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Anonymous (2011)


Average Rating: 5.5/10
Reviews Counted: 168
Fresh: 78
Rotten: 90

Critics Consensus: Roland Emmerich delivers his trademark visual and emotional bombast, but the more Anonymous stops and tries to convince the audience of its half-baked theory, the less convincing it becomes.

Average Rating: 5.4/10
Reviews Counted: 46
Fresh: 18
Rotten: 28

Critics Consensus: Roland Emmerich delivers his trademark visual and emotional bombast, but the more Anonymous stops and tries to convince the audience of its half-baked theory, the less convincing it becomes.


Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 19,933


Movie Info

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sigmund Freud, namely: who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses … More

PG-13 (for some violence and sexual content)
Art House & International , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
John Orloff
In Theaters:
Feb 7, 2012
Box Office:
Sony Pictures - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for Anonymous

All Critics (169) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (78) | Rotten (90) | DVD (4)

Will Shakespeare, whose words shine on, bright and brave, Is turning o'er with laughter in his grave.

Full Review… | November 4, 2011
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic

File this one in the category of entertaining historical fiction. There are facts here, but one must possess more than a passing familiarity with history to be able to spot them.

Full Review… | October 30, 2011
Top Critic

John Orloff's screenplay could have used a rewrite by de Vere -- or whomever.

Full Review… | October 29, 2011
Christian Science Monitor
Top Critic

Knowing that non-Masterpiece Theater audiences will grow fidgety over this sort of thing, Emmerich and Orloff throw in plenty of sword-fighting, bear-baiting, and bodice-ripping.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
Top Critic

The digitally wrought period settings are simply gorgeous.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

This is irresistible as self-knowing camp: the players ham it up in high fashion and the script crams at least one lurid revelation into every scene.

Full Review… | October 28, 2011
Chicago Reader
Top Critic's ultimately clear that Emmerich should stick to the larger-than-life, blockbuster fare with which he's become associated.

Full Review… | March 4, 2014
Reel Film Reviews

The director offers up an unfocused but intriguing alternate look at William Shakespeare.

Full Review… | June 30, 2013
Big Hollywood

Roland Emmerich takes a questionable literary controversy and deftly forms it into an Elizabethan political drama in the Shakespeare-themed 'Anonymous'.

Full Review… | February 11, 2013
We Got This Covered

Bad history beautifully done.

Full Review… | December 29, 2012
McClatchy-Tribune News Service

Don't let the fact that it's different - or unadulterated bullshit of the highest order - put you off a story that, in truth, is more interesting than it is wholly entertaining or accurate.

Full Review… | September 28, 2012

It may be one of the signs of the apocalypse, but thanks to a well-written screenplay, spot-on performances, and a fantastic production design, Emmerich has finally made a great film.

Full Review… | September 18, 2012

Roland Emmerich's lurid, pulpy approach isn't subtle, but it suits the material, since this is presented as a controversial exposé.

Full Review… | February 23, 2012

Fairly absorbing in an alternately classy and salaciously trashy way that operates not too unlike Emmerich's popcorn entertainers.

Full Review… | January 13, 2012

Bombastic claptrap.

Full Review… | January 13, 2012
Knight at the Movies

Es saludable que el director Roland Emmerich haya decidido cambiar de género; Anónimo es lo más interesante que haya hecho en toda su carrera... lo cual, pensándolo bien, no es un gran mérito.

Full Review… | January 5, 2012
Uruguay Total

This movie is lurid fun that is much smarter than it has any business being.

Full Review… | January 4, 2012

Calling Anonymous Roland Emmerich's masterpiece ranks high on the list of most meaningless claims of 2011. But it's true.

Full Review… | December 22, 2011
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Any hope of Emmerich and writer Orloff putting together a coherent argument is destroyed by muddled narrative.

Full Review… | December 7, 2011

Anonymous premises Edward's manhood partly on his sexual prowess and partly on his poetry, but it loses sight of the latter's allusions and intrigues, and instead falls in love with its own most obvious sensations.

Full Review… | December 7, 2011

O Germanos megalokatastrofologos prepei na peripoioyntan th senariakh idea toy John Orloff kapoy gia 8 xronia, kai se ayta h arxikh eksetash mias logias ypotheshs, phre emprepws Tudor-ianes diastaseis eksoysiastikhs intrigkas

Full Review… | November 20, 2011
Movies for the Masses

Handsome, inconsequential "investigation" into the political and theatrical life of Elizabethan England makes a mystery of history.

Full Review… | November 18, 2011
East Bay Express

What's distressing isn't the film's plodding incoherence or wild-eyed credulousness but its misplaced priority: It suggests that what's most interesting about this writer we call Shakespeare is not the genius of his words but the puzzle of his identity.

Full Review… | November 17, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

It didn't have me rethinking history, but for those two hours, it was entertaining enough. I don't know if that will be enough for Emmerich and this "What if?"

Full Review… | November 14, 2011
The Scorecard Review

It's easy to get lost in the facial-hair thicket of actors, earls, lords, Roberts, Thomases and Cecils, and the movie's jarring leaps across the years often make things even more challenging to follow.

Full Review… | November 11, 2011
American Profile

A wonderful hypothetical about the identity of William Shakespeare, Anonymous is incredibly credible, a story of intrigue and facades.

