• Unrated, 2 hr. 9 min.
  • Drama, Classics
  • Directed By:
    John Ford
    In Theaters:
    Mar 15, 1940 Wide
    On DVD:
    Apr 6, 2004
  • Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment


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The Grapes of Wrath Reviews

Page 1 of 55
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

May 13, 2014
Ford and Johnson were able to transpose Steinbeck's powerful masterpiece into a splendid film that preserves its essence (even with a different, upbeat ending) without infringing the infamous demands of the Hays Code - yet it also seems a bit rushed and lacking in sufficient information (e.g., Noah vanishing without explanation).
Market Man
Market Man

Super Reviewer

September 12, 2012
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.
Graham J

Super Reviewer

October 27, 2011
An amazing film. Just as relevant today.

Super Reviewer

January 28, 2012
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.

Super Reviewer

May 9, 2011
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!"
Dan S

Super Reviewer

August 3, 2011
A bonafide classic which serves as a forceful reminder to the importance of family, employment, and a civilization fighting together to survive amongst Hellish circumstances. Ford's sure-handed camera-work combined with masterful acting by Henry Fonda as the legendary character Tom Joad, alongside Jane Darwell's Ma Joad who embodies the definition of a matriarch, makes this film a masterstroke which resonates well in any period of economic downturn or uncertainty. It takes its time, for sure, but the gripping performances and absorbing material of the story make this a film not to be missed, and one that ends on an appropriate note
Jennifer X

Super Reviewer

April 29, 2011
Sometimes I feel like it goes too much for the dirty regionalism/Dust Bowl desperation and too little of actual character development of the Joad family.
Mark H

Super Reviewer

July 8, 2008
Heartbreakingly beautiful adaptation of John Steinbeck's Pulitzer Prize-winning novel of a poor family of sharecroppers from Oklahoma who lose their land and must travel West in search of a better life. Set during the Great Depression, the story opens when Tom Joad returns to his family's farm only to find it deserted. He soon learns farmers all over the area have been forced from their land by the deed holders. In a flashback we see a heartbreaking scene where a local boy is hired to drive a Caterpillar tractor right through a farmer's home knocking it down like a house of cards. It's a frustrating image and one that only hints at the hardships they're about to experience.

The Grapes of Wrath is arguably the most epic film to tackle the plight of the Midwest farmer during the Dust Bowl. The script masterfully takes a complicated subject and centers the focus on the Joad family, a group we come to love and identify with. They radiate goodness and dignity. Somber and bleak, their helplessness is presented in devastating detail. When the family arrives at the first transient migrant campground for workers, the conditions they find are less than desirable: the camp is overcrowded with other starving and jobless travelers. The desperation is palpable. The brilliant cinematography recalls real depression era images of photographers like Dorothea Lange and Arthur Rothstein. The movie's release in 1940 was a particularly impressive document considering the Great Depression had only ended a year earlier with the advent of WWII.

Everyone in the production is memorable. Director John Ford won the Oscar for directing. So too actress, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad, the tenacious matriarch. And let's not forget how fascinating it is to see John Carradine, patriarch of the real life acting dynasty, in his first important role as an ex-preacher who has lost his faith. But what grounds the story is Henry Fonda's performance as Tom Joad. Just released from prison his heartfelt performance becomes an almost mythic hero of social justice. The Grapes of Wrath is one of those films that surpasses its literary source and actually improves on the novel's pessimistic tone. There is much despair, but there is also an uplifting feeling of hope. Tom Joad's poetic final speech is legendary.
Michael G

Super Reviewer

November 5, 2006
The Grapes of Wrath is definitely a fantastic movie but also a daunting and rough watch. Henry Fonda yet again makes me want to kick my own ass for not becoming a fan of his sooner and John Ford's direction is magnificent. But the real standout for me was Gregg Toland's cinematography. From the opening shot to the final image this film is a visual work of art. Visual feast aside, I don't know if I can take a viewing of this more than once every 5 years (the scene with the kids begging for food alone was murder) but its absolutely worth your time if you haven't seen it.

Super Reviewer

May 24, 2009
I surprisingly liked it. Didn't think I would.
Tim S

Super Reviewer

March 4, 2009
My fucking que has been on fire as of late with some classic films. John Ford's masterpiece is just as effective today (especially today) as it ever was. Henry Fonda is amazing as Tom Joad (now I know what that Springsteen song was about) and Jane Darwell as Ma Joad is the trademark mother and she plays it perfectly. I am a big fan of John Stienbeck and thought the movie portrayed everything that was great about the book (of course some things are going to be lost, but you remember the size of that book). Again, I also think the cinematography was one of the main reasons I enjoyed this film so much. It really pulled me into the story that much more. Sorry that I have not experienced this movie sooner.

Super Reviewer

January 26, 2009
The Grapes of Wrath is a well-crafted 1940's classic that followed a poor Mid-Western families quest to California after being evicted off their property during the troubling Great Depression era.

