The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)


The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas) (2008)


Critic Consensus: A touching and haunting family film that deals with the Holocaust in an arresting and unusual manner, and packs a brutal final punch of a twist.


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Movie Info

Vera Farmiga, David Thewlis, and Asa Butterfield star in Little Voice writer/director Mark Herman's adaptation of John Boyne's novel concerning the forbidden friendship that between an eight-year-old German boy and a Jewish concentration camp prisoner in World War II-era Germany. The innocent son of a high-ranking Nazi commandant, Bruno has been largely shielded from the harsh realities of the war. When Bruno discovers that his father has been promoted and that their family will be moving from Berlin into the countryside, he doesn't take the news well. Increasingly bored in his sprawling yet dreary country abode and forbidden by his mother from exploring the backyard, young Bruno searches for something to do while his older sister plays with dolls and vies for the attention of handsome Lieutenant Kotler (Rupert Friend). One day, bored and gazing out his bedroom window, Bruno spies what first appears to be a nearby farm; his parents refuse to discuss it, and all of the inhabitants there are curiously clad in striped pajamas. But while Bruno's mother naïvely believes the "farm" to be an internment camp, her husband has sworn under oath never to reveal that it is in fact an extermination camp specifically designed to help the Nazis achieve their horrific "Final Solution." Eventually defying his mother's rules and venturing out beyond the backyard, Bruno arrives at a barbed wire fence to find a young boy just his age emptying rubble from a wheel barrel. Like Pavel, the kitchen worker who cooks all of Bruno's meals, the young boy is wearing striped pajamas. His name is Shmuel (Jack Scanlon), and before long the two young boys become fast friends. But the closer these two boys grow, the more Bruno becomes awakened to the horrors unfolding all around them. His mother is catching on quickly as well, a fact that causes great tension in her marriage to Bruno's father. Later, after Bruno swipes a piece of cake for Shmuel, Lt. Kotler accuses the Jewish boy of stealing and delivers a swift punishment. When Bruno's father announces that the young boy and his mother will be going to live with their aunt in Heidelberg, Bruno grabs a shovel and makes his way to the camp, setting into motion a tragic and devastating sequence of events. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)

All Critics (137) | Top Critics (34)

[Director] Mark Herman knows how to milk the melodrama from every scene, but viewers may feel a little icky about the experience.

Nov 17, 2011 | Rating: 3/5
Time Out
Top Critic

The result isn't a deep film, but rather a profound one.

May 13, 2009 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

In truth, the film is sure to stop the hearts of many who see it. There may indeed be hope in hell, but better to avoid hell altogether.

Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: B | Full Review…
Detroit News
Top Critic

Because its gaze is so level and so unyielding, it stands as one of the better dramatic films made on this subject (although it's not nearly as fine as Louis Malle's Au Revoir les Enfants, in which the camps remain a distant abstraction).

Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Although it's told from the perspective of a child, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is as shattering as any film about the Holocaust could be, perhaps more so.

Nov 13, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

I think that's what makes it so powerful, is because it is so small.

Nov 10, 2008

Audience Reviews for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas (The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas)


Moving film about those in concentration camps in WWII. Good performances.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

An oversimplification of the Holocaust, yes, as a very young German boy during WWll accidentally discovers exactly what his camp commandant dad does for a living, but to be forgiven its chosen naive viewpoint in respect to its chosen naive audience: a perfect film for schools.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

An upper class German boy befriends a boy in a concentration camp. Told from the perspective of a child, the foolishness of the adults in this story comes in stark relief, which is one of the film's strengths, especially considering all the films made on this subject. Good performances by Vera Farmiga and David Thewlis hammer home the film's point. I did think that the conclusion was contrived and needed too much help from the protagonists' naivete in order for it to work. Overall, this is a strong, unique film about the Holocaust.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


If you've read my review for Pearl Harbor, then you'll know that I had a bad experience when my teacher showed a movie in a history class. Thankfully, The Boy in the Striped Pajamas is different from Pearl Harbor. This movie was actually good, really good as a matter of fact. I had not seen the movie prior to watching it in my history class and I heard a lot of things about it: "It's a really good movie." "It's so sad!" "I love this movie!" "This movie sucks because there's no action." That last comment was actually said by one of my friends, so clearly I have little faith in today's generation of movie-goers. To start, this movie got me hooked almost right away. Just from the opening scene I could tell that the little boy was going to go through some tough stuff. Asa Butterfield (Very interesting name) plays young Bruno and he did a really good job. David Thewlis and Vera Farmiga (two extremely underrated actors) play the mother and father and do a great job. I really liked how they showed how young children were brainwashed into thinking Jews were bad people. There's this one scene where the kids have a tutor and he's reading a bunch of crap about how Jews were responsible for the war. Seeing the guy I was thinking to myself "That guy is a dick but he represents what life was like back then." Overall it had great acting, a great plot, the friendship between Bruno and the Jewish prisoner was really well done and the ending actually almost had me crying. I won't spoil the ending but it's one of those things where when it happens, you just say "Oh my god, did that just happen?" Great movie though, I'd definately watch it again.

Tyler Robertson
Tyler Robertson

Super Reviewer

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