Reviews provided by RottenTomatoes
Selma is an important history lesson that never feels like a lecture. Once school is back in session, every junior high school class in America should take a field trip to see this movie.
This is a film about work: the work at hand, the work it takes to do the work, and, for an audience in 2015, the question of whether the work worked.
New York Post:
Hollywood's definitive depiction of the 1960s American civil rights movement - as well as perhaps the most timely movie you'll see this year.
New York Observer:
There's a powerfully nuanced and award-worthy performance by David Oyelowo as Martin Luther King.
History becomes breathtaking drama in "Selma"; there's an urgent realism in the storytelling, as if we're seeing this just in time. And indeed we are ...
If not quite in quality then certainly in import and impact, this is the film of the year - of 1965 and perhaps of 2014.
Ava DuVernay's politically astute, psychologically acute MLK bio-pic makes the Civil Rights movement seem like only yesterday.
As cinema, Selma is commendable; as cultural barometer, it's beyond reproach.
A somber and distressingly relevant tribute to King and his fellow compatriots in the civil-rights movement of the 1960s.
More often than not ... "Selma" focuses on the one thing we don't expect in a movie about Martin Luther King Jr. - his doubts - and Oyelowo comes through with a deeply felt and quite brilliant performance.
This is lucid in its political analysis and sobering in its depictions of racially motivated violence, though it sometimes comes off as stolid.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram/DFW.com:
It may be coincidence that Selma reverberates with a particular timeliness...Still, it's thanks to director DuVernay and first-time features writer Paul Webb that the film has more than the luck of timing on its side.
DuVernay has done a great service with Selma. Not only has she made one of the most powerful films of the year, she's given us a necessary reminder of what King did for this country...and how much is left to be done.
Intelligently written, vividly shot, tightly edited, sharply acted, the film represents a rare example of craftsmanship working to produce a deeply moving piece of history.
Los Angeles Times:
"Selma" is a necessary film, even an essential one, with more than its share of memorable performances and vivid, compelling sequences.
Like Dr. King did, the film captures your mind and your heart as it entertains, the way great movies often do.
An insightful look into the making of a historic moment; Oyelowo raises the roof as MLK.
This is real American history being made, you think - and regular Americans making it. But then, those are the Americans who always do.
DuVernay's most remarkable accomplishment may be that with such passion-inspiring material, she has made such a measured, resolute and levelheaded film.
New York Daily News:
This is an intellectual approach to an emotional issue - and it delivers, powerfully and beautifully.
New York Times:
I have rarely seen a historical film that felt so populous and full of life, so alert to the tendrils of narrative that spread beyond the frame.
There's a stirring freshness to the cinema of "Selma," and it's not just because of Bradford Young's rich, moody photography.
This is what Selma dares to do so well: show us the small, private moments in King's life, the intimacies, the humanity.
The movie is riveting. It reminds us not only of how far we have come as a society but how far we have yet to go.
DuVernay's look at Martin Luther King's 1965 voting-rights march against racial injustice stings with relevance to the here and now. Oyelowo's stirring, soulful performance as King deserves superlatives.
If "Selma" is limited by the kind of film it needed to be and by what its studio proprietors wanted to sell, it's still the best and most intimate fictional portrayal of the civil rights movement, by a long shot.
By focusing on the power of cannily staged collective action to turn the tide of public opinion, Selma achieves a contemporary relevance that few historical dramas can ...
Minneapolis Star Tribune:
What Daniel Day-Lewis did for Lincoln, Oyelowo does for King, mimicking his behavior and speech uncannily. He is both completely believable and someone we've never encountered before.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch:
In an era of comic-book movies, "Selma" is an impressive reminder of the real-life struggle for human dignity.
A stately, sober film, at times uplifting and at others agonizing.
Globe and Mail:
An uneven yet generally skillful effort that has probably drawn more praise and criticism than it warrants.
We see history as it unfolds, not as it has been encased in amber, in a movie that needs to be seen in these anxious days of renewed racial and cultural unrest.
"Selma" is one of the best American films of the year - and indeed perhaps the best - precisely because it does not simply show what Dr. King did for America in his day; it also wonders explicitly what we have left undone for America in ours.
Meticulously researched and elegantly scripted by debuting screenwriter Paul Webb, Selma toggles between moments big and small, though everything feels necessary.
As a film, Selma is solid if unspectacular. As a dramatic portrayal of recent U.S. history, however, Selma burns with a fierce intensity.
With Selma, DuVernay has pulled off a tricky feat, a movie based on historical events that never feels dull, worthy, or lifeless; it hangs together as a story and not just part of a lesson plan.
"Selma" invites viewers to heed its story, meditate on its implications and allow those images once again to change our hearts and minds.
Wall Street Journal:
At its best, Ava DuVernay's biographical film honors Dr. King's legacy by dramatizing the racist brutality that spurred him and his colleagues to action.