A heart-wrenching, and brutally honest tale, this film will leave you baffled about how the poor were treated during this period of time.

This film was superbly acted for it's age, and the cinematography was classic. The use of lighting in this film was ground-breaking. It's a wonderful cinematic achievement. However, my only complaint was that it was quite the snoozefest! You are guaranteed to check your watch more than once.
Pierluigi P

Super Reviewer

May 12, 2007
Some years before the eruption of the Italian neorealism, at the other side of the atlantic, John Ford, the poet of cinema, adapted John Steinbeck's celebrated novel, which dealt with the drought and poverty in america, and a family of Oklahoma farmers, struggling to remain together despite all the adversities they have to face on their way to california, their promise land.
The mother and the son, Jane Darwell and Henry Fonda, stand out with amazing performances, and both respectively have magnificent final speeches that embody the soul of this bitter and overwhelming descent into the misery and tenuous hope of the proletariat.
Jeremy S

Super Reviewer

April 23, 2006
"Wherever there's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there."

Super Reviewer

January 25, 2007
this film is an absolute cinema classic. the script was put together well and the diologue was strong, john fords directing was great, and the actors played their roles perfectly. this film about the unraveling of a mid west family trying to find prosperity in california is incredibly profound for being based on the lives of "simple" people. great movie.

Super Reviewer

October 25, 2007
A bit long, I'm sure the book is better. Still, no complains really. No praise either.
Byron B

Super Reviewer

January 29, 2007
The "I'll be there" monologue near the end is awesome. Very inspiring after seeing the whole of the movie. The cast is stellar! I love the book too. Carradine's character of Casy, the ex-preacher, isn't developed quite as much as in the book, but on repeat viewing his portrayal still contains many hidden layers. Henry Fonda's Tom Joad is also a favorite character. He killed a man and returns to his family from the pen just as they start their journey to California. He's quiet and just trying to figure out the world, sort out his life and his place in it. Of course, Jane Darwell as Ma Joad gives a strong performance too that is worthy of the Oscar she won. John Ford and master cinematographer Gregg Toland compose a realistic and lyric picture.
Dillon L

Super Reviewer

September 19, 2011
A socially important and influential drama.
John B

Super Reviewer

September 13, 2013
Fonda's casting in John Steinbeck's tale is God sent. He embodies the difficulties of life in the Dust Bowl as Americans headed west to find something to create a life around.
Cameron W. Johnson
Cameron W. Johnson

Super Reviewer

November 28, 2012
I've heard of the fruits of labor, but I don't exactly know what to make of the "grapes of wrath", because I know good and well that wrath isn't exactly a good thing, and always figured that the term "fruit" was associated with something good, so I reckon I need to go back and do a bit more research on the term "fruit", unless of course grapes aren't actually considered fruits, in which case, I better not do any research or else my head will explode in a juicy mess like a grape, because the classification of a tomato is confusing enough. Maybe it's not so much the grapes that are wrathful as much as it's the grapevine, because if root is associated with all evil, then vines have to at least be pretty wrathful. Symbolic and ironically fitting planting term jokes aside, whenever I look at that title, I can't help but imagine a giant bunch of grapes descending from the sky and destroying everything so that the humans would finally know what it's like to be juiced, though I knew that this film would never be about that, because Steinbeck probably wouldn't do something that stupid. Lennie Small would look at that book and say, "I may be retarded, but don't insult my intelligence", but hey, it wouldn't be too much cheesier than this film's trailer, whose first minute was spent going on and on about the success of the book and even went as far as to put together corny dramatisations involving people talking about how they've "never had such a demand for a book" and "can't supply the demand". Of course, when you get down to it, the film is hardly cheesy, or at least about as hardly cheesy as it could get in 1940, which is probably why this film won John Ford his, like, sixteenth Oscar and hardly anything else. Well, to be fair, John Ford could have directed the biggest piece of garbage ever, and he would have still won Best Director, as sure as the hypothetical film in question would be lauded as a masterpiece fifty years later. Shoot, Ford's been dead since '73, and I'm surprised he's still not winning Oscars, as the Oscars did love him just so much, and I'm fine with that, because the man sure know how to make some good films, such as this one, and yet, as rewarding as this film is, not everything in this effort proves fruitful... if fruitful is actually supposed to mean rewarding.

