Men in Black

1997

Men in Black

Critics Consensus

Thanks to a smart script, spectacular set pieces, and charismatic performances from its leads, Men in Black is an entirely satisfying summer blockbuster hit.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 88

79%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 1,049,138
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Movie Info

For his fifth effort as a feature-film director, one-time cinematographer Barry Sonnenfeld brought his cartoonish visual style and darkly humorous sensibilities to this adaptation of, appropriately enough, a tongue-in-cheek sci-fi comic book. Will Smith stars as James Darrel Edwards, a New York City cop with an athletic physique and a flippant, anti-authoritarian attitude toward law enforcement. After chasing down a mysterious perpetrator one night who turns out to be an alien, James is recruited by "K" (Tommy Lee Jones), a veteran of a clandestine government agency secretly policing the comings and goings of aliens on planet Earth. Nicknamed the "men in black" for their nondescript uniform of black suit, shoes, tie, and sunglasses, the agents are assigned to recover a bauble that's been stolen by an intergalactic terrorist (Vincent D'Onofrio). It seems the item is none other than the galaxy itself, and its theft has plunged humanity into the center of what's shaping up to become an interstellar war, unless K and his new wisecracking partner, now renamed "J," can stop the bad guy. On their side but somewhat in the dark is a pretty, unflappable city medical examiner (Linda Fiorentino) who has been zapped one too many times by K's ingenious memory-sapping device. Men in Black was a box office smash, inspiring an animated children's television series and a hit soundtrack album that featured a performance by star (and rapper) Smith. ~ Karl Williams, Rovi

Cast

Mike Nussbaum
as Gentle Rosenberg
Jon Gries
as Van Driver
Kent Faulcon
as Jake Jensen
Carel Struycken
as Arquillian
Fredric Lehne
as INS Agent Janus
Ken Thorley
as Orkin Man
Patrick Breen
as Mr. Redgick
Becky Ann Baker
as Mrs. Redgick
Sean Whalen
as Passport Officer
Harsh Nayyar
as News Vendor
Michael Willis
as Cop In Morgue
Willie C. Carpenter
as Police Inspector
Peter Linari
as Tow Truck Driver
David Cross
as Morgue Attendant
Steve Rankin
as INS Agent
Andy Prosky
as INS Agent
Fredric Lane
as INS Agent Janus
Michael Goldfinger
as NYPD Sergeant
Alpheus Merchant
as Security Guard
Norma Jean Groh
as Mrs. Edelson
Bernard Gilkey
as Baseball Player
Sean Plummer
as First Contact Alien
Michael Kaliski
as First Contact Alien
Richard Arthur
as 2nd First Contact Alien
Verne Troyer
as Alien Son
Mark Setrakian
as Rosenberg Alien
Tim Blaney
as Frank the Pug
Brad Abrell
as Worm Guy
Thom Fountain
as Worm Guy
Drew Massey
as Worm Guy
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News & Interviews for Men in Black

Critic Reviews for Men in Black

All Critics (88) | Top Critics (27) | Fresh (81) | Rotten (7)

  • A terrifically entertaining combination of alien conspiracy fears played for laughs and French Connection-meets-Ghostbusters thrills... Men in Black is so much fun one is actually mildly disappointed when it ends after an economically short 98 minutes.

    Jul 2, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Men in Black is the wryest, sharpest, most entertaining special effects film in recent memory, a simultaneous participant and mocking parody of the more-bang-for-your-buck behemoth genre.

    Aug 12, 2014 | Full Review…

    Paul Tatara

    CNN.com
    Top Critic
  • Men In Black deserves credit for supplementing its special effects with a breezy script and genuinely charismatic performances by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

    Aug 12, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Its attitude is poised somewhere between the deadpan ghoulishness of the Coen brothers and a Letterman-like sense of the absurdity of life in New York's rich ethnic stew.

    Aug 2, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Men in Black is moderately amusing, well-constructed and mercifully short, but it fails to deliver on the zaniness of its first half.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • There's a playfulness, here, that you don't often find in a special-effect flick.

