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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 13.49%
Average: 2.79%
Pretty Bad: 1.86%
Total Crap: 12.56%

8 reviews, 167 user ratings

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Bowling for Columbine
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by Alexandre Paquin

"Of Guns and People: 'Bowling for Columbine' (2002)."
4 stars

Michael Moore may have achieved something unique in recent American history: to become an outspoken denouncer of his countrymen's excesses without being labeled a "pinko" -- or something worse -- in the process. In "Bowling for Columbine," Moore provides the audience with a deconstruction of the American Dream through the nation's gun culture, with the shooting at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, in April 1999, as the starting point.

While one may dislike Michael Moore for his convictions, it is difficult to deny that his arguments are valid. Furthermore, his books Downsize This! and the recent Stupid White Men are unpretentious and heartfelt, the latter, however, less so than the former. His political positions are carefully balanced by his humour. And unlike Noam Chomsky or Naomi Klein (whose No Logo book design has ironically become one), Moore never had a place -- and, one suspects, no interest -- in the traditional American Left. Himself a college dropout, Moore's greatest strength has been to present himself as an average baseball cap-wearing, National Rifle Association card-holding American, not as an academic or college student who pretended to understand the plight of the nation. The average citizen, not only in the United States and not without reason, doubts the sincerity of the academic Left.

As Moore had put it so well in his 1996 book Downsize This!, most of the American Left today is completely out of touch with reality; Moore described college students at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor discussing "globalization", "neoliberalism", and the exploitation of the Third World by American multinationals, while remaining oblivious to the plight of the janitor who has to pick up their cigarette butts. After
they graduate, land that white-collar job they always thought they were entitled to, and move to suburbia, they will perhaps look back at those days with pride, but the janitor will remain a janitor.

Michael Moore, in this context, has become, in many ways, the popular
conscience of the United States, a man to whom the ordinary citizen could
relate, the type of man with whom you could shake hands without getting
a whiff of rehashed ideology.

Moore is most successful when it comes to deconstructing the myth of
the "American Dream." Bowling for Columbine takes potshots
at every group in American society. Lockheed Martin (not unlike Hacker
Industries in Moore's Canadian Bacon) is exposed as a villain for
both manufacturing weapons for the US military and for managing the Michigan
welfare program on which the mother of the six-year-old child who shot
another student at his school near Flint had to rely. The National
Rifle Association, which held a pro-gun rally in Denver immediately after
the shooting at nearby Columbine High School in spite of the opposition
of local citizens, is linked to the Ku Klux Klan in a hilarious cartoon
by the creators of South Park, and its president, retired movie
star Charlton Heston, makes a move which might prove disastrous for his

Numbers of victims of firearms demonstrate how important a discussion
of the gun culture in America had become. According to the documentary's
figures, Canada has less than 200 people killed by firearms each year,
while America has a disproportionate record of 11,000. Although the
ration falls to five to one when taking into account that Canada has one
tenth of the population of the United States, Moore's point is undeniable:
the United States has a firmly entrenched gun culture, unique in the civilized
world, and cultivated by an antiquated Second Amendment and pressure groups
such as the NRA. Moore, travelling to Canada, discovered that Windsor,
Ontario, had only one murder by firearm in recent memory; ironically, that
murder was committed by a man from Detroit. He also discovered --
unbelievably -- that Torontonians were not afraid to leave their doors
unlocked at any time.

Moments of irony abound in the documentary, beginning with Moore testing
the veracity an ad by a bank which offers a new gun to anyone who opens
a new account (he succeeds) and an interview with the brother of Terry
Nichols, of Oklahoma City bombing infamy, who attempts to demonstrate that
he is not a gun nut, only to reveal that he sleeps with a handgun under
his pillow. It is merely the beginning of more larger-than-life circumstances
that make Bowling for Columbine a delight to watch. Moore
has become famous for his blend of wry humour and social comment, and here
it works particularly well.

