Critics Consensus

With Signs, Shyamalan proves once again an expert at building suspense and giving audiences the chills.



Total Count: 233


Audience Score

User Ratings: 921,085
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Movie Info

Following the smash hit The Sixth Sense (1999) and the under-performing follow-up Unbreakable (2000), directing phenom M. Night Shyamalan returns to the summer box office landscape that served as the backdrop for his cinematic breakthrough. In Signs, another paranormal outing for the writer-director, Shyamalan explores the eerie implications of a 500-foot crop circle that mysteriously appears on the Bucks County, PA farm of reverend Graham Hess (Mel Gibson). As Hess and his family (Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, Abigail Breslin) try to take stock of what the sign means, and how its message incorporates into their faith, they start to get the feeling they are not alone in the fields behind their house. Shyamalan re-teams with producers Frank Marshall, Sam Mercer and Kathleen Kennedy, and produces the project in association with his Blinding Edge Pictures banner and Touchstone Pictures.

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Mel Gibson
as Graham Hess
Rory Culkin
as Morgan Hess
Cherry Jones
as Officer Caroline Paski
Patricia Kalember
as Colleen Hess
Ted Sutton
as Cunningham
Lanny Flaherty
as Mr. Nathan
Marion McCorry
as Mrs. Nathan
Kevin Pires
as Brazilian Birthday Boy
Clifford David
as Columbia University Professor
Rhonda Overby
as Sarah Hughes
Greg Wood
as TV Anchor
Ukee Washington
as Off-Screen TV Anchor
Adam Way
as Radio Eyewitness
Angela Eckert
as Soda Commercial Girl
Paul Wilson
as Soda Commercial Singer
Gary Thomas Griffin
as Soda Commercial Singer
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Critic Reviews for Signs

All Critics (233) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (171) | Rotten (62)

