The Polar Express

Critics Consensus

Though the movie is visually stunning overall, the animation for the human characters isn't lifelike enough, and the story is padded.



Total Count: 203


Audience Score

User Ratings: 241,867
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Movie Info

Directed by Robert Zemeckis and based on children's author Chris Van Allsburg's modern holiday classic of the same name, The Polar Express revolves around Billy (Hayden McFarland), who longs to believe in Santa Claus but finds it quite difficult to do so, what with his family's dogged insistence that all of it, from the North Pole, to the elves, to the man himself, is all just a myth. This all changes, however, on Christmas Eve, when a mysterious train visits Billy in the middle of the night, promising to take him and a group of other lucky children to the North Pole for a visit with Santa. The train's conductor (Tom Hanks) along with the other passengers help turn Billy's crisis in faith into a journey of self-discovery. A long-time fan of Van Allsburg's book, Hanks also helped produce the film. ~ Tracie Cooper, Rovi


Leslie Zemeckis
as Sister Sarah/Mother
Tom Hanks
as Hero Boy/Father/Conductor/Hobo/Scrooge/Santa
Michael Jeter
as Smokey/Steamer
Nona Gaye
as Hero Girl
Steven Tyler
as Elf Singer
Eddie Deezen
as Know-it-All
Daryl Sabara
as Hero Boy
Charles Fleischer
as Elf General
Peter Scolari
as Lonely Boy
Chris Coppola
as Elf/Toothless Boy
Jimmy Bennett
as Lonely Boy
Brendan King
as Pastry Chef
Isabella Peregrina
as Sister Sarah
Andy Pellick
as Pastry Chef
Josh Eli
as Waiter
Hayden McFarland
as Lonely Boy
Sean Scott
as Waiter
Connor Matheus
as Toothless
Dante Pastula
as Little Boy
Eric Newton
as Acrobatic Elf
Aidan O'Shea
as Acrobatic Elf
Aaron Hendry
as Acrobatic Elf
Kevin C. Carr
as Acrobatic Elf
Bee Jay Joyer
as Acrobatic Elf
Jena Carpenter
as Acrobatic Elf
Karine Mauffrey
as Acrobatic Elf
Beth Carpenter
as Acrobatic Elf
Bill Forchion
as Acrobatic Elf
Devin Henderson
as Acrobatic Elf
Sagiv Ben-Binyamin
as Acrobatic Elf
Ashly Holloway
as Sister Sarah
Evan Sabara
as Young Boy
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News & Interviews for The Polar Express

Critic Reviews for The Polar Express

All Critics (203) | Top Critics (50) | Fresh (113) | Rotten (90)

  • The schmaltz content gets higher and higher, as if administered through a drip feed, until by the end we are drowning in sucrose.

    Dec 4, 2014 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • People in Hollywood should never work with children or animals, W.C. Fields once said. Maybe that should be expanded to hyper-realistic computer-generated children and reindeer, too.

    Dec 9, 2013
  • As a spectacle, The Polar Express looks remarkable. As a film, however, it's the equivalent of an elaborately wrapped Christmas present containing a nice new pair of socks.

    Dec 9, 2013 | Full Review…

    Keith Phipps

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • Tom Hanks (in a number of roles) and the other actors do a nice job of voicing their parts, but the waxy animated faces they've been given are off-putting.

    Dec 9, 2013 | Full Review…
  • At some point very early in the 3-D IMAX version of The Polar Express, technology trumps banality and you helplessly surrender to the shock and awe of this big, often thunderous movie.

    Dec 9, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Director Robert Zemeckis once again harnesses a new technology to an engaging fable in this digitally animated adaptation of Chris Van Allsburg's holiday tale.

    Dec 9, 2013 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Polar Express

  • Dec 17, 2016
    Great animation, voice work, and a heartwarming story. But one needn't pay homage to the North Pole by imbuing the film with glacial pacing and completely unnecessary scenes. At times the experience was like opening presents on Christmas morning and every gift you rip open is a pair of socks.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • Dec 26, 2013
    Perfect for children, Robert Zemeckis really sets the stage for the motion capture animated films to follow with "The Polar Express", where Tom Hanks shines through as many of the characters in the film. Taking a young boy whose belief in Santa Claus begins to falter on an epic train adventure to the North Pole, this heartwarming film will become a staple in Christmas movies, especially for children starting to grow up and not believe. There's a strong message involving the ability to hear Santa's sleigh bells and even found myself having a conversation about it with my eight year old nephew. Repetitive in nature, the story structure of the film is largely designed to adhere to the 3D aspect and loses its luster when transferred to the small screen, which the first person camera views and long take qualities falling somewhat flat without the 3D gimmick to back it up. That being said, "The Polar Express" pushes the boundaries of animated films and tells a story worth telling which will hopefully captivate children during the holidays for decades to come.
    Christopher H Super Reviewer
  • Dec 16, 2013
    Well, I just watched this finally...almost 10 years later. I liked it a lot!! I can see that is was a new frontier of film making, and it was a little rough yet. People, apparently, were not used to seeing computer image cartoons, either. But, the storyline was wonderful, sweet, heartwarming, and it really got me into the Christmas spirit this year. Nicely done!!
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2012
    Creepy, cringe-worthy, and overall difficult to watch, this animated film delivers little to no holiday cheer and accomplishes nothing.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer

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