Beyond the Lights

Critics Consensus

Thanks to smart direction and a powerhouse performance from Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Beyond the Lights transcends its formulaic storyline to deliver thoroughly entertaining drama.



Reviews Counted: 87

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User Ratings: 19,225


All Critics | Top Critics
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Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Movie Info

Beyond the Lights is the story of Noni, the music world's latest superstar. But not all is what it seems, and the pressures of fame have Noni on the edge - until she meets Kaz Nicol, a young cop and aspiring politician who's been assigned to her detail. Drawn to each other, Noni and Kaz fall fast and hard, despite the protests of those around them who urge them to put their career ambitions ahead of their romance. But it is ultimately Kaz's love that gives Noni the courage to find her own voice and break free to become the artist she was meant to be. (c) Relativity

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Nate Parker
as Kaz Nicol
Minnie Driver
as Macy Jean
Danny Glover
as Captain Nicol
Machine Gun Kelly
as Kid Culprit
Benito Martinez
as Jesse Soria
Aisha Hinds
as J Stanley
India Jean-Jacques
as Noni (Age 10)
Malieek Straughter
as Billboard Awards Stage Manager
Jordan Belfi
as Steve Sams
Greg Davis Jr
as Officer Aforo
Sky Soleil
as LAPD Cop #2
Hayley Marie Norman
as Shai-Bartender
Laurie-Anne Gibson
as Choreographer Gibson
Wren T. Brown
as Pastor Marks
Wade Allain-Marcus
as Photographer
Ithamar Enriquez
as Spanish Karaoke Guy
Erika Ringor
as Town Car Driver
Chris Barnes
as Worthy Farm Stage Manager
Hector Bucio
as Man at Mexico Market
Tom Wright
as Reverend Brown
Amy Johnson
as Reporter
Chaka Khan
as Herself
Don Lemon
as Himself
Gayle King
as Herself
James Hardy
as Himself
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News & Interviews for Beyond the Lights

Critic Reviews for Beyond the Lights

All Critics (87) | Top Critics (32)

In every scene here, Prince-Bythewood calmly and sensitively melts our resistance to the outlandish, outsized quality of her plot and stays true to the message she wants to deliver without ever getting pious or preachy.

Jan 5, 2015 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Has the elements of a classic backstage story, but they don't quite crystallize into an integral drama.

Dec 1, 2014 | Full Review…

It's a movie about a rising superstar that features two of them-Mbatha-Raw and Parker, both enormously appealing, impossibly attractive performers with big futures ahead of them.

Nov 14, 2014 | Full Review…
Top Critic

"Beyond the Lights" is a faint shadow of 1992's "The Bodyguard," without the star power of Whitney Houston or Kevin Costner.

Nov 14, 2014 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Director Prince-Bythewood, who made the move from television to the big-screen in 2000 with the terrific romance Love and Basketball has a way with actors.

Nov 14, 2014

Unfortunately for a film about the importance of keeping it real, the drama here is largely formulaic, and the finish line crosses into the realm of artistic fantasy.

Nov 14, 2014 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Beyond the Lights

In the US this was released a few months after Belle also starring up-and-coming young actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw. Her indie cred seemed strong, so my wife and I caught this in mid-2015 on Netflix. Gina Prince-Bythewood writes and directs for a talented ensemble. The story is a pretty standard one about the pressures of fame and I was disappointed that it falls into an extremely traditional romance plot.

Byron Brubaker
Byron Brubaker

Super Reviewer

A cop saves the life of a suicidal rising star, and they begin a frowned-upon romance. While the film's heart is in the right place and its depiction of the music world is a well-aimed barb, there is something off about the pace and plot of this film. It is essentially an emotional, over-wrought scene followed by a montage, followed by an emotional, over-wrought scene, and the plot points of the romance are awfully quick and - you guessed it - over-wrought. The characters jump to conclusions that no real, reasonable lovers would reach, and when the plot calls for a sincere moment, the film settles for a montage that doesn't reveal enough about their journey. Gugu Mbatha-Raw and Nate Parker are acceptable in their roles, but in their tender scenes together, there's something insouciant about much of their acting, as though the characters they create aren't making real and vital decisions. Overall, Beyond the Lights would have benefited from reworking its plot and stronger performances.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


Striking just the right amount of emotion without being too sappy, "Beyond the Lights" tells the story of a pop-star submerged in stardom, with no freedom from her mother, as she tries to grasp the concept of true love and reality. Fame can be hard, and this film explores both that and the ideal of a happy life without it. I absolutely loved how this film as executed, and it;s smart script isolates itself from any cliched story that may be similar to it. It distances itself from the predictable story you think it will be and opens your mind. "Beyond the Lights" helms a breakout star performance, a great script, anice balance of terrible and good music, and I thoroughly believe that this is a fantastic film that could have failed miserably. Overall, I highly recommend this film, especially to those who are skeptical or have no idea what it is.

KJ Proulx
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer


Beyond the lights is a tale that inhabits the contemporary R&B realm of artists like Rihanna. Noni feels pushed by her domineering mother into fronting a hyper-sexual image with which she doesn't feel comfortable. Her musical style sports vocals that are technologically enhanced by Auto-Tune and deep percussive bass. She wishes to retreat to a more simple style of her artistic idol Nina Simone. These portraits of the music industry often lambaste the pre-fabricated, highly choreographed pop star, but one look at the Top 40 will show that is what people want. As her momager's behavior widens the divide between them, Noni escapes to a island resort. Here the narrative takes on a poignancy I didn't expect. Lamenting the way people are marketed for a mass audience is old hat, but Gugu renders her sorrow with distinction. As she literally strips away the long colored strands of straight hair woven into her own, she symbolically reveals her true self. Her subsequent triumph of Nina Simone's "Blackbird" in a karaoke bar becomes a declaration. It's an affecting transformation and Gugu makes the metamorphosis seem fresh and new.

Mark Hobin
Mark Hobin

Super Reviewer

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