Critics Consensus

Doubt succeeds on the strength of its top-notch cast, who successfully guide the film through the occasional narrative lull.



Total Count: 213


Audience Score

User Ratings: 162,425
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Movie Info

When the principal (Meryl Streep) of a Bronx Catholic High School accuses a popular priest (Philip Seymour Hoffman) of pedophilia, a young nun caught in between the feuding pair becomes hopelessly swept up in the ensuing controversy. 1964, St. Nicholas, the Bronx: The winds of change are sweeping through this tight-knit religious community, and charismatic priest Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) is doing his best to adapt by revisiting the school's notoriously strict disciplinary practices. Unfortunately Father Flynn's progressive ideas stand in stark contrast to the longstanding beliefs of Sister Aloysius Beauvier (Meryl Streep), the iron-willed principal, who believes that an oppressive environment of punishment and fear is the only way to keep the student body in line. Suddenly into this tempestuous environment appears young Donald Miller, St. Nicholas' first black student. When hopeful innocent Sister James (Amy Adams) reluctantly reveals to Sister Beauvier that Father Flynn and Donald have been spending an unusual amount of time together in the church rectory, the unrelentingly righteous headmistress begins a merciless crusade to reveal the beloved clergyman as a lecherous child molester and have him permanently expunged from the school. Yet despite her moral certainty that Father Flynn has committed such an unspeakable transgression, Sister Beauvier has not a shred of actual evidence to back up her audacious claim. Now, as Sister Beauvier and Father Flynn enter into an epic battle of wills, the shock waves set into motion by their explosive confrontation threaten to destroy one man's reputation and tear apart the entire surrounding community. John Patrick Shanley adapted his own play for the screen under the guidance of producer Scott Rudin (The Queen, Notes on a Scandal). ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi

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Meryl Streep
as Sister Aloysius Beauvier
Philip Seymour Hoffman
as Father Brendan Flynn
Amy Adams
as Sister James
Lloyd Clay Brown
as Jimmy Hurley
Viola Davis
as Mrs. Miller
Joseph Foster II
as Donald Miller
Alice Drummond
as Sister Veronica
Audrie J. Neenan
as Sister Raymond
Susan Blommaert
as Mrs. Carson
Carrie Preston
as Christine Hurley
John Costelloe
as Warren Hurley
Mike Roukis
as William London
Haklar Dezso
as zither player
Michael Roukis
as William London
Paulie Litt
as Tommy Conroy
Bridget Megan Clark
as Noreen Horan
Suzanne Hevner
as Mrs. Kean
Helen Stenborg
as Sister Teresa
Tom Toner
as Monsignor Benedict
Michael Puzzo
as Father Sherman
Margery Beddow
as Mrs. Shields
Jack A. O'Connell
as Mr. McGuinn
Marylouise Burke
as Mrs. Deakins
Valda Setterfield
as Parishioner
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Critic Reviews for Doubt

All Critics (213) | Top Critics (54)

  • Doubt looks like some sort of upscale horror film, complete with crows and swirling leaves like The Omen. It's actually a terminally muddled piece of star-studded Oscar-bait.

    Feb 6, 2009 | Rating: 1/5 | Full Review…
  • What possessed the once credible Meryl Streep to take on the caricatured role of crusading Sister Aloysius? And why is her performance so uniformly unconvincing?

    Feb 6, 2009 | Rating: 2/5
  • The film fails to convince dramatically, not because of the performances -- the cast are all excellent -- but because the air has been sucked out of the characters.

    Feb 5, 2009 | Rating: 2.25/5 | Full Review…
  • Empathy is one of the dramatist's slyest weapons and Shanley uses it wisely.

    Feb 5, 2009 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • There is just one key element that grates, and that is Meryl Streep's monstrously over-the-top central performance.

    Feb 5, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • It does not make the most of what ought to be rather frightening and ultimately moving material.

