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The Grapes of Wrath (1940)



Average Rating: 9/10
Reviews Counted: 42
Fresh: 42 | Rotten: 0

A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, The Grapes of Wrath is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic.


Average Rating: 8/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 7 | Rotten: 0

A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, The Grapes of Wrath is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 22,805

My Rating

Movie Info

The adaptation of Nobel Prize-winner John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of dirt-poor Dust Bowl migrants by 4-time Oscar-winning director John Ford starred Henry Fonda as Tom Joad, who opens the movie returning to his Oklahoma home after serving jail time for manslaughter. En route, Tom meets family friend Casey (John Carradine), a former preacher who warns Tom that dust storms, crop failures, and new agricultural methods have financially decimated the once prosperous Oklahoma


Drama, Classics

Nunnally Johnson

Apr 6, 2004

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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All Critics (42) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (42) | Rotten (0) | DVD (18)

Movies will probably go on improving and broadening themselves; but in any event, The Grapes of Wrath is the most mature picture story that has ever been made, in feeling, in purpose, and in the use of the medium.

August 29, 2012 Full Review Source: The New Republic
The New Republic
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ford's admirers have rightly tended to play this down in favor of his later and more personal westerns, but there's much to admire here in Gregg Toland's sun-beaten photography and Henry Fonda's meticulous performance.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Grapes of Wrath is possibly the best picture ever made from a so-so book.

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: TIME Magazine | Comments (4)
TIME Magazine
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is an absorbing, tense melodrama, starkly realistic, and loaded with social and political fireworks.

March 26, 2009 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Captures the stark plainness of the migrants, stripped to a few possessions, left with innumerable relations and little hope.

February 9, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The Grapes of Wrath is just about as good as any picture has a right to be; if it were any better, we just wouldn't believe our eyes.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Powerful look at the Depression and the poor.

April 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Classic Film and Television
Classic Film and Television

The Grapes of Wrath is Hollywood's most distinguished offering.

January 14, 2013 Full Review Source: The Nation
The Nation

Back when they adapted serious literature for the big screen, the results were equally impressive.

August 16, 2011 Full Review Source: Cinema Sight
Cinema Sight

Classic John Steinbeck adaptation is still powerful.

December 28, 2010 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

The Grapes of Wrath is flawed, but it captures that shiver of panic that grips anyone for whom the money for the next meal is unknown.

November 22, 2010 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

This 1940 film is one of the best literary adaptations ever (and one of the quickest too -- it was in theaters within a year of the book's publication).

April 27, 2009 Full Review Source: Film4 | Comments (2)

What really solidifies the greatness of The Grapes of Wrath is Ford's ability to blend the personal and political without causing damage to either characters or themes.

October 30, 2006 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide proves that a Hollywood film can be both socially engaged and a work of lasting, entertaining art.

April 17, 2006 Full Review Source:

John Ford won a direcing Oscar for this adaptation of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer prize-winning novel, which features great cinematography by Toland and one of Henry Fonda's most iconic roles.

July 1, 2005 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Cinematographer Gregg Toland perfectly captures the wide open spaces and big skies of rural America, while the normally conservative Ford puts forward a sympathetic but radical plea for workers' rights and freedom for the common people.

April 6, 2005 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

Stunning masterpiece about poverty in California is still relevant today

December 2, 2004
Film Journal International

Like a grand Biblical epic, John Ford's film is a triumph on both the political and personal levels.

July 29, 2004 Full Review Source: Cinemania

Ford delivers Steinbeck's message intact.

June 6, 2004 Full Review Source:

Director John Ford keeps the action moving while using strikingly poignant images and staying true to the novel's political message.

May 19, 2004

A perpetual elegy

May 13, 2004 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Audience Reviews for The Grapes of Wrath

It can be a bit slow and some scenes are unnecessary, but this is usually the case with all films this old. On the other hand, it's well made and at times very powerful. I especially love the end when Tom Joad makes an important decision with his life. Some scenes are suspenseful (well, 1940s suspenseful) and the characters are interesting for the most part. Probably John Ford's best film.
October 10, 2012
Market Man
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer

An amazing film. Just as relevant today.
March 7, 2012
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

Casy: I wouldn't pray just for a old man that's dead, 'cause he's all right. If I was to pray, I'd pray for folks that's alive and don't know which way to turn. 

The Grapes of Wrath is very much the classic I was expecting. It is probably the best example of the human struggle to better one's life. The story is one of the most known, as most read it before their out of high school. It's setting is the depression era dust bowl. There's a lot of bad going on and not a whole lot of good. Everyone struggles to find work so that they can feed their families. But work isn't easy to come by. Watching The Grapes of Wrath now, during this economic climate is rather sobering.

The story follows one family, the Joad family. Tom has just been released from prison and makes it home just in time; right before his family was to set off from their land. They have lived in Oklahoma all their life, but the land is turning a profit or any crops and the government is taking it away from them. So the Joad's decide to do what everyone else is doing, and head for California in hope of finding the land they were promised. Handbills don't always tell the exact truth though. California is just as much a struggle as Oklahoma.

This is only the second John Ford film I have seen, but I'm already seeing why he is so highly regarded. He captures the hardship of the depression like no film I've seen. He does it extremely well, but also never overplays it. He let's the Joad family speak for themselves. Their hungry, their tired, and their poor. 

Something else Ford does really well is showing the different ends of the spectrum, when it comes to people helping people. Their are always people that will help and their are always people that will exploit. In one scene the Joad's go into a diner and the workers there give them food at a discounted cost because they see how hard they got it. Then when they actually get work, all the employers are just exploiting how poor the workers are. 

Grapes of Wrath is often regarded as one of the best American films ever. It's a movie that everyone knows about and it's influence is just about everywhere. It's one of those movies that everyone almost has to see before they die; a true classic in every sense of the word.
January 28, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

The Grapes Of Wrath is one of the greatest films that I have ever seen. During the great depression, a suffering family is forced to move out of their homes as they are torn down one-by-one. Lead by a moving performance by Henry Fonda who is out of prison on early parole, the "Joads" are on route to California, where they believe they can find work and restart their lives. Along the way, they mourn loses of loved ones and cherish whatever they have to survive. They make stops in campgrounds and pitch tents so that they may have a place to keep warm enough through the night. As the worst possible occurences come their way, Tom (Fonda) finds himself killing a man, which then leads to him having to make decisions of where to move next. This is one of the most moving pictures of all time. The cinematography makes you feel that you are in every situation and the dialogue will make you cringe. It is wonderfully written and the direction by John Ford is heart-stopping. There is never a dull moment in this film. I would be underrating this film by calling it a masterful breakthrough in cinema, because the only word to describe this work of art, is "Spine-tinglingly, awe-inspiringly, magnificent!"
December 9, 2011
KJ Proulx

Super Reviewer

    1. Tom Joad: I'll be all around in the dark... I'll be everywhere. Wherever you can look... wherever there's a fight, so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
    – Submitted by Fulgen M (17 months ago)
    1. Ma Joad: Rich fellas come up an' they die, an' their kids ain't no good an' they die out. But we keep a'comin'. We're the people that live. They can't wipe us out; they can't lick us. We'll go on forever, Pa, 'cause we're the people.
    – Submitted by Filipe M (2 years ago)
    1. Tom Joad: Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there.
    – Submitted by Chris P (2 years ago)
View all quotes (3)

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