Critics Consensus

It's going to be a long, long time before a rock biopic manages to capture the highs and lows of an artist's life like Rocketman.



Total Count: 315


Audience Score

Verified Ratings: 14,406
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Movie Info

ROCKETMAN is an epic musical fantasy about the incredible human story of Elton John's breakthrough years. The film follows the fantastical journey of transformation from shy piano prodigy Reginald Dwight into international superstar Elton John. This inspirational story -- set to Elton John's most beloved songs and performed by star Taron Egerton -- tells the universally relatable story of how a small-town boy became one of the most iconic figures in pop culture. ROCKETMAN also stars Jamie Bell as Elton's longtime lyricist and writing partner Bernie Taupin, Richard Madden as Elton's first manager, John Reid, and Bryce Dallas Howard as Elton's mother Sheila Farebrother.

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Critic Reviews for Rocketman

All Critics (315) | Top Critics (41)

Audience Reviews for Rocketman

  • Jun 06, 2019
    Taron Taron Taron... he killed this movie. Give him every award. Rocketman the film, is also a delight. Rating:92
    Bradley J Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2019
    When it comes to biopics, the majority of them follow a specific formula that will bring the audience from point A to point B in a way that feels very familiar. Most of the time that formula feels tired and makes for a very boring theatrical experience, so I was very excited to see that Rocketman would be taking a slightly different approach. Although it does follow many of the tropes that these biopics surrounding addicted artists follow, it does feel very fresh and presents a fun way to look at a downer story like Rocketman. Here's why it's absolutely worth your time. Telling you right off the bat that Elton John eventually developed addictions to many different substances, including emotional struggles, the film flashes back to begin with him at a very young age when he first touched the piano. Slowly going through his life until he reaches his breaking point (which is, of course, the climax), Rocketman is a very engaging film, due to the fact that it really is a musical fantasy at times, providing thought-provoking sequences that really dive deep into the meanings of a few of his hit songs. From the way certain things are presented visually to the spin that Taron Edgerton himself put on these classic songs, there was so much to love here. Speaking of Taron Edgerton, I've always been impressed by his acting chops. Whether playing a likeable crazy man in Eddie the Eagle or being a kick-ass action star in the Kingsman films, his career has been on an upward trajectory. Not in terms of box office returns, but absolutely within his performances. I've seen him improve over the years, but never did I expect to be as amazed by him as I was when watching Rocketman. Not only does he personify Elton John in a perfect way, but also brings a massive depth of drama to the role, solidifying him as one of the best actors out there today. If this movie doesn't get him any nominations by the end of this year, I fear it will be a long time before he delivers a performance this good. Director Dexter Fletcher was someone I was keeping my eye on after his work on Eddie the Eagle, which also starred Taron Edgerton in the title role. His direction on that film was very inspired and the overall movie was quite enjoyable, so I was hoping for at least another feel-good movie that he would sink his teeth into. Well, this is more than I could have ever asked for. His direction here and how the story is presented in general had me smiling from start to finish. Rocketman stands out from the crowd as being different in all the best ways. In the end, Rocketman is a fun, emotional, and at times deep ride from start to finish. From the insanely good musical numbers to Edgerton's incredible performance, from the emphatic soundtrack to the grand visuals, everything about this movie felt inspired. This will probably go down as one of the best, if not the best biopic of 2019. Rocketman deserves a large audience and I think those who seek this one out will find a lot to like unless for some reason musicals turn you off. If you're someone who doesn't find any enjoyment whatsoever when watching a musical, then this one may not be for you. For me, I loved watching this one.
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Jun 02, 2019
