• G, 2 hr. 15 min.
  • Classics
  • Directed By:
    Robert Rossen
    In Theaters:
    Mar 28, 1956 Wide
    On DVD:
    Oct 19, 2004
  • United Artists

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Alexander the Great Reviews

Page 1 of 5
jjnxn
jjnxn

Super Reviewer

September 26, 2007
Colorful pageant of a film would have benefited from some judicious trimming, by about 1/2 an hour.
AJ V

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
Another boring epic I saw on TV. I didn't see the whole thing, but some scenes were okay. Overall an okay movie.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

August 22, 2007
Huge overblown epic about the ancient world has Burton as Alexander the Great who fails to really bring the history to life or draw you in so you care about the well known character one way or the other. March was unrecognizable as Alexander's father Philip but stood out in the role. It plays like a soap opera with the disputes between ancient nations, between son and parents, and between leader and subjects. I kept expecting the story to go further. I had recently read a biography of Alexander the Great by Agnes Savill that seemed fairly balanced. There is hardly anything about the military strategy used, the few battle scenes lack action or energy, and the influence of Aristotle and the way that Alexander's culture spread is scarcely mentioned.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2013
"Alexander the Great, his name struck fear into hearts of men! Alexander the Great became a legend 'mongst mortal men!" Yeah, Steve Harris isn't exactly a champion lyricist, but hey, I guess such that song reference fits... this discussion of a 1950s sword-and-sandals film starring Richard Burton. Maybe Iron Maiden gels better with Oliver Stone's "Alexander", because it is so over-the-top, and I'll even admit that, even though I'm one of, like, twelve people who actually likes it, or at least the director's cut that Stone was so lucky to obtain. Poor old Robert Rossen was no so lucky, and that big, three-hour epic he was planning on ended up getting producered down by Gordon Griffith (Nice going, son of Tarzan) to a two-hour-and-a-quarter-long bomb of proportions about as colossal as this subject matter. Man, Charlton Heston told them that this film would be easy to make bad, and he was off making "The Ten Commandments" while this was all going on, so he was in a real prophesying kind of mood, and sure enough, some of what few people who actually saw this film would argue that it's not even as good as Oliver Stone's "Alexander", with one of those people being me... that one jerk who thought that "Alexander" was good. Yeah, this film is alright, but it's still not quite the overblown mess of an ultimately pretty good epic that was Stone's effort, and for more than a few reasons.

Robert Rossen's script is hardly a disaster and has its share of aspects worth complimenting, but if nothing else is flawed about this film, it is indeed its script, which has moments of fall-flat dialogue that prove to be rather cheesy, especially when backing histrionics, which were undoubtedly rich during the much more romantic time portrayed here in this film, but are overemphasized in this film to the point of feeling simply disengagingly manufactured. If Rossen's script is tainted with nothing else, it is, of course, conventionalism, something that had to been difficult to avoid at this time in which Hollywood ancient epics were abundant, but is so shamelessly overexplored in this film that final product all but, if not decidedly stands as generic to the point of being trite. Now, the final product's genericism is not harshly grating, but it is exceedingly disconcerting, distancing some investment that would have perhaps been easily recovered if this film took the time to flesh out its intriguing subject matter more. I'm going to tell you right now, if this film's being abridged from three hours or so to just under 140 minutes was as last-minute as they say, then that fact is palpable, as there a couple of times in which this film awkwardly slam-bangs exposition, if it takes time at all to flesh out exposition that is, because as surprisingly well-rounded as this film is in a couple of areas, regardless of its length that is relatively too short when compared to subject matter this sweeping, there's still a lot that feels undercooked, and perhaps could have been firmly meditated upon within this two-hours and a quarter timeframe if this film didn't waste time with moments of slow-down that are brought on by aimless filler. The film's unevenness in pacing is problematic in a subtle fashion, but rest assured that, before too long, you find yourself drifting farther from this character piece that you should by all of the meandering storytelling whose expository depth lapses more often than it should, and it doesn't help that no matter what the pacing is in the story structuring department, the film's atmosphere has a tendency to dry up into blandness that rarely, if ever bores as severely as they say, but certainly dulls things down a bit. A film this flawed could easily collapse into, at best, mediocrity, yet this effort's strengths compensate enough to craft a decent final product, but one whose decency goes challenged by conventionalism, aimlessness, dramatic shortcoming and all around unrealized ambition, thus making the final product kind of forgettable. Still, while I was with the film, I must admit that I found myself enjoying it more often than not, because no matter how flawed the film is, compensation is still there, even in the photographic value.

