West of Memphis

2012, Documentary/Crime, 2h 30m

117 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Both a sobering look at a true crime story and a scathing indictment of the American justice system, West of Memphis is a real-life horror story told with fury and compassion. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Filmmaker Amy Berg tells the story of the fight to stop the state of Arkansas from executing an innocent man. Beginning with an examination into the police investigation into the 1993 murders of three boys in West Memphis, Arkansas, Berg brings to light new evidence surrounding the arrest and conviction of Damien Echols, Jason Baldwin and Jessie Misskelley. All three were teens at the time and lost 18 years of their lives after being wrongly convicted and imprisoned.

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Critic Reviews for West of Memphis

All Critics (117) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (111) | Rotten (6)

  • It's not a new story, true, but "West of Memphis" makes it both extremely personal and universally painful.

    April 5, 2013 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • The film is so utterly transfixing you won't believe almost two-and-a-half hours have passed when the final credits roll.

    March 29, 2013 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • We feel like we're watching an overlong true-crime television episode and not a movie.

    March 21, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Moving and gruesome, West of Memphis is an eloquent disquisition on the banality of evil.

    March 15, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • A real-life horror story, made no less shocking by the familiarity of its early scenes.

    March 14, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4
  • While the "Paradise Lost" films captured events as they unfolded in the heat of battle, "West of Memphis" has the luxury of at least partial closure.

    March 14, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's not a new story, true, but "West of Memphis" makes it both extremely personal and universally painful.

    April 5, 2013 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • The film is so utterly transfixing you won't believe almost two-and-a-half hours have passed when the final credits roll.

    March 29, 2013 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • We feel like we're watching an overlong true-crime television episode and not a movie.

    March 21, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • Moving and gruesome, West of Memphis is an eloquent disquisition on the banality of evil.

    March 15, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • I found myself leaving the theater in a stunned silence and amazingly disappointed in a justice system that seemed far more invested in protecting itself.

    September 27, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/4.0 | Full Review…
  • West of Memphis could have made a statement about presumptions and the fallibility of our justice system. Instead, we see millionaires like Vedder feeling good about themselves for saving three innocent people.

    November 19, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for West of Memphis

  • Jan 09, 2019
    As a fourth documentary about the subject, it does feel like a condensed (and, to be honest, unnecessary and jumpier) version of the other three, doing a decent job examining the case but not offering that much beyond what we have learned from watching the Paradise Lost films.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 09, 2014
    Oddly enough, Mr. Bojangles is spared of any footage whatsoever!! Leans the guilt on Terry Hobbs as Paradise Lost 2 did to Mark Byers. Offers nothing deep, instead only Depp.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Jul 03, 2014
    In what is essentially a conclusive condemnation of the tragic West Memphis Three case, West of Memphis does a brilliant job of exposing the injustice of the Arkansas authorities, the ineptness of the judicial system up until the end, and yet the hopefully undertone of perseverance that ultimately, in some way, carried the day. Though it treads on similar ground as the laudable Paradise Lost series, West of Memphis is a superb overview of the case, and a captivating account of the latest developments. Populated with celebrities and talking heads, the film never feels self-congratulatory or aggrandizing, yet presents the information in a cool headed, yet passionate manner. What results is something truly compelling, emotionally jarring, and lasting in its impact. Director Amy Berg quickly proceeds through the trial quickly, and spends the majority of the film on the later appeals and newly surfaced DNA evidence. What we get is a truly expansive and fair view of the case, with the tragedy of the three wrongly convicted men always serving as the undertone. The interviews here are incredible, reaching most of the key players involved, giving us their stories in a coherent narrative that weaves together the developments so as to paint a picture so apparently obvious, we are only befuddled by the necessity of it. It's a penetrating look at the ignoring/manufacturing of evidence, and the astoundingly shallow case against the men. Here we see not only new DNA evidence, and new witnesses come forward, we see people who, by the grace of God, finally felt compelled to come forward and recant their testimony, erroneous testimony fueled by delusion and police pressure. The film does not stop there, however, it follows through past the Alford Plea, and gives us a sobering reality--victory can come in forms that we aren't accustomed to, and sometimes validation can only come from within. A must see. 5/5 Stars
    Jeffrey M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 24, 2013
    An absolutely devastating documentary concerning three eight-year old boys killed in Arkansas in 1993, and how the judicial system pushed ahead on guilty verdicts for three teenage boys despite having no concrete evidence whatsoever, bullying their way to the decision they wanted all along. When new evidence is presented and a new suspect emerges out from amongst the dark shadows of the wooded area behind a trailer park where these murders took place, the case is examined more carefully as these now three young men wait for freedom. This is a powerful, monumental picture in the vein of "The Thin Blue Line" in how it effectively shows how the case was so horribly mishandled, then presenting a viable suspect who appears to be the likely killer who is allowed to walk free. The viewer should be left angry, shaken, and moved by this picture, with an ending that is not totally satisfying given the disturbing aspects the case leaves wide open despite having all the evidence it needs to send the real killer to jail. This is not a film that will leave you quickly, as once again the viewer should be left questioning the judicial system in this country and just how corrupt it remains to this day.
    Dan S Super Reviewer

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