Box art for The Book of Eli

The Book of Eli

action & adventure, drama, westerns

A lone warrior (Denzel Washington) wanders the post-apocalyptic desert that was once America, battling lawlessness to realize his hope of a better future.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 17
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
2 out of 5
4 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
3 out of 5
4 out of 5
2 out of 5

Future-set action epic is heavy on comic book violence.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Book of Eli is very violent -- there's lots of weapon use, body parts getting chopped off, fighting, and dead bodies, as well as suggested rape (sounds of ripping clothes and women's screams) -- and takes place in a bleak future. But it has a "comic book" tone that keeps it from being a total downer, and it actually feels more like a Western than a sci-fi epic, with a loner hero (Denzel Washington) who wanders into a lawless town and tangles with the kingpin (Gary Oldman). The movie's subtext tackles religion: The bad guy wants to use the world's last remaining Bible to control and dominate the "weak and desperate," while the hero wants to deliver the book to a safe place. Expect some sexuality (though no nudity), strong language (including "f--k"), and -- worth mentioning again -- lots of action violence.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about the movie's violence. How does the movie's tone affect the impact of the action/fight scenes? Does it feel realistic?
  • What do movies set in post-apocalyptic futures (Children of Men, I Am Legend, The Road, etc.) have to say about the way we, as humans, feel at the moment?
  • What are the movie's messages about religion? Is it trying to make a specific statement about the subject?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 29
    see all The Book of Eli reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: I'm not going to give it away, but there's a final plot twist in this movie that is beyond absurd.

- A.O. Scott, At the Movies, Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Rotten: Washington is always watchable and will hold your gaze during a highly ambitious but ultimately wonky attempt to inject spiritual depth into the blockbuster flock.

- Ben McEachen, Sunday Times (Australia), Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: Poetic psalms uttered amid stylized violence are disconcerting. Religion and bloodshed, though linked through much of history, make queasy entertainment partners.

- Claudia Puig, USA Today, Thursday, January 14, 2010

Audience Reviews

2 stars

I fully expected this to be terrible, but three-quarters of the way through, to my surprise, this post-apocalyptic twist on a basic western was still watchable... then, the awful ending was tacked on. SPOILER FOLLOWS This is a dystopic film. Contrary to what everyone marketing big-studio films in America seems to believe, all movies need not have a happy ending. Dystopias in particular could be forgiven if they're less than cheery: it's kind of the point. So, 86 minutes in, Gary Oldman shoots Denzel and takes the titular book. Note to director/writer: THIS IS WHERE THE STORY ENDS. The next half-hour was completely redundant. Oh, Mila Kunis can be the walker now... until she finds Denzel, not dead. Wait, what? And, second twist, the book (The Bible, seeing that I'm spoiling it anyway), is in braille, because Denzel - like Gary Oldman's wife - is blind. Not to worry: Denzel memorized it! And once he and Mila Kunis reach Alcatraz, where some form of intellignetsia has holed up and begun reconstructing a library (for good, not for evil like Gary Oldman), he just rhymes it off, and the librarian copies it all out. Puh-lease. What a joke. When Gary Oldman took the book at the 86-minute mark, I thought: great, crisp ending, and maybe a cheesy sequel/trilogy will follow, la Matrix; in the final 30 minutes, however, they covered all the ground a sequel might, and delivered a resolution to a problem the viewer never knew the plot had (Denzel's blindness). On the whole, this resolution comes not from good plotting, but through a cheap trick. I guess he did have very good hearing and sense of smell, and I can say "sure, heightened because he's blind," leaving aside whether that theory has any truth to it. But to create and resolve a problem this way - after we've left the main character for dead, keep in mind - is disastrous. Plus, Denzel's just not badass enough to play this character. Give me Sam Jackson! Despite this, and the train wreck of an ending, it's a good enough movie. If you turn it off when Oldman's truck drives away with the book inside, you might even enjoy it. Sigh. Such a wasted opportunity.

- danperry17, Monday, January 9, 2012

0 star

Utterly ridicilous and visually over-stylized dystopian vision of post-apocalyptic world. It's such a shame to see same talented directors who brought us effective Dead Presidents and brilliant Jack the Ripper-film From Hell, now doing shit like this. There are absolutely no traces of their previous talents here. You can forget logic, acting or anykind of sense here. Gary Oldman is once again playing the bad guy here, and boy does his acting suck. It is sad to see his work being so over-praised among audiences and critics. He is just chewing every scene he is in here. Denzel Washington brings absolutely no depth of anykind here and is acting like a zombie most of the time. What makes The Book of Eli such an ridicilous and even sad experience to sit through is the fact that it is trying to sell us actually religion in the end. What the fuck were everyone thinking when they made this one. Money, i guess?

- emilkakko, Tuesday, August 30, 2011

5 stars

In 2010, two of my top 20 movies of all time came out. The first was "The Wolfman". "The Book of Eli" was the 2nd. Oscar worthy performances, great script, awesome fight scenes, good message. I honestly believe this was one of the truly great movies of the decade. There was one thing I really didn't like about the movie. I felt that there was way too much swearing. It really didn't think it matched the tone of the movie, and it would have been better without the constant use of f-bombs and s-bombs. However, if you can ignore the swearing, this is a really good film. The strength has got to be the acting. Gary Oldman as the ruthless Carnegie is probably the best villain performance I have seen since Heath Ledger as The Joker. Denzel Washington was amazing too, pulling off a energetic and realistic role as Eli, an iPod listening, shotgun weilding, King James Bible protecting wanderer, trying to bring the world's last King James Bible to it's rightful place. Mila Kunis did a very solid, while not spectacular performance as Solara, a servant to Carnegie who helps Eli on his quest to protect the world's last King James Bible. I also thought that Ray Stevenson pulled of a surprisingly good job as Redridge, one of Carnegie's henchmen with a soft spot for Solara. The script was really good too. Seriously, this is one of the 10 best scripts I've ever heard. There is one line by Eli in particular that I really liked. That's not to say that the great majority of Eli's lines aren't spectacular. They absolutley are. The fight scenes were downright amazing. I felt like I was watching a fight scene from "3:10 to Yuma" only better and with modern weapons. I particularly liked Eli's first confrontation with Carnegie. Over all, I actually truly believe this was better than a lot of movies that made the oscars. Truly superior and underrated film. Truly.

- riverdale237, Tuesday, August 16, 2011