For 1956, this film looked mighty good, but by now, Robert Krasker's and Theodore J. Pahle's limited photographic tastes aren't what they used to be, and yet, there's no denying the quality of this film's visual style at the time, largely because the film is still quite handsome by today's standards, with a comfortable framing to give you a good feel for this world, and vibrant coloring to, not necessarily stun, but still catch your eye and really pronounce the beauty of a certain aspect that is even greater than the photography. The film could have lazed out and given you a bare-bones representation of the 4th century BC, but an immediate reflection of this project's ambition is the rich quality of its production value, with David Ffolkes designing distinct and stylishly attractive costumes that help in defining the characters who don them, while art director Andrej Andrejew designs a look for this film that not only convinces you of the distinct era, but proves to be handsomely intricate, with a striking flavor that impresses time and again throughout the film's course. If nothing is good about this film, it's its look, because whether it's well-designed or well-shot, the look of this film proves to be consistently attractive, at least on an artistic level, and that might be more than this film deserves. This film has a fine style, though not enough substance, and yet, with that said, it's hard to deny this film's desire to deliver on compelling storytelling, as surely as it's difficult to not understand why this film would be backed by so much ambition, for although this film isn't as meditative upon dramatic possibilities as, well, Oliver Stone's "Alexander" (Please, people, don't get on my back), Alexander the Great's story is still a captivating one with a wealth of political, military and human intrigue that could go into making the layered, sweepingly resonant epic that this film really isn't. Still, no matter how often this film falls short when it comes to storytelling, it would fall out of the decency that it holds so firmly were it not for those fair deal of moments in which Robert Rossen, as both director and writer, gives you a taste of anything from moderate entertainment value to a bit of human characterization, anchored by good acting. The performances in this film aren't killer, with some supporting performances feeling kind of dated, yet there is still charisma throughout this cast that Richard Burton heads as not simply particularly charismatic, but surprisingly effectively layered in his portrayal of the rise of one of the great leaders of legend, who gradually grows from an ambitious and promising young prince into a powerful, if flawed leader whose depths are sold about as much as they can be by Burton. Burton isn't as impressive as he would go on to be in 1963's "Cleopatra", but he is impressive enough to help in carrying this mess of a film, which faces too many shortcomings to come closer to rewarding than collapsing into mediocrity, but nonetheless stands as generally decent on ground that is still a bit shaky.

Bottom line, script flaws present the occasional fall-flat dialogue piece and more than a few histrionic moments, as well as conventionalism that joins uneven pacing and many a dry spell in distancing engagement value and investment enough for the film to fall as underwhelming, yet still retain a reasonable degree of decency through handsome cinematography, excellent production value, high points in storytelling and decent acting, - particularly by leading man Richard Burton - which do enough justice to an intriguing story to make Robert Rossen's "Alexander the Great" a generally enjoyable early cinematic look at the life of one of history's great leaders, even if it is far from as great as its primary focus.

