New movie M3gan surprises with 95% Rotten Tomatoes score — should you watch or skip?

M3gan (voiced by Jenna Davis and played by Amie Donald) in M3gan.
(Image credit: Universal Pictures)

Horror movies are very divisive, and M3gan had that issue from the start. The premise of an AI-powered doll that goes on a rampage feels extremely low-effort Chucky on paper. But then the reviews started to roll in.

Those reviews have changed my opinion, as I see a lot of horror movies, but I've rolled my eyes at the M3gan trailer every time. My horror-movie-loving friends and I have even jokingly referred to it as "M-three-gan." 

But right now, with a 95% Rotten Tomatoes score at the time of publishing, I'm actually a bit curious. And I don't know if I'll be able to wait long to see it. None of this, though, says you should or shouldn't see M3gan this weekend or not. 

Oh, and since M3gan is currently a theatrical release, don't go looking for it on the best streaming services. It's not on Netflix or HBO Max, nor are there signs it will go to either.

So, let's break down what M3gan is, and what the critics are saying about it:

What is M3gan all about?

M3gan, we should note, comes from producer James Wan, whose experience with "killer doll movies" is well known thanks to the Annabelle series. The M3gan doll comes into our world from a truly wholesome need. Robotic toy company expert Gemma (Allison Williams) designs the toy as an ally, friend and protector for children. And her orphaned 8-year-old niece Cady (Violet McGraw) is the perfect playmate for this prototype.

The big problem, it seems, outside of Cady's lack of supervision from Gemma or anyone else, is that M3gan is too good at her job. And a bit wild. Gemma isn't necessarily to be blamed for this pairing — she's not ready to be a parent — but there's something of a message being delivered about farming out child-rearing to screens and robots.

As Cady's protector, M3gan goes a bit crazy on a boy who's mean to the girl. It all looks similar to how those robotic Boston Dynamics dogs can go crazy.

But, then, well, attempts to shut M3gan down don't go that well. 

M3gan reviews: What the critics say

As noted above M3gan is a hit with the critics, with a 95% score on Rotten Tomatoes. And while they're not entirely glowingly positive, they're strong enough to merit that score.

Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly gives M3gan a B+, and positions it as a funnier side of horror to sit alongside recent gloomy releases, stating "But the tart in-jokes and absurdities of the script, its winky acknowledgments of all the tropes gone before it, feel like a delirious cap on recent genre hits like Barbarian and Malignant. This is not the morose, carnage-soaked horror of dank basements and clammy night terrors."

Leigh Monson, at AV Club, gave M3gan a "B" grade and notes "M3GAN revels in its gleefully twisted antagonist. Amie Donald’s physical performance is as robotically stilted as it is alternatingly tender and violent, while Jenna Davis’ pitch-shifted voice gives the character malice hidden behind a saccharine mechanical sweetness. It’s a combined performance of contrasts that kicks into comic absurdity when M3GAN runs on all fours to tackle a kid." Interestingly enough, Monson notes there's a "relative restraint with which the film treats M3GAN’s violence," which could be holding it back. She speculates this is tied to the film's PG-13 rating.

Michael Phillips for the Chicago Tribune calls M3gan a "pleasantly nutty thriller," and notes it's " just funny enough, intentionally, to take your brain off the eye-rolling bits." Again, while this review is mostly positive, it's not effusively so.

Randy Myers of the San Jose Mercury News, though, delivers the exact negative that the M3gan trailer had me worried about, writing "M3GAN stocks up on jump scares and keeps the violence PG-13, but fails to make us care about any of the humans in the path of M3GAN. Each character is a rote as an assembly-line toy."

M3gan outlook: Should you watch this weekend?

Going to the theaters, especially during the colder months of the year, is not a decision one makes lightly. But since M3gan's streaming future is unknown (it's a Universal movie, which makes us think it could land on Peacock, but nothing is confirmed), some will rush to the cinemas to see how M3gan measures up to Chucky and other murderous dolls.

Go to M3gan, though, with expectations for a movie that puts humor and camp above blood and violence. That's not to say that it's completely free of violence — I've purposefully left out the gory details of reviews I see as spoilery. But know that M3gan isn't a movie for the Terrifier crowd that wants as much guts on the screen as possible.

Henry T. Casey
Managing Editor (Entertainment, Streaming)

Henry is a managing editor at Tom’s Guide covering streaming media, laptops and all things Apple, reviewing devices and services for the past seven years. Prior to joining Tom's Guide, he reviewed software and hardware for TechRadar Pro, and interviewed artists for Patek Philippe International Magazine. He's also covered the wild world of professional wrestling for Cageside Seats, interviewing athletes and other industry veterans.