Fifty Shades of Grey Review Roundup: What Did Critics Say About the Film (and How Sexually Explicit Is It)?

The movie stars Dakota Johnson as Ana and Jamie Dornan as her love interest, the handsome, charming, BDSM-obsessed young billionaire

By Corinne Heller Feb 11, 2015 4:08 PMTags
50 Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades of Grey, Jamie Dornan, Dakota JohnsonChuck Zlotnick/Focus/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

Did critics think Fifty Shades of Grey was 50 shades of awesome? Or did the anticipated, sexually explicit R-rated film leave them unsatisfied? ...And just how much sex does the movie show?

The movie is based on the first book in British author E. L. James' erotic trilogy, which began as Twilight fan fiction, and stars Dakota Johnson as sexually inexperienced college student Anastasia Steele and Jamie Dornan as her love interest, the handsome, charming, BDSM-obsessed young billionaire Christian Grey.

The two are, seemingly, perfect for each other—she challenges him with her sass and defiance, drawing him even more to her, and she is both intrigued and terrified of his sexual experience and fetish for kinky sex, complete with blindfolds, riding crops and detained written contracts. Oh yeah, and he's gorgeous and rich beyond belief and she's totally into that.

Find out what these critics said about Fifty Shades of Grey below.

1. Newsday's Rafer Guzmán called the movie "highly unsatisfying" and gave it half a star out of four stars. And he was bored by it. 

"You might be equally agog at how an R-rated film full of kinky sex and dirty talk could be so painfully dull," he wrote. "Fifty Shades of Grey stars a fetching Dakota Johnson as Anastasia, a college student pining for romance, and Jamie Dornan as Christian Grey, the handsome billionaire with a riding crop fetish. The actors are attractive, and we see just about every naked inch of them. Despite all the waist-down action, though, the movie has no pulse. What's more, it's dead from the neck up."

Chuck Zlotnick/Focus/Universal/Kobal/Shutterstock

2. ForbesScott Mendelson praised the actors' performances, saying Johnson, "sells the hell out of this film" and that Dornan is "stuck with the worst lines" but does "everything he can to sell it too."

"Fifty Shades of Grey is exactly what it promises and little more," he wrote. "Johnson is pretty terrific while Dornan does what he can with the material he is given, and they do make a somewhat entertaining couple. The film is an explicit and unapologetic female escapist fantasy in a time when such things are few-and-far between in Hollywood."

3. USA Today'Claudia Puig called Fifty Shades of Grey one out of four stars a "plodding, inane and wretchedly acted movie." She said the film's dialogue is "laughable" and that there is no chemistry between Dornan and Johnson.

 She also breaks down what many people really want to know.

"Those looking for hot, kinky sex will be disappointed," she said. "Fewer than 15 of the movie's 125 minutes feature sex scenes. Discussion of contracts and objections over line items outweigh erotica. Even the graphic nudity grows numbing." 

4.'s Justin Craig also offers a swift quantitative analysis of the sexual content in the film.

"Just how sexually explicit is Fifty Shades of Grey? It's mild," he wrote. "Sure there's plenty of nudity, but more salacious material is shown every day on cable. It's not even close to late-night Cinemax. You'll find more disturbing images in Saw or Game of Thrones."

"The mediocre plot, bland characters and tepid tone don't do any favors," he added. "Director Sam Taylor-Johnson treats the movie as serious as a cadaver, which is truly a major disappointment. The screenplay by Kelly Marcel, based on E.L. James' novel, is empty of message or meaning. Those faults alone make Fifty Shades a boring, pointless film."

5. Variety's Justin Chang said Fifty Shades of Grey is not "exactly whip-smart, but this hotly anticipated bondage-porn romance is in many ways a significant improvement on E.L. James' novel."

"Unfortunately, it's a drama that can scarcely sustain one movie, let alone three," he wrote. "And as our heroine becomes ever more aware of just how dark Christian's dark side is, Fifty Shades of Grey starts to lose its sense of humor and elicit the wrong kind of giggles—climaxing with a hilariously overblown S&M montage laden with so many slow-motion dissolves as to suggest that Ana wasn't the only one wearing a blindfold during the assembly."