2.5/5 - Fair
jimbotender
jimbotender

Super Reviewer

January 29, 2009
A passionate filmmaker like Rossen could have switched off the engine,return credits to the producers and reject a project like Alexander's life.Paradoxically,not only he's successful in accomplishing it,Burton is hermaphroditic in a masculine facade just as Alexander was supposed to be shown!So Mr Stone you can kiss my sorry ass!!!
June 19, 2011
Just saw this again, & I must say, it's better than the Collin Ferrel Version of recent.Although Richard Burton with his obvious wrinkles & laugh lines didn't look like the young Alexander, he acted the heck out of the role.The Movie was visually a Feast of the Senses.
November 9, 2008
good stuff in cinenamascope its grand and nice to look at but only burton and march must try 2 carry this huge picture but they falter.
September 2, 2007
I thought Burton played a more vital Alexander. He takes this role and embodies every attitude of the young Macedonian king. Unlike Stone's recent portrayal using a sniveling Colin Farrel, who couldn't lick the boot of Richard Burton.
MovieGuruDude72
August 13, 2007
More enjoyable than that Colin Farrell-Oliver Stone abortion from a few years ago. Richard Burton, even at his worst, is still better than half the actors out there.
stevendapcevich
August 16, 2006
Richard Burton does an infinitly better portrayal of King Alexander than Colin ever could hope to do.
January 15, 2014
Incredibly melodramatic and surprisingly tacky, Rossen's tale of the Macedonian conqueror is a lot of things. Despite a talented cast boasting the likes of Burton, Cushing, Baker and March, the production values are poor, be it fake costumes or passing off 50s Spain as Ancient Macedon, and Mario Nascimbene's score is just a drone of percussion. Furthermore, the film is very lopsided when it comes to Alexander's life, focusing exclusively on his upbringing and campaign against Persia, glossing over the Indian campaign , the mass Greek/Persian marriages and ultimately, the man's final legacy to the world; the union of cultures.
December 27, 2013
Rated for its era. More later coming perhaps.
December 9, 2013
Decent sandal epic. Although the look and style are dated and the script has its flaws this movie is still enjoyable for people interested in the subject. Oliver Stone has heavily drawn on this early effort, but he barely equalled it.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

May 31, 2013
"Alexander the Great, his name struck fear into hearts of men! Alexander the Great became a legend 'mongst mortal men!" Yeah, Steve Harris isn't exactly a champion lyricist, but hey, I guess such that song reference fits... this discussion of a 1950s sword-and-sandals film starring Richard Burton. Maybe Iron Maiden gels better with Oliver Stone's "Alexander", because it is so over-the-top, and I'll even admit that, even though I'm one of, like, twelve people who actually likes it, or at least the director's cut that Stone was so lucky to obtain. Poor old Robert Rossen was no so lucky, and that big, three-hour epic he was planning on ended up getting producered down by Gordon Griffith (Nice going, son of Tarzan) to a two-hour-and-a-quarter-long bomb of proportions about as colossal as this subject matter. Man, Charlton Heston told them that this film would be easy to make bad, and he was off making "The Ten Commandments" while this was all going on, so he was in a real prophesying kind of mood, and sure enough, some of what few people who actually saw this film would argue that it's not even as good as Oliver Stone's "Alexander", with one of those people being me... that one jerk who thought that "Alexander" was good. Yeah, this film is alright, but it's still not quite the overblown mess of an ultimately pretty good epic that was Stone's effort, and for more than a few reasons.

