West of Memphis


West of Memphis

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.



Total Count: 115


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,800
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Movie Info

From director Amy Berg, in collaboration with first time Producers Damien Echols and Lorri Davis along with filmmakers Peter Jackson and Fran Walsh comes West of Memphis, a powerful examination of a catastrophic failure of justice in Arkansas. The documentary tells the hitherto unknown story behind an extraordinary and desperate fight to bring the truth to light. Told and made by those who lived it, Berg's unprecedented access to the inner workings of the defense, allows the film to show the investigation, research and appeals process in a way that has never been seen before; revealing shocking and disturbing new information about a case that still haunts the American South. -- (C) Official Site


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Critic Reviews for West of Memphis

All Critics (115) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (110) | Rotten (5)

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

    Apr 5, 2013 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • We feel like we're watching an overlong true-crime television episode and not a movie.

    Mar 21, 2013 | Rating: 2/4 | Full Review…
  • A real-life horror story, made no less shocking by the familiarity of its early scenes.

    Mar 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.

    Mar 14, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • And justice for all? Hardly.

    Feb 21, 2013 | Rating: 3/4
  • It tells the story of a terrible crime compounded by a grave injustice that's been remedied, but only in part, so it's impossible to have a single or simple response to the movie.

    Feb 8, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | 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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