    Apr 14, 2013 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Men in Black

  • Apr 17, 2015
    Maybe it doesn't hold up as well as you'd hoped, but both leads are actually putting in the effort in this first entry, and Men in Black is still, after all these years, a bit of fun.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 18, 2013
    The film's sci-fi presentation, clever story and leading duo (Jones & Smith) provides for a surge of entertainment that exceeds anyone's expectations. Men in Black is that summer blockbuster that satisfies throughout its entirety. 4.5/5
    Eugene B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 13, 2012
    Okay, now, I'm willing to buy this premise about a secret agency that combats and osbscures alien lifeforms, but really, I find it a touch hard to fully buy into a young buck like Will Smith being the one who trains an older dude like Tommy Lee Jones. Oh no, wait, Jones is teaching Smith, I just got confused because I figured that this agency's ranking system was built around how much black was on a man, in which case, Smith would decidedly outrank Jones. No, now that I think about it, I shouldn't have been confused, not just because Tommy Lee Jones is about as black as Will Smith is, but because Tommy Lee Jones must be a special figure in this agency, seeing as how he's a man in black, even though he himself is an alien, or at least looks like one. I kept waiting for that one sequence in which a mothership touches down and releases the leader of Jones' Agent M character's race, Richard Nixon, who then proceeds to exchange with M the trademark symbol for the Nixonians, that two-finger wave thing. At the very least, I was expecting a scene in which Agent M startles and gets blown away by an armed Agent J, not necessarily because would be mistaken for an alien, but because a sneaking Tommy Lee Jones' face would freak me out to the point of triggering fight-or-flight response too. Well, I would either do that or ask for an autograph, because Jones is quite the actor, or at least quite the charisma who, when teamed up with Will Smith's charisma, helps in making for one fun film. Still, as entertaining as this film is, it doesn't quite make it to generally rewarding, as you would indeed need to be neuralized to forget some problems. As I'll get more into later on in this review, this film has quite a few unique touches, in story and other aspects, having just enough originality to sustain your investment in it as a reasonably unique film, and yet, in too many areas, the film will plummet into considerable very '90s conventionalism, particularly when it comes to plotting, whose basic story concept is rich with the unique touches in question, yet crafted into a formulaic plotline with only so much subtlety and only so much that catches you off-guard, thus rendering the film, well, kind of predictable. It's not too terribly hard to see where this plot is going, and in a situation like that, compensation is needed, and just that can be expected in this film, though not exactly thoroughly, because as entertaining as this film is, it doesn't always sustain your attention as firmly as it should, partially because it's not quite as consistent in momentum as it should be. More often than not, the film keeps tight and lively, engaging you and providing a memorable moment time and again, and yet, with that said, believe it or not, it's only a matter of time before slow spells ensue and plague the film with, not necessarily dullness, but a kind of blandness that contradicts much of the film's momentum, takes you out of the film, making certain moments fall flat as easy to forget, even by the film's final act, and with a few of those moments being key expository ones, the film's substance loses some bite, and along with it, your full investment in character and conflict. The film's unevenness in pacing isn't terribly prevalent, happening only here and there, yet often coming in at moments where it's absence is needed, thus a mere handful of moments go a long way in doing some damage to the final impact of the story, or at least in emphasizing the story's having only so much kick to begin with, because with all of its livliness and nifty spots, there is hardly anything to this minimalist plot, whose weight goes lessened even more by more focus on fluffly than substance. The film is fun and all, but the fluff isn't quite sweet enough to cover up this story's being just so, well, aimless, blandly flowing along with nearly no sense of engrossing consequence, and only so much other forms of substance outside of that. Indeed, this film's shortcomings are borderline thin in quantity, but considerable in immensity and do a number on genuine engagement value that may be just sharp enough to keep you going, based on, if nothing else, visceral entertainment, yet fails to go backed up by enough substance and originality to sustain your full your investment as you watch the film and to spur a whole lot of range in your memory after the film. Of course, unlike the neuralizer featured in this film the final product doesn't exactly phase your memory completely, boasting more than a few strengths that stick