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The Duellists (1977)



Average Rating: 7.2/10
Reviews Counted: 22
Fresh: 20 | Rotten: 2

Rich, stylized visuals work with effective performances in Ridley Scott's take on Joseph Conrad's Napoleonic story, resulting in an impressive feature film debut for the director.


Average Rating: 6.5/10
Critic Reviews: 5
Fresh: 3 | Rotten: 2

Rich, stylized visuals work with effective performances in Ridley Scott's take on Joseph Conrad's Napoleonic story, resulting in an impressive feature film debut for the director.



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 5,843

My Rating

Movie Info

The Duellists is based on a story by Joseph Conrad, variously titled The Duel and The Point of Honour. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel play officers in Napoleon's army -- D'Hubert and Feraud, respectively -- who spend their off-hours challenging each other to bloody duels. This goes on for nearly 16 years, with neither man showing any inclination of calling a truce. The final clash finds the gentlemanly D'Hubert getting the upper hand of the obsessed Feraud -- but that's not quite the end of


Drama, Action & Adventure

Dec 3, 2002

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All Critics (24) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (2) | DVD (14)

Scott gets strong performances from his supporting cast (Quick is sensual and effective) and is able to salvage the movie through the alchemy of the striking visuals.

June 3, 2012 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Keitel is jaunty and menancing and Carradine more determined and a bit troubled but also caught up in this strange need of one to prove honor and the other slaking a twisted nature.

October 18, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety | Comment (1)
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Keitel struggles gamely against a wooden Carradine, but the American influences further dislocate a script that delivers little observation, psychological or social, on their running feud.

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

It is precise, intelligent, civilized, and because it never for a moment mistakes its narrative purpose.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The film comes closer to working than it has any right to, given the curious casting (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) and director Ridley Scott's inability to sustain dramatic tension or build a coherent scene.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

... one of the most strikingly pictorial movies ever made.

March 24, 2013 Full Review Source: Parallax View
Parallax View

The richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances and the depth of the themes combine to make a minor masterpiece.

June 3, 2012 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Scott's approach to his material seems essentially a stylistic one; it imposes itself upon the story rather than visa-versa, giving an account of the Napoleonic wars that lacks passion and depth, despite the expert visuals.

June 3, 2012 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Interiors are bathed in the golden light of candlelight and nostalgia, like a period painting in motion, while exteriors are wrapped in fog and mist.

December 6, 2009 Full Review Source: Turner Classic Movies Online
Turner Classic Movies Online

the film improves with multiple screenings, as a viewer becomes less concerned about the outcome of each engagement, and more interested in the passion that is driving it.

June 14, 2007

A magnífica fotografia, a bela direção de arte e as ótimas atuações se transformam em meros detalhes frente à impressionante estréia de Ridley Scott na direção de longas.

April 30, 2004
Cinema em Cena

The Duellists registers on the senses like a pointillist work of art, encouraging us to revel in its symmetry and relish its high regard for small details.

January 24, 2004 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

the very beauty of the imagery ultimately works to the story's benefit, as it creates an ironic counterpoint to the irrationality of the ongoing feud

January 6, 2003
Q Network Film Desk

Audience Reviews for The Duellists

Ridley Scott's The Duellists is an impressive period piece and a stunning first full length feature of a director who would carve himself a unique style and become one of the best directors in cinema. The film shows the early stages of what would make Ridley Scott a stunning director. The Duellists is a compelling picture that mixes drama and action in the Napoleonic era. The cast do a fine in their performances and Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are wonderful to watch on-screen. I really love period dramas as they reflect the most interesting aspects of history. The film looks great, is well acted and the plot is sure to appeal to cinema buffs that enjoy history based movies. The look of the film was heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, and the result is a movie that looks absolutely wonderful. The sets and costumes are authentic to the time period and the result is a film that definitely belongs on the list of the best looking and best told historical dramas. Ridley Scott's direction is wonderful as well, and the film has effective pacing that you involved in the action and drama and above all, the well layered story. If you enjoy Ridley Scott's body of work, give his debut a look, it is well worth watching due to its cast, story and look. The film's obvious strong points are the sword fights, which make up the core of the story. This is a highly engaging film that is among the very best of period pieces. The Duellists is only rivaled by Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, also worth seeing. Both are fine pieces of cinema, but this one has a bit more action, which may appeal more viewers that enjoy a better paced movie rather than a massive epic.
January 24, 2013
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

Quite a simple story of the complexities of mans obsessiveness and the ridiculous and futile notion of honour. Apart from a couple of dodgy accents, this is a fantastic film - The climax being notable a brilliant conclusion. Probably my joint second favourite Scott film along with Alien. Blade Runner still wins hands down.
April 15, 2011

Super Reviewer

At the beginning I was growing alittle bored with this film, allot of talk and nothing much interesting at that, slowly you get a sense of the two main characters and who they are, what they want and there is the film. Two soldiers at each others throats through the Napoleonic era from a simple silly cross of words, it sounds almost stupid but it shows great human emotion as you follow Carradines character and watch him grow tired and bored of the feud while Keitel is perfect as the egotistical and virtually combat obsessed Feraud who loves a good duel. With his quick temper and short fuse causing the main quibble and many others throughout the story you see both characters change and grow in terms of attitudes as well as looks and styles of the age.

This is where we see Ridley Scott's attention to detail and his master of visual art, the film looks stunning all the way through, the costumes are pin point right down to the buttons on the men's tunic's, the sets are small but look fully authentic and the landscapes of Europe are sensational!
How Scott got the shots as he wanted is beyond me because it looks as though he made a deal with God for some haha he must have waited some time for just the right weather. Whats more amazing is this was all done with no cgi assistance of course, its all very real which makes it even more impressive and shows just what you can do if you work hard and really really care about what your doing without simply relying on the lazy digital way out.

You could never guess it was made 34 years ago now as it looks and plays just as well as any modern historical epic, the sword fights may be few but look perfectly realistic as if the men are really thinking what they're gonna do next to try and live, whats the next move here, no fancy over the top movements (love the way D'Hubert pauses just before the start of one duel to simply sneeze, intended or not I don't know but its alittle something that just makes the moment more real).

Seeing as it was Ridley Scott's first film its a hell of start and really doesn't seem like it a tall. Only thing I could say is the film makes you wanna see more of the history going on around them but you don't really see anything, its tantalising and hints at it making you want more, not a bad observation of course.
February 23, 2011

Super Reviewer

it's wonderfully photographed but the story is a bit lacking and the american actors aren't helping with suspension of disbelief. i love harvey keitel but he just can't do everything
November 9, 2009
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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Foreign Titles

  • Les duellistes (FR)
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