But Moore realized that he needed more serious material to make his
documentary relevant. The most horrific moment of the documentary
features footage from a Columbine High School security camera (the very
presence of which indicating that something very wrong was going on in
the education system long before high school shootings became widespread)
depicts the raw horror of the event, as does the inevitable shot of the
second airplane crashing into the World Trade Center against Louis Armstrong's
rendition of "What a Wonderful World."

The most important point the documentary expounds is the frenzy created
by the media over personal and national security. Whether it's killer
bees, the Y2K bug, unsafe escalators, dangerous-looking Black men, or September
11, America perceives itself as constantly under threat, and what could
be better to reassure the masses than the comforting presence of a Smith
& Wesson inside your jacket? And to stop school shootings, what
would be more useful than metal detectors? A promotional video for
a metal detector manufacturer explains how the average high school student
could hide as much as a dozen firearms, including a rifle, under his clothes
-- as though he would need that many. Paranoia means good business.

In the land of news-as-entertainment, where ratings are supreme and
where fluff such as Access Hollywood can pass as investigative journalism
among a good part of the population, what else could we expect than shock
"news" shows hosted by former models and "reality shows" like Cops
(whose producer was interviewed by Moore in the film)? The journalistic
community is constantly asked to cover criminal occurrences that it has
become immune to the unfolding tragedy. In Flint, after the murder
of a six-year-old girl by a boy her own age, television reporters were
quick to cover the event, but one reporter seemed more preoccupied by his
hairstyle than by the situation itself. And as Moore noted, none
of them tried to investigate the background of the tragedy. The state
of American news is depressing to anyone trying to learn more from the
news than who shot who and where. As if more evidence of this is
needed, even the Public Broadcasting Service relies on the BBC for international coverage.

There are, nevertheless, a few negative points about Bowling for
, and most are related to Moore himself. While Moore
does not claim to be more than he really is, he certainly enjoys claiming
that he is less than he is, a phenomenon usually encountered among politicians
and a number of celebrities (how can we listen to Jennifer Lopez's "Jenny
from the block" without picking up the irony?). Moore now lives in
Manhattan, drives a New Beetle, and has two bestsellers to his name.
Obviously, the little kid from Flint has gone a long way since Roger
& Me
, his first documentary. And yet, his lifestyle has not
changed; if we base our judgement on what we see of him in his films, he
still goes around Central Park with the same parka, the same blue jeans,
the usual baseball cap, and his characteristically unkempt beard.
Perhaps it is intended as a way to express his disgust at the elite to
which he could now claim to belong, perhaps did he want to remember his
own humble beginning, or perhaps did he see his traditional style as necessary
to get his message across. But there remains some fleeting hypocrisy
about this which even Moore's evident belief in his message cannot entirely

Furthermore, Moore has an increasing tendency to seek personal exposure
more than he should. In Bowling for Columbine, it included
showing up at Kmart headquarters twice (where the Columbine bullets had
been bought) with two survivors of the massacre who would suffer from their
wounds for the remainder of their lives. The second time, Moore had
invited the media. Although he could claim a victory when the company
announced it would discontinue the sales of ammunition, Moore's attitude,
and his use of two victims for the purpose of his documentary, was akin
to the traditional politician's "I really care" trick.

Nevertheless, "Bowling for Columbine" is a compelling documentary on, ultimately, the failure of the "American Dream," and discusses points which are unfortunately too often ignored. It might not be fashionable to criticize the United States after September 11 (thus proving that Americans have learned zilch from that tragedy), but Moore artfully skewers political correctness to create a thought-provoking film. Sadly, only those already agreeing with his views are likely to bother seeing it.

link directly to this review at
originally posted: 12/10/02 15:43:49
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OFFICIAL SELECTION: 2002 Vancouver Film Festival. For more in the 2002 Vancouver Film Festival series, click here.
This film is listed in our political documentary series. For more in the Political Documentary series, click here.