with you and keep you sticking with the film, as, if nothing else, a fine production piece. As far as traditional set and costume designs are concerned, this film's more practical production value isn't too terribly commendable in either quantity or quality, yet what distinct set and costume designs there are are nifty and buyable, though not quite as much as the practical production efforts of the legendary Rick Baker, who earns that Oscar by delivering on upstanding makeup effects that may also be limited in quantity, yet dazzle and sell you on what they're pitching when they do hit - nay - grace the scene with their impressiveness, even though what makeup effects that are are anything but graceful (Vincent D'Onofrio looked gross something fierce, but he sure made for a creepily cool literal skinsuit). As for the digital effects, well, as "Alien Resurrection" and "Spawn" will particularly remind you, not every effects film of 1997 was as convincing as "Titanic", and sure enough, some of the visual effects in this film feel a touch dated, yet not so much so that they don't, much more often than not, hit, being generally reasonably believable and consistently well-concieved enough to make up for the limited convincingness of certain effects. Technically sharp, this film succeeds as a blockbuster fluff piece with quite a bit of lively spectacle, even if it is lacking on substance, and yet, with that said, as blandly aimless as this thin plot is in execution, the overall story concept isn't without some degree of immediate intrigue, spawned largely from unique touches that are, of course, undercut time and again by a plotting formula that's anything but inventive or unpredictable, yet still stand and grace this film with a lively mythology that makes for a nifty story idea, both betrayed and brought to life by a generally decent script. Ed Solomon's story structure has only so much in the way of subtlety to it and even less in the way of actual weight, being minimalist and predictable, and made aimless by too much focus on fluff, though it's not like the fluff is entirely a bad thing, because although Solomon's substance needs some more punch, punch-up within the style and fluff that drive this film really does hit, not exactly hard, to where missteps are obscured and a genuinely rewarding final product is crafted, yet just hard enough to deliver on many a snappy dialogue piece and colorful set piece, complete with humor whose effectiveness ranges from fairly chuckle worthy to fabulously clever and genuinely memorable. There's not enough kick to either fluff or substance to really give this film legs, yet Solomon's story and script deliver on lively entertainment, which is generally done justice by Barry Sonnenfeld's direction, which may be a bit too faithful to Solomon's script, to where bland areas are not only kept intact, but perhaps intensified by unevenness in pacing, yet still has enough juice to it to entertaining consistently. Sonnenfeld's and Solomon's offscreen leadership skills are often questionable, yet charm through and through, though not as much as the onscreen lead duo of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, both of whom deliver on their own distinct presence, yet are equal in their intense charismas, which, when bonded, form stellar chemistry that makes the leads among the most compelling and memorable aspects of the film. Sure, that's not really saying all that much, seeing as how too much of this film could have been better, and yet, for every fault, there is compensation that may not be striking enough to dismiss underwhelmingness, but keeps entertainment value alive and well. To wrap up this case, unique areas in concept are often betrayed by areas in execution that are anything but unique, being supplements to conventionalism that plagues the plot with a degree of predictability that blands things up, much like key occasions of unevenness in pacing and, of course, a considerable limitation of bite to the story concept to begin with, thus creating a distance from substance that renders the final product aimless, hardly memorable, on the whole, and altogether underwhelming, yet hardly dismisses full engagement value, going fought back by fine practical and digital effects that compliment the aforementioned uniquely nifty areas in the story, which, in Ed Solomon's script execution, delivers on enough clever livliness, intensified by Barry Sonnenfeld's charming direction and Will Smith's and Tommy Lee Jones' remarkable charisma and chemistry, that makes "Men in Black" an entertaining blockbuster, even if it is lacking in true momentum. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Nov 26, 2012
    What makes this film stand out, aside from its superb effects, humor and script, is the contrast between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. While Jones is the emotionless, smarter and wiser one out of the two, Smith is the younger and more enthusiastic. These 'Men In Black' are on a mission to save Earth from a really, really nasty bug infestation. This is one Sci-Fi film that shouldn't be missed.
    Samuel R Super Reviewer

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