When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Critics Consensus

When the Levees Broke offers a heart-rending elegy for an American city overflowing with culture, beset by natural disaster, and betrayed by institutional indifference.



Total Count: 33


Audience Score

User Ratings: 5,830
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Movie Info

Controversial filmmaker Spike Lee explores the U.S. government's response to the disaster wrought by Hurricane Katrina in this made-for-television documentary co-produced by HBO and Lee's own 40 Acres & a Mule Filmworks.


News & Interviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

Critic Reviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (1)

  • ... masterful crosscutting mix of past and present, of authority and anguish, of ass-covering officialdom and angry dispossession, of sick-city misery and soul-stirring music...

    Jan 17, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The same didactic instincts that sometimes mar Lee's fictional filmmaking serve him well as a documentarian and eulogist.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Rating: 4/4
    Globe and Mail
    Top Critic
  • Surely the most magnificent and large-souled record of a great American tragedy ever put on film.

    Aug 28, 2006

    David Denby

    New Yorker
    Top Critic
  • What breaks your heart is the film's accumulated firsthand stories of New Orleans residents who lost everything in the flood after Hurricane Katrina, and the dismaying conclusion that a year after the disaster, the broken city has been largely abandoned.

    Aug 22, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • When the Levees Broke is like the New Orleans jazz funeral -- a dirge on the way to the cemetery, an up-tempo parade in the deceased's honor on the bittersweet walk back home.

    Aug 22, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • An exhaustive, ruminative, angry and even occasionally gallows-humorous account of the strange domino effect of tragedy compounding incompetence compounding tragedy that dealt a critical blow to one of America's great cities.

    Aug 22, 2006

Audience Reviews for When the Levees Broke: A Requiem in Four Acts

  • Sep 14, 2014
    I thought this movie did a brilliant job of depicting just how much Hurricane Katrina ruined the lives of so many New Orleans residents. I couldn't believe everything I saw - truly heartbreaking and difficult to imagine.
    Erin C Super Reviewer
  • Jun 20, 2013
    Spike Lee insisted that we watch all 4 hours, 15 minutes without a break at the Film Festival. We obliged even though it was eventually broken up over 5 nights on PBS. I derived nothing from the "uncut" version but such an epic still deserves praise in telling the tale of those who's lives were changed due to government neglect.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 30, 2011
    Spike Lee's touching documentary on Hurricane Katrina is horrific and beautiful. A film that all americans should see.
    Graham J Super Reviewer
  • May 29, 2008
    Very touching it will make you cry
    khalvic b Super Reviewer

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