Only the Strong Survive

Critics Consensus

Though this documentary could be more informative, the performances themselves are wonderful.



Total Count: 45


Audience Score

User Ratings: 562
User image

Watch it now

Only the Strong Survive Photos

Movie Info

Roger Friedman is an entertainment journalist and music fan with a particular love for R&B and soul music from the mid-'50s to the pre-disco era of the early '70s. Owing in part to segregated booking policies and simple lack of proper archiving, Friedman discovered there is little or no surviving film footage or videotape of many of the greatest artists of the era performing on-stage. However, a large number of the performers in question were still active and performing on a regular basis, and with the help of documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and D.A. Pennebaker, Friedman set out to capture some of his favorites on film while they were still in good form. Only the Strong Survive features knockout performances from such R&B legends as Wilson Pickett, Jerry Butler, the Chi-Lites, Carla Thomas, Mary Wilson, Ann Peebles, and many more, as well as interviews in which the artists discuss the ups and downs of their lives in music. Only the Strong Survive also features performance footage of Memphis R&B pioneer Rufus Thomas, who had passed on at the age of 84, less than two months before the film was screened at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival.


Critic Reviews for Only the Strong Survive

All Critics (45) | Top Critics (23) | Fresh (27) | Rotten (18)

  • There's no problem with a little bias, but Friedman's fan-boy perspective puts the subjects of Only the Strong Survive on too high a pedestal.

    Jun 26, 2003 | Rating: 3/5
  • Content to merely serve as a cluttered, heart-shaped scrapbook, missing many more stories than it bothers to include.

    May 28, 2003 | Rating: 2/4

    Gene Seymour

    Top Critic
  • ... the music is great, but as a film thumbs down.

    May 12, 2003
  • Fortunately, the performances themselves are beautifully filmed and recorded.

    May 9, 2003
  • A film that even with its flaws should be cheered for preserving the later years of these towering musical talents.

    May 9, 2003
  • Worth the time and money some of the summer's effects-driven spectacles probably won't be.

    May 9, 2003 | Rating: 3/4

    Mike Clark

    USA Today
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Only the Strong Survive

Only the Strong Survive Quotes

There are no approved quotes yet for this movie.

News & Features