User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell interesting not great gun nuts & red necks beware 4 stars
10/04/13 yorktown sucks 1 stars
2/09/12 David Hollingsworth Bizarre, funny, and chilling 5 stars
10/18/10 advanced simplicity its amazing how people fail to see the importance and meaning of this movie..grow up.. 5 stars
12/30/09 Dane Youssef Perhaps the greatest documentary ever made. Everything about the world and then some. 5 stars
9/26/08 Shaun Wallner Boring!! 1 stars
4/03/08 beau michael moore reminds me of family guy! a good argument and a really well made doco! 4 stars
6/20/07 --- Gun violence result of welfare cuts? Thats a stretch. Loses focus in the 2nd half 3 stars
2/13/07 johnnyfog Good first half, but Moore bends truth, and completely loses focus 4 stars
1/09/07 CJBlalock brilliant masterwork, Charlton Heston unveiled! 5 stars
11/29/06 David Pollastrini Liberal trash 1 stars
7/10/06 chienne The pro-con argument; wonderfully done; US obssession with guns brought to the fore. Bravo 5 stars
3/19/06 MP Bartley Barnstorming entertainment. Funny, tragic, scandalous and shocking. 5 stars
10/20/05 john smith Moore is a fat sack of crap 1 stars
9/19/05 R.W. Welch Moore discovers USA is not perfect. Simplistic but nicely ironic. 4 stars
8/18/05 ES manson gets a quiet sit down interview, the protestors get snippets cut from their speeches 4 stars
6/09/05 Agent Sands One of the most important movies ever made. 5 stars
5/11/05 Katie Malone Moore is the master of documentaries 4 stars
11/11/04 John Aster Habig This documentary is as monumentous as Catcher In The Rye Heston looks like a jerk 5 stars
11/11/04 john a very true commentary on suburban America and its death culture 5 stars
11/02/04 Evan Interesting flick 5 stars
9/22/04 eric Lemus Great!!! Must See!!! 5 stars
9/15/04 Dannyboy Forget "Bowling", you lot wana watch "Gun Traffic",that's if you can get hold of a copy. 4 stars
8/18/04 Nykytaz Hard to decide what to believe, but sure makes you think about it twice. 5 stars
8/09/04 BigBlack This IS a film worthy of seeing multiple times. The animated satire scene is hilarious!! 5 stars
8/05/04 Snickerdoodle Makes you laugh one minute and cry the next and in the end, really makes you think. 5 stars
7/19/04 G no even close to being a documentary 1 stars
7/19/04 Gray "white people are lazy" fuck you fat bigoted SOB traitor 1 stars
6/24/04 sumixam confronting, hard hitting, must see documentary 5 stars
6/24/04 John Aster Habig This documentary is as monumentous as Catcher In The Rye Heston looks like a jerk 5 stars
6/13/04 Daveman I'm against capitalism, but I don't don't see what this film is trying to get at. 2 stars
6/08/04 Evan shockingly true, sadly. 5 stars
5/25/04 William Horrid fantasy purporting to be a documentary. Could be better if not advertised as truth. 1 stars
5/20/04 Proteus Wish conservatives would watch this and try to understand what prompted it - and laugh. 5 stars
4/24/04 Zack Morris Fucking yanks. It's because guns are legal over there. They deserve to die.Still,good movie 5 stars
4/24/04 star one sided on some issues, but halarious in alot of the truths and irony 5 stars
4/20/04 ALI HBOUS Simply a Fantastic piece of work 5 stars
4/06/04 John Aster Habig A great riveting documentary for liberal outsiders 5 stars
3/25/04 kyle huntley it is not what the average person sees its what he wonts us to see. 1 stars
3/11/04 Melissa Blunt and honest....Good perspectives. 5 stars
3/11/04 Ron simon This movie was a great way of showing "realty" and the problems the united states face. 4 stars
3/09/04 bsho76 Thought-prevoking...probably why gun nuts don't like this movie 5 stars
