Fact Check: Negative Reviews of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi”


“13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” is the based-on-a-true-story film about the Sept. 11, 2012 Islamic extremist terrorist attacks on the U.S. compounds in Benghazi, Libya. It’s not a comprehensive tale: it sticks primarily to the personal stories as told by three CIA operators who heroically helped fight off the attackers as dozens of Americans waited for an outside U.S. military rescue that never came. Four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens, were killed.

With the movie’s release came a stampede of negative reviews, many published in news or quasi-news publications. Were the facts these “reviewers” portrayed — accurate? Or were they an attempt to controversialize a movie for political reasons?


  1. “13 Hours” was the #2 highest grossing new movie release in the U.S. its opening week (second only to Ride Along 2).
  2. It was the #4 movie in the U.S. overall.
  3. Its opening weekend, “13 Hours” was on target with Paramount studio projections of $20 million, earning $19.22 million for the four-day weekend.
  4. Audience reviews were overwhelmingly positive, hovering around 87% on RottenTomatoes.com. Compare that to 58% for “Ride Along 2.”
  5. Of the “13 Hours” opening, Variety stated, “The wartime drama took in a respectable $900,000 at 1,995 locations on Thursday night.”

But a flurry of negative reviews seemed disconnected from those facts. Anthony D’Alessandro declared on Deadline.com that “13 Hours” opened “lower than expected.” Gary Susman on Moviefone.com oddly claimed that “13 Hours” “struck out at the box office.”

Judy Kurtz of The Hill constructed her own reality in a blog entitled, “Benghazi film flops at the box office.” The blog linked to, but seemed utterly to ignore, a Hollywood Reporter article that touted “13 Hours” as the #4 film in the U.S.

The liberal Salon.com’s headline was also contrary to the facts at hand. Its review by left-wing writer Amanda Marcotte was titled “Audiences reject ’13 Hours’: Big blow for the right’s desperate quest for Clinton’s Benghazi smoking gun — it’s just not there.” (Yes, that’s the actual headline.)

Prior to its release, left-wing writer Alyssa Rosenberg portrayed “13 Hours” as “boring” in The Washington Post and sprinkled her review with tried-and-true astroturf language such as “conspiracy theories” and “obsessed” (Rosenberg’s previous work is reviewed in a separate Fact Check here). It should be pointed out that The Washington Post did not universally pan the film. For example, Michael O’Sullivan called it “gripping” and gave it a positive review.

Vox.com, the left-wing website headed by a liberal blogger named Ezra Klein, gave “13 Hours” an extensive, negative review…after seeing only the trailer. “Even the trailer for Michael Bay’s Benghazi movie is patronizing and dishonest,” wrote Vox’s Max Fisher. He then goes on to incorrectly portray the idea that rescuers could have helped as a “myth.” (Note: Fisher has previously been flagged by The Washington Post for “embarrassing errors” in his writings.)


In terms of opinions, people obviously can form wildly different views on the same film. It’s even possible that some genuinely find a film “boring,” whereas a majority of audiences are describing it as “gripping,” with theatre responses ranging from awestruck silence to standing ovations.

From a success standpoint, “13 Hours” had nowhere near the opening of other Michael Bay blockbusters such as his “Transformers” films. In that respect, it’s fair to say “13 Hours” is not in the same class. However, it was never projected to earn that sort of money. By way of comparison, the “13 Hours” opening was in the same range as “The Wolf of Wall Street” and is approaching “The Big Short,” which was released a month earlier. Neither is considered to be a flop.

Watch Full Measure’s “Benghazi: Rescue Interrupted”

It’s inaccurate to claim that “13 Hours” is a “flop” or box office disaster. Audience reviews, box office rankings and earnings tell a different story. The film was the #2 opener and #4 movie nationally. It met studio earnings projections. It has high audience review scores.

In the end, there’s no better example of astroturf: partisan spinners joined in a misleading attempt discredit the film and discourage audiences from attending. For falsely claiming “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” to be an economic failure its first week, the reviewers who did so (apparently with political motives) are awarded Three Little Devils.




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16 Responses to “Fact Check: Negative Reviews of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi””

  1. Gary Scott
    January 30, 2016 at 7:20 am #

    “Cynical sarcasm” is very effective way of presenting the truth….
    Hopefully we have enough educated people to understand the difference between what is politically cynical and what is actually sarcastic satire!

    But as an acorn falls not far from the tree, this all makes perfect sense to me!

  2. Richard Tyner
    January 30, 2016 at 8:15 am #

    Well written and well said as usual from you. If journalists of he major networks would this ethic as you have American citizens might have not allowed the four yers to take place and would have demanded better. Thanks for the great piece.

  3. Brian Mumford
    January 30, 2016 at 9:38 am #

    I observed the same sort of thing with Judyth Vary Baker and her book Me and Lee. Although the New York Times wouldn’t review it, and no media would acknowledge it even existed, Amazon would get flooded with negative reviews from people who never even read her book. Judy, her friends and I would get into discussions in the reviews debunking them and exposing their attempts to mislead people about a book they never read. We have done the same thing in various forums on Facebook and throughout the internet where the same people seem to be continuously infiltrating groups to defame her and “debunk” notions of a conspiracy. Again, most of these people never read her book. When a documented prodigy and former lover of Lee Harvey Oswald breaks her silence about the project her and Lee were working on to assassinate Castro by weaponizing cancer, you would think the media would cover it if only to debunk it. When Donald Trump sends people to her conference in 2015, and people like Roger Stone are guest speakers, you would think the media would pay attention. You would also think they’d ask questions when former governor Jesse Ventura interviewed Baker extensively and wholeheartedly believers her. Instead, the media loves to talk about Kim Kardashian or Miley Cyrus and pretend as if Judyth Vary Baker isn’t among us. I’ve gotten to know Judyth over the past two and a half years and her story is unshakable despite the attempts of John McAdams and a handful of others who spread lies and half truths about her. At least some karma appeared to kick in when professor McAdams lost his job at Marquette University last year after threatening a student.