    It seems like Bohemian Rhapsody was a trial run for actor-turned-director Dexter Fletcher. He had previously directed an inspirational sports movie (2015's Eddie the Eagle) amongst other smaller films but he really came to attention when he filled in for the final weeks of Rhapsody after the original director Bryan Singer was removed. Fletcher helped steer the movie to its finish, and what a finish it had, collecting $700 million worldwide and four Oscars. Now Fletcher is a lone credited director of another musical biopic, Rocketman, chronicling the highs and lows of Elton John's personal and professional career. Does it soar? Elton John (Taron Egerton), nee Reggie Dwight, struts into rehab and tells his life story, from his humble days in England with distant, unsupportive parents, Sheila (Bryce Dallas Howard) and Stanley Dwight (Steven Mackintosh), meeting lyricist Bernie Taupin (Jamie Bell) and forming an instant connection, signing a record deal and traveling to America, blowing up immediately in popularity, his on-again-off-again relationship with his manager John Reid (Richard Madden), and all the drugs, parties, and excesses of rock and roll that Elton turned to in order to feel better about his own crippling loneliness. I wish more musician biopics took the approach of Rocketman, blending real-life with glitzy, dreamy fantasy sequences to create a musical fantasia. It just makes running through the typical tropes of biopics that much more entertaining. I appreciate the fluid nature of being able to dip into the fantastical at a moment's notice, opening to world of dance and delights, which keeps things lively and serves as a better integration of the artist's songs. Take for instance last year's Bohemian Rhapsody, which showed the formation of some of Queen's most famous songs in comically abbreviated, almost impossibly easy creative sessions. They go from clapping to cutting away to a completed "We Will Rock You." That movie became a series of sequences demonstrating how the band made its songs. With Rocketman, the songs are more designed as vehicles to the emotional journey of Elton John. When he thinks back to his childhood, we blast "The Bitch is Back," and when he's talking about his first performance experiences in his town's pubs, we get "Saturday Night's Alright (For Fighting)." When Elton's family is at a breaking point, each member sings a section of "I Want Love." When Elton feels alone in a giant party, and nursing his unrequited feelings for his writing partner, he warbles "Tiny Dancer." When he's caught up in his attraction to his manager, they duet, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart." By going this route, the filmmakers have opened their movie to more narrative and emotional potential. The steps into fantasy also communicate Elton's emotional state, especially as he starts spiraling into more drugs and loneliness. His elation translates into feeling like he and the audience are floating on air in one scene. His sense of succumbing to addictions and urges is demonstrating by a darker rendition of "Bennie and the Jets" where he crowd surfs into a sweaty orgy of flesh, people pulling at him, wanton desires obscuring anything else. It also plays into Elton's fraying mental state. After a fantasy number, he says, "Where am I?" We too don't know where he is. We too don't know how much time has passed. It's a clever conceit to get the audience to feel the protagonist's distaff confusion about what is real and what is drug-addled. This approach also allows for some obvious visual metaphors that seem more palatable. When Elton literally hugs the child version of himself, and thus is allowing himself to finally be loved by himself, in a literal physical act, you mostly buy into it as catharsis because of the flights of fancy. The use of songs comes into play in three shapes: 1) breaking out into song as a fantasy sequence meant to communicate the inner emotional state of the characters, 2) Elton or others performing songs as diagetic musical performances happening in real life, and 3) the musical score built upon other Elton John tracks. It pretty much means the film is wall-to-wall Elton John, which works especially well considering it is the man's biopic, but it also creates a world of sound that belongs to this man. Even the musical score adopts his signature tunes, which provides a nice undercurrent since he is telling his own story, so why wouldn't he rely upon his own music score to provide that extra oomph? There is a notable downside to the interwoven fantasy angle and that's instilling a sense of added skepticism with the audience. Every biopic is going to make fictional inventions for the sake of storytelling, be it combing characters, making the internal external, or reordering scenes for maximum drama. It's when a biopic goes overboard with the deviations from the truth that it can alienate the audience (though this didn't bother the $700 million gross for Rhapsody). By Rocketman choosing to amp its fantasy elements, this is going to test the believability of scenes. I'm not talking about whether or not the crowd at L.A.'s Troubadour actually floated for Elton's first U.S. live performance. Obviously that's an exaggeration. But it calls into question moments like Elton and Bernie Taupin meeting by coincidence, Elton storming off from Madison Square Garden straight to rehab, and in particular his relationship with his parents. There's a phone call where an adult Elton comes out to his mother, and she responds that she always knew her son was gay. It's at this moment where the audience may be thinking, "Oh, that's a sweet little moment to bring out her humanity." Then in the next breath she castigates him for "choosing" a lifestyle that will condemn him to never knowing love. Yikes. It's such an outlandish statement that I questioned whether this scene actually happened or was dramatic license to further sock it to Elton (apparently Howard had the same concern and it's legit). The downside of asking an audience to accept the