The film was critically panned at the time of its release, with many considering it as one of the worst films of all time. It won five Golden Raspberry Awards of its eight nominations, as well as a Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Award for Worst Picture. Despite this, the film developed a cult following, and has also met with more positive assessments over time, most notably from The New York Times, Metacritic, IFC.com and Splitsider. Despite a mediocre box office run, the film became a financial success by selling millions of copies on DVD.
Unemployed 28-year-old cartoonist Gordon "Gord" Brody leaves his parents' home in Portland, Oregon, to pursue his lifelong ambition of obtaining a contract for an animated television series. His parents give him a car in which he drives to Los Angeles and starts work at a cheese sandwich factory. Gord shows his drawings to Dave Davidson, the CEO of a major animation studio; Davidson tells him that the artwork is not bad, but that the concepts depicted, including a vigilante "X-Ray Cat", are nonsensical. Disheartened, Gord quits his job and returns to his parents.
Gord's father Jim constantly insults and belittles him following his return, telling him to forget about being an animator and "get a job." When Gord pressures his friend Darren into skating on a wooden half-pipe he has built outside the Brody home, Darren falls and breaks his leg. At the hospital Gord impersonates a doctor, delivers a baby, and meets an attractive wheelchair-bound nurse—Betty, who has an obsessive penchant for fellatio and an ambition to create a rocket-powered wheelchair. Jim also disparages Betty. After a heated display, Jim smashes Gord's half-pipe, and Gord and his parents go to a family therapy session. There, Gord falsely accuses Jim of "fingering" Gord's younger brother, Freddy. The 25-year-old Freddy is sent to a home for sexually molested children while Gord's mother Julie leaves Jim, and ends up dating the basketball player Shaquille O'Neal. While in a drunken stupor, Jim tells Gord how much of a disappointment he is to him. Affected by Jim's words, Gord decides to abandon his aspirations to be a cartoonist and gets a job at a local sandwich shop.
After seeing a television news report on Betty's successful rocket-powered wheelchair, Gord is inspired to pursue his dreams once again. He returns to Hollywood with a concept based on his relationship with his father: an animated series called Zebras in America. While Gord is pitching this to Davidson, Jim bursts in and trashes Davidson's office. Thinking Jim's actions are part of Gord's pitch, Davidson greenlights Zebras in America and gives Gord a million-dollar check. Gord spends a quarter of that money to thank Betty elaborately for inspiring him, and the remainder to relocate the Brody house to Pakistan with his father inside, unconscious—a response to Jim's earlier put-down that "If this were Pakistan, you would have been sewing soccer balls when you were four years old!"
Gord and Jim soon come to terms, but are then abducted and held hostage. The kidnapping becomes a news item, as Gord's series has already become popular. After 18 months in captivity, Gord and Jim return to America, where a huge crowd welcomes them home.
The theatrical release is 87 minutes and received an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America following requested cuts to tone it down from an NC-17, a rating which Green described as "like porn with murder." As an extra on the DVD release, Green also included a version which he had edited to secure a PG rating. The PG-rated cut of Freddy Got Fingered is a mere three minutes long with a comedic voiceover. Some footage was leaked by the Newgrounds website before release. Years later, Tom Fulp, owner of Newgrounds, confirmed that the leak was a publicity stunt.
On a budget of $14 million, Freddy Got Fingered grossed $14,254,993 domestically and $78,259 overseas for a worldwide total of $14,333,252. The film earned $24,300,000 from DVD sales, and was among the top 50 weekly DVD rentals chart. Green has stated in a few interviews in 2010 that DVD sales have been growing many years later and that there was a cult following.
Upon its original release, the film was universally panned with many critics considering it one of the worst films of all time. Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 11% based on reviews from 93 professional critics, with an average rating of 2.7 out of 10. The site's consensus reads "Unfavorably comparing it with such infamously bad titles as Battlefield Earth, a significant number of critics are calling Tom Green's extreme gross-out comedy the worst movie they have ever seen." Metacritic, which assigns a weighted mean rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, the film has an "Overwhelming dislike" rating score of 13% based on 25 reviews. CinemaScore polls revealed the average grades filmgoers gave Freddy Got Fingered were C and D, and F from older viewers, on an A+ to F scale.
The Toronto Star created a one-time new rating for Freddy Got Fingered, giving it "negative one star out of five stars." CNN's Paul Clinton called it "quite simply the worst movie ever released by a major studio in Hollywood history" and listed the running time as "87 awful minutes."
Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film a rare zero-star rating, listed it as one of his most hated films of all time, describing the film thus: "This movie doesn't scrape the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't the bottom of the barrel. This movie isn't below the bottom of the barrel. This movie doesn't deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence with barrels[...]. The day may come when Freddy Got Fingered is seen as a milestone of neo-surrealism. The day may never come when it is seen as funny." The magazine Complex also ranked the film at #14 on its "25 Movies That Killed Careers".
