg! I think the movie Won't Back Down is about my childhood in first grade.. the kids are so nasty to this one girl and the teacher is such a bitch and told the girl to stop being such a drama queen when she started to cry cause the kids were picking on her, it brought back the memory of when my kids were doing that to me and the teacher yelled at me saying everything is not something to cry about ans the principal in the film is an ass to he won't do anything about the teacher or the students just like the principal when I was a kid and now the mother couldn't get the right teacher she requested for her daughter for the next grade!!!! The nice teacher in this film reminds me of my first fifth grade teacher who really cared about the students and was fired and that's what happened in this film too, but this movie has a happy ending cause the mother fought for her child and she was afraid to say she had learning difficulties when she was her daughter's age cause her school made her feel dumb ( and so did mine) but she is now realizing it seeing her daughter go through the same stuff that there needs to be something done about it and so she is and the lesson learned from this movie is that just because you have learning difficulties doesn't mean your dumb and you shouldn't allow people to walk all over you... but getting people to actually understand you and see your point is the hard part and sometimes it happens and sometimes it doesn't.... when you see the young girl reading in front of people at the end of the movie shows acting is a great way to help express feeling and emotion and be able to get away from all that is going on in the real world and that's why i want to do it and another thing is that someday if I am ever lucky enough to have a kid which i don't think i will be I would want to do for my kid what Maggie Gyllenhal's character did for her kid in this movie and fight for him/her I kind of what do fight for kids now that are like me I hate when i read or hear on the news/newspapers that some kid/teenager has committed suicide or killed somebody cause nobody gave them the help they needed
October 12, 2013
Seemed so long, drawn out, and boring for the most part. Was not clear on what they were trying to do until almost the end.
October 2, 2012
has a great message even though it feels like a lifetime movie at time and if your a parent put it on your must see list
April 8, 2013
There are about a million movies that are completely identical to this one, but that doesn't stop it from being good. Of course I'm a sucker for all those inspirational teacher movies, so I'm probably biased. But the acting is good, it's appropriate for people of all ages, and it's really kind of refreshing to see a film about hope and change rather than death and destruction. I really enjoyed this.
February 2, 2013
"Won't Back Down" is a true-story-inspired social drama played by duo actresses Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis... It is interesting to see how the movie turned out.
January 14, 2013
A poorly-made film which believes itself to be something ground-breaking and important but its own attempts at self-importance make it nearly unbearable to watch (that and Maggie Gyllenhaal's uber-annoying, outspoken bartender mother who thinks she's God's gift to everything that breathes). Gyllenhaal (Crazy Heart, The Dark Knight) plays Jamie, a mother of a child with a learning disability which has a bad teacher with no patience for children who don't learn at her teaching pace. Viola Davis (Doubt, The Help) is another teacher whose own child is suffering in school and together the unlikely pair decide to take on a system of failing teacher unions (which are 100% of the problem according to the film) to reform their floundering inner-city school. By turning a blind-eye to all other contributors, the film isn't fully honest or truthful and as the film is supposed to be all about integrity it is actually somewhat hypocritical. Gyllenhaal's Jamie is one of the most-annoying characters I have seen in years -- she sauters about flaunting her sexuality to beguile male teachers into doing what she wishes while also luring them to bars so she can poor them free drinks on the house; but she does care about her child so her stealing liquor from her employer isn't even supposed to register. Won't Back Down is simply a stubborn message-movie that denies anything it doesn't want to acknowledge. It is like living in a bubble.
September 27, 2012
A movie about Pittsburgh public schools that criticizes unions and their affect on children's education? I didn't think Hollywood was allowed to make movies like this? A bit refreshing in that regard, but otherwise not really worth seeing. Both Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis were great, but the storyline was full of clichés and the director simplified a very difficult topic into black and white- where more grey was needed.
September 30, 2012
Hope is a dangerous thing. Who knows that line? While it may have been used in an entirely different setting in 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, that classic film line applies perfectly in 20th Century Fox's new movie that's at least one part Stand and Deliver. The story presented in this new work focuses on two single mothers--played by Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal--who are fed up with the way in which the public school system in their city is handling their kids...or rather not handling them. Fittingly, the movie is set against the backdrop of one of America's most famed cities, Pittsburgh. As much as people may dislike Pittsburgh's sports teams, Jamie's (Maggie Gyllenhaal) allegiance to the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates is a statement in itself. It all combines to make for a movie that while it may not be an Oscar contender, is a movie that will hopefully have other parents and teachers across the country taking notice and reacting.

The primary story of Won't Back Down is much more real than people might want to believe. Despite what other critic may believe, Won't Back Down is not an attack on unions. Rather, it's an unbiased work that does take into account both the side of the teachers and parents, and that of the unions. What so many audiences fail to understand with this work is that it attempts not to attack unions but to show that unions and many teachers within unions have lost sight of what's really important. That's not to say that all teachers within unions are like this. Do not take that wrongly. But many teachers really have lost sight of what's important. So many have become just as jaded and focused more on seniority and tenure than on the kids because the system has crushed their hopes. There's that word again. Hope. Teachers have lost hope and given up, leading to the situation presented in this story.

It may come across as totally unnoticeable to some, but having the story set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh makes it that much more hard hitting. Pittsburgh was built on the backs of hard working Americans. But then something changed, destroying businesses and jobs in the city. When that happened, the trickle down effect from that was pretty clear. The state of that one school was a reflection of what had happened to the city. What's more, as much as people may want to deny it, Adams Elementary could be any school in the country. So many cities have been decimated for economic reasons. And the effect of that has trickled down to those cities' schools.

Something else that viewers should take into account in watching Won't Back Down is that it is not just some dream of Ron Clark. However, it does show that what he created for his Ron Clark Academy can work in the public school system. But to effect that change, parents and teachers have to take a stand for a change. Otherwise they, along with their children and entire school systems will have no hope.
September 27, 2012
Great storyline based on true occurrences. Great acting and quite inspiring. In theatres Fri. 9/28.
April 19, 2013
Davis is still good as she was in "The Help" with her performance of inspiring words in this really good drama that was inspired by a true event with a serious matter. (B)

(Full review coming soon)
August 17, 2014
This movie was really annoying!
October 7, 2012
I'm somewhere in the middle on this one. On one hand, this is a really interesting commentary on America's public school system. On the other hand, it got super anti-union and I felt like I needed to watch a documentary on the public school system in order to understand it. With the whole anti-union thing, I felt like it only showed the negative sides, and only mentioned the positives a few times, when it could have really opened up a debate about how unions are necessary, but policies should be looked over you know? This was also entirely too long. They easily could have shaved a half hour, possibly more off of this. Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis are good in this however. They're both concerned mothers who want what's best for their kid. There are some heart warming moments, but the big picture of the whole thing was just a little too big for this movie.
June 25, 2014
You rotten tomato critics suck! This movie was very good! It reaches people, y'all need to go back to "critics" school and learn what people really want to see!!!
ngm r.
June 24, 2014
Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal make a great team. Both are terrific actors and they do a very nice job playing off each other. I watched this movie with my wife and we both loved it.
October 6, 2012
Great to see Holly Hunter.
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