Robert Rossen's script is hardly a disaster and has its share of aspects worth complimenting, but if nothing else is flawed about this film, it is indeed its script, which has moments of fall-flat dialogue that prove to be rather cheesy, especially when backing histrionics, which were undoubtedly rich during the much more romantic time portrayed here in this film, but are overemphasized in this film to the point of feeling simply disengagingly manufactured. If Rossen's script is tainted with nothing else, it is, of course, conventionalism, something that had to been difficult to avoid at this time in which Hollywood ancient epics were abundant, but is so shamelessly overexplored in this film that final product all but, if not decidedly stands as generic to the point of being trite. Now, the final product's genericism is not harshly grating, but it is exceedingly disconcerting, distancing some investment that would have perhaps been easily recovered if this film took the time to flesh out its intriguing subject matter more. I'm going to tell you right now, if this film's being abridged from three hours or so to just under 140 minutes was as last-minute as they say, then that fact is palpable, as there a couple of times in which this film awkwardly slam-bangs exposition, if it takes time at all to flesh out exposition that is, because as surprisingly well-rounded as this film is in a couple of areas, regardless of its length that is relatively too short when compared to subject matter this sweeping, there's still a lot that feels undercooked, and perhaps could have been firmly meditated upon within this two-hours and a quarter timeframe if this film didn't waste time with moments of slow-down that are brought on by aimless filler. The film's unevenness in pacing is problematic in a subtle fashion, but rest assured that, before too long, you find yourself drifting farther from this character piece that you should by all of the meandering storytelling whose expository depth lapses more often than it should, and it doesn't help that no matter what the pacing is in the story structuring department, the film's atmosphere has a tendency to dry up into blandness that rarely, if ever bores as severely as they say, but certainly dulls things down a bit. A film this flawed could easily collapse into, at best, mediocrity, yet this effort's strengths compensate enough to craft a decent final product, but one whose decency goes challenged by conventionalism, aimlessness, dramatic shortcoming and all around unrealized ambition, thus making the final product kind of forgettable. Still, while I was with the film, I must admit that I found myself enjoying it more often than not, because no matter how flawed the film is, compensation is still there, even in the photographic value.

For 1956, this film looked mighty good, but by now, Robert Krasker's and Theodore J. Pahle's limited photographic tastes aren't what they used to be, and yet, there's no denying the quality of this film's visual style at the time, largely because the film is still quite handsome by today's standards, with a comfortable framing to give you a good feel for this world, and vibrant coloring to, not necessarily stun, but still catch your eye and really pronounce the beauty of a certain aspect that is even greater than the photography. The film could have lazed out and given you a bare-bones representation of the 4th century BC, but an immediate reflection of this project's ambition is the rich quality of its production value, with David Ffolkes designing distinct and stylishly attractive costumes that help in defining the characters who don them, while art director Andrej Andrejew designs a look for this film that not only convinces you of the distinct era, but proves to be handsomely intricate, with a striking flavor that impresses time and again throughout the film's course. If nothing is good about this film, it's its look, because whether it's well-designed or well-shot, the look of this film proves to be consistently attractive, at least on an artistic level, and that might be more than this film deserves. This film has a fine style, though not enough substance, and yet, with that said, it's hard to deny this film's desire to deliver on compelling storytelling, as surely as it's difficult to not understand why this film would be backed by so much ambition, for although this film isn't as meditative upon dramatic possibilities as, well, Oliver Stone's "Alexander" (Please, people, don't get on my back), Alexander the Great's story is still a captivating one with a wealth of political, military and human intrigue that could go into making the layered, sweepingly resonant epic that this film really isn't. Still, no matter how often this film falls short when it comes to storytelling, it would fall out of the decency that it holds so firmly were it not for those fair deal of moments in which Robert Rossen, as both director and writer, gives you a taste of anything from moderate entertainment value to a bit of human characterization, anchored by good acting. The performances in this film aren't killer, with some supporting performances feeling kind of dated, yet there is still charisma throughout this cast that Richard Burton heads as not simply particularly charismatic, but surprisingly effectively layered in his portrayal of the rise of one of the great leaders of legend, who gradually grows from an ambitious and promising young prince into a powerful, if flawed leader whose depths are sold about as much as they can be by Burton. Burton isn't as impressive as he would go on to be in 1963's "Cleopatra", but he is impressive enough to help in carrying this mess of a film, which faces too many shortcomings to come closer to rewarding than collapsing into mediocrity, but nonetheless stands as generally decent on ground that is still a bit shaky.