3/08/04 david tomlin Very funny in places, dull for stretches. Rambling, illogical, uninformative. 3 stars
3/06/04 zaw Sad But Truth!!!!! this is the best movie about America!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 5 stars
2/29/04 Joseph Storozhev no holds barred to the point, should be part of school's must see 5 stars
12/30/03 the Grinch Thoughtful Satirementary. BUT: Rockers aren't responsible, but Cops and Dick Clark are? 4 stars
12/30/03 Chlo Gyllenhaal Michael Moore is the best fucking thing to come out of America! 5 stars
12/29/03 Agent Sands THIS is the truth. This is the right answer to all left- & right-wing radicals! Brilliant! 5 stars
12/14/03 Noel R Very Well Madel Thought Provoking; Moore though took advantage of Heston 5 stars
11/27/03 John insightful, moving and brilliant - and surprisingly filled with hope -it's stunning! 5 stars
11/26/03 Claudia Daw Deceptive Mike-umentary, full of blather and dribble. HIstorically inaccurate. 1 stars
10/29/03 Michael Buckley This was as real a documentary as the Blair Witch Project was. 1 stars
10/16/03 JC if you want one sided, watch the news 5 stars
10/10/03 Erik Van Sant Staggering and inspiring. Michael Moore tells it like it is. Frightening. 5 stars
9/20/03 Jestyr it was a bit one sided 2 stars
9/20/03 Nancy S Excellent 5 stars
9/15/03 Avia Great Movie 5 stars
9/04/03 BillHead This movie says some pretty profound things, but think you think, what's his point? 3 stars
8/30/03 DM Funny and thought-provoking- and YES, I do think it is a real documentary 5 stars
8/27/03 anna durovic Great job dude! 5 stars
8/22/03 Gray moore make some good points but many bad ones 2 stars
8/20/03 Don Film illustrates why violence, not pornography, should concern U.S. parents. 4 stars
8/16/03 Tavis This movie is Michael's best yet. 5 stars
8/08/03 zotteLORRE there are definitely wackos out there (even some of them are president) 5 stars
8/02/03 phil this movie and anyone that likes it sucks 1 stars
8/02/03 john This film makes me want to never see a movie again 1 stars
7/30/03 Tam Stirred every single emotion in my being. One of the best films I've ever seen! 5 stars
7/27/03 E nitpicks and half-truths worse than they say Moore does. Great film. 5 stars
7/22/03 stephan w It made me mad 4 stars
6/01/03 Rob A must see. Opens your eyes and releases your mind. No better time than now. 5 stars
5/27/03 Shawnda Totally blown away 5 stars
5/26/03 RightWingTitsShouldDie Figure out the own truth you dumb ass. 5 stars
5/25/03 Jayson Blaire, NY Times Couldn't of been truer if I had written it myself! 1 stars
5/25/03 Fisk Black One-sided propaganda. It's not a documentary, it's just Moore venting again. 1 stars
5/24/03 bowling for the Truth truths+half thruths+lies+a cause/agenda = propaganda, enjoy ur ignorance 1 stars
5/17/03 Mr. Hat (I'm Back Mo'Fos!) Michael Moore is an ass-kicker. I'm w/ dude & Bueller completely! 5 stars
4/30/03 Jamie It takes guts to make a movie like this; one of the best filmsever 5 stars
4/27/03 Alain Francois Thought provoking well worth seeing 5 stars
4/12/03 Michael Heron False claims of false claims are all the debunked have to offer. 5 stars
4/12/03 Bueller A biting, and thought provoking commentary on some pertinent social issues. 5 stars
4/09/03 Benjamin Wolf Sorry, I can't endorse a film the profits from the Columbine tragedy. 1 stars
4/09/03 Richard Glover Since when are lies and propaganda a documentary? 1 stars
4/09/03 William Payer Making Money From Columbine 1 stars
4/05/03 dude well i dunno but i watched for 2 hours,US great white satan yousa! 5 stars
4/05/03 Da Main Man Lockheed Martin were making rockets to launch satallites there you dumbass sheep. 1 stars
