Andrew Sarris called the film "an impressive achievement in its confident expertness in rendering the simulated realities of a bygone time and place, largely with an inspired use of regional amateur actors and extras with all the right moves and sounds." In Premiere, Glenn Kenny praised Day-Lewis's performance: "Once his Plainview takes wing, the relentless focus of the performance makes the character unique." Manohla Dargis wrote, in her review for The New York Times, "the film is above all a consummate work of art, one that transcends the historically fraught context of its making, and its pleasures are unapologetically aesthetic." Esquire also praised Day-Lewis' performance: "what's most fun, albeit in a frightening way, is watching this greedmeister become more and more unhinged as he locks horns with Eli Sunday ... both Anderson and Day-Lewis go for broke. But it's a pleasure to be reminded, if only once every four years, that subtlety can be overrated." Richard Schickel in Time praised There Will Be Blood as "one of the most wholly original American movies ever made." Critic Tom Charity, writing about CNN's ten-best films list, calls the film the only "flat-out masterpiece" of 2007.
Schickel also named the film one of the Top 10 Movies of 2007, ranking it at #9, calling Daniel Day-Lewis' performance "astonishing", and calling the film "a mesmerizing meditation on the American spirit in all its maddening ambiguities: mean and noble, angry and secretive, hypocritical and more than a little insane in its aspirations."
James Christopher, chief film critic for The Times, published a list in April 2008 of his top 100 films, controversially placing There Will Be Blood in second place, behind only Casablanca.
Total Film placed it at number three in their list of the 50 best movies of Total Film's lifetime, while The Guardian ranked it 17th best arthouse film of all time.
However, some critics were less laudatory. Mick LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle challenged the film's high praise by saying "there should be no need to pretend There Will Be Blood is a masterpiece just because Anderson sincerely tried to make it one." Several months after his initial review of the film, LaSalle reiterated that while he felt it was "clear" that There Will Be Blood was not a masterpiece, he wondered if its "style, an approach, an attitude... might become important in the future." Carla Meyer, of the Sacramento Bee, gave the film three and a half out of four stars; while calling it a "masterpiece", she said that the final confrontation between Daniel and Eli marked when There Will Be Blood "stops being a masterpiece and becomes a really good movie. What was grand becomes petty, then overwrought."
Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, saying that, "There Will Be Blood is the kind of film that is easily called great. I am not sure of its greatness. It was filmed in the same area of Texas used by No Country for Old Men, and that is a great film, and a perfect one. But There Will Be Blood is not perfect, and in its imperfections (its unbending characters, its lack of women or any reflection of ordinary society, its ending, its relentlessness) we may see its reach exceeding its grasp. Which is not a dishonorable thing."
Since 2008, the film has been included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and every revised edition released afterwards.
Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives a score of 91% based on reviews from 214 critics. The consensus reads, "Widely touted as a masterpiece, this sparse and sprawling epic about the underhanded 'heroes' of capitalism boasts incredible performances by leads Daniel Day-Lewis and Paul Dano, and is director Paul Thomas Anderson's best work to date." On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 92%, based on 39 reviews indicating "Universal Acclaim".
Top ten lists
The film was on the American Film Institute's 10 Movies of the Year; AFI's jury said:
There Will Be Blood is bravura film-making by one of American film's modern masters. Paul Thomas Anderson's epic poem of savagery, optimism and obsession is a true meditation on America. The film drills down into the dark heart of capitalism, where domination, not gain, is the ultimate goal. In a career defined by transcendent performances, Daniel Day-Lewis creates a character so rich and so towering, that "Daniel Plainview" will haunt the history of film for generations to come.
The film appeared on many critics' top ten lists of the best films of 2007.
"Best films of the decade" lists
Review aggregator site Metacritic, when comparing over 40 'top ten of the decade' lists from various notable publications, found There Will Be Blood to be the most mentioned, appearing on 46% of critics' lists and being ranked the decade's best film on five of them.
