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The Elephant Man (1980)



Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 41
Fresh: 37 | Rotten: 4

David Lynch's relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.


Average Rating: 6.7/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 2

David Lynch's relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 62,752

My Rating

Movie Info

John Hurt stars as John Merrick, the hideously deformed 19th century Londoner known as "The Elephant Man". Treated as a sideshow freak, Merrick is assumed to be retarded as well as misshapen because of his inability to speak coherently. In fact, he is highly intelligent and sensitive, a fact made public when one Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins) rescues Merrick from a carnival and brings him to a hospital for analysis. Alas, even after being recognized as a man of advanced intellect,



Eric Bergren, Christopher DeVore, David Lynch

Dec 11, 2001


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All Critics (41) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (37) | Rotten (4) | DVD (19)

This is a tale of redemption and transcendence, of the hunchback of London Hospital, of the noble phantom who wanted to go to the opera, of Beauty and the Beast.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Lynch's powerful depiction of Merrick (played by John Hurt) moves a viewer from revulsion and fear to empathy and tenderness. That's the very movement of the story itself.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The picture itself is a strange trade-off between Lynch's personal themes -- the night world of obscure, disturbing sexual obsessions -- and the requirements of a middlebrow message movie.

April 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader | Comments (8)
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Director David Lynch has created an eerily compelling atmosphere in recounting a hideously deformed man's perilous life in Victorian England.

April 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A marvellous movie, shot in stunning black-and-white by Freddie Francis.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

I kept asking myself what the film was really trying to say about the human condition as reflected by John Merrick, and I kept drawing blanks.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comments (41)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic its best when the story and period trappings serve Lynch's vision, and vice versa.

September 16, 2014 Full Review Source: LarsenOnFilm

This stylish, poignant drama is probably the closest director David Lynch has got to the mainstream outside of the disastrous Dune.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Radio Times
Radio Times

The playing is finely judged, the black-and-white cinematography is effective and the whole thing manages to be truly moving in a way that overcomes all the "I am not an animal!" schmaltz.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: Total Film
Total Film

Despite the excess, this is a uniquely memorable film.

April 22, 2014 Full Review Source: People Magazine
People Magazine

Lynch shows a weakness in this film that isn't present in just about any of his others: Sentimentality.

February 21, 2014 Full Review Source: Movie Mezzanine
Movie Mezzanine

Heartbreaking drama isn't for sensitive viewers.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The greatest contribution -- apart from the central performances -- comes from Francis, whose wonderful black and white, widescreen photography lends atmosphere and clarity to the proceedings.

April 30, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

A moving, faithful retelling of a bizarre true story.

April 30, 2008 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

It's an amazing story about the human spirit that's told with great sensitivity.

April 23, 2007 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

One of the year's best films. Only DeNiro could take the Oscar away from John Hurt.

December 14, 2006 | Comments (2)
Nolan's Pop Culture Review

In this follow-up to the amazing Eraserhead, David Lynch exposes undercurrents of anguish along with an emotionally accessible tale of Merrick's nobility--a Victorian morality play disguised as an elegy to freakishness

June 22, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Has the look and texture of an authentic document, elevated by the hand of a artist with a singular vision

June 7, 2006 Full Review Source: Cinemania

This black-and-white film already includes several Lyncian benchmarks: hissing noises, nightmare sequences, and moments of deadly quiet.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Perhaps Lynch's finest moment -- Both disturbingly odd and surprisingly humane.

January 6, 2006

David Lynch does a neat turn with a straight drama.

November 14, 2005

Audience Reviews for The Elephant Man

September 3, 2013
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

Take away all the famous names in this work and you'd still be left with the story of a very human soul tormentingly imprisoned in a lump of his own hideous flesh. The big names then do the story well: Lynch controls his usual antics to deliver understatement (a shock in itself), Hopkins as the well meaning doctor who actually uses the animal just like everyone until he realizes his mistake, Bancroft is no embarassment, Gielgud and Hiller are the rocks the story rests on ... but Hurt, as the man himself, is exemplary. Well, Hurt and the makeup guy. Look for the tea scene.
January 11, 2013

Super Reviewer

David Lynch's The Elephant Man is a surreal masterwork about the life of John Merrick who was a several deformed man. Beautifully shot in glorious Black & White, David Lynch captures a certain atmosphere with this picture, one that acts as part of the story to elevate the dramatic tone of the experience. Anthony Hopkins is phenomenal as Frederick Treves a sympathetic doctor who tries to help Merrick. This is a superb film that showcases the kindness of the human nature. This is a terrific drama that will certainly please cinema buffs. The acting of John Hurt is spectacular as John Merrick and considering how difficult his performances must have been, he definitely did deserve an Oscar of some kind. Unfortunately this stunning picture would only be nominated and come out empty handed. Everything about this film is beautiful, the cinematography immaculate, and the choice to shoot this in Black & White brings out the subtle qualities of this true story. David Lynch, who previously directed the surrealistic psychological horror film Eraserhead, crafts something unique with The Elephant Man, and he goes deep into the cruelty of humanity and also brings out the best in human nature as well. This is not a film for everyone, but if you're looking for a compelling real life drama, then give this one a shot. With Anthony Hopkins and John Hurt's performances alone, The Elephant Man stands as one of the best films of 1980's. This is filmmaking at its best and David Lynch has made his masterpiece with this one. With a strong cast and terrific storytelling, this is a marvelous film that is moving, poignant and simply unforgettable.
January 3, 2013
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

It's extremely difficult to assess The Elephant Man beyond its strictly harrowing and thoughtfully afflicting value. If writer-director David Lynch crafted this masterpiece for other reasons than to show how disgusting humanity can be-especially without realizing it-then I will refrain from trying to search for other rationales. We look at the perfectly written, meticulously paced writing, and from there, it only leads to countless other great achievements: brilliant, careful editing; an ongoing tour de force involving just about every last player; the spiritually dampening conclusion, set against Samuel Barber's "Adagio for Strings"; and a catharsis that is so deeply doused in our thoughts, it guarantees its own testament inside the human heart. Let's not forget the famous "I am not an animal" scene, in which the picture is brought to a stunning climax. This isn't a feel-good film, nor is it a film that will endure several willing viewings. Let's say that with its ability to leave an audience both verbally and emotionally speechless, it should act as required viewing.

read all about HIM at
September 8, 2012

Super Reviewer

    1. John Merrick: I am not an elephant! I am not an animal! I am a human being! I ... am ... a ... man!
    – Submitted by Tracey M (20 months ago)
    1. John Merrick: Doctor, there's something I've been meaning to ask you for some time.
    2. Dr. Frederick Treves: Yes, what is that?
    3. John Merrick: Can you...cure me?
    4. Dr. Frederick Treves: No, I'm afraid not.
    5. John Merrick: I thought as much....
    – Submitted by Zach W (23 months ago)
    1. John Merrick: Hello. My name is John Merrick.
    – Submitted by Zach W (23 months ago)
    1. John Merrick: It's just that I-I'm not used to being treated so well by a beautiful woman... [after John cries]
    – Submitted by Guy G (2 years ago)
    1. Dr. Frederick Treves: Oh, he's an imbecile, probably from birth. Man's a complete idiot... Pray to God he's an idiot.
    – Submitted by Guy G (2 years ago)
    1. Carr Gomm: Can you imagine the kind of life he must have had?
    2. Dr. Frederick Treves: Yes, I think I can.
    3. Carr Gomm: I don't think so. No one could possibly imagine it! I don't believe any of us can!
    – Submitted by Nick S (2 years ago)
View all quotes (9)

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