Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 85% based on reviews from 45 critics. It won the Golden Reel Award for Best Sound Editing and Sound Effects, is 14th on Total Film magazine's "List of the 50 Greatest Comedy Films of All Time" and is number 69 on Bravo's "100 Funniest Movies".
The Blues Brothers has been criticized for its simplistic plot and being overly reliant on car chases. Among the reviewers at the time of the film's release who held that opinion was Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times. Ebert praised it for its energetic musical numbers and said that the car chases were "incredible". In his review for The Washington Post, Gary Arnold criticized Landis engorging "the frail plot of The Blues Brothers with car chases and crack-ups, filmed with such avid, humorless starkness on the streets of Chicago that comic sensations are virtually obliterated". Time magazine's Richard Corliss wrote, "The Blues Brothers is a demolition symphony that works with the cold efficiency of a Moog synthesizer gone sadistic".
Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized the film for shortchanging viewers on more details about Jake and Elwood's affinity for African-American culture. She also took director Landis to task for "distracting editing", mentioning the Soul Food diner scene in which saxophonist Lou Marini's head is out of shot as he dances on the counter. In the documentary, Stories Behind the Making of The Blues Brothers, Landis acknowledges the criticism, and Marini recalls the dismay he felt at seeing the completed film.
On the 30th anniversary, L'Osservatore Romano, the "semi-official" newspaper of the Holy See, wrote that the film is filled with positive symbolism and moral references that can be related to Catholicism. They went further stating, The Blues Brothers "is a memorable film, and, judging by the facts, a Catholic one."
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