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The Manchurian Candidate (1962)



Average Rating: 8.6/10
Reviews Counted: 51
Fresh: 50 | Rotten: 1

A classic blend of satire and political thriller that was uncomfortably prescient in its own time, The Manchurian Candidate remains distressingly relevant today.


Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 1

A classic blend of satire and political thriller that was uncomfortably prescient in its own time, The Manchurian Candidate remains distressingly relevant today.



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Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 30,148

My Rating

Movie Info

An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release. It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond


Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics

George Axelrod

May 15, 2001

MGM/UA Classics - Official Site External Icon

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All Critics (52) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (50) | Rotten (1) | DVD (35)

powerful experience, alternately corrosive with dark parodic humor, suspenseful, moving, and terrifying.

May 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Every once in a rare while a film comes along that works in all departments, with story, production and performance so well blended that the end effect is one of nearly complete satisfaction. Such is The Manchurian Candidate.

May 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A masterpiece.

June 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Manchurian Candidate pops up with a rash supposition that could serve to scare some viewers half to death -- that is, if they should be dupes enough to believe it, which we solemnly trust they won't.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times | Comments (11)
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Has an excoriating, destabilizing wit that seems as knowingly sophisticated today as it must have then.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Not a moment of The Manchurian Candidate lacks edge and tension and a cynical spin.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Classic Cold War satirical thriller stands test of time.

May 23, 2013 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

John Frankenheimer directs with a distinctive complexity of visual depth and a surreal tone of lurking menace.

September 30, 2012 Full Review Source:

Set the standard for cinematic paranoid thrillers and stands as the quintessential John Frankenheimer film. [Blu-ray]

July 19, 2011 Full Review Source: Groucho Reviews
Groucho Reviews

This aunting film noir, easily John Frankenheimer's best film, is satisfying on any level, narrative, visual, ideological, and acting.

July 13, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

With spry editing and camerawork, [Frankenheimer] fuses together a documentary-like realism and more expressive stylizations to create a hybrid thriller-satire

August 17, 2010 Full Review Source: Cinema Writer
Cinema Writer

Don't bother with Jonathan Demme's toothless 2004 remake; the rereleased classic cold war thriller from 1962 by John Frankenheimer packs a harder punch.

April 16, 2010 Full Review Source: Guardian [UK]
Guardian [UK]

a benchmark of the United States' coming of age in the 1960s

March 24, 2009 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Among a strong cast, Lansbury is wonderfully wicked as Shaw's despicable mother.

May 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

...goes down the rabbit hole, though never too far to lose its satirical relevance to the insanity of real-world politics.

February 7, 2008 Full Review Source: Sun Publications (Chicago, IL)
Sun Publications (Chicago, IL)

even when taken out of its historic context, this film is a thought-provoking piece of quality filmmaking

August 12, 2005 Full Review Source: Draxblog Movie Reviews

People have called The Machurian Candidate the greatest political thriller ever made. People would be right.

December 20, 2004 Full Review Source:

A volatile work, part thriller, part quasi-science fiction, part vicious satire.

September 27, 2004 Full Review Source: Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

It's both exciting and disheartening that a 42 year-old satire like this still works as pointedly as it does.

August 7, 2004 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Frankenheimer's TV shooting style is only adequate, but it's the McCarthyist and Freudian undertones that make Candidate a winner.

July 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

Frankenheimer easily ranks as the pre-eminent director of political intrigue.

July 30, 2004 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

It's heady stuff in a nail-biting chiller that still has the power to make viewers perspire profusely.

July 21, 2004 Full Review Source: Creative Loafing
Creative Loafing

Mystery drama. Cold-War political farce. Spine-tingling thriller. Read it how you will...takes us for a wild ride through the mother of all conspiracy theories.