Richard Roeper, in the TV show At the Movies, hosted by Roeper and Ebert, called it "horrible" and expressed the view that Green was a poor comedian, going so far as to say that he "should be flipping burgers somewhere". Along with Ebert, he was offended by the numerous "gross-out" gags.
Film critic Leonard Maltin shared Ebert and Roeper's views of the film: "Instantly notorious word-of-mouth debacle became the poster child for all that's wrong with movie comedy. Gags include the maiming of an innocent child and a newborn spun around in the air by its umbilical cord—compounded by the almost unimaginable ineptitude with which they're executed."
The film received eight Golden Raspberry Award nominations in 2002, winning five. In acknowledgment of the critical consensus regarding the film's merits, Green personally appeared at the ceremony to accept his awards, saying: "I'd just like to say to all the other nominees in the audience: I don't think that I deserve it any more than the rest of you. I'd like to say that; I don't think that it would be true, though." In February 2010, it was announced that Freddy Got Fingered was nominated for "Worst Picture of the Decade" for the 30th Golden Raspberry Awards. It lost to Battlefield Earth.
Freddy Got Fingered began to see more positive praise over time. One of the few notable critics who gave it a generally positive review was A. O. Scott of The New York Times, who compared the film to conceptual performance art. Critic Nathan Rabin of The A.V. Club gave the film a rave review in his "My Year of Flops" column where he partially fulfilled Ebert's prediction, comparing it to the work of Jean-Luc Godard and calling the film "less as a conventional comedy than as a borderline Dadaist provocation, a $15 million prank at the studio's expense" adding "it's utterly rare and wondrous to witness the emergence of a dazzlingly original comic voice. I experienced that glorious sensation watching Fingered...I can honestly say that I've never seen anything remotely like it" and rated it a "Secret Success" In a later column, Rabin stated "I was a little worried that I'd catch flak for giving mad props to a film as divisive and widely reviled as Freddy Got Fingered. So I was relieved to discover that every single comment agreed with my assessment of it... It also didn't escape my attention that my Freddy post was the most commented-upon post in the history of My Year of Flops by a huge margin." Comedian Chris Rock listed Freddy Got Fingered as one of his favorite movies on his website.
Later, in his review of the film Stealing Harvard, a film co-starring Green, Ebert wrote: "Seeing Tom Green reminded me, as how could it not, of his movie Freddy Got Fingered, which was so poorly received by the film critics that it received only one lonely, apologetic positive review on the Tomatometer. I gave it—let's see—zero stars. Bad movie, especially the scene where Green was whirling the newborn infant around his head by its umbilical cord. But the thing is, I remember Freddy Got Fingered more than a year later. I refer to it sometimes. It is a milestone. And for all its sins, it was at least an ambitious movie, a go-for-broke attempt to accomplish something. It failed, but it has not left me convinced that Tom Green doesn't have good work in him. Anyone with his nerve and total lack of taste is sooner or later going to make a movie worth seeing."
The film has subsequently developed a large cult following. In Tom Green's interview on The Opie and Anthony Show, host Opie noted the film had begun to be regarded as 'one of the funniest movies ever made'. Green noted the film had sold a million copies, and that he wished to make a director's cut due to a lot of footage not making the final cut. Green notes that he was not trying to make The Jazz Singer and that many fans of the movie shout out scenes from the film regularly at his stand-up performance.
Unreality Magazine featured the film in its list of "10 Hilarious Movies That Received Terrible Reviews", noting that critics' taste in comedies tend not to reflect the general public. Vadim Rizov for IFC.com wrote an article titled "In defense of Freddy Got Fingered". He calls the film one of the great underrated comedies of the decade and says the film would go on to do better if it was released today, comparing it to the successful Adult Swim series Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
Green has stated that he would like to do a "director's cut" DVD release of the film in 2011 to celebrate the 10-year anniversary.
On March 9, 2010, on Loveline, Green officially announced that a director's cut will be released. In an answer to a question from a fan on his website tomgreen.com in December 2010, Green said that there was no progress yet in regards to the director's cut. In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" (AMA) Green did on the website Reddit on October 17, 2013, Green responded to a question regarding the release of the director's cut with: "The studio didn't give me the footage to make the directors cut. I want to do it. If you contact New Regency or 20th Century Fox and tell them you want a directors cut maybe it will happen!"
On March 22, 2016, James Meyers was arrested on an outstanding warrant for failing to return a VHS copy of Freddy Got Fingered, borrowed in 2002 from a now-defunct video rental store. Green offered to pay related fines, if they were not "an outrageous sum".