Man on Wire


Man on Wire

Critics Consensus

James Marsh's doc about artist Phililppe Petit's artful caper brings you every ounce of suspense that can be wrung from a man on a (suspended) wire.



Reviews Counted: 157

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Reviews Count: 0
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Average Rating: 4.1/5

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Movie Info

August 7, 1974. A young French man named Philippe Petit stepped out on a wire suspended between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. He danced on this wire for an hour with no safety net before he was arrested for what has become to be known as the "artistic crime of the century."

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Critic Reviews for Man on Wire

All Critics (157) | Top Critics (47)

  • It all makes for an absorbing, mischievously amusing yarn, whose climax unfolds with unexpected emotional force.

    May 7, 2009
  • In this exhilarating, palm-moistening documentary by British filmmaker James Marsh (Wisconsin Death Trip), the twin towers are back to celebrate one of their finest moments.

    Nov 10, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The erasure of the towers adds poignance and irony to a documented event that is inherently thrilling and beautiful.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: A
  • James Marsh's documentary is the story of the dreaming and scheming that went into the walk, which I hesitate to call a stunt. It seems too glib a word for a feat that inspired the poignant complex of emotions uncovered by Marsh's narrative.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Though we know how it ends, it unfolds with suspense. And though it lacks any discussion of the towers' destruction, it succeeds as a tribute to their birth.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's a story worth telling, yes -- but after 90 minutes, it's hard not to wonder if the storyteller can talk about anything else.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Rating: B-

    Noel Murray

    AV Club
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Man on Wire

A magnificent feat told by its own participants. Emotionally engaging and exhilarating.

Pierluigi Puccini
Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

A stuntman/performer dreams up a stunt impossible to ignore in the modern day world full of been there, done that. True enough, I wondered what's the big deal, "a guy on a tightrope", blah, blah, blah, yada, yada. Fueling these thoughts, the man himself, Monsieur Petit, seems a shameless attention hog, one whom it inadvertently pleases one to ignor. But then, the stunt itself ... jaw droppingly, utterly un-friggen-believable! See it.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


A beatific documentary about a sole subject, this film was basically all about the feat that Petite pulled off, which comes off as sentimental and assured. Still, I would have liked to see a broader view of the accomplishment, one that possibly exaggerated Petite's abilities, showed more backstory, and the way he became a wire walker. Not much is shown on Petite's abilities other than his illegal yet masterful attempts at walking across some of the most famous locations in the world. The subject of the entire documentary wasn't given credence to showcase himself, except in interviews. In said interviews he comes off as childish, imaginative, and has a memory like a steel trap. Instead of truly looking into the depth of the subject the film uses interviews, and those dowdy recreations that pop up on episodes of America's Most Wanted. Though I found the footage of him walking on the wire truly ingratiating and just as feel good as they were purposing it to be, it didn't reel me in with anything all too interesting or new. Beside that the aftermath of the event wasn't shown in a true light and was further romanticized by Petite's ex, who viewed his infidelity as kismet rather than the delusions of a newly made icon. Most of the film covers the buildup to the event, assembling the crew, getting past security, and rigging the equipment up on the top floors of the newly created World Trade Center towers. It varies between flashbacks and interviews and that becomes quite confusing and annoying to boot. Really, it has its moments and was touching at times, but otherwise it was just wishy washy and slightly unpleasant.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

In the tradition of a heist film, this documentary depicts a high-wire artist's attempt at walking between the Twin Towers. Made in 2008, Man on Wire elides all discussion of 9/11, and even though this was probably better for the film -- after all, what can they really say of any importance? -- watching Philippe Petit and his cohorts break into the WTC with enough equipment to set up their wire made me think that I was watching what could have been a terrorist attack instead of a crazy, effervescent Frenchman with a God complex. The film might have made me uncomfortable, but I think it's better to say that I was uncomfortable watching it. Petit is nuts. But from a distance, he's fun to watch. I think my favorite moment was when, describing how he was looking for a small fishing wire in the dark, Petit said -- as though this is the most reasonable thing to do, right out of the "How to Find Fishing Wire in the Dark" manual, -- "I stripped naked so that with all my body I could feel for the wire." Who thinks that? Next time I lose my keys in my office, I'll give it a try. Other critics have called the film's climax "exhilarating" and said that the film's result takes on an adventure-movie level of suspense, and though I didn't feel this, I did find the film as a whole to be entertaining and fun but not with much sophistication. The "follow your dreams" mantra that provides the film's moral center feels contrived, like something out of a Cracker Jack box. Overall, I liked Man on Wire, and now that there are movie-goers too young to fully remember 9/11, this documentary may serve as a tribute to buildings' existence rather than a reminder of their destruction.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

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