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Waiting for "Superman" Review Critics


Dave White Profile

A horror movie about public education. Read full 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 Scott Bowles

    It's an apt title. As divisive as the issue has become, it's hard to deny the power of Guggenheim's lingering shots on these children, waiting on a superhero who isn't going to come.

    Read Full Review

  • 100

    out of 100

    Wall Street Journal Joe Morgenstern

    This is a time when urgent issues are often explored in polemic documentaries, as well as a fateful moment when the future of public education is being debated with unprecedented intensity. Waiting for 'Superman' makes an invaluable addition to the debate.

    Read Full Review

  • 80

    out of 100

    The Hollywood Reporter John DeFore

    A moving and effective film whose subject may lack the hot-button boxoffice appeal of the director's "An Inconvenient Truth" but is at least a crisis practically everyone agrees actually exists.

    Read Full Review

  • 91

    out of 100

    Entertainment Weekly Lisa Schwarzbaum

    Powerful, passionate, and potentially revolution-inducing documentary.

    Read Full Review

  • See all Waiting for "Superman" reviews at

For Families provided by Common Sense Media

OK for kids 12+

Thought-provoking docu uncovers educational challenges.

What Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while younger kids may not understand the complex problems presented in this documentary about the state of American schools, it's a riveting watch for older tweens and up, especially those who may not be aware of what's happening in schools besides theirs. It's an enlightening -- albeit one-sided -- look at education in this country. Depending on what's happening at tweens' and teens' own schools, this film (which is from the director of An Inconvenient Truth) may spur them, and you, to action.

  • Families can talk about the film's premise that failing schools lead to failing neighborhoods. Do you agree? Why?
  • Does this documentary approach its subject matter objectively, or does it have an opinion? Is it OK for a documentary to take a specific stance on the topic it's covering?
  • What resources do educators need to do their jobs more effectively?

The good stuff
  • message true0

    Messages: The movie posits that many public schools, in their current state, fail the students they're supposed to educate and that substandard teachers and -- to a larger extent -- the unions that represent them, are to blame. It's a premise that has some grounding in truth, but it may not be a nuanced, multi-dimensional view; some contend that it doesn't tell the entire story. Also, a streak of pessimism runs through the film: If parents don't get picked in lotteries run by good schools, they seem stuck. That may be reality, but it's unclear how it can be made better -- aside from re-examining teacher union contracts, that is. And certainly, there are many other "villains" in the system.

  • rolemodels true1

    Role models: The film clearly shows the commitment of education reformers who want better for their children. It also applauds the fortitude of parents/caregivers who are intent on helping their kids get a better education, even if they have to make sacrifices. The children are impressive, too; Wise beyond their years, they show amazing resiliency considering the obstructions they run into at what seems like every step of the way. It's upsetting to know what may happen if they don't get into a school that will nurture their considerable abilities.

What to watch for
  • violence false0

    Violence: Blighted neighborhoods are shown, hinting at the challenges there.

  • sex false0

    Sex: Not applicable

  • language false0

    Language: A subject uses the word "crap" in relation to the school system she manages. Also "ass."

  • consumerism false0

    Consumerism: Not applicable

  • drugsalcoholtobacco false0

    Drinking, drugs and smoking: Some background smoking.