Critics Consensus

From its reunited Broadway stars to its screenplay, the solidly crafted Fences finds its Pulitzer-winning source material fundamentally unchanged -- and still just as powerful.



Total Count: 255


Audience Score

User Ratings: 36,102
User image

Fences Videos

Fences Photos

Movie Info

Denzel Washington directed and stars in this adaptation of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which centers on a black garbage collector named Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh. Bitter that baseball's color barrier was only broken after his own heyday in the Negro Leagues, Maxson is prone to taking out his frustrations on his loved ones. Both Washington and co-star Viola Davis won Tonys for their performances in the 2010 revival of the play. Stephen Henderson, Jovan Adepo, Russell Hornsby, and Mykelti Williamson round out the supporting cast.

Watch it now


Christopher Mele
as Deputy Commissioner
Lesley Boone
as Evangelist Preacher
Jason Silvis
as Garbage Truck Driver
Theresa Cook
as Parade Participant
Dontez James
as Bike Rider
Malik Abdul Khaaliq
as Front Yard Neighbor
Tra'Waan Coles
as Towns person
Chris McCail
as Neighbor / Soldier
Kameron Peters
as Soldier / Towns Person
Joshua Tronoski
as Angelo the Italian Server
View All

News & Interviews for Fences

Critic Reviews for Fences

All Critics (255) | Top Critics (51)

Audience Reviews for Fences

  • Mar 16, 2018
    In sparing not a word of August Wilson's Pulitzer Prize-winner, Denzel Washington's brilliant unabridged treatment of his searing family drama packs an emotional wallop thanks to spot-on performances and a narrative that's allowed to breathe because it's not, well, fenced-in. In this PG-13-rated drama, a working-class African-American father (Washington) tries to raise his family (Viola Davis, Jovan Adepo) in the 1950s, while coming to terms with the events of his life. In our hyperlink-filled culture, there are far too many jumping off points before you get the whole story. The long-form has become abridged to accommodate short attention spans. This is not new, however. The works of William Shakespeare have appeared in a digest form pretty much since first hitting the screen. When Kenneth Branagh spent $18 million adapting the entirety of Hamlet into a 4-hour H'Wood film in 1996, the move seemed rather bold. A limited release kept the film from making a profit in theaters, but glowing reviews and awards soon followed. For much the same reason, Washington's latest turn in the director's seat deserves much the same response-if not more because his setting doesn't allow for as much latitude as the certain tale of a Danish prince. And, before any classics muckety muck gets heated with this review for comparing the author of Fences to the Bard, let them be reminded: When it comes to "The Pittsburgh Cycle," you compare Shakespeare to Wilson. It has been said that James Joyce never wasted a single word or piece of punctuation in his career-every last character was carefully chosen and meant something. So too stands the work of Wilson, an always pointed, poetic, and meticulously crafted treatise on American life. Though the writer speaks primarily from the African-American perspective and experience, his beautifully written (though not always beautiful) characters voice a multitude of universal truths. Here, he gets sole credit as screenwriter and every beat of his seminal work remains intact. His Troy, Fences's protagonist AND antagonist, is both a defeated man and often a defeater of other men. His pro-baseball prospects derailed by a stretch in prison, he has survived the ebbs and flows of life, albeit not gratefully. Undeniably charismatic, he flashes moments of warmth. Unfortunately for those in his orbit, these moments come between long stretches of him tearing down his wife and son as he takes out his bitterness with life on them. He is the architect of his own destruction, of course, which makes this flawed character so rich and undeniably human. In his performance of Troy, Washington mines every possible nuance from a man who puts up so many emotional, ahem, fences. It's an electric turn made all the more electric by Davis' amazing role as his long-suffering but dedicated wife, Rose. These two actors perfected their characters' chemistry during a 2010 limited Broadway run, which makes for a dynamic synergy on screen. You believe every peak. You believe every valley. Other characters, such as Troy's mentally challenged younger brother Gabriel (Mykelti Williamson), don't have quite the same impact on the screen as on the stage. Owing to the fact that the character does so much with so little, going big and loud (we're talking the theater space-not the actor, who does an excellent job) almost robs him of a powerful moment at the end. Also, some directors would have sprawled out the canvas to include more locations...to the detriment of the material, however. The definition of faithful adaptation, Washington's take smartly keeps the setting limited. In fact, save for a select number of scenes, the action rarely leaves Troy's property, which hammers home the point of a piece about barriers. Some filmgoers might call that stagey. This review calls it: the whole damn point. To Sum it Up: Great Fences Make Great Viewing
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Mar 12, 2017
    What really elevates Fences is the acting. This is a richly written ensemble pieces that heavily relies on powerful performances. Denzel and Viola are reprising their roles from the 2010 Broadway revival. [Incidentally, the original 1987 cast featured James Earl Jones and Mary Alice in those parts.] Needless to say, Washington and Davis know their characters inside and out. Denzel is extremely good and Viola is extraordinary. A woman so fully formed that I was even more drawn to trying to understand this individual. She fascinated me. It may be Troy's story in that every part exists to reflect his personality. However, I found myself sympathizing with her plight a lot more than her husband's. She seizes attention whenever she is on screen. The studio may have marketed her achievement as a supporting role to secure an Oscar nomination (and possible win), but she is no doubt equally important in this context. It's her authentic portrayal, as well as the subdued work of Stephen McKinley Henderson as Troy's friend Jim, that I will remember long after having seen the film. fastfilmreviews.com
    Mark H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 26, 2017
    Like a long filmed play, Fences at least relies on some outstanding performances that compensate for the film's lack of visual inventiveness. Full review on filmotrope. com
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 24, 2017
    Had I seen the stage version I may have enjoyed this script. However, it's move to the big screen is one which didn't work for me. Instead of enjoying this masterpiece, you're trying to climb the 'Fences' to escape it's clutches.
    Film C Super Reviewer

Fences Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features