The Sisters Brothers

Critics Consensus

The Sisters Brothers rides familiar genre trails in occasionally unexpected ways - a satisfying journey further elevated by its well-matched leading men.



Total Count: 195


Audience Score

User Ratings: 2,290
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Movie Info

From acclaimed director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone, A Prophet), and based on the novel by Patrick deWitt, THE SISTERS BROTHERS is a reimagining of the cinematic Western as a dangerous, witty, and emotionally cathartic exploration of what it means to be a man. It is 1851, and Charlie and Eli Sisters (Joaquin Phoenix and John C. Reilly) are both brothers and assassins, boys grown to men in a savage and hostile world. They have blood on their hands: that of criminals, that of innocents...and they know no state of existence other than being gunmen. The older of the two, introspective Eli (Reilly) rides hard with his younger sibling yet dares to dream of a normal life. The younger of the two, hard-drinking Charlie (Phoenix) has taken charge with gusto as lead man on the duo's assignments. Each increasingly questions, and quibbles with, the other's methods. The Sisters brothers find themselves on a journey through the Northwest, bringing them to the mountains of Oregon, a dangerous brothel in the small town of Mayfield, and eventually, the Gold Rush land of California - a journey that will test the deadly family ties that bind. But, can it also be the path to rediscovering what remains of their humanity? THE SISTERS BROTHERS also stars Jake Gyllenhaal as learned scout John Morris and Riz Ahmed as fugitive chemist Hermann Kermit Warm.


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Critic Reviews for The Sisters Brothers

All Critics (195) | Top Critics (35) | Fresh (169) | Rotten (26)

  • Erudite, visceral and chuckle-worthy, this western is based on Patrick deWitt's novel and starts out as the story of two gun-toting, chalk-and-cheese brothers, only to become more mysterious.

    Apr 7, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Reilly carries the film, with a performance that's elegantly caught between Eli's loyalty and his desire to be free of his crazy kinsman.

    Mar 7, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • "The Sisters Brothers" often feels like a journey in search of a destination.

    Oct 12, 2018 | Rating: C | Full Review…
  • For every revelation woven into the action, there's a bit of obvious philosophizing to remind you of the real point here. (It sure ain't the gunplay, though the way the six-guns spit sparks is fun to look at.)

    Oct 5, 2018 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • Equal parts comedy, drama, love story and horror story, the saga simply refuses to be easily lassoed.

    Oct 4, 2018 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The movie works, it well and truly works, because the four main characters come together in ways we could never have foreseen, and the actors themselves seem surprised at the twists the story takes and where their characters fall on the curve.

    Oct 3, 2018 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Sisters Brothers

  • Jan 20, 2019
    Certainly the better of the two Westerns I've seen today, but I'm also not really feeling the love with Sisters Brothers like everybody else seems to be.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 15, 2019
    THE SISTERS BROTHERS (4 Stars) An extremely engaging anti-Western featuring fantastic performances from John C. Reilly, Joaquin Phoenix, Jake Gyllenhaal, and Riz Ahmed is slightly marred by an anti-climactic yet still unexpected ending. Up until then, I loved its subversiveness, the beautiful cinematography and score, and the bursts of tragedy erupting from its often comical tone. A simple tale of two hitmen charged with killing a gentle chemist who has invented a new way to pan for gold, the film finds its beauty in little details such as when Reilly uses a toothbrush or flushes a toilet for the first time. Bonus points for casting the great Alison Tolman, a vividly hardened Carol Kane, and especially trans actor Rebecca Root as a nefarious town owner. I'm especially proud that Root plays a cis female. More talented trans actors like her should get cast in roles which have nothing to do with gender identity. That it happens in the most patriarchal of genres, the western, speaks volumes about this film. There's also an unexplored hint of a gay relationship, which gives the movie a sense of unfulfilled longing. Each character seems to want something they can never have. It's a subtle but lovely undertone which gives this often goofy film a little depth. Jacques Audiard (A PROPHET, RUST AND BONE) makes his English language debut here and has a great feel for quirky interactions and the loopy storytelling at play. It's the BUTCH CASSIDY AND THE SUNDANCE KID of its time...but instead of going out with a bang, it does so with a beautiful whimper. Flaws and all, it's one of the best films of the year.
    Glenn G Super Reviewer
  • Jan 02, 2019
    The early Westerns seemed to love to act the imagined nobility of King Arthur's court. Everyone had a higher purpose or calling ('cept the bad guys), "making the world safe for decent people." Not so as we creep into the light of modern day when the adventurers are portrayed in film more or less as opportunists looking to get over, and why not? And so we meet the Sister Brothers, assassins who love their jobs and really only hate the boredom of the interludes in between killing and taking what they want. Are they monsters for this? This work doesn't think so and looks for the humanity in our protagonists. When they aren't killing somebody. Good stuff.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 10, 2018
    "Have you noticed how long it's been since someone tried to kill us?" "I don't know...three or four days?" "Don't you find that strange?" The Sisters Brothers is both a modern western that pays plenty of homage to the classics of the genre. It isn't what you expect and not always what you hoped it might be, but it consistently does whatever the hell it wants and one can't help but to appreciate it for exactly that. In other words, The Sisters Brothers is wholly its own thing and it's very up front about this fact with an opening scene that is both startling, starkly aloof, and perplexing in the most intriguing of ways. While it feels natural to be tepid in the opening twenty or so minutes as exposition is avoided in favor of the audience putting the pieces together themselves it is once director Jacques Audiard (Rust and Bone) begins to parallel the arcs of our titular characters as played by John C. Reilly and Joaquin Phoenix with that of Jake Gyllenhaal's John Morris and Riz Ahmed's Hermann Kermit Warm that things really get rolling. It's always nice to see a movie when, in general, you see so many movies and think you know where it's likely going only to have it continually go in a different, but completely logical-and natural-feeling-direction. Phoenix and Gyllenhaal give two very distinct, but vastly different performances for two characters that are more similar than they might like to admit even if they come to recognize as much. Gyllenhaal's accent is especially noteworthy. Ahmed's interpretation of Warm is a matter of perspective and he plays this advantage to the hilt given the ultimate course the actions take. It is Reilly who steals the show though, serving as a throughline of steadfastness in doing something despite the difficulties his brother provides and the endless delays he takes the blame for all in order to achieve a success he doesn't seem to necessarily agree would define the word "success". It's a wonderful, well-rounded performance that lends the final scene of the film a sense of near-perfection; capturing a small truth of life we don't often recognize or discuss and painting a two-hour portrait with it. Also, not exactly Bone Tomahawk brutal, but still BRU-TAL with a capital B.
    Philip P Super Reviewer

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