Max (2002)



Critic Consensus: Well-acted in the execution of its provocative "what-if?" premise.

Movie Info

In the wake of his rise to power, Adolf Hitler became known as perhaps the most villainous and destructive political leader of the 20th century. But what was he like before he formed the Nazi party? Screenwriter and director Menno Meyjes explores that question in this drama, a work of fiction keyed to the fact that Hitler unsuccessfully pursued a career as an artist following World War I. In 1918, Max Rothman (John Cusack) is a former artist who lost an arm during the war. While Max can no … More

Rating: R (for language)
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Menno Meyjes
In Theaters:
On DVD: May 20, 2003
Box Office: $0.2M
Lions Gate Films - Official Site


as Max Rothman

as Adolf Hitler

as Liselore Von Peltz

as Nina Rothman

as Capt. Mayr

as David Cohn

as George Grosz

as Max's father

as Max's mother

as Nina's father

as Nina's mother

as Mr. Epp

as Mrs. Epp

as Ada Rothman

as Paul Rothman

as Wilhelm

as Sales Lady

as Herr Wulf

as Herr Eichinger

as Singing Girl

as Antique Dealer

as Heckler in Courtyard

as Freikorps Thug

as Frau Schmidt

as Dr. Levi

as Mrs. Levi

as Soldier in Courtyard

as Someone in Crowd

as Ritter von Lieberfel...

as Organizer

as Sidewalk Cafe Owner

as Max's Sister-in-Law

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer

as Puppeteer
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Max

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Critic Reviews for Max

All Critics (120) | Top Critics (32)

The film is torn between playing [Taylor's] character for real and as a dangerous joke.

Full Review… | March 21, 2003
Boston Globe
Top Critic

Taylor, hawk-faced and gaunt, pours everything into his portrayal of Hitler, never once seeking our sympathy for this angry, homeless loner.

March 7, 2003
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Offers a persuasive look at a defeated but defiant nation in flux.

Full Review… | February 28, 2003
Houston Chronicle
Top Critic

If it's not a completely successful film, it is at the very least an intriguing effort to humanize the demon.

February 7, 2003
Detroit News
Top Critic

Fascinating story from screenwriter- turned-director Menno Meyjes.

February 7, 2003
Washington Post
Top Critic

It's a very philosophical film, with an interesting and somewhat fearless exploration of Hitler the man.

Full Review… | June 21, 2007
Film Scouts

Audience Reviews for Max

An art critic attempts to encourage a disturbing young man's art and dissuade him from pursuing political aspirations ... oh, and the young man is Hitler.
A colleague recommended I see this film because, in his words, "People criticized it for humanizing Hitler, but I thought that was one of its strengths." His point is that we so often dichotomize, see historical and political differences in clear terms of good and evil: the bad guys have the red light sabers and the good guys have the blue or green ones. His point, and I would argue the film's point, is that human beings, even the most depraved ones, are motivated by a myriad of influences, and dichotomies, by definition, are reductive.
The film presents Hitler in no gentle terms. He never smiles, but when you glimpse his teeth, they are nothing to behold, gray and misshapen. He screams a lot. He's remarkably insecure. The roots of his antisemitism are presented in no uncertain terms. He makes everyone around him uneasy. In the end, I would argue that the film didn't humanize him enough because the character, aside from his insecurity, is just as unlikable and impossible to identify with as you would expect. I'm not proposing that Hitler be portrayed in positive terms, quite the opposite. What I'm writing is this: here is a man who rose to power because something he said connected with people; he also was married. A humanizing portrait of him would get to the root of what his supporters saw in him even as we can whole-heartedly reject his ideology.
But it's a noble, risky, and controversial proposition to begin with, and I think it's admirable for Max to attempt to make us see the world in less myopic terms.
John Cusack is great as the Jewish art critic who attempts to take Hitler under his wing. The direction by Menno Meyjes is also quite strong, able to convey character and story in some single, beautifully framed shots.
Overall, Max is not a great film, but it's an interesting conversation-starter; questions like "Is our historical understanding narrow?" or "Is this film's attempt immoral/unethical?" are worth asking.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

Interesting but not great story about how Adolf Hitler's failed art career may have intercected with, and possibly actually inspired, his political career.

This film is in the style of Gods and Monsters, whereby a actual historiical figure's life is placed into a fictional setting as a means of trying to discover "what happened." John Cusack plays a fictional Jewish art dealer named Max Rothman who meets a 30-year old Hitler (Noah Taylor) in 1918, right after The Great War. Rothman is aware of Hitler's Anti-Semitism, but sees it as a source of artist inspiration rather than a actual threat. Rothman tries to convince Hitler to channel his rage into his paintings. In the process, the young Hitler discovers his true calling.

Cusack, who I normally adore, got good reviews for his potrayal here, but I just couldn't take him seriously as this haughty, somewhat pretentious art dealer. I guess I'm too used to him as Mr. Everyman. I guess the subplot of Rothman's love triangle between himself, his wife and his mistress fit in somewhere, but I found it unnecessary. Noah Taylor, while pulling off the passion of Hitler OK, seemed more to me as a Sid Vicious "sex, drugs and rock n roll" type rather than future leader of the Fatherland.

On the good side, the film looks great. The set design and costumes were excellent and believable, especially the abandoned train station where Rothman had his art gallery. And the edited-together scenes of Hitler giving a rabid speech about Jew and "pure blood" with Rothman and his family during a Jewish religious service were interesting.

The first few minutes of this film set up a mood for me that made me anticipate more than the film ultimately delivered. I may give Max another chance one day to see if I feel differently, but for now it's "good try but no cigar."

Cindy I

Super Reviewer


Cusack plays a Jewish art dealer who takes a young artist under his wing, by the name of Adolf Hitler. A compelling watch.

Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer

Max Quotes

– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)

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