  4. Curtis Matsune
    January 30, 2016 at 10:52 am #

    Bad reviews from the mainstream media are my #1 clue that a movie will be good. It works surprisingly well for me, although some movies are just bad so the mainstream media reviewers are right in a broken clock kind of way.

  5. Harold Seneker
    January 30, 2016 at 1:00 pm #

    At the most basic level this is simply an an absolutely terrific combat action movie. It is well worth seeing just for that, if you’re up for it.

    The only reason it is “political” is the unanswered calls for help depicted in the film. Without ever mentioning anyone by name, they convict those on whose watch Benghazi occurred: A certain current candidate for president certain factions need to protect at all costs who was then part of an Administration those factions must uphold as sacrosanct.

    Let the chips fall where they may, and keep those little-devil icons coming.

  6. jeffery tartt
    January 30, 2016 at 4:48 pm #

    Once again, thanks for what you do Sharyl. As a veteran and son of a veteran, I tend to believe the men who told the tale than the men and women who lied about it. Hillary Clinton is a disgrace and embarrassment to this country and what it stands for. You can quote me on that if you want to. Kepp up the good work!

  7. Erik
    January 31, 2016 at 9:55 pm #

    I saw the movie the weekend it opened. The theatre was packed. Leaving every other topic for another day, as it relates to blaming a protest over a YouTube video, Ms. Clinton is either a liar of the highest degree or was alarmingly unaware of matters in one of her own consulates. Remember- she told victims’ families at he memorial service, at least two flu days later, it was related to the video. She did thin in the first minute of her speech.

  8. Barry C. Jacobsen
    February 1, 2016 at 5:43 pm #

    Terrific review and good points, Sharyl. As an ex-Special Forces Operator, I viewed the film with a critical eye; but for a completely different reason than the Democrats who went with the intent to find fault and discredit it. As someone who has been on the sharp end of the spear, I can’t see war-movies without nit-picking every technical mistake; even the sound effects (high-velocity rounds zipping by make a very distinctive sound).
    But this film was in every way terrific. It got the technical aspects near perfect, and the actors really seemed like experienced military operators. The writers even got the banter down right!

    I reviewed this film for my blog (and linked to yours, as well), at Deadliest Blogger; where I opine on military matters and history. In my opinion, “13 Hours” is the best war film since “Black Hawk Down” (a film it resembles in many specifics), in 2001.


  9. Deborah Gregson
    February 1, 2016 at 11:34 pm #

    Thank you for this review of the general media and reviewers concerning this movie. We purposely went to see 13 Hours on Jan. 15th, the night it opened here to theaters, in order to help make a statement to the media and Hollywood that we supported the film and the men whose story it told. I’m glad we contributed to the great box office showing the film made.

  10. Joe Oglesby
    February 2, 2016 at 7:04 pm #

    Sharyl, I regularly read your work and you are always a breath of fresh air.

    When everyone else has moved on, Thank-You for not abandoning these brave men and the family’s of those that died. Such an unnecessary travesty.

    If the mainstream media were talking about this every day, we would know by now who refused the aid and left these men to needlessly die. Traitors!

    Keep it up Sheryl, You are making your place in history.

  11. Dennis Hauswirth
    February 3, 2016 at 5:01 pm #

    Knowing the movie would be too intense for my wife, I went on a Tuesday night to see it by myself. The attendance was light, but the film riveting. After the conclusion, the theater was absolutely silent – stunned silence. To see pictorially the testimony of these men – something I have believed from the beginning was somehow reassuring. It amazed me as to these heroes tenacity and patience in identifying the enemy, when everyone had weapons – amazing.

  12. Liz Wagner
    February 4, 2016 at 4:22 pm #

    I’m so glad I saw this tweet. I saw “13 Hours” earlier this week. To me, it is an Oscar-worthy picture that has definitely been targeted with negative reviews because it defies the left’s interpretation and response as to what took place in Benghazi on 9/11/2012. When I returned home after seeing it, I visited the Rotten Tomatoes site, as you did, to see what other viewers and critics thought. Then I read the New York Times review by Manohla Dargis. It was vile.

    Of a movie about five selfless men, some of whom died there, in Benghazi, and all of whom risked their lives, repeatedly, to protect and save the white-collar CIA intelligence and State Dept. staff who had shown them nothing but contempt, until their lives were in danger, Dargis quips it was “an eternity of relentless combat.” No ****, Sherlock! In her review of “13 Hours,” Dargis conveyed the heartlessness and evil that consumes those whose main purpose is to destroy whatever they determine is politically incorrect.

  13. John Q. Rotten
    February 22, 2016 at 2:26 pm #

    Great job!
    I’m your new biggest fan.

  14. Steve Waite
    March 9, 2016 at 3:54 pm #

    When I go to Rotten Tomatoes, I give the Audience score about 99% weight and Reviews score about 1% . I find that I agree with the audience way more often than the left leaning, bought and paid for reviewers.

  15. Remi
    June 27, 2016 at 3:08 pm #

    Finally got around to seeing this. A well-crafted movie. I never saw combat, but I did know some “Operators.” With all this talk about Type A personalities, I was not ready for how humble those I met were. Thanks for your work in this (and to the film maker). We owe these people so much more.


  1. “13 HOURS” MAY BE THE BEST WAR MOVIE IN 15 YEARS! | The Deadliest Blogger: Military History Page - January 30, 2016

    […] Fact Check: Negative Reviews of “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” […]

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