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Spiderhead reviews are in — and this Netflix movie looks like a flop

Chris Hemsworth as Abnesti in Spiderhead
(Image credit: Netflix)

Update: If you need something better to watch on Netflix, it might be worth holding out until Uncharted lands next month.



Netflix’s latest movie comes from Joseph Kosinski. The American director is flying high right now as his film Top Gun Maverick continues to soar at the box office and has viewers gripping the edge of their seats. However, his new Netflix movie is a dramatic change of pace. 

The film is called Spiderhead and it’s set in a near-future penitentiary where there are no bars or cells, and prisoners are even permitted to walk about freely. However, in exchange, inmates wear a surgically attached device that regularly administers dosages of mind-altering drugs. Incarcerated inhabitants are fully controlled by these substances and can have their moods switched in an instant. 

This high-tech prison is run by a so-called visionary, Steve Abnesti (Chris Hemsworth). But when two subjects, Jeff (Miles Tellers) and Lizzy (Jurnee Smollett), develop an unexpected bond, their connection could threaten everything Abnesti has built. As Jeff and Lizzy plot an audacious escape, Abnesti begins to push the limits of free will to the breaking point. 

It all sounds like a pretty intriguing idea for a thriller, and the cast list is mighty impressive as well. Not only do you have Chris Hemsworth, who is most well known for playing Thor in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but the film also reunites Miles Teller and Kosinski, with the pair having worked together on Top Gun Maverick. 

Spiderhead reviews are not good

The film hit Netflix yesterday (June 17), but many critics have already given their take and so far its reception is not good. Spiderhead currently scores a fairly low 45% on Rotten Tomatoes (opens in new tab)

Richard Roeper of the Chicago Sun-Times (opens in new tab) says this movie has "idiocy in its veins" and Brian Lowry over at CNN (opens in new tab) writes "This is one of those movies that's forgotten almost as soon as it ends, and it doesn't even require any chemical intervention in order to erase the memory." Nick Allen at RogerEbert.com (opens in new tab) says, "though it starts with promise, Spiderhead is pseudo-heady sci-fi stuff that treats its most intriguing elements like an afterthought."

This is also one of those cases where the audiences say the film is even worse than critics. Spiderhead currently has a 42% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes.

Still, the film has some enjoyed positive write-ups from the Los Angeles Times, New York Magazine, and The Daily Telegraph. In fact, Frank Scheck of The Hollywood Reporter (opens in new tab) called it “an unclassifiable good time.” 

As you might expect from its premise, the sci-fi thriller has drawn positive comparisons with Netflix's popular TV show Black Mirror. And the twisty narrative has also been noted as another draw. Plus, Hemsworth’s committed performance has been labeled the best part of the film by several reviewers. Some critics did note that the film feels overstretched which may be because it's based on a short story, Escape from Spiderhead by George Saunders. 

With trending talent both behind and in front of the camera, Netflix couldn’t have chosen a better time to release Spiderhead. But it doesn't look like this one live up to the hype.

Be sure to check out our full list of 11 new movies and shows to watch this weekend (opens in new tab). There's definitely something for everyone. 

Rory Mellon

Rory is a Deals Editor at Tom’s Guide based in the UK. He covers a wide range of topics but with a particular focus on deals, gaming and streaming. When he’s not scouring retailers for PS5 restock or writing hot takes on the latest gaming hardware and streaming shows, he can be found attending music festivals and being thoroughly disappointed by his terrible football team.