unbelievable additions is that they may be in search of them too. The movie hinges upon its star and Egerton delivers. He previously sang Elton John (Sing) and previously saved the real Elton John (Kingsman: The Golden Circle), so it seems like his career has been destined for this role. Egerton is great at capturing the magnetic presence Elton had as a performer. He's sprightly, larger than life, and fully inhabits the manic stage presence that became a force to reckon with. He also does a great job of communicating the insecurities, doubts, and yearning of a person who has been fighting for acceptance and affection and feels he is incapable of either. Being in the closet is only one aspect to Elton's self-loathing (he did come out as bisexual in 1973). The character's biggest emotional hurdle is loving himself, which might sound corny but is given genuine pathos by Egerton, who rages for that fleeting feeling. Egerton has been a charismatic performer from the first moment I saw him, and he feels like a natural fit for this role, ably handling all his own singing to boot. Not even Oscar-winner Rami Malek did that. The other actors do fine with their smaller roles. The problem is that the supporting cast is kept in tidy boxes of one-note requirements. Taupin is supportive. Reid is manipulative. Sheila is self-absorbed. Stanley is detached and non-approving. Each serves a very distinct purpose, and their underwritten natures would be more of a hindrance if the film weren't entirely predicated upon Elton John's personal experiences and interpretations of those events. I will say I was surprised that Sheila was played by Howard (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom). I kept thinking to myself, "I need to look up this actress." I didn't recognize her with the weight gain and, later, the dodgy older age makeup. With all these wild visuals and extravagant consumes, the strangest thing to me about this whole movie is the role of Elton's primary lover and manager, John Reid. This person makes another appearance in another musical biopic — Bohemian Rhapsody. This same character was played by Aiden Gillan (Game of Thrones) and he got Queen to new heights before seeming to glom onto Freddie Mercury and convince him to leave the band for a solo venture. He's portrayed as a conniving villain in Rhapsody, and he's portrayed as another conniving user in Rocketman, and two different actors who were both on Game of Thrones play both versions. Where's this guy's biopic? Fletcher has found a clever and playful approach that accentuates his story and provides insights into a clever and playful musician. I was routinely smiling throughout Rocketman, which knowingly takes elements that would be campy and corny and says, "So what?" It's also an R-rated movie that doesn't shy away from John's sexuality in a safe manner, at least "safe" for a Hollywood studio film aimed at mass appeal. I enjoyed myself throughout Rocketman as it floated by on its sense of whimsy and heartache, anchored beautifully by Egerton, a compelling and charismatic young lead who gives it his all. Rocketman is what more movie biopics should aspire to be like, sequins and everything. Nate's Grade: B+
    Nate Z Super Reviewer
  • Jun 02, 2019
    THE SEMICIRCLE OF LIFE - My Review of ROCKETMAN (4 Stars) My mother took me to my first concert when I was a young teen. Ever the stylish trailblazer, she wore a halter top, hot pants, go-go boots and a cape as she led me into a giant arena in Cleveland to see none other than Elton John. She stood and sang the whole time and frequently would yell to him, "You're the king! You're the king!" When surprise guest Kiki Dee hit the stage to perform their iconic duet, "Don't Go Breaking My Heart", I swear my mom lost her sh*t. She couldn't find it. It was gone! Around that time, Elton had just come out as bisexual, which cemented his icon status with me even further. Here was this masterful singer, pianist, and songwriter who embraced his own fabulosity and had bravely for the time tip-toed towards his queerness. He was, and has always been, my favorite. It's my way of saying that I came into Rocketman predisposed to loving it. Director Dexter Fletcher (who, with his taking over the reins on Bohemian Rhapsody, knows a thing or two about gay rock icons) and screenwriter Lee Hall (Billy Elliot) have turned Elton's life story into a phantasmagorical, full-blown musical, which, while riddled with the usual rock star cliches, manages to evoke the feeling of his music, and it's an exhilarating experience. Additionally, when not bursting with kaleidoscopic energy, the film brings us the painful and intimate story of a young boy whose demons seem to stem from a lack of parental love. Despite achieving superstardom, Elton, with his crippling shyness as a child turning to drug, sex and alcohol excesses as an adult, along with a diva's temperament, seems to cut to the heart of Jennifer North's famous statement in Valley Of The Dolls, "You know how bitchy f*gs can be!" This film, in its quieter scenes, painfully shows us how the judgment and coldness Elton experienced can lead to anger, depression, addiction, and suicide. Taron Egerton gives a brilliant performance as Elton. Unlike Rami Malek's Freddy Mercury, Egerton does his own singing, realizing