Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Critics Consensus

Won't You Be My Neighbor? takes a fittingly patient and honest look at the life and legacy of a television pioneer whose work has enriched generations.

97%

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Total Count: 246

94%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,363

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Movie Info

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won't You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at America's favorite neighbor: Mister Fred Rogers. A portrait of a man whom we all think we know, this emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the land of make-believe, and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination.

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Critic Reviews for Won't You Be My Neighbor?

All Critics (246) | Top Critics (45) | Fresh (239) | Rotten (7)

  • This gentle, positive treatment of Rogers coincides with the show's values but devalues his enormous social importance.

    March 24, 2020 | Full Review…
  • This documentary by Morgan Neville reveals that he really was just what he seemed to be at first innocent sight: a kind-hearted, square but saintly man who genuinely loved and understood children in a pure, sincere way.

    November 10, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Not beyond reproach, but a fitting tribute to a pop culture icon.

    November 7, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • You don't need to have grown up with [Rogers] to be fascinated and moved by Morgan Neville's documentary portrait, made in a spirit of admiration, which on the evidence presented here seems well-deserved.

    September 14, 2018 | Full Review…
  • It's daunting, particularly when we feel we are in the shadow of figures like him, who are seemingly capable of such impossible good.

    July 10, 2018 | Full Review…
  • A poignant tribute to the mild-mannered father-figure who served as moral compass to generations.

    June 21, 2018 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

    Rafer Guzman

    Newsday
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Won't You Be My Neighbor?

  • Nov 28, 2019
    [Being British and having grown up in the UK (except in 1987 where I lived with my parents in the US for that year) I don't really have any experience with Mr. Rogers and his long-running show. I know of Mr. Rogers, I have heard of Mr. Rogers, but I never grew up with Mr. Rogers so I am unable to deliver any real childhood memories. Even when living in the US for that one year I never recall watching his show (as far as I can remember). I have always put Mr. Rogers in the same kind of category as [i]Sesame Street[/i] or [i]Blue Peter[/i] here in the UK. One of those long-running legendary shows for children that has amassed epic levels of respect, praise, awards, and memories for so many of all backgrounds (although the UK shows haven't run as long as the US ones). Some of the very few television programs that will live on forever (in their respective countries) having truly made a difference in so many people's lives. That's how I tend to look at it anyway. I guess the first thing that surprised me was the fact that Rogers was in fact the same Mr. Rogers you saw on TV. It almost seemed too good to be true that the kind, pragmatic, casual yet well-dressed person you saw TV was the same person off TV. Behind the curtain Rogers was indeed still the same man who cared for educating and listening to children in a sensible way whilst upholding his strong religious Christian beliefs...and not in a creepy way. Mind you I say that but I can't deny that watching this biopic did make me question the man at times. He came across as so sensitive and in-tune with kids that doubts couldn't help but form in my mind. Not to mention all the odd little quirks and rituals he had. Another thing that surprised me was the content Rogers would confront children with. There was me thinking his show was a kind of long-running early variety show with different acts, cartoons, and guests. Turns out Rogers dealt with serious issues. He didn't shy away from talking to the kids about such things like death, divorce, love, depression etc...Sure he did so with the aid of various puppets, songs, and some guests all within a little imaginary model neighborhood, but he still spoke about these subjects. Rogers was able to connect with kids at a very personal level by seeing them as people, simple really. Yes kids aren't adults but they aren't completely stupid, they still understand things, they still feel and obviously have emotions. Rogers had a gift and was able to tap into that, he could communicate with kids about serious matters. But it wasn't just kids, Rogers did the same for adults apparently too. Maybe not as much and maybe with not as much success but he still did his best. We see that he actually worked with prison inmates at one point. There was also a time when he met a fully grown gorilla and engaged in some pretty amazing sign-language conversations. He subtly taught kids about race, equality, and tolerance in a segment where he simply paddled in a kids pool with one of his regular show guests (who was African American). And he would address (now historical) disasters with kids so they understood what was happening simply because Rogers believed kids needed to learn the truth and not be shielded. The fact that not telling the actual truth can be actually more scary for kids. Gotta hand it to the guy, he had balls. I think one of the hardest segments to watch in this film was seeing Rogers struggle to address the 9/11 attacks in New York. Clearly he knew he had to talk about it, you can hear others saying so in the film. But the sight of Rogers genuinely trying to find the words to try and deal with such a horrific disaster was heartbreaking. It was as if he was beaten at that moment, there was nothing he could say to soothe the pain. All that aside I did find this biopic slightly slow at times I can't deny. There is a lot of archive footage (obviously) showcasing Rogers back in the day as he talks about his goals and beliefs. There is a lot of archive footage (obviously) of the show from when it first started, through the decades from black and white to colour, and all the various elements within. We see various guests, the puppets, the model neighborhood, behind the scenes, the sets, the crew, Rogers wife etc...Very much in the same vein as any solid extra you'd get on a new Bluray release. Whilst this is all interesting for the most part, not [b]all[/b] of it is totally engaging. Gotta be truthful here. Especially from a visual perspective, the later shows in colour are far more engaging than the admittedly slow and dull looking black and white era shows. There's nothing quite as iconic as watching Rogers stroll on set and proceed to change into his trademark sneakers and red cardigan...in colour. Retro (and modern) US TV has a distinct look about it that I can't really explain. It always seemed much more colourful, as if it had been shot in Technicolor from the 1950's. So in conclusion, this is a film where you will most probably choke up at some point. It's hard to pinpoint where and why to be honest, unless you are a lifelong adult fan reliving your childhood memories. But this biopic is so warm, heartfelt, and full of positivity that at times it just makes you cry, it's practically inevitable. In the end, I think what I find the most ironic and sad is that in this current day and age a man like Mr. Rogers would probably find himself under attack (from certain groups) for his race, his gender, his close work with children, and his religion. Twitter would probably horrify him. Mr. Rogers would not work in this present day, and that's the saddest truth of all.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Mar 21, 2019
    Incredibly touching and powerful, Won't You Be My Neighbor? is a wonderful documentary about children's performer Fred Rogers. The film looks at how a young aspiring minister named Fred Rogers got into the burgeoning industry of children's television and created one of the most influential programs of his day. Friends, family, cast members, and industry experts discuss Roger's unique approach to educating and entertaining children and the positive messaging of his work (emphasizing each child's specialness and self-worth). Also discussed are his bold attempts to address and relieve the tensions and anxieties that children had about political events happening around them, including the Vietnam War, racial tensions, and 9/11, in terms that they would understand. Won't You Be My Neighbor? is a loving testament to the work and legacy of Mr. Rogers.
    Dann M Super Reviewer
  • Mar 14, 2019
    Fred Rogers was surely one of the most beautiful human beings I can think of, and this is a wonderful documentary that brought me to tears just by reminding us that people like that exist - which is perhaps the most important message anyone can offer in a world so full of madness.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Feb 18, 2019
    A beautifully filmed and written film on a man that the world sorely misses. It's honest, stirring and emotional. Fred Rogers was truly a decent special man who understood children and how to reach them and teach them. It's mysterious it wasn't nominated but truly is a not to miss film! 02-16-2019
    Christopher O Super Reviewer

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