Full Review… | November 6, 2011
Urban Cinefile

Audience Reviews for Anonymous

Anonymous is a film that straddles the lines between fact, fiction, and speculation while retaining every bit of its poignant drama. Lending to the long debated issue of the Shakespearean authorship, this film speculates on the Oxfordian theory of authorship, giving credit to Edward de Vere, the 17th Earl of Oxford. Weaving true history and dramatic license, the film is often engaging and educational in certain ways while expounding on others in order to keep the audience intrigued. The film was a labor of love from screenwriter John Orloff and director of schlock Roland Emmerich, which took almost twenty years to make. Apparently suspicion over the true authorship of Shakespeare's work rose to prominence in the mid twentieth century after he was named the greatest author of all time. Some eighty supposed authors have been named in finding some better educated and schooled author, compared to the lowly actor that was Shakespeare. Most of the theoretical plot makes sense, as the Earl was a ward of the Queen, wrote plays and poems, and could have easily made the rounds in the theaters, but many facts were distorted, and should have been in order to make this film work. Why de Vere ever gives his plays over to Ben Jonson, and eventually taken by Will Shakespeare, makes little sense as it was because of an oncoming insurrection by Essex and his son. The way de Vere speaks to every character with such insolence and pomp, plying his plays to Shakespeare under the assumption that they will be massively popular, makes him unfeasibly pretentious. The flashbacks to various points of history was intriguing yet bothersome, and usually leaves one feeling unsure of the true set of events. At the very end the truth is changed so much that the subject of incest even arises, a far cry from the truth of the matter, but is the only way to tie up a loathsome plot. The performances themselves were amazing, including from Jamie Campbell Bower as a young de Vere, Vanessa Redgrave and her daughter Joely Richardson as Queen Elizabeth I, and Rhys Ifans as the Earl. It was a film that certainly captivated and wasn't difficult to follow, but it was so obviously false in sections, and libelous when it came to the character of Shakespeare, showing him as a greedy oaf, that you couldn't truly enjoy it. That and the ending being so blatantly devious made the film come off as money hungry and trying too hard, blame which I perch on director Roland Emmerich's shoulders. Interesting, but certainly not the educational view you're expecting.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

Whether you believe in the theory posited in Anonymous, or whether facts are ignored or distorted is irrelevant - since this is a fine production that, from the very first frame, tells you the yarn you are about to witness is nothing more than a play based on a theory.

Get past whether the theory has merit and you have a ripping good tale, extremely well acted by all concerned that is excellently filmed with a script that, while not necessarily worthy of the Bard of Avon, is intriguing and holds passages of truth and beauty.

I really enjoyed how the tale weaves back and forth in time and place, picking up threads from earlier scenes that may be nothing more than portents of what will follow, or things that will give later scenes greater impact. I also enjoyed the injection of selected scenes from the Bard's plays and how they infer what is going on politically at the time. Having seen Henry V at an outdoor theater built to resemble the Globe this past summer, it was a true joy to see the before the battle scene in all its "hooray for England" glory; and then watch the reaction from the "mob" in the audience.

Similarly I was also taken with the scenes from Richard III and the explanation that the portrayal of R3 as a hunchback was a direct and intentional jab at the Queen's chancellor.
Having seen Sir Ian McKellan in the role also didn't hurt my enjoyment of the scenes.

As in even the most serious of the Bard's dramas, there are elements of frivolity, as when the actor Will Shakespeare first read's Romeo and Juliet and then pitches the "but soft, what light by yonder window breaks" bit at a saucy wench and then turns to Ben Johnson and proclaims that he is going to become the premier cocksman in all England.

In retrospect, while this tale has enough political intrigue on its own merit, it is the inclusion of the Shakespearian canon that really makes the film sing. Of course if you aren't into the Bard then your reaction may of course be different - and yes, the script does lay on the reverence a bit too heavily, but brilliance is brilliance and I think anyone who values prose can certainly agree that there are wondrous passages of beauty within the Bard's canon. There is a scene when Ben Johnson (who the film reminds us, was the first poet laureate of England) comes to the Earl of Oxford's death bed (said Earl is the true author in this case) and gushes how the Earls words are true masterpieces - similar to the Requiem scene in Amadeus where Solinari sits in awe as Mozart composes the piece totally in his head, without a keyboard present.

As I mentioned, all the performances are solid, but special mention should go out to Vanessa Redgrave who gives a stunning performance as Queen Elizabeth, and to Derrick Jacobi as the academian/narrator - using his theatrical training to give each and every word its own sense of space and meaning.

Finally, I just have to mention a wondrous bit of writing which occurs about 2/3 of the way through the film. When the Earl's wife confronts him about continuing to write his plays (which, in the protestant faith of his wife, is blasphemy), he explains that he is bewitched by characters who talk to him and it's only by writing of them and what they tell him that he may banish them for a spell. Excuse my clumsy summation of this speech, but it is indeed truly beautiful and strikes a chord within any artist - they don't do what they do because they want to, but because they simply must.

paul sandberg

Super Reviewer

Yet another movie that I do not understand all the negative reviews. Granted, this is my very favorite genre of movies, but I absolutely loved it....conspiracy theory, and all! Plus, this was very well done, and had a great cast. Rhys Ifans was fantastic, as usual. I, also, loved the dramatic style that is was set around...beginning to end. This one is getting added to my favorites...

Cynthia S.

Super Reviewer


Emmerich loses all credibility trying to make us buy his theory at any cost. The premise is intriguing but the weak script is full of unnecessary soap-opera twists that make the plot even less believable. A mediocre movie that is also badly directed and edited, though with a great costume design.

Carlos Magalhăes

Super Reviewer

Anonymous Quotes

Young Earl of Oxford:
One can't love the moon after having seen the sun.
– Submitted by Alexandru N (2 years ago)
Young Queen Elizabeth I:
If plays are indeed such a sin. I pray that I do not find my salvation until very late in life.
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)
Queen Elizabeth I:
Are you the gift, my gracious little man?
– Submitted by Chris P (3 years ago)

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