a similar tone and a gorgeous, wistful energy to a couple dozen songs from a remarkable catalog. We first meet him sporting an outrageous orange devil's outfit as he bursts through the doors of a rehab center. Faster than you can say, It's A Wonderful Life, Elton talks about his 1950s English childhood, as a full-blown song and dance number to "The B*tch Is Back" erupts on the screen. Following his younger self through his old neighborhood, we're then treated to a quieter series of scenes in which we explore his lonely home life and emerging talent as a natural piano player. While his distant father (Steven Mackintosh) and indulgent, uncaring mother (Bryce Dallas Howard) find ways to denigrate him, his grandmother (Gemma Jones) recognizes and nurtures the specialness in him. From here, we witness Elton's rise to the pop stratosphere, including his chance meeting with Bernie Taupin (a warm, engaging Jamie Bell), who will become his lifelong lyricist and great friend. He meets John Reid, who will eventually take over as Elton's manager and boyfriend, until the usual betrayals and ugliness ensues. Between how Aidan Gillen played the role in Bohemian Rhapsody and by Richard Madden's commanding turn here, you get the sense that Reid himself hasn't had a very good year. For me, he seemed like the harsh voice of reason, but I'm willing to bet audiences will hiss him. Some sequences work better than others. The songs tend to serve the narrative rather than adhere to chronology, so we breeze through his younger years with a fun, trippy number set to "Saturday Night's Alright For Fighting". When Egerton makes his first young Elton appearance in this number, it's a knockout blast. Later, we watch him literally levitate, along with the audience, in a career-launching stint at the Troubadour to "Crocodile Rock", despite the song being written years later. It doesn't matter, as these sequences have fluidity, grace, and a rush of energy. Rocketman has been billed as ‘Based On A True Fantasy", and this approach goes a long way towards smoothing over some of the film's clunkier aspects. Many of the events of Elton's life feel cookie cutter, but through the filmmakers' almost abstract interpretation of it, we get a propulsive, exhilarating ride nonetheless. He may yada-yada through key moments, such as Elton's meteoric rise, but Fletcher stays focused on Elton's internal struggles. It's not the deepest of biopics, since it really doesn't go too far into all of the known story beats, opting instead to give us an experience through pure musical feeling. At times, I felt like Fletcher was simultaneously tipping his hat to Ken Russell's Tommy, Baz Luhrmann's Moulin Rouge, and in its early scenes, John Boorman's Hope And Glory, yet the controlled rage of Egerton's performance, especially in some devastating silent glances, make this its own unique experience. Try not to die a little inside when adult Elton visits his father and sees that he dotes on his new children, having never done the same with him. Egerton's work here broke my heart. As much as I loved the splashy numbers, the quiet ones, such as a goosebump inducing scene in which Elton writes his classic "Your Song", moved me more. Some collaborators worth mentioning include a hilarious turn by Tate Donovan as the Troubadour owner, Doug Weston, Julian Day's splashy, spot-on costume design, and George Richmond's 70's perfect cinematography. From London to Los Angeles, on private jets and inside gaudy mansion drawing rooms, the film provides a rush of visuals. It may feel like a messy hodgepodge of looks and tones, but doesn't that describe Elton's life? He went from one musical style to another, sometimes forgetting what day it was or what town he was in, but he wrote a lot of amazing melodies. Yes, people break out in song and dance throughout the film, or things turn surreal, such as in one sequence which starts out at the bottom of a swimming pool and culminates in Elton literally blasting off into space. As such, the film benefits from its fearlessness in never shying away from being a musical. Some numbers fall flat, such as Elton's kinda lame "walk and talk" as he sings "Tiny Dancer" at a Hollywood party. Other moments get the music video treatment, while a song like "I Need Love" gets sung by various characters who, quite obviously, could use a little more of it. A key moment in the film begs for his classic "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" but instead goes with his upbeat "I'm Still Standing". I understand the decision, but felt the former would have resonated on a deeper level and put a nice capper on his beautiful relationship with Taupin. The film also suffers by never allowing any of the songs to be sung in their entirety. Some get as little as one line whereas others get cut too short. A little breathing room, especially on the title track would have been nice. But with songs this great, and with Egerton's fearless, sometimes vicious, sometimes delicate performance, Rocketman soars. I wish my mother was still around to see it, as she would have risen from her movie theater seat, thrown a go-go boot at the screen and screamed "You're the king!" one last time.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer

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