In December 2009, Peter Travers of Rolling Stone chose the film as the #1 film of the decade, saying:
Two years after first seeing There Will Be Blood, I am convinced that Paul Thomas Anderson's profound portrait of an American primitive—take that, Citizen Kane—deserves pride of place among the decade's finest. Daniel Day-Lewis gave the best and ballsiest performance of the past 10 years. As Daniel Plainview, a prospector who loots the land of its natural resources in silver and oil to fill his pockets and gargantuan ego, he showed us a man draining his humanity for power. And Anderson, having extended Plainview's rage from Earth to heaven in the form of a corrupt preacher (Paul Dano), managed to "drink the milkshake" of other risk-taking directors. If I had to stake the future of film in the next decade on one filmmaker, I'd go with PTA. Even more than Boogie Nights and Magnolia—his rebel cries from the 1990s—Blood let Anderson put technology at the service of character. The score by Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood was a sonic explosion that reinvented what film music could be. And the images captured by Robert Elswit, a genius of camera and lighting, made visual poetry out of an oil well consumed by flame. For the final word on Blood, I'll quote Plainview: "It was one goddamn hell of a show."
Chicago Tribune and At the Movies critic Michael Phillips named There Will Be Blood the decade's best film. Phillips stated:
This most eccentric and haunting of modern epics is driven by oilman Daniel Plainview, who, in the hands of actor Daniel Day-Lewis, becomes a Horatio Alger story gone horribly wrong. Writer/director Paul Thomas Anderson's camera is as crucial to the films hypnotic pull as the performance at its center. For its evocation of the early 1900s, its relentless focus on one man's fascinating obsessions, and for its inspiring example of how to freely adapt a novel--plus, what I think is the performance of the new century--There Will Be Blood stands alone. The more I see it, the sadder, and stranger, and more visually astounding it grows--and the more it seems to say about the best and worst in the American ethos of rugged individualism. Awfully good!
Entertainment Weekly critic Lisa Schwarzbaum named There Will Be Blood the decade's best film as well. In her original review, Schwarzbaum stated:
Anyhow, a fierce story meshing big exterior-oriented themes of American character with an interior-oriented portrait of an impenetrable man (two men, really, including the false prophet Sunday) is only half Anderson's quest, and his exciting achievement. The other half lies in the innovation applied to the telling itself. For a huge picture, There Will Be Blood is exquisitely intimate, almost a collection of sketches. For a long, slow movie, it speeds. For a story set in the fabled bad-old-days past, it's got the terrors of modernity in its DNA. Leaps of romantic chordal grandeur from Brahms' Violin Concerto in D Major announce the launch of a fortune-changing oil well down the road from Eli Sunday's church—and then, much later, announce a kind of end of the world. For bleakness, the movie can't be beat—nor for brilliance.
In December 2009, the website Gawker.com determined that There Will Be Blood is film critics' consensus best film of the decade when aggregating all Best of the Decade lists, stating: "And when the votes were all in, by a nose, There Will Be Blood stood alone at the top of the decade, its straw in the whole damn cinema's milkshake."
The list of critics who lauded There Will Be Blood in their assessments of films from the past decade include:
Box office performance
The first public screening of There Will Be Blood was on September 29, 2007, at Fantastic Fest in Austin, Texas. The film was released on December 26, 2007, in New York and Los Angeles where it grossed US$190,739 on its opening weekend. The film then opened in 885 theaters in selected markets on January 25, 2008, grossing $4.8 million on its opening weekend. The film went on to make $40.2 million in North America and $35.9 million in the rest of the world, with a worldwide total of $76.1 million, well above its $25 million budget. But the prints and advertising cost for the film's United States release was about $40 million.
The film was released on DVD on April 8, 2008. It was released with one and two-disc editions, both are packaged in a cardboard case. Anderson has refused to record an audio commentary for the film. A HD DVD release was announced, but later canceled due to the discontinuation of the format. A Blu-ray edition was released on June 3, 2008. The film has grossed $23,604,823 through DVD sales.