Audience Reviews for Signs

  • Jun 20, 2016
    M. Night scores with this film, it breathes eerie tension. It still gets me each time I see it, I am on the edge of my seat. It is a simple story but shot beautifully, one of my favorites.
    Jarrin R Super Reviewer
  • Mar 11, 2016
    Although the concept is interesting, the music is fitting, and Gibson and Phoenix give good performances, Signs suffers from a dull, trudging pace and a very lackluster final act.
    Ben B Super Reviewer
  • Feb 07, 2016
    By far Shyamalan's most suspenseful film. Signs is a very well made alien film with great directing, plot and suspense. My only negative is some aspects of the writing such as the kids' dialogue and some of the characters talk kind of unnaturally. Other than that, Signs is a very well made film that is worth your time to watch.
    Mr N Super Reviewer
  • Oct 05, 2013
    "Sign, sign, everywhere a sign, blockin' out the scenery, breakin' my mind! Do this, don't do that; can't you read the signs?" Oh hush, you knew it was coming, because my usual opener formula and this film's title provide bigger clues than the ones that the aliens appear to be providing. You'd think that with evidence this big, the aliens would just go ahead and reveal themselves to Earth, but hey, I can understand why they'd want to hide, because Mel Gibson is hardcore to other ethnicities in real life, where he's not even a small-town priest, and only has Jews and blacks to worry about. Mad Max and Johnny Cash join forces to take on some extraterrestrials, and it's all orchestrated by the guy who did "The Sixth Sense", but no, people, this film isn't quite that exciting. Like I said, it's not like this film's big twist was going to be that all of these strange occurrences are the doings of... aliens, though that didn't stop M. Night Shyamalan from dragging things out as though the central conflict of this film was some kind of a twist, so, I don't know, maybe he doesn't know what to do when he can't toss in a twist somewhere. Hey, he could have at least worked in the twist that by aliens, they actually meant Mexican immigrants who tried to trim some crops and then quit in time to create some kind of an unusual symbol in the field, but I guess we'll have to wait for Mel Gibson's cut for that kind of a film (Ha, racist jokes; I still like him, though I am a conservative), and until then, we're going to have settle with this, which is fine with me, because this film is alright, though not without its share of problems. Among the most troubling elements in this film is, of course, inconsistency, even in tone, because the film will slap in some often fall-flat and sometimes even unrealistic comic relief to forcibly break serious tension, if not drama, and that's detrimental to focal evenness enough without being joined by throw-away breaks from the central plot and one too many layers to the central plot itself. Ambitiously working to juice up a story with only so much potential, this film bites off more than it can chew in terms of tonal and focal layers, whose consistency is often startlingly glaring, at least enough lead to some sense of aimlessness, exacerbated by inconsistencies in pacing. Really, pacing problems are a relatively serious issue within this film, even in M. Night Shyamalan's scripted plotting, who heights in momentum are few and far between, and bridged by some serious dragging in both material and filler that gradually leads to repetition, then continues to slip further in momentum until it inspires the aimlessness that the aforementioned tonal and focal unevenness hardly mends. The film's narrative is kind of blandly structured, and that would be fine I suppose if it wasn't for atmospheric momentum's also being pretty bland, because even though M. Night Shyamalan's meditative directorial storytelling is effective when it's soaking up biting material, when there's nothing to work with, quiet limpness dries things up and stiffens pacing, perhaps even dulls things down, and believe me, material to work with is in limited supply here. This is certainly a refreshing story in some places, as well as pretty meaty in others, but on the whole, there's not really a whole lot to this sci-fi thriller that presents minimalist-feeling conflicts sparsely along an aimless path, and therefore has only so much potential to undercut. Well, I'm sorry, folks, but no matter how limited this film's potential is, it's still betrayed, certainly not to where I couldn't find points in this film that were less than decent, but just as certainly to where consistency issues, pacing problems and all around narrative messiness leave the even conceptually improvable effort to sputter out as kind of underwhelming. Still, while what potential there is to this story concept is all too often done some kind of an injustice, this is still a decent effort that keeps you going by what it does right in storytelling, or at least what it does right from an artistic standpoint. If no other form of artistry is worth noting, it's James Newton Howard's score, which, even then, has only so much kick and uniqueness to it, but is still sharp, as it usually is in M. Night Shyamalan films, combining relatively modernist scoring sensibilities with old-fashioned psychological thriller elements through a certain atmospheric minimalism that is often musically commendable, as well as atmospherically complimentary. As usual, the musical fruits of this M. Night Shyamalan and James Newton Howard collaboration are very atmospheric, so when the film isn't dryly quiet, its soundtrack plays a pretty big part in selling the weight of this pretty subtle thriller, whose depths are, of course, further sold by the performances. Seeing as how dramatic kick is pretty limited, acting material is pretty limited, so none of the handful of performances are especially outstanding, but the leads do deliver about as well as they can, with child talents Rory Culkin and Abigail Breslin being almost surprisingly convincing as mere children who find themselves playing big roles in extraordinary and dangerous affairs, while the more seasoned talents, Joaquin Phoenix and Mel Gibson, prove to be subtly effective as decent men scarred by questionable pasts who must mend themselves for the greater good of themselves, their loved ones and maybe the human race itself. As material slowly, but surely, builds, the performances really start to strengthen, yet there's never a point where the leads are less than endearing, both charismatically and dramatically, and such onscreen inspiration helps in selling depths, which is indeed conceptually plentiful... but still limited. Okay, there is only so much kick to this story concept to begin with, and that kick is thinned out by anything from unevenness in tone, focus and pacing, to, as irony would have it, attempts at pumping away natural shortcomings so desperate that the narrative just gets kind of excessive in some places, so maybe depth isn't plentiful on paper, yet there is still a good bit of potential within this story concept, which has some refreshing elements amidst a juggling act that features human drama, subtle tension and intriguing thematic depth. Needless to say, what potential there is goes betrayed, partly by ambition, but when ambition becomes inspiration, effectiveness is successfully sold, for although M. Night Shyamalan, as director, all too often meditates upon nothing, when material picks up, depth is soaked up, resulting in tension, maybe even resonance, and enough of it to compel. I really do wish that such compellingness was more consistent, at least enough so for the film to border on rewarding, but as things stand, these effective moments can be appreciated as heights in a consistent degree of engagement value, anchored by an adequate degree of inspiration to meet unfortunate shortcomings. Overall, unevenness in tone, focus and pacing drive storytelling into a kind of aimlessness whose being backed by often dulling atmospheric cold spells allows you to soak up natural shortcomings enough for the final product to gradually slip into underwhelmingness, which goes challenged enough by fine score work, inspired acting and some conceptual intrigue - often sold by highlights in direction - for M. Night Shyamalan's "Signs" to stand as a decent, somewhat offbeat dramatic sci-fi thriller, even if it's hardly consistent with the thrills. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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