Bottom line, script flaws present the occasional fall-flat dialogue piece and more than a few histrionic moments, as well as conventionalism that joins uneven pacing and many a dry spell in distancing engagement value and investment enough for the film to fall as underwhelming, yet still retain a reasonable degree of decency through handsome cinematography, excellent production value, high points in storytelling and decent acting, - particularly by leading man Richard Burton - which do enough justice to an intriguing story to make Robert Rossen's "Alexander the Great" a generally enjoyable early cinematic look at the life of one of history's great leaders, even if it is far from as great as its primary focus.

2.5/5 - Fair
starlett2005
July 15, 2012
Alexander the Great is a disappointing film. It is about the life of Alexander the Great. The action scenes are laughable. Fredric March and Richard Burton give terrible performances. The script is horribly written. I was not impressed with Robert Rossen's directing. I had high expectations for this movie because I like both March and Burton but I was let down after viewing this motion picture.
Virus
November 14, 2007
I can't imagine this film being any good fifty years ago. What an utter bore. Acting is hammy, action scenes are pretty laughable, and the story doesn't go anywhere. Nothing really happens!
dkncd
November 6, 2007
"Alexander the Great" not surprisingly attempts to portray the life of Alexander the Great. On the surface it seems as though it should be excellent considering that the cast is led by two prolific actors, Richard Burton and Fredric March as Alexander and his father Philip respectively. The film also features elegant costumes and lavish sets laden with depictions of ancient art and architecture. However, all of these attributes disappointingly don't prevent the film from being extremely tedious.

The film starts with Alexander's earlier life in Macedon and is mostly focused on portraying antagonisms between Alexander and Philip and the relationship of Alexander's mother to both. Richard Burton and Fredric March have some fine moments, but for the most part their dialogue is uninteresting, which makes the film mostly dull since most of the scenes in the film show lengthy discourses. There are jokes added as well that are often followed by a number laughing, but the humor is mostly stale. There is one amusing point where Philip suggests that Alexander should wait until he is dead before naming a city after himself, but this represents an exception rather than the norm. Barry Jones did give an enjoyable performance as Aristotle, although he is only a marginal element in the film.

During this first phase of the film the Battle of Chaeronea of is also portrayed, where forces led by Philip and Alexander defeated a combined Athenian and Theban force in order to unite Greece under Macedonian rule. The battle, despite having an array of extras in it, is handled clumsily. It starts with brief shots of infantry and cavalry crossing a stream and then fighting out of formation. Then the focused is placed on Philip fighting one-on-one and Alexander charging in after him. This portrayal seems to bear little to no resemblance to the actual battle of history, is short in duration and not particularly exciting.

Shortly after half way through the film, Philip dies and the film moves to a portrayal of Alexander's military exploits in Persia. It is in this stage we are introduced to Memnon, a Greek fighting with the Persians. Peter Cushing gives a strong performance as Memnon armed with sharp lines, making his the top performance of the film though the character is seen in relatively few scenes. Harry Andrews is also notable as the Persian emperor Darius, though Darius is never made particularly interesting in the context of an opponent to Alexander. However, the scene representing the correspondence between Darius and Alexander showing the "clash of egos" was well-done.

Most of this phase of the film is a rotation between short battle scenes and more mostly dull dialogue with some rare decent scenes. The Battle of the Granicus is shown basically as a brief cavalry charge. The treatment of Granicus is better than the treatment of Chaeronea, but not much better. There is another final battle between Alexander and Darius, presumably intended to represent the Battle of Gaugamela. The battle starts with a Perisan chariot charge and seems as though it will be interesting, but it quickly culminates in a brief uninteresting cavalry charge as well. The main problem with these battle scenes is that they fail to give a sense of Alexander's military genius. It seems as though he just accumulated territory through a series of brief heroic cavalry charges and the film never represents the tactics used in any of the battles. These are also a series of brief and unnecessary battle clips overlapped by a map of Persia to represent the conquests not shown in "fuller" battles. After Alexander's conquests, the film ends poorly with an uninteresting "harmony and unity" speech from Alexander for Greeks and Persians. "Alexander the Great" is a colossal bore, and I strongly recommend avoiding it.
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