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The Silence of the Lambs 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

    USA Today Susan Wloszczyna

    A movie with this kind of haunting power comes along only once every decade or so. [20 February 1991, Life, p.11D]

  • 50

    out of 100

    Chicago Tribune Gene Siskel

    Billed as one of the most frightening, depraved films ever made. Would that it were so. Instead, this is a case of much ado about nothing. [15 February 1991, Friday, p.C]

  • 88

    out of 100

    ReelViews James Berardinelli

    Chilling and creepy, and there's no denying that the most celebrated aspect of the film -- the Clarice/Hannibal connection -- could not have been accomplished with greater skill.

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  • 88

    out of 100

    Chicago Sun-Times Roger Ebert

    It has been a good long while since I have felt the presence of Evil so manifestly demonstrated as in the first appearance of Anthony Hopkins in The Silence of the Lambs.

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  • See all The Silence of the Lambs reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

Iffy for 16+

Thriller that made the serial killer a superstar.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this Best Picture Oscar winner got condemned by both sides. Family-values advocates like Michael Medved called it too gruesome and disgusting (albeit well made) to deserve the Academy Award. Gay-rights activists said it stereotyped transgendered people as freakish monsters. Still, kids may be curious. The movie concerns extreme psychopaths and the graphic atrocities they commit, including references to twisted sexual urges and perversities. Much of the worst violence is offscreen, in autopsy photos or just discussed -- but that's close enough, and we witness some representative brutality and horror near the climax. The murderous psychologist-serial killer Hannibal Lecter is something of a "gentleman" killer, contrasted with the grotesque "Buffalo Bill," who is shown at one point fully nude. There is an oppressive atmosphere of menace, especially towards women.

  • Families can talk about the heroine Clarise Starling, whose plight is actually the core of the film's drama and humanity (Hannibal Lecter just steals every scene and subplot he's in). She's an ambitious but vulnerable orphan, a young woman trying to persevere in an often- grisly career fighting the worst kind of crime, in an environment dominated by men -- even the "normal" ones are pretty creepy. Why do you think Clarice fascinates Lecter so much? Does the movie glamorize violence and glorify a villain?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: While it likely wasn't the filmmaker's goal, this movie made serial killers look magnetic, brilliant, and like resourceful masterminds, thanks to the compelling Hannibal Lecter character. Meanwhile the rather less suave "Buffalo Bill" has been criticized for perpetuating the stereotype of transvestites and transsexuals as loathsome misfit maniacs. The overshadowed heroine, Clarice Starling, is a youngish female crimefighter of humble origins, with an idealistic streak to save innocent lives, who must approach Lecter's world of evil and madness without being engulfed by it. Starling succeeds in this telling (though in one book sequel she ultimately succumbed). Most characters of color are domestics, with the exception of Clarice's rather underwritten best friend, her female roommate.

What to watch for
  • violence false5

    Violence: Usually the worst stuff is offscreen -- but it's just barely offscreen. A woman is beaten unconscious, then kept prisoner in a pit. Characters are shot at close range, two policemen are savagely assaulted, one bitten in the face. A blood-drenched Hannibal Lecter seen exultant after the act of murder. Mutilated corpses and human skins are shown.

  • sex false5

    Sex: A full-frontal nude scene (sort of) for the gender-confused psycho killer Buffalo Bill. A brief (hardly titillating) look at one of his victims, nude and bloated on an autopsy table. A madman masturbates and throws his bodily fluids at Clarice Starling (it happens quickly and goes without much dialogue explanation). Brief references to kinky sex and sexual acts, sometimes in a criminal-investigative context, sometimes in terms of men hitting on the Jodie Foster's character.

  • language false3

    Language: Curse words, usually from frothing lunatics or victims under duress. Other characters (like Hannibal or Clarice) swear only when quoting lines.

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not an issue

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false3

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some social drinking.