The Great Debaters Synopsis
The story of professor Melvin B. Tolson who formed a debate team at an African American college in the 1930s.
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Movie Reviews

Critic Ratings


Chicago Sun-Times

By Roger Ebert
This is a film that is affirming and inspiring and re-creates the stories of a remarkable team and its coach.
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Philadelphia Inquirer

By Carrie Rickey
A triumph. Unapologetically old-school, in both the literal and metaphorical meanings of the term, Debaters overlays the story of social...
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By James Berardinelli
Ultimately an uplifting movie because it is about triumph.
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Boston Globe

By Wesley Morris
For a film about the power of speech, it's the quiet moments of rapture that say everything.
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San Francisco Chronicle

By Walter Addiego
An edifying and forthright drama that aims to create a lump in the throat, and succeeds.
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New York Daily News

By Jack Mathews
The three young actors are good, but the movie is held together from beginning to end by another riveting performance from Washington. Few...
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Entertainment Weekly

By Owen Gleiberman
The Great Debaters is like one of those sentimentally revved youth-sports-team crowd-pleasers. This time, though, the sport is debating,...
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Wall Street Journal

By Joe Morgenstern
Mr. Washington is splendid, as always. So is Forest Whitaker as James Farmer, Sr.
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The Hollywood Reporter

By Kirk Honeycutt
An earnest drama about the search for self-esteem and sense of responsibility among young black people that successfully relies on its fine...
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USA Today

By Claudia Puig
An enjoyable, rousing film, despite its formulaic quality.
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The best way to wrap up a great year of 2007 movies

By MovieFan0618
The Great Debaters offers many different types of emotions that will surely keep you inclined to watch the film. The emotions I experienced varied from extreme rage to a few heart-warming speeches....


Excellent movie for family. Students learn something about tenacity. Very good family orientation plus historical. Good charactirization for all. Thanks....

Great Movie

By Movie-Guru-Fo-Shooru
I watched this movie with my mom. She took me to see it. She loved it. I loved it. This movie has made me appreciate the opportunities I have now as compared to the struggles that African Americans...

Good But Not Great

By morningcolors
I expected to see the greatest debating ever, but, I'm sad to say, the big debate finale failed to deliver a knockout punch. Not a bad film at all, but several plot holes and sloppy cinematography...


By Sambola34
GREAT is the Definition of this movie. GREAT acting GREAT speeches ! GreAt movie to see !...

The Great Debaters

By mayoung53
Great historical info probably unknown to many americans. Loved the sceneary, the actors and acting. Tough piece of american history - dealth with very well. Might need a tissue to dab your eyes...

Inspiration with Tension

By Tripp Goyt
This movie has Oprah written all over it. It's your typical inspirational movie - something you'd usually see in a sports drama except instead of sports its the debate team and instead of coach you...

The Great Debaters

By seahawkdan
This was an excellent movie! I plan on purchasing the DVD when it comes out. From an African-American history standpoint, it illustrates the struggles we had to go through in the early years of this...

The Great Debaters

By bknight1951
I love movies that are encouraging, uplifting and inspirational - especially when it's a true story. One person can make such an enormous difference in another's life. This is such a story. ...

The Great Debaters

By Fritz4
One of the best movies I have seen in my life. Very moving and touching. A truly historical account of the Jim Crow South....

More Info

Rated PG-13 | For depiction of strong thematic material including violence and disturbing images, and for language and brief sexuality
What Parents Need to Know
Common Sense Media says OK for kids 13+ Inspiring true story confronts racism head-on.
Read the Common Sense Media Review