Babylon Reviews Are Here, See What Critics Are Saying About Damian Chazelle’s Hollywood Epic

After providing audiences with Academy Award winners like Whiplash, La La Land and First Man, Damien Chazelle is back to fill our holiday season with another wild story that’s likely to be in contention for next year’s biggest awards. Babylon is a movie about movies, as audiences will follow five main characters through the era when Hollywood was transitioning from silent film to talkies. First reactions to Babylon were mixed, with people calling it everything from “a love letter to cinema” to “a flaming hot mess.” Now the reviews are here to help us decide if we’ll be taking a trip to the theater for Christmas.

Babylon’s impressive ensemble is one reason to be excited about the movie, as it stars Margot Robbie, Brad Pitt, Diego Calva, Jovan Adepo and Li Jun Li, whose characters jump through time, experiencing the highest highs and lowest lows of their careers. Let’s see what the critics are saying, starting with CinemaBlend’s review of Babylon. Eric Eisenberg rates the film 3 stars out of 5, saying that while the first half is one of the best movies of the year, it’s destined to be divisive, yet still worth the watch. His take:

At its best, Babylon is exciting, hilarious, and a blast… but those adjectives are mostly reserved for describing approximately the first 90 minutes. The back half of the film, while it does have its highlights, demonstrates an inability for the movie to fully carry its own weight, and the multi-faceted narrative descends into tropes and some groan-worthy material before the end credits start to roll.

Leah Greenblatt of EW grades the film a C-, saying Damien Chazelle seems desperate to convey  the depravity of Hollywood, for “three turgid, clattering hours,” and the result is frankly exhausting. She says in the review:  

They and a cast of what easily seems like thousands spend most of the next 186 minutes in a whirl of decadence and bad decisions, careening from one hectic misadventure to the next. Cocaine piles up like table salt; sex is universal currency, and death comes casually and frequently, as a gut punch or a punchline.

Tomris Laffly of AV Club, however, calls Babylon “masterful,” grading the “deliciously decadent” movie an A and saying it’s not a minute too long. The critic says despite what’s going on on-screen, this is the writer/director’s most clear-headed film: 

With an electric score by Justin Hurwitz (that occasionally resembles the chords in Chazelle’s La La Land too audibly), it’s all pure, eye-gouging debauchery for 30 or so minutes. Before the suggestive title Babylon appears, there will be plenty of orgies, mountains of drugs, sexual fetishes, naughty performance bits, projectile vomiting, and more sweaty bare bodies than one can count.

Babylon shows yet again that Damien Chazelle isn’t afraid to swing for the fences or go too far, according to Travis Hopson of Punch Drunk Critics, making him a filmmaker always worth checking out. However, only the lead trio get the proper amount of attention, and themes of race and homophobia would likely have been better off omitted since they’re not properly explored, the critic argues, rating the film 3 out of 5 stars:  

Like the blitzed-out-of-its-mind lovechild of Boogie Nights and The Wolf of Wall Street, Damien Chazelle’s exciting, exhausting, and sloppy ode to jazz age Hollywood, Babylon, features elephant shit and golden showers in the first ten minutes. It also features a Los Angeles as you’ve rarely seen it…tranquil. For a moment, anyway. The city is in the midst of an epic transition, not just from silent movies into ‘talkies’, but the city as a whole from quiet desert to sprawling show business epicenter. They say that Hollywood will chew people up and spit them out, but this has always been true. Never moreso than the tragic, hopeful, and thrilling era that Chazelle lovingly, maddeningly depicts.

Nick Schager of The Daily Beast calls Babylon “an orgy of every worst idea in Hollywood” and a story about the roaring ‘20s in which  no one looks, acts, or talks like they’re from that decade. The critic says the movie steals from every great director before collapsing in on itself. More from Schager:

Chockablock with profanity, nudity, and all manner of demented degradation, Damien Chazelle’s follow-up to First Man is a three-hour work of grand and grotesque excess that strives to celebrate the wondrous power of the movies. All it does, however, is crassly steal the magic of its superior ancestors, right up to a finale that parasitically pinches yesteryear’s classics for the pathos it can’t conjure on its own.

Love it or hate it, people are definitely going to be talking about Damien Chazelle’s latest offering, especially in regards to awards. If you want to be in the conversation, you’ll be able to see this one for yourself in theaters starting Friday, December 23. Be sure to also check out what’s headed to the big screen in the new year with our 2023 Movie Release Schedule.

Heidi Venable
Content Producer

Heidi Venable is a Content Producer for CinemaBlend, a mom of two and a hard-core '90s kid. She started freelancing for CinemaBlend in 2020 and officially came on board in 2021. Her job entails writing news stories and TV reactions from some of her favorite prime-time shows like Grey's Anatomy and The Bachelor. She graduated from Louisiana Tech University with a degree in Journalism and worked in the newspaper industry for almost two decades in multiple roles including Sports Editor, Page Designer and Online Editor. Unprovoked, will quote Friends in any situation. Thrives on New Orleans Saints football, The West Wing and taco trucks.