    Feb 5, 2009 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for Doubt

  • Nov 15, 2014
    Doubt is a compelling masterpiece. Frightening, intense, and thoroughly absorbing. All four leading performances are incredible. Meryl Streep is amazingly intense as the stern principal who demands justice. Philip Seymour Hoffman is charismatic and great as the man accused of pedophilia. Amy Adams is as adorable as expected as the kind Sister trying to find the good in everyone. Viola Davis is an absolute knock-out with a thrillingly but subtly emotional performance as a conflicted mother. Her performance deserved the Academy Award. Doubt is truly remarkable and hugely entertaining; not to be missed. Rating: 96
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 12, 2014
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 02, 2013
    Doubt is a fantastic piece of acting work by Streep and Hoffman...less so for Adams. It leaves you in doubt continually which is its strength. The interplay is incredible.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Apr 10, 2013
    I've got say, I hate this album, but this film that is ostensibly about it is pretty good, even though it surprisingly barely even touches on Jesus Jones. ... Yeah, I know my referring to the album "Doubt" sounds like a stretch, but that's just because, well, it is, though one that could be worse, because this film is about a Catholic priest pedophile, someone who is darker and less likable than he may seem with all of his exterior talk of Jesus and whatnot, much like Jesus Jones. Seriously though, pedophilia in the Catholic church is sick, wrong and much more popular than it probably should be, because we're not simply talking about Christians, we're talking about Catholic priests, and it doesn't get any more lust-battling, pedophilia-rejecting, gay-hating Christian than that, yet the poor little altar boys still have to deal with Uncle Father. Hey, maybe I shouldn't be too surprised, because we've had a long, long time of extensive scientific research and perfectly rational thinking to figure out that radical Christians aren't exactly ones to not contradict what you would think makes sense for no good or even real reason. Ouch, as an agnostic, I apologize to the Christians for that, but as much as there are plenty of things that are possible, lines have to be drawn somewhere, and when it gets to the point where nuns are abusive, - even though Jesus told them not to be - while priests are off being pedophiles, - even though most everyone, especially people of Christ, tell them not to be - it's about time you start double-checking the Bible to see if you missed anything, or rather, start getting some "doubt" about certain things. Yup, I just went through a somewhat anti-theistic, rambling deconstruction of the foundation of humanity's interpretation and contradiction of religious principles just so I could get down to a pun, and yet, I still didn't drag my feet quite as much as this film's narrative. That being said, this film is a compelling one, but the fact of the matter is that this film, much like radical Christian principles, isn't without its questionable spots. Films of this type tend to get quite slow, and sure enough, this film often falls limp atmospherically, though not as much as I feared it would, as there is enough juice behind this effort for it to engage just fine consistently and never slip into all-out dullness, yet not so much juice the film is completely cleansed of bland moments that challenge your full investment. Like I said, the film engages consistently, so the blows to investment never go so far as to shake your focus, but slow spells still stand, and as just prominent enough to do quite the job of exacerbating the sting of an even greater issue: dragging, not in atmosphere, but in actual plot structure. If this film is nothing else, it is overdrawn, being not so bloated that you can't wrap around it, but bloated nonetheless, being packed with anything from filler to excess material, and slowing down in momentum, sometimes into repetition, maybe even aimlessness. As problematic as filler is as a supplement to the padding behind this bloated opus, excess material is the most recurring issue with this film, whose narrative much too often drags along, losing steam, little by little, until the lulls that the Rotten Tomatoes consensus warn you about ensue and leave the film to meander down a path with little direction, but still just enough focus for you to see that there really isn't all that much worth focusing upon when it comes to storytelling. Do note my going on and on about how this film is all but heavily bloated with material, and do note this film's runtime of just over 100 relatively brief minutes, for although there is a decent amount of value to this story concept, and certainly enough inspiration behind its execution to make the final product thoroughly engaging, the film struggles to obtain its length, as its story concept is just too thin for its own good, thus resulting in natural shortcomings, made