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The Black Dahlia Review Critics


Dave White Profile

… noir to romance to screwball comedy … Read full review

Other Critics provided by

Critics scores range from 0 to 100, with higher scores indicating more favorable reviews.

  • 3.0

    out of 100

    Mixed or average reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 50

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    The Black Dahlia captivates with its dark style. But as with the particulars of the yet-unsolved case, the movie is frustratingly convoluted. What it accomplishes with its stunning cinematography and set design is undercut by a lack of coherence.

    Read Full Review

  • 50

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    The production certainly looks sumptuous, and certifies Mr. Hartnett as a mainstream movie star. But the script is frequently impenetrable, the pacing is ponderous, and the film noir style can't conceal a crucial piece of misconceived casting.

  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    The film is more than a little in love with the corruption it finds under the floorboards -- and that, of course, is perfectly dandy. I wouldn't trust a film noir that wasn't enthralled by decadence.

    Read Full Review

  • 70

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Kirk Honeycutt

    The second half feels heavy and unfulfilled, potential greatness reduced to a good movie plagued with problems.

    Read Full Review

  • See all The Black Dahlia reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

not for kids

Unsolved Hollywood murder inspires dark '40s noir.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film is premised on a grisly, real-life 1947 murder that remains unsolved and is still the subject of both Internet discussion and TV investigation/forensics shows. The film features frequent images of bloody, shot, and sliced-up bodies. A presumably insane character rants in a disturbing way before committing suicide violently. The film also includes other explicit scenes of violence (a riot, shootings, a throat being sliced, a face being cut while held in a vise). Characters (especially women) appear in various states of undress; the detectives watch a porn film made by the murder victim that features lesbian activity. A nightclub scene features showgirls dancing provocatively and kissing each other on stage. A couple of sex scenes suggest "passion" by having characters rip each other's clothes off. Characters use foul language (especially "f--k"), smoke a lot of cigarettes, and drink.

  • Families can talk about the longstanding fascination with the Black Dahlia murder case. How does it represent a mythic cautionary tale, involving young women and the evils of Hollywood as a dream factory and/or industry town? What messages does the film convey about women? Why is violence toward women so often sexualized (both in the media and in real life)?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: Detectives become obsessed with the murder of a young starlet; plot concerns corruption, grisly murder, insanity.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Severed-in-half corpse is visible several times (including references to her face cut ear-to-ear); bloody boxing scenes; opening riot scene (punching and fighting); shootings (blood visible and violent imagery); throat cut; fall from balcony; at a crime scene, a dead child with bullet hole in head; description of shooting a pet dog (now stuffed); bloody bat (reference to beating); suicide by shot to the head (explicit); blood spreads under head of murdered man.

  • sex false5

    Sex: Partial nudity in a "stag film," in which two women use a dildo and wrist restraints; women in underwear; lesbian nightclub scene shows women kissing and writhing in a dance number; lyrics refer to "Love for Sale" sex scenes and post-coital scenes (rip off blouse, passionate kissing, movement under covers, naked chests visible).

  • language false5

    Language: Repeated use of "f--k" (over 15); other language (c-word, "hell," "damn," "ass," etc.).

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false5

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Frequent smoking by protagonists; some drinking in social situations (dinner); cop takes Benzedrine and becomes unhinged.