Quite a bit has aged reasonably gracefully with this, for its time, in quite a few ways, fairly unique film, yet there's no getting around that, at the same time, quite a bit has dated, and often pretty cheesily, with dialogue being particularly faulty, whether when it's turning in a couple of shoddy one-off lines or serving as a component to the film's awkward exposition. The film opens up with Henry Fonda's Tom Joad character catching a ride after getting out of jail and predicting the thoughts and curiosity of the driver, just so explanations on where Joad was coming from and why he was sent there could be crowbarred in, and while expository dialogue pieces of that nature in the subsequent body are rarely on that level of awkward unsubtlety, screenwriter Nunnally Johnson puts only so much subtle delicacy into crafting plot and characters, with the character aspects being particularly flawed, partially because of some of the performances behind the characters. Now, some performances are better than others, with John Qualen stealing the show for the startlingly limited amount of time that he's occupies, delivering a strong presence, complimented by a surprising amount of potent emotional range, both strikingly broad and hauntingly subtle, that defines the human depth of the victims of this terrible time and helps in making the early acts effective as a hook. Of course, that's just the hook that Qualen all but carries, and outside of that, while you can expect quite a few other passable, if not reasonably decent performances, particularly that of the Oscar-earning Jane Darwell, also expect to see a couple of performances that fall flat as hardly effective, occasionally embarassingly, with Henry Fonda proving ineffective as a key lead by donning a presence near-devoid of layer variety, and making it all the worse through sometimes wooden, sometimes overdone and altogether nearly consistently weak line delivery. There are more strengths to the characterization than missteps, thus compensations for some faulty performances can be found, and backed up by perhaps as many fair performances as improvable ones, yet the fact of the matter is that the handling and portrayal of many of the characters who help drive this plot isn't without its shortcomings, much like other areas in plotting, for although the story is strong enough and, in quite a few areas, well-structured enough to make the final product compelling, there gets to be too much filler and not enough material to fully sustain your emotional investment, which leaves the potency of the dramatic depth to go a bit distanced at times. Again, the film is a compelling one today as sure as it was during its time, yet much has not aged as gracefully as it probably should have, with certain aspects being improvable on a general level, thus making for a flawed drama, yet one that rewards nevertheless. The film has its fair share of shortcomings, yet accels more often than not, particularly when it comes to visual style.

Needless to say, the visual style of this 1940 black-and-white film has dated all but considerably, yet for its time, Gregg Toland's cinematography was stunning, and remains commendable to this day, boasting near-striking detail and near-exceedingly clever lighting play that accentuates both darkness and light in a fashion that proves to be both quite handsome and supplementary to the film's tonal and, to a certain degree, thematic depths. If you can claim appreciation for the relative uniqueness of the Toland's photographic efforts, then you'll find yourself hard pressed to not be consistently engaged by the visual artistry that both catches your eye and stands as one of your more subtle touches to the film's depth, which isn't to say that the script is completely devoid of much of the graceful subtlety that this subject matter deserves. Again, some of the film's biggest flaws usually rest within Nunnally Johnson's screenplay, which gets to be all too often rather awkward and, in some areas, problematically-structured, yet perhaps on the whole, Johnson's take on John Steinbeck's classic vision, whether it be faithful or loose, stands reasonably strong, boasting only so much color in exposition and depth, yet color, nevertheless, that fleshes out and breathes enough life into the story to keep it lively and engaging, or at least more so, as the basic story concept, alone, holds quite a bit of livliness and engagement value. Yes, people, while I have, of course, not read Steinbeck's classic Pulitzer Prize winner that was apparently too successful for them to, at least according this film's aforementioned lame trailer, "supply the demand", yet am still quite aware that, after a while, this film strays quite a ways away from the original source material, yet whether it was the vision of Steinbeck or the revision of Johnson, what I'm seeing here is a very potent story concept with strong ideas, complimented by much dynamicity and weight of both a tonal and thematic nature, and while the execution of the worthy story concept doesn't always do the subject matter total justice, Johnson does a generally decent job of handling the tale, while director John Ford does an even better job. Now, with that said, it's not like John Ford's directorial efforts prove thoroughly effective, as he could work better with Johnson's script and Steinbeck's story, as sure as he could work better with more than a few performers, yet on the whole, Ford's efforts feel nothing short of inspired enough to keep atmosphere alive in order to produce a consistent degree of vitality that creates entertainment value, as well as an occasional degree of dramatic punch to really spark engagement value. The film's emotional resonance isn't exactly thorough, nor does it always age all that gracefully, yet it's there, and when it arrives, it often truly engrosses with graceful humanity that won't exactly leave you to cry your eyes out, but will certainly move you as it defines much depth within this should-be more well-handled tale. Make no mistake, this film could have indeed been better, yet as it stands, what is done right has enough charge to it to grip consistently and leave you to walk away rewarded.

To wrap up, the film finds its share of cheesily dated areas, whether it be dialogue or certain spots in exposition and characterization, whose effectiveness go further softended by more than a few improvable performances to match the passable, or even commendable performances, and with moments of problematic plotting proving to be distancing, the final product comes out falling short of its potential, yet not to an underwhelming state, going supported by striking cinematography and a worthy story concept, brought to life with general success by Nunnally Johnson's colorful script and John Ford's reasonably inspired direction, thus leaving "The Grapes of Wrath" to stand as a flawed yet ultimately compelling and rewarding classic dramatic piece.

3/5 - Good
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