4/04/03 Jack Bourbon Move to Canada, Moore. And stop lying, BTW. 4 stars
3/26/03 Tehmina An intelligent, thought-provoking masterpiece. Humourous & melancholy by turn. 5 stars
3/25/03 Michael Moore is a jackass Even if I were for gun control, I'd want to own a gun just to piss off Michael Moore! 1 stars
3/25/03 Feknoze Shock and Awe - Is this what the Americans mean by shock and Awe? 5 stars
3/24/03 Clarence Beeks What's next for this pig, 1 stars
3/24/03 Yo Mama! I think the David Bowie song puts it best: "I'm afraid of Americans" 5 stars
3/18/03 Bobbie Robinson Very informative and very depressing 5 stars
2/21/03 Jim the movie geek has everything - humour, tragedy, sensitivity and insight, we need Mike. 5 stars
2/21/03 A. Kane Extremely thought-provoking yet hilarious 5 stars
2/10/03 Sinem Saban Should be compulsory viewing if the truth is ever to be known. 5 stars
1/27/03 Tina Turner Awesome 5 stars
1/26/03 Matt Moore is a liar. And he likes to pester people he doesnt like. Crappy movie. 1 stars
1/25/03 Carla Tisdale The funniest and most disturbing movie I've seen in a long time. 5 stars
1/22/03 Angolmois It's a bit too manipulative for my taste, but there's no denying Moore's talent. 4 stars
1/11/03 Trish Superb, but potentially misleading to foreign audiences 5 stars
1/11/03 John Bale Disturbing yet amusing doco that will promote endless discussion 5 stars
1/08/03 tina excellent 5 stars
1/05/03 slick It'll make you laugh, it'll make you cry. A Masterpiece. 5 stars
1/05/03 .Choadushouse. This movie was great and truly made me realize things I never did before 5 stars
1/03/03 Kyle Wow, America IS paranoid... 5 stars
12/31/02 Matthew Smith outstanding documentary, Hilarious and Scary 5 stars
12/31/02 Chowie-Pie I luved this movie so much, Michael Moore is da bomb 5 stars
12/30/02 Tam One of the best films I've ever seen! Funny, intelligent and moving. 5 stars
12/30/02 Elizaveta US is rotting from the inside out and no one's even aware. Absolutely necessary to see. 5 stars
12/29/02 Karen There is hope for us yet while there are pople who can make this sort of movie. 5 stars
12/28/02 Andrea Armstrong everyone in America should be required to see this film. 5 stars
12/24/02 FrayLo Everyone should see this movie. It doesn't tell you how to just MAKES you think 5 stars
12/24/02 aiken drum Makes you realize how many social problems has in an entertaining way. 5 stars
12/19/02 s.n not bad 4 stars
12/17/02 Brett Fuck Heston, fuck Bush, hello Ghandi! 5 stars
12/17/02 Tam One of the best films of all time. Funny, dark and thought-provoking by turn. 5 stars
12/15/02 viking Heston belongs in Jurassic Park !!!!! 5 stars
12/10/02 ownerofdajoint mooretakesyoubrazenlywithbrassballsstickinghisfingersinsacredcowseyesandtearingpremisesup 5 stars
12/09/02 Oliver The film is very, very, very god and real. 5 stars
12/08/02 Uter Hilarious and unsettling. Brilliantly raises issues missing from our national dialouge. 5 stars
12/06/02 katie bignose fantastic 4 stars
12/04/02 Danny Charcoal It was good 5 stars
11/29/02 nick2k great documentary. i wanna kill that senile palsy motherfucker heston! 5 stars
11/25/02 King Richard Charelton Heston is an asshole 5 stars
11/25/02 Gibbo profoundly moving - Moore is a genious 5 stars
11/24/02 Joe Zappa I once asked my dad if u can b seriously moved AND laugh hard. Yes. Very refreshing, too! 5 stars
11/23/02 Nice Guy Eddie Still got a rousing round of applause after many weeks release (& on a Thurs night!)... 5 stars
11/15/02 Johnny Mayonaise This movie is amazing! It makes you think about what kind of country America really is 5 stars
11/15/02 Buddha If you honestly think America is the best country in the world, this will educate you. 5 stars