July 20, 2004 Full Review Source: Movie Metropolis
Movie Metropolis

Audience Reviews for The Manchurian Candidate

Beyond its subject matter this terse political thriller still holds up even fifty years later, surrounded in secrecy, with some outstanding and unparalleled performances. Set in the midst of the Cold War, this film is much less about the political and sociological aspects of its infamy and much more about the contemplative and cruel nature of an overseer in control of a single man. Instead of being about the threat of the "Oriental" this film delves into the political thrills of mind control, brainwashing, and assassination. A contingent of soldiers in the Korean War is captured by the enemy, and one of their leaders is made into a ticking time bomb. The rest of the soldiers are also brainwashed, and as their training comes back to them in a series of horrific dreams the threat from zombified Shaw (Harvey) becomes ever present. Shaw is lauded as a war hero, but his commanding officer Marco (Sinatra) knows the truth, and though he can't confront the ticking time bomb, he knows how powerful and dangerous he is. For a film made before Watergate it expertly addresses government intervention, conspiracies, and the threat overseas. That is also not to say that there isn't any Cold War paranoia attributed to this iconic film, but it's much more about the relationships that are built around Shaw, and how the bossy commanding officer eventually thaws under his nosy mother's gaze; and in memory of his former love. Both he and Marco try to foil the plan to use him as a weapon, but the film is more about Shaw pushing against his fate and finally being happy, and the conniving evil wrong doings of his mother. His mother, by the way, is played by Angela Lansbury, at the time only six years older than Laurence Harvey. In this role Lansbury plays the most diabolical, politically conniving villain in film history, and she is completely unapologetic about her crimes against the government, and even her own son, who she uses as a pawn in her elaborate game of political chess. Not only does this film address Cold War tensions, but also speaks on McCarthyism just ten years prior and on the type of people who would make such baseless accusations. This film is not only a timely political thriller but also a satire on our history and the bonds of anti-Communist propaganda that landed the US into the Cold War in the first place, a risky choice in a time when tensions were high.
April 30, 2013

Super Reviewer

Not my cup of tea, classic-movie wise.
December 5, 2012

Super Reviewer

The Manchurian Candidate may be the greatest movie I've ever seen, and I'm prompted to review it due to its rating in newspapers of 3 and-a-half out of 4 stars. That's simply unsatisfactory, so I'll do my best to justify a perfect score. Maybe most significant for me, the brainwashing plot in which the far right becomes a tool of the far left, was utterly fantastic yet made to be believable in 1962 and remains so today. Though the cold war is long over, The Manchurian Candidate remains fresh, vibrant, and relevant in today's geopolitical world. The performances by Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, and Frank Sinatra are some of the most riveting ever, particularly Lansbury's. She must be the most evil mother in cinematic history. Its a nightmare fantasy, shared in the movie by Sinatra's character and fellow soldier James Edwards' Corporal Melvin, which nearly succeeds in in a communist coup d'état in America.

The movie lampoons McCarthyism, displaying a wry humor, while ramping up the dramatic tension to a terrific climax. The comedy is supplied by James Gregory as the cartoonish husband/senator John Iselin and the KGB operative in New York. His interaction with the Chinese doctor is priceless. There's nothing funny about Lansbury's mother character or Harvey's Raymond Shaw, who is transformed into a brutally efficient killing machine. Sinatra, though as Maj.Marco, is the glue who holds the story together. In my opinion, this is his finest acting role. As a side note, in the karate fight between Sinatra and Henry Silva, Sinatra broke his hand leading to years of complications. Flawless in every aspect, The Manchurian Candidate sets the standard for political drama.
October 18, 2012
Clintus M.
Clintus Maximus

Super Reviewer

An expertly woven together tale of politics, family, and guilt concerning a decorated war hero (Laurence Harvey) who comes back brainwashed by the Koreans during his time fighting the war, and how he is groomed by his overbearing mother (Angela Lansbury) to help her second husband lock up the vice presidential nomination through being a political assassin. While Jonathan Demme's 2004 re-boot was ultimately a success, it comes nowhere close to the atmosphere that director John Frankenheimer harnesses in this film. This is a film loaded with darkness, dread, and paranoia around its every corner, and the result is a fascinating story concerning an intriguing plot that was really far ahead of its time. Harvey's performance is masterful, and while Frank Sinatra as the army man tracking him down is less than stellar, this whole thing is really Harvey's show, complemented by a superb supporting turn from the veteran Lansbury. The ending ratchets up the tension to an almost unbearable high, with a script that virtually nails just about everything it is aiming to tackle.
September 17, 2012
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

    1. Mrs. Iselin: Why don't you pass the time by playing a little solitaire?
    – Submitted by Frances H (17 months ago)
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