Box art for I Am Sam

I Am Sam


Sam Dawson has the mental capacity of a 7-year-old and works at a Starbucks. He has a daughter with a homeless woman; she abandons them as soon as they leave the hospital.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 14
4 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Positive role models
3 out of 5
1 out of 5
1 out of 5

Moving but unrealistic film has mature themes, profanity.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that I Am Sam portrays a mentally challenged man and his impassioned efforts to parent and retain custody of his precocious young daughter. There are several heartwrenching scenes during which Sam and Lucy are forcibly taken from one another. Other characters (two of whom are actually developmentally disabled) give insightful performances that may enlighten older kids and teens about people with special needs. A female character swears occasionally: one use of "f--k," along with numerous instances of "goddammit," "hell," and other mild epithets. Starbucks is prominently featured as Sam's workplace, and many other products and retailers are identified.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about what Sam should do to give Lucy everything she needs. What problems are they likely to have as she gets older?
  • What did Rita learn from Sam, and why was it only Sam who could teach it to her?
  • A number of the people in the movie struggle with parenting issues -- there has never been a court proceeding in history that permitted such discussion of the family lives of all the participants and witnesses. How do you see those struggles in the families around you?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 26
    see all I Am Sam reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: Plays out in such a conventional manner that it feels like a TV movie of the week from the '70s.

- Bill Muller, Arizona Republic, Monday, March 4, 2002

Fresh: The movie's magic is that we feel more rewarded than manipulated.

- Bruce Westbrook, Houston Chronicle, Friday, January 25, 2002

Rotten: As maudlin, mawkish and shameless a heartwringer as ever contrived.

- Carrie Rickey, Philadelphia Inquirer, Thursday, January 24, 2002

Audience Reviews

0 star

Check it out. Dustin Hoffman, 'Rain Man,' look retarded, act retarded, not retarded. Counted toothpicks, cheated cards. Autistic, sho'. Not retarded. You know Tom Hanks, 'Forrest Gump.' Slow, yes. Retarded, maybe. Braces on his legs. But he charmed the pants off Nixon and won a ping-pong competition. That ain't retarded. He was a god damn war hero, do you know any retarded war hero's?

- fb7018436, Wednesday, April 11, 2012

2 stars

I Am Sam presents great actings of the cast and bring a cute, confused and nice story. But the strong sentimentalism, don't save the film. Rotten.

- fb100002359227440, Saturday, January 28, 2012

3 stars

I Am Sam is a wonderful drama film. Director Jessie Nelson directs this story about a mentally disabled adult named Sam. Sam has the mental capacity of a child and he has a daughter named Lucy. Unfortunately, Lucy is growing in intellectual capacity, and it's raising important questions. Sam Dawson is brilliantly played by Sean Penn and there is a great cast starring opposite him. The film is sad and is a very good film with a great story. The acting is brilliant, and this is a memorable drama film. Sean Penn is great here, and he has good on-screen chemistry with actress Dakota Fanning. The film at times is uneven, but that doesn't make I Am San any less enjoyable. The film has heart, and like I said the stand out aspect of the film is Sean Penn's performance. This is a well made film, and director Jessie Nelson has made a great film and is entertaining from start to finish. Penn makes this film work very well, and he delivers one of his best performances. I Am Sam is an enjoyable film that touching, sad, funny and heartwarming. As far as drama films are concerned, I Am Sam is great little film that is impossible not to like. The cast make this film better, and they really elevate the story and film a bit more. Despite its flaws, I Am Sam is worth watching and once you do, you're sure to enjoy it. A very good film from start to finish, and with a cast like this, it is a winner.

- TheDudeLebowski65, Sunday, December 11, 2011