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The Color Purple Review

Other Critics provided by

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

  • 4.0

    out of 100

    Generally favorable reviews
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The affirmation at the end of the film is so joyous that this is one of the few movies in a long time that inspires tears of happiness, and earns them. The Color Purple is the year's best film.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    To miss this film is to cheat yourself and your family of a memorable moviegoing experience.

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  • 50

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times Sheila Benson

    This time out, Spielberg has chosen to put an antic disposition on, and with the single exception of casting, his almost every decision has been disastrous. He has prettified or coarsened; he has made comic scenes broadly slapstick and tiptoed over the story's crucial relationship. The result, alas, is the film purpled.

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  • 70

    out of 100


    There are some great scenes and great performances in The Color Purple, but it is not a great film. Steven Spielberg’s turn at ‘serious’ filmmaking is marred in more than one place by overblown production that threatens to drown in its own emotions. But the characters created in Alice Walker’s novel are so vivid that even this doesn’t kill them off and there is still much to applaud (and cry about) here.

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  • 70

    out of 100

    The New York Times Janet Maslin

    Some parts of it are rapturous and stirring, others hugely improbable, and the film moves unpredictably from one mode to another. From another director, this might be fatally confusing, but Mr. Spielberg's showmanship is still with him. Although the combination of his sensibilities and Miss Walker's amounts to a colossal mismatch, Mr. Spielberg's ''Color Purple'' manages to have momentum, warmth and staying power all the same.

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 14+

Powerful tale of survival with wrenching scenes of abuse.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this intense drama is the adaptation of award-wining author Alice Walker's novel The Color Purple and deals with serious themes -- incest, marital abuse, overt racism and sexism -- that are not appropriate for young children. On the other hand, mature teenagers will benefit from seeing the movie, as it will open their eyes about the difficulties women -- especially black women -- experienced in the early 20th century. Many scenes include glimpses of violence and abuse, all against women, but here are also positive messages about the importance of women's relationships with other women, the power of the sisterly bond, and the human capacity to overcome oppression.

  • Families can talk about the abuse scenes. What feelings did they bring up in you? How did Celie's relationship with Sophia help her survive? How can family members help one another survive and heal from traumatic experiences?
  • Talk about film adaptations of novels. What makes these kinds of adaptations successful? What are the pitfalls? Do you think this was a successful adapation?
  • Talk about how times have changed since the era in which this story was set. Has anything remained the same?

The good stuff
  • message true4

    Messages: There are many messages in this Alice Walker adaptation, from the way women and African Americans were treated in the first half of the 20th century to the importance of keeping your dignity under the most difficult circumstances. Racism, sexism, marriage, sex, parenting, it's all explored in this multi-decade story. The movie has an underlying feminist theme about the importance of strong, unconditional relationships between women.

  • rolemodels true2

    Role models: The female characters are resilient in their ability to survive and maintain their dignity under oppressive circumstances. On the other hand, given that this movie is set in the first decades of the 20th century, there are many racist and sexist characters who treat women and African Americans like second-class citizens

What to watch for
  • violence false4

    Violence: The story is full of verbal, physical, emotional, and sexual abuse. From the very first scene, when a 14-year-old girl painfully gives birth to a baby fathered by her own father, the abuse is near-constant in the young girl's life. In one of the movie's most emotional scenes, two sisters are painfully separated by an abusive man. The sex is usually disturbing and non-consensual. A barroom brawl leads to many characters punching each other and breaking furniture. One character almost slits another's throat with a straight razor, but is stopped in the nick of time.

  • sex false3

    Sex: Although there is no graphic sex, there are many references to sexual relationships, including incestuous rape, adultery, and non-consensual marital relations. One early sex scene focuses on close-ups of faces and a shaking headboard. Another conversation about sex contrasts a wife's miserable "grin and bear it" experience with a mistress' pleasurable one with the same man. Two female characters laugh, kiss, and caress each other, and the scene ends with the implication that they go on to make love, but it is not shown.

  • language false2

    Language: Strong language is infrequent, but there is an occasional "s--t," "damn," "hell," and "ass," as well as the exclamation of "Jesus!"

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Adults drink to excess and socially in several scenes in homes (usually at meals) and at nightclubs. Two male characters are shown drunk in a few scenes, and a few of the men smoke cigarettes and cigars.