Watch It

On DVD: Now | On Blu-ray: Now

The Paperboy Review Critics


Dave White Profile

Cinema du Bulging Underpants 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.

  • 67

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Owen Gleiberman

    Much of what happens in The Paperboy is so luridly bizarre you can't quite believe what you're seeing.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    USA Today Claudia Puig

    Gator-filled swamps, an ultra-grungy murderer, racial undertones and a sexually charged atmosphere make up the tense and lurid world of The Paperboy.

    Read Full Review

  • 75

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    The Paperboy is great trash, and as Pauline Kael told us, the movies are so seldom great art that if we can't appreciate great trash, we might as well not go at all.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter Todd McCarthy

    In the spirit of the venture, the entire cast gets down and comes off all the better for it. Both Efron and McConaughey get very messed up physically, and both actors seem stimulated to be playing such flawed characters.

    Read Full Review

  • See all The Paperboy reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

not for kids

Lurid, depraved, messy crime story with lots of sex.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that The Paperboy is a '60s-set thriller from Precious director Lee Daniels about several volatile relationships surrounding a convicted murderer. It's astoundingly violent, with lots of bloody murders and scenes of torture and blood. Nudity isn't prevalent (though viewers do see both naked tops and bottoms), but sex is: One main female character has sex with three other characters, and one scene is very violent (it's not clear whether she's experiencing pleasure, pain, or both). Language is likewise strong, with pointed uses of "f--k," "s--t," and the "N" word, as well as tons of sexual innuendo. There's also heavy drinking. There are no role models here, and not much to be learned. Teens (and younger) may be interested thanks to star Zac Efron (who joins Nicole Kidman and Matthew McConaughey), but this one is best saved for adults.

  • Families can talk about The Paperboy's violence. Why is it so extreme? Do the filmmakers want to shock you? Is it necessary for the story?
  • Is the sex in this movie based more on power or on partnership? Parents, talk to your teens about your own values regarding sex and relationships.
  • How does this movie deal with issues of racism in America in the 1960s? Is it insightful or upsetting?
  • Are there any role models in this movie? Who's the most admirable character, and why?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: A group of characters fails to work together well: Lying, cheating, and murder are the results. Mostly these characters learn what not to do, and they pay the price for it.

  • rolemodels true0

    Role models: No one very admirable. One character is a journalist concerned with telling the truth, but he loses out to a less honest one; this character eventually exhibits some fairly low behavior. Other characters give in to their various sexual obsessions, causing people to get hurt.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Several brutal murders, usually committed by stabbing or slicing with knives. Main characters die. A woman is treated violently and murdered (off screen). One dead body is shown with its entrails hanging out. A main character is shown hog-tied and naked, victimized in some unknown way; he's beaten and bloody with a huge puddle of blood on the floor. Dead animals (mainly alligators) are shown, their guts sliced out. There's a scene of violent sex, and it's unclear whether the woman is experiencing pleasure or pain (perhaps both).

  • sex false5

    Sex: During the pain/pleasure sex scene, the woman is mostly clothed, but the man's thrusting bottom is shown (a shirt-tail hangs partly over it). The woman also has sex with two other characters, one off screen and the other only briefly shown, with no nudity. There's a bizarre sexual scene in which a woman visits a man in prison, and they both reach orgasm merely by looking at each other. Zac Efron is often shown naked except for his "tighty whitie" underwear. Matthew McConaughey is shown partly naked (mostly his bottom). Strong innuendo throughout, and other images of sex (in a car) and brief toplessness (a teen girl).

  • language false4

    Language: Strong, constant language is probably about half sexual innuendo. Words include "f--k" and "motherf---er," "s--t," "c--k," "bitch," "ass," "vagina," the "N" word, "blow job," "piss," "goddamn," and "fag."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Main characters smoke cigarettes throughout and are seen drinking in bars. In some scenes, characters get somewhat drunk. In one particular scene, a main character -- following a violent attack that leaves his face disfigured -- locks himself inside for a long, destructive drinking binge. He's shown staggering drunk, bottles everywhere, and a horrible smell is described.