Box art for Won't Back Down

Won't Back Down


OscarĀ® Nominees Maggie Gyllenhaal (2009, Supporting Actress, "Crazy Heart") and Viola Davis (2011, Actress, "The Help") lead a stellar cast in this empowering drama inspired by actual events.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
  • Audience Score

common sense

ON for kids age 9
1 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
3 out of 5
2 out of 5
Positive messages
3 out of 5
Positive role models
4 out of 5
2 out of 5
0 out of 5

Inspiring tale of a mom's quest to better her kid's school.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that Won't Back Down, which is based on actual events, follows a mother's journey to turn her daughter's failing elementary school around. There's some insulting language ("idiot," "retard," as well as "ass") and bullying -- a teacher does nothing as a student rips another student's backpack, and the same teacher purposely keeps a kid from leaving class to use the bathroom. Jamie, the protagonist mom, wears tight clothes and flirts with pretty much everyone -- culminating in a romantic relationship with a teacher at her child's school. Adults drink at a bar and restaurant, but there's no drunkenness. Parents and kids will be reminded of the difference that just one or two people can make in a community.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about whether movies based on true stories should follow them closely, or if it's OK for the films to change some facts in the interest of the storyline. Does this movie make you want to learn more about what really happened?
  • Some critics have said Won't Back Down is too one-sided when it comes to the teachers' union. Do you think the movie is meant as a political commentary or just a story about a parent and teacher's triumph?
  • Although this is a movie about education, the emphasis is less on teacher-student relationships and more on parent-teacher relationships. How is Jamie an unlikely crusader for education? Do you think the fact she's not so educated herself makes her mission even more sympathetic?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

  • Tomatometer®

    reviews counted: 17
    see all Won't Back Down reviews
  • Audience


Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: However you take its politics, the film upholds a dreary tradition of simplifying and sentimentalizing matters of serious social concern, and dumbing down issues that call for clarity and creative thinking.

- A.O. Scott, New York Times, Thursday, September 27, 2012

Rotten: So didactic that viewers are likely to feel less uplifted than lectured.

- Ann Hornaday, Washington Post, Friday, September 28, 2012

Rotten: Won't Back Down doesn't wholly make the grade.

- Bruce Demara, Toronto Star, Friday, September 28, 2012

Audience Reviews

3 stars

A movie about Pittsburgh public schools that criticizes unions and their affect on children's education? I didn't think Hollywood was allowed to make movies like this? A bit refreshing in that regard, but otherwise not really worth seeing. Both Maggie Gyllenhaal and Viola Davis were great, but the storyline was full of clichs and the director simplified a very difficult topic into black and white- where more grey was needed.

- filmscum, Tuesday, October 2, 2012

3 stars

Hope is a dangerous thing. Who knows that line? While it may have been used in an entirely different setting in 1994's The Shawshank Redemption, that classic film line applies perfectly in 20th Century Fox's new movie that's at least one part Stand and Deliver. The story presented in this new work focuses on two single mothers--played by Viola Davis and Maggie Gyllenhaal--who are fed up with the way in which the public school system in their city is handling their kids...or rather not handling them. Fittingly, the movie is set against the backdrop of one of America's most famed cities, Pittsburgh. As much as people may dislike Pittsburgh's sports teams, Jamie's (Maggie Gyllenhaal) allegiance to the Steelers, Penguins, and Pirates is a statement in itself. It all combines to make for a movie that while it may not be an Oscar contender, is a movie that will hopefully have other parents and teachers across the country taking notice and reacting. The primary story of Won't Back Down is much more real than people might want to believe. Despite what other critic may believe, Won't Back Down is not an attack on unions. Rather, it's an unbiased work that does take into account both the side of the teachers and parents, and that of the unions. What so many audiences fail to understand with this work is that it attempts not to attack unions but to show that unions and many teachers within unions have lost sight of what's really important. That's not to say that all teachers within unions are like this. Do not take that wrongly. But many teachers really have lost sight of what's important. So many have become just as jaded and focused more on seniority and tenure than on the kids because the system has crushed their hopes. There's that word again. Hope. Teachers have lost hope and given up, leading to the situation presented in this story. It may come across as totally unnoticeable to some, but having the story set against the backdrop of Pittsburgh makes it that much more hard hitting. Pittsburgh was built on the backs of hard working Americans. But then something changed, destroying businesses and jobs in the city. When that happened, the trickle down effect from that was pretty clear. The state of that one school was a reflection of what had happened to the city. What's more, as much as people may want to deny it, Adams Elementary could be any school in the country. So many cities have been decimated for economic reasons. And the effect of that has trickled down to those cities' schools. Something else that viewers should take into account in watching Won't Back Down is that it is not just some dream of Ron Clark. However, it does show that what he created for his Ron Clark Academy can work in the public school system. But to effect that change, parents and teachers have to take a stand for a change. Otherwise they, along with their children and entire school systems will have no hope.

- sayblack, Sunday, September 30, 2012

3 stars

Great storyline based on true occurrences. Great acting and quite inspiring. In theatres Fri. 9/28.

- fb562609825, Thursday, September 27, 2012