all the worse by such consequential shortcomings as the padding that is used in an attempt to flesh things out. There's really not that much complain about with this film, with even its less natural flaws of slowness and padding not being as bad as they could have been, yet the natural shortcomings are all but impossible to ignore, as this film is so thin in concept that it all but collapses into relative underwhelmingness in execution. Of course, this story isn't so lacking in kick that it can't be brought to life into a rewarding film, as reflected by this final product, which flawed, both naturally and consequentially, but ultimately accels as genuinely good, even when it comes to some of the most underexplored of strengths. Lapses in musical liveliness anchor many of the film's dry spells, which are hardly all that abundant, and can't necessarily only be fought back by musical touches, which are lacking throughout the film, not just the slow spots, so it's not like you should go in expecting the great Howard Shore to really deliver on a rich score, but only in terms of quantity, because when Shore's efforts are, in fact, played upon, their distinct soul help in breathing life into the substance is usually able to sustain its engagement value without musical compliments, partially because of the value in the concept departments. Like I said, this film's story concept is relatively thin, boasting only so much meat to its conflict, and only so much momentum to its progression, yet there is still quite a bit of value to the human drama, which makes audacious analyses of principles through relevant and important subject matter, so this story concept can be made into a good film and is, partially thanks to color and realism within John Patrick Shanley's script, as well as inspiration within Shanley's direction. Shanley's storytelling isn't too terribly colorful, having both narrative lulls and atmospheric dry spells, but it is worthy, keeping liveliness up just enough to fend off slow spells more often than not, or at least dilute them to the point of keeping you from falling out of the film, no matter how much it dries up, until we come to a moment of dramatic punctuation that he crafts with deep care. The film is too conceptually limited in juice for you to be all that gripped, but Shanley's moments of resonance grace the dramaic mystery aspects with intrigue, if not a little bit of tension, and the more emotional moments with effectiveness, thus making the film compelling no matter what, but not so much so that its being all-out rewarding is fully secured. No, people, what really pushes the final product over the edge into bonafide goodness is, of course, the acting, which, I must admit, is not as strong as they say, due to an almost surprising amount of material limiting, but strong nonetheless, particularly with such standouts as Viola Davis, who seems to pretty much a go-to if you want a black actress to steal the show with a soulful performance that you could miss in a blink, as she continues to tell you with this film, because she's not here for very long at all, but makes her limited time on the screen count with a convincing portrayal of a concerned mother that culminates with powerful, memorable emotional strength that helps in defining the humanity of this film, which wouldn't quite be the same without Davis' cameo. As for our leads, again, don't go into this film expecting to find that their Oscar nods are very well-deserved, but do expect them to deliver, with the adorable Amy Adams being engagingly committed as the reasonably strong and loving, yet slightly easily influenced, fearing young woman of faith, while Philip Seymour Hoffman charms and compels as the good-hearted and progressive priest who wants the best for his peers, yet is accused of doing the unspeakable, and Meryl Streep grips in a realistic portrayal of a somewhat power-mad, overly conservative upholder of religious law whose passionate struggle to uncover the truth may lead her to uncover her own depths. There's plenty of talent within this cast, and they all deliver, joining Shanley's inspired efforts in carrying this film past its issues and shortcomings just far enough to keep you compelled through and through, until the final product comes out as better than it could have been, and, by extension, ultimately quite good. In closing, slow spells call your attention more toward the repetitious and rather aimless bloating of material, which in turn calls your attention more toward thinness within the story concept, whose natural shortcomings almost bring the final product to underwhelmingness, but not quite, as there is enough soul to Howard Shore's underused score, inspiration to writing and direction, and power to acting to breathe life into this story's undeniable value, which is just rich enough to make John Patrick Shanley's "Doubt" an engaging study on principles that may have find its hiccups, but rewards by the end. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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