Won't Back Down


Won't Back Down

Critics Consensus

Despite the best efforts of its talented leads, Won't Back Down fails to lend sufficient dramatic heft or sophistication to the hot-button issue of education reform.



Total Count: 105


Audience Score

User Ratings: 18,160
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Movie Info

Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis play two determined mothers, one a teacher, who will stop at nothing to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children. This powerful story of parenthood, friendship and courage mirrors events that are making headlines daily. -- (C) 20th Century Fox


Maggie Gyllenhaal
as Jamie Fitzpatrick
Viola Davis
as Nona Alberts
Holly Hunter
as Evelyn Riske
Oscar Isaac
as Michael Perry
Rosie Perez
as Breena Harper
Emily Alyn Lind
as Malia Fitzpatrick
Dante Brown
as Cody Alberts
Ving Rhames
as Principal Thompson
Lance Reddick
as Charles Alberts
Bill Nunn
as Principal Holland
Ned Eisenberg
as Arthur Gould
Nancy Bach
as Deborah
Lucia Forte
as District Receptionist
Sarab Kamoo
as Principal Chamudes
Teri Clark Linden
as Cody's Teacher
Joe Coyle
as Clay Bathgate
Jennifer Massey
as Valerie Bathgate
Reavis Graham
as Hank Hunt
Richard Barlow
as Mr. Brandt
Rebecca Harris
as Ms. Southwick
Kevin Jiggets
as Mr. Mannis
Patricia Cray
as Ms. Schwartz
Juan Veza
as Mr. Parrish
Sara Lindsey
as Thompson's Assistant
Sue Jin Song
as Bureaucrat #1
Ted Russell
as Bureaucrat #2
Carmella Gioio
as Bureaucrat #3
Kurt Yue
as Daddy Drop-off
Dionne Audain
as Adam's Parent
Becky Meister
as Teacher #1
Toni Romano
as Teacher #2
Stephen Weigand
as Riske's Assistant
Kyler Norton
as Nintendo Kid
Jack Walz
as Boy at Lottery
Ivanna Eubanks
as Girl at Lottery
Rick Applegate
as School Superintendent
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News & Interviews for Won't Back Down

Critic Reviews for Won't Back Down

All Critics (105) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (36) | Rotten (69)

  • More anti-union propaganda masquerading as entertainment.

    Jan 25, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • A straight-talking, partisan account about the failings of a broken system and a band of women who argued for better for their children.

    Jan 24, 2013 | Rating: 3/5
  • It is well meant, undoubtedly about something that matters, and it bends over backwards not to trash the teachers' unions gratuitously, but amid the attempts at gritty reality, I found the happy-ending imperative unconvincing.

    Jan 24, 2013 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • It mixes attempts at realism and grit with transparently Hollywoodized good guys-vs.-bad guys social melodrama. That requires a deft directorial hand, but director Daniel Barnz doesn't seem to have it.

    Oct 1, 2012 | Full Review…
  • Social-issue movies can have real societal impact. That's why Won't Back Down, which presses a lot of hot buttons, deserves to be taken seriously, and criticized seriously, on its own terms.

    Sep 28, 2012 | Rating: B- | Full Review…
  • Won't Back Down doesn't wholly make the grade.

    Sep 28, 2012 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Won't Back Down

  • Feb 17, 2014
    3 3/4's--Very inspirational, and heartwarming. Made-for-tvish. A sad statement on the condition of the American education system, but depicts a good step for improvement. Well acted. Nicely done..
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Dec 30, 2013
    It's a film with a big heart, but it's just so schlocky... Maggie Gyllenhaal plays essentially the same role she did in Crazy Heart, and the supporting ensemble does alright, but as a whole the project is sentimentally overwrought and occasionally veers into Lifetime territory. I appreciate the value of the story, but it's just not much of a movie... "fighting the system" has become a predictable formula, and this particular film does nothing others haven't done already.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Feb 27, 2013
    Won't Back Down is a prime example of a movie that suffers from a weak script and average direction, but is saved by excellent and noteworthy performances. Having grand aspirations regarding the failing education system in urban public schools, it ultimately gives no solid solutions and overgeneralizes the myriad problems regarding said topic. Quite obviously, the movie leans heavily toward the right politically. (Damn those corrupt Teacher's Unions! If only everything ran like a business! That would fix urban blight!) Nevertheless, the performances given by Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal and the supporting cast keep the whole venture afloat. And it holds together better than "white savior" schlock like The Help. But when compared to other movies in its particular sub-genre such as Stand and Deliver and Lean on Me, or when its message is seriously analyzed, it doesn't quite make the grade.
    Joshua S Super Reviewer
  • Jan 26, 2013
    "Won't Back Down" is a movie about two mothers(Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis) who are fed up with their children's failing school. They decide to risk everything to make a difference by going against the teacher unions and set out to do a school take over with the other parents and change things for the better for the kids. It's an inspirational movie, even though it runs a tad long and some of the background plot doesn't really go anywhere and just bogs the movie down some. Gyllenhaal does ok, but Viola Davis is fantastic. She is one of the best actresses today without a doubt. Whether your for or against unions it doesn't matter, because this movie is about making a difference for children. Emily liked and it made it all the way through, so if that happens I can almost guarantee all women will like it. Guys, probably not, but it's okay for a one time watch.
    Everett J Super Reviewer

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