11/13/02 pedro definitely see it and draw conclusions for yourself...SEE IT! 5 stars
11/10/02 golfing for tmj slightly good but the people that will watch it already know the movie's claim 3 stars
11/09/02 Social ills like microwave popcorn-- some kernels scorched, few left unpopped 5 stars
11/09/02 Josh Foreman It was a very interesting film. If Michael Moore weren't such a self-righteous, statistic 3 stars
11/08/02 Suzz don't miss it 5 stars
11/07/02 Bill Clinton Every night, when I go to bed, I'm gonna be thinkin about this movie 5 stars
11/05/02 Maggie McCarey Made me feel like a saved Baptist at a revival 5 stars
11/04/02 Mr. Thomas That 6 yr old girl was shot because some IDIOT adult left a gun where a kid could find it! 4 stars
11/03/02 Johannes de Silenceo It made me sick. It made me think. It made me sad. Definitely go see it. 5 stars
11/03/02 rue the whirl this really puts America in perspective. A true eye-opener. 5 stars
11/03/02 Uncle Salty Fantastic. Honestly, not only should you go see it, but it should be showed in schools. 5 stars
11/02/02 Jason Scotti Conservatives miss the point, skeptics dig up dirt on Moore, but some actually get it. 5 stars
10/24/02 Monster W. Kung The best movie I've seen in quite some time. Opinionated, but very intelligent. 5 stars
10/22/02 John Callahan It is moving, intelligent, and gut-bustingly funny. 5 stars
10/22/02 Aaron Hopkins No, really. Go see it. 5 stars
10/20/02 Tsubo Great movie and documentary. it Makes you actually think and it's fookin funny 5 stars
10/20/02 Lei Z Someone putting free speech to good use 5 stars
10/19/02 Jeff You owe it to yourself to see this movie. It'll make you a better American. 5 stars
10/18/02 Dave This is a great movie but it is not a documentary. It is best called a video essay. 5 stars
10/16/02 Heather Brilliant movie - one of this year's best 5 stars
10/16/02 Reed Roberts This movie is so brilliant that it threatens the very existence of the Universe! 1 stars
10/16/02 Matt Hodge Moore is making a documentary into an opinion 1 stars
10/15/02 snowconehead This is a political poll, not a movie rating, and I'm against both arguments 3 stars
10/14/02 Titus Winters Could have been more coherent, but everyone should see it. 4 stars
10/14/02 W. Barton Burns Brilliant! Painfully honest in its depiction of gun ownership. SEE IT! 5 stars
10/14/02 Mr. Bo Jangles Liberal propaganda. Lets all change the way we live so that Michael Moore isn't upset. 1 stars
10/13/02 raymond gibson beatiful. where is the problem really? NO FEAR 5 stars
10/13/02 not michael moore Pseudo-liberal garbage, spewed in East Village oh-so-righteous style. Makes you like theNRA 1 stars
10/13/02 Massive Johnson Moore is an idiot, he doesn't even seem to know what his point is. 1 stars
10/12/02 Wyatt Earp Moore just blows hot air. Did nothing for me. 2 stars
10/12/02 Art Mayes one of the most significant films in our nation's history. 5 stars
10/12/02 David Creighton Canada looks good here (we have our own problems) 5 stars
10/12/02 Bill Joyce Stirring, fantastic, will change the way you see the world forever 5 stars
10/11/02 silentShab Truly amazing. I didn't want it to end! 5 stars
10/11/02 Michael Moore for President A stunning piece of work, the best documentary you will see this year 5 stars
10/09/02 Ramblin Wreck Moore is an ass. Charlton Heston.........May God Grant You Peace. 5 stars
10/08/02 Mister Char even better than Roger and Me, clearly Moore hasn't lost his touch 5 stars
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  11-Oct-2002 (R)
  DVD: 19-Aug-2003



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