Harsh French Critics Compare Napoleon Movie to Barbie in Brutal Review


The reception of Ridley Scott’s Napoleon movie has been a tale of divided opinions, particularly pronounced in France, where the film hasn’t found favor among critics. While the US and UK have lauded the biopic for its grandeur and portrayal of the iconic historical figure, French reviewers have been notably critical, going so far as to liken the weighty drama to the light-heartedness of a Barbie movie.

Scott’s attempt to recreate the spirit of Gladiator with a historical epic featuring Joaquin Phoenix hasn’t resonated well in Napoleon’s homeland, despite the film receiving mixed reviews worldwide, with a Rotten Tomatoes approval score of 62%. The French response has been especially damning. Notably, Le Figaro scornfully dubbed it “Barbie and Ken under the Empire,” a comparison that contrasts sharply with Scott’s ambition to craft a serious drama centered around such a significant historical figure.

The French magazine Télérama labeled the movie as “an aberration,” while Libération criticized it for lacking a distinct viewpoint on Napoleon as a man or a myth. Agnès Poirier, a French journalist writing for The Guardian, described the film as “inept, crass, and boring.” These critiques sting, considering the high aspirations Scott had for the movie.


The French audience’s reactions might stem from a sense of ownership over Napoleon’s story, leading to heightened scrutiny and dissatisfaction with the film’s historical accuracy. Scott, known for his no-nonsense attitude, dismissed historical accuracy questions during press tours, even suggesting that “the French don’t even like themselves” when confronted with negative reviews.

Despite the critical reception, French audiences have shown interest in Joaquin Phoenix’s portrayal of the emperor. The movie saw significant ticket sales in France, with 120,000 sold on its opening day, contributing substantially to the film’s international box office earnings outside the USA.

While critics’ opinions have been harsh, Scott might not be too concerned given the film’s commercial success. The box office numbers, especially from France, signify that audience interest remains high, potentially providing a silver lining despite the critical backlash.