Captain Fantastic

Critics Consensus

Captain Fantastic's thought-provoking themes -- and an absorbing starring turn from Viggo Mortensen -- add up to an above-average family drama with unexpected twists.



Total Count: 217


Audience Score

User Ratings: 22,043
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Movie Info

Deep in the forests of the Pacific Northwest, isolated from society, a devoted father (Viggo Mortensen) dedicates his life to transforming his six young children into extraordinary adults. But when a tragedy strikes the family, they are forced to leave this self-created paradise and begin a journey into the outside world that challenges his idea of what it means to be a parent and brings into question everything he's taught them.


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Critic Reviews for Captain Fantastic

All Critics (217) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (178) | Rotten (39)

  • [It] shines as a sort of wish-fulfillment fantasy for a certain outdoors-oriented mind set, which almost makes up for its over-the-top moments and underwritten characters.

    Nov 21, 2016 | Full Review…
  • This is really a movie for upper-middle class hipsters who once fancied themselves firebrands and status quo-challengers in college, but now consider only buying organic food at Whole Foods and not vaccinating their kids to be radical acts.

    Sep 12, 2016 | Full Review…
  • A more interesting version of the film would allow us to see him as either a flawed but noble hero or a deluded bully on an ego trip. But Ross is too in love with the character not to stack the deck in his favour.

    Sep 9, 2016 | Rating: 2.5/5 | Full Review…
  • Captain Fantastic is a powerful weepie with a career-high turn from Viggo Mortensen as a hippy father driving his six children to the funeral of their mother.

    Sep 9, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Kevin Maher

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The beauty of the film lies in its refusal to paint Ben as a deluded tyrant or principled pioneer. He doesn't have two faces - thanks to the script, as well as Mortensen's squirrely brilliance, he has hundreds.

    Sep 9, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Lots of mixed messages, little in the way of excitement.

    Sep 9, 2016 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Captain Fantastic

  • Dec 17, 2018
    Incredible film that Mortensen should have won an oscar. The actor provides a raw performance, that delivers on so many levels. He is backed by seasoned actors and a filmmaker who understands the film he is making. Creative storytelling and one of the best films for that year. 16/12/2018.
    Brendan N Super Reviewer
  • Jun 18, 2017
    There's one reason, and one reason only, for why I wanted to watch this movie. I love Viggo Mortensen. I also love Frank Langella and Kathryn Hahn (though they're supporting characters). Actually, I guess there's FOUR reasons. Seriously though, I've been on a pretty rotten run of movies lately (one of which was one of the worst movies I've seen in months). It's been about 9 days since I reviewed a movie that I thought was good (that'd be Catfight) and I just wanted to watch something that I knew would be good. I mean, I didn't really know that this would be good. There's always a chance that a movie you think you might enjoy would end up falling short of those expectations, but I digress. Thankfully, however, this ended up being a really damn good movie in ways that I didn't really expect. I watched the trailers and I honestly didn't really even know what to expect. Not saying that they were misleading, but just that they didn't give you the sense of what the film is actually about. Long story short, the film sees Ben and Leslie move their children away from civilization, where they're taught survivalist skills, philosophy and to be self-dependent. Leslie, however, has been struggling with depression and Ben thought moving her and the children away from the hectic city life to a more secluded, nature-friendly place would help Leslie with her depression. It didn't and Leslie is interned in this psychiatric facility in order to get the help she needs. Ben's father-in-law pays for her stay in the hospital. Anyway, Leslie kills herself and this is where the film really starts. The film is about Ben's journey with his children to go to her funeral, despite being prohibited by Leslie's father from attending. The movie is very interesting in how it explores a variety of different subjects of this family dynamic. While the way Ben raises his children makes them stronger, more self-reliant, allows for critical thinking without any fear of judgement and, quite frankly, more intelligent than most adults, it also raises questions in whether or not his methods are putting his children in danger. There are several scenes where you get to see how his teachings and how his approach to parenting leads to one of his daughters finding herself in an incredibly dangerous situation, where she could have been paralyzed or even died. Regardless of how smart and self-reliant Ben's children are, there's also some sense that he's really not even letting them be children. Another aspect is the fact that, in spite of what Ben teaches, he just hasn't prepared them for how the real world works. His oldest son, as an example, struggles to connect with this girl he meets. He even says that, if it doesn't come from a book, he knows nothing about life. The film also explores how one of Ben's sons just strives to have some sense of normalcy and how he lashes out in anger when he's frustrated. It's certainly a very interesting (which is a banned word in this family) approach to tell this story, even if it's not gonna re-invent the wheel, but I like the fact that the movie isn't afraid to take chances with its characters. Ben isn't portrayed as a perfect father. I think one of the many themes the film explores is that, how, in part, he has failed his wife and his children in not trying to find a balance between teaching them to be self-reliant and knowing how the world actually works. But there's also the other side of the equation and that is Leslie's family and their complete disregard and disrespect for her wishes upon her death. Leslie was a Buddhist, she abhorred all forms of organized religion and how she wished to be cremated and flushed down the toilet. So, Leslie's father and mother, not giving one ounce of a shit, gave her a Christian funeral and burial anyway. This is when Ben and his children show up to crash the funeral, as it were, which is a completely depressing and solemn affair. Ben gives a speech completely tearing apart this funeral and how this is a complete show of disrespect towards what Leslie would have wanted. Leslie's father is outraged, even though he's the one who's really fucking up by not honoring his deceased daughter's wishes. This sets off another element of the film, which sees Ben and his father-in-law fight over what is best for the children. Eventually, when Ben sees the dangers he is exposing his children to, he decides to leave them with their grandfather. Things don't go as planned, obviously, and the kids sneaked back into the bus. This is when they decide to dig up their mother's coffin and give her the proper ceremony she wished for. And, honestly, this scene is just downright lovely. It might have felt a little sentimental, but I thought it worked because it celebrated Leslie's life instead of the way she died, the family sang her favorite song (Sweet Child O' Mine) and danced. The contrast between this scene and the Christian funeral she was given was obvious. And, when I go, I think this is really the best way to go about it. Celebrate my life and not how it ended. Laugh, smile, sing and dance. The casting of this film is fantastic. Viggo Mortensen is phenomenal, as he typically is. The children are all fantastic as well and their chemistry is top-notch. The writing finds some new little twists and a fresh perspective in the typical family-drama dynamic. I don't know if I can say that all of this adds to a great movie, though. Don't get me wrong, if this isn't great, then it's about as close as you can get to it without actually being great. Don't let the fact that I don't think it ever reaches real greatness dissuade you from watching this. I'd highly recommend this movie, there's very little, if anything, to dislike about this movie. Very good stuff right here.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • May 08, 2017
    Anthony L Super Reviewer
  • Apr 18, 2017
    This father's education methods are hilarious and a conservative's nightmare. They make for the most funny parts of the film, but there are plenty of thought-provoking scenes too. Mortensen deserved his Oscar nomination in the lead role, dominating every beautifully shot scene, although all other performances are great too. The result is a quirky comedy drama that clearly wanted to walk in Little Miss Sunshine's shoes but ends up a tad too pretentious in its final act. Still, very enjoyable and entertaining.
    Jens S Super Reviewer

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