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Ordinary People Review

Other Critics provided by

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

  • 5.0

    out of 100

    Universal acclaim
    based on a weighted average of all
    critic review scores.

  • 100

    out of 100

    Time Richard Schickel

    An austere and delicate examination of the ways in which a likable family falters under pressure and struggles, with ambiguous results, to renew itself. This is not very show-bizzy stuff, but for once, a movie star has used his power to create not light entertainment or a trendy political statement, but a work that addresses itself quietly and intelligently to issues everyone who attempts to raise children must face.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    Each character in this movie is given the dramatic opportunity to look inside himself, to question his own motives as well as the motives of others, and to try to improve his own ways of dealing with a troubled situation. Two of the characters do learn how to adjust; the third doesn't. It's not often we get characters who face those kinds of challenges on the screen, nor directors who seek them out. Ordinary People is an intelligent, perceptive, and deeply moving film.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    Variety Todd McCarthy

    A powerfully intimate domestic drama, Ordinary People represents the height of craftsmanship across the board.

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  • 100

    out of 100

    The New York Times Vincent Canby

    A moving, intelligent and funny film about disasters that are commonplace to everyone except the people who experience them. Not since Robert Benton's "Kramer vs. Kramer" has there been a movie that so effectively catches the look, sound and temper of a particular kind of American existence.

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  • 75

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    Whatever social statement Ordinary People was making about its time has evaporated during the intervening years, leaving behind an open, honest drama lacking the emotional punch that would make it unforgettable today. Ordinary People should be devastating, but it's not. By any standards, it's still a good movie, but three decades have stripped away any pretense of greatness. [21 Feb 1999]

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  • 90

    out of 100

    Los Angeles Times

    An outstanding start to the fall season, reassuring in its quest for excellence and its deep concern for the family. It's a fine and touching piece of work for any season; in 1980, it is rain after drought. [21 Sept 1980, T1]

  • 90

    out of 100


    If the film has a problem, it's a kind of excess of goodness at the expense of imaginative excitement. The real hero is the psychiatrist, played with a riffing Jewish beat by Hirsch as a counterpoint to the tight Wasp rhythms of Conrad's family. There's a feeling of therapy more than revelation, but perhaps for our multifariously sick society therapy has become revelation. This seems to have been a major point in Guest's novel, and Redford has dramatized it with integrity, honor and compassion. [22 Sept 1980, p.76]

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For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 14+

Story of emotional honesty is best for teens and up.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this drama deals with mature themes like death, suicide, and dysfunctional family relationships. Many of the scenes are intense and sad. It contains some arguing, a fist fight (leading to an injury), some strong language ("s--t," "f--k"), and some sexual references. Drinking and cigarette smoking is also visible.

  • Families can talk about whether they know of someone who has attempted suicide, or who has been successful. Is this movie a realistic portrayal of the experiences around suicide? Do you know where to go for help if you or someone you know is considering suicide?
  • Does this movie stand the test of time? What qualities can age a movie quickly, or what can give it longevity?

The good stuff
  • message true2

    Messages: The series tackles some strong issues, including the death of a loved one, survivor's guilt, suicide, dysfunctional family relationships, and other mature themes. The importance of grieving, sharing feelings, and healing is also highlighted.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: The entire family is struggling to deal with Bucky's death, but do so differently (and often destructively).

What to watch for
  • violence false3

    Violence: Conrad's scars from his attempted suicide are visible; another character kills herself (but the event is not visible). Tense arguments emerge between Conrad and his parents. A fight leaves one cast member with a bloody nose. The moment Bucky is lost at sea is shown several times.

  • sex false2

    Sex: Some references to sexual acts.

  • language false4

    Language: Contains curses like "s--t" and "f--k".

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: A party features drinking and drunken behavior. Whiskey consumption is visible. Dr. Berger smokes cigarettes.