Quiz Show (1994) - Rotten Tomatoes

Quiz Show (1994)

Quiz Show (1994)

Quiz Show



Critic Consensus: Robert Redford refracts the sociopolitical and moral issues posed by the subject material through a purely entertaining, well-acted lens.

Quiz Show Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

It's 1958, and the producers of the quiz show 21 have a problem. Their current champ, Herbert Stempel (John Turturro), has a phenomenal memory and a broad range of knowledge. He's also a pudgy loudmouth with a grating personality, so Herbert is encouraged to "take a dive" and allow Charles Van Doren (Ralph Fiennes), a handsome and charming college professor, to become the show's new champion. Audiences like Van Doren, and he's certainly not averse to the money he's winning, but the ethics of the situation begin to trouble him, especially when the show's producers begin to give him the questions in advance. Director Robert Redford and writer Paul Attanasio paint a telling portrait of how the network heads and advertising men who manipulated the quiz shows were also able to manipulate the responsibility for the scandal away from themselves. While on the surface a story about the scandal itself, Quiz Show is just as importantly about a turning point in the 1950s when TV and advertising began to change American character and culture.more
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Paul Attanasio
In Theaters:
On DVD: Mar 6, 2001
Buena Vista Internationa


John Turturro
as Herbert Stempel
Ralph Fiennes
as Charles Van Doren
Rob Morrow
as Dick Goodwin
Paul Scofield
as Mark Van Doren
David Paymer
as Dan Enright
Hank Azaria
as Albert Freedman
Johann Carlo
as Toby Stempel
Elizabeth Wilson
as Dorothy Van Doren
Allan Rich
as Robert Kintner
Mira Sorvino
as Sandra Goodwin
George Martin
as Chairman
Griffin Dunne
as Account Guy
Barry Levinson
as Dave Garroway
Ethan Hawke
as Student in Classroom...
Michael Mantell
as Pennebaker
Ben Shenkman
as Childress
Joda Hershman
as Lester Stempel
Ernie Sabella
as Car Salesman
Debra Monk
as Kintner's Secretary
Shawn Batten
as Cornwall Cousin
Mario Cantone
as Passerby
Grace Phillips
as Mrs. Nearing
Jerry Grayson
as Limo Driver
Scott Lucy
as NBC Page
Matt Keeslar
as NBC Page
Hamilton Fish IV
as Professor At Book Pa...
Harriet Sansom Harri...
as Enright's Secretary
Mary Shultz
as Freedman's Secretary
Dave Wilson
as Director
Robert Caminiti
as Associate Director
Eddie Korbich
as Lighting Director
Le Clanche Du Rand
as Cornwall Neighbor
Carole Shelley
as Cornwall Aunt
Shawna Batten
as Cornwall Cousin
Cornelia Ryan
as Cornwall Cousin
Jeffrey Nordling
as John Van Doren
Gina Rice
as Mrs. John Van Doren
Vince O'Brien
as Bunny Wilson
Pat Russell
as NBC Secretary
Adam Kilgour
as Thomas Merton the Mo...
Richard Seff
as Congressman Devine
Bill Moor
as Congressman Rogers
Nicholas Kepros
as Congressman Flynt
Barry Snider
as Congressman Springer
Chuck Adamson
as Congressman Mack
Steve Ryan
as NBC Employee
Joseph Attanasio
as Congressman Derounia...
Dan Wakefield
as Professor at Book Pa...
Hamilton Fish III
as Professor at Book Pa...
Merwin Goldsmith
as Writer At Book Party
Illeana Douglas
as Woman At Book Party
Gretchen Egolf
as Student at book part...
Stephen Pearlman
as Judge Schweitzer
Anthony Fusco
as Librarian
Douglas McGrath
as Snodgrass
Calista Flockhart
as Barnard Girl
Alysa Shwedel
as Barnard Girl
Kelly Coffield Park
as Queens Neighbor
Dede Pochos
as Queens Neighbor
Maria Radman
as Queens Neighbor
David Stepkin
as Queens Neighbor
Steve Roland
as Today Announcer
Joe Lisi
as Reporter
as Woman At Door
Neil Leifer
as Psychoanalyst
Pat Russel
as NBC Secretary
Bill Cwikowski
as Challenger
William Fichtner
as Stage Manager
Vincent J. Burns
as Crew Member
Richard Council
as Reporter No. 1
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Quiz Show

Critic Reviews for Quiz Show

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (15)

Robert Redford's best and richest directorial effort...

Full Review… | November 8, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Redford turns a dry subject into high art, matching the achievements of his other directing efforts in Ordinary People and A River Runs Through It.

Full Review… | July 3, 2007
Denver Post
Top Critic

Perfectly pitched, the film brims with insight and wit. Highly recommended.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Mr. Redford has made a rich, handsome, articulate film about a subject truly worth talking about.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

What Redford is saying isn't new, but it has rarely been said in a mainstream movie with this kind of passion.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Outstanding drama about morals and our choices.

Full Review… | December 28, 2010
Common Sense Media

Audience Reviews for Quiz Show


With strong performances from turturro and fiennes, Quiz show is a great film that has lasted the test of time.

paul o.
paul oh

Super Reviewer


Based on true events that transpired during NBC's rise to prominence with televised quiz shows in 1958, Quiz Show is an enrapturing tale of television gone wild and its tendril influence on the American population. Though Quiz Show doesn't shine an infracted light on television and the corruption and lack of regulation directly, it does raise a lot of questions about what we're willing to believe in order to stay entertained. In an era that caters to the Kardashian clan and other reality blights; this film draws a lot of parallels to modern situations and even predicts our nation's complacency in forms of television that are neither true nor lacking in debilitation. Though quiz shows in the fifties didn't hurt anyone and lent to education, they were also based on enjoyment of the American public, therefore only letting who they wanted win based on biased beliefs. The story covers a rigged game and the prominence of Charles Van Doren, an instructor at Columbia who was supplied the answers, winning a considerable amount of money while selling the product Geritol and giving the show Twenty-One high viewership. The film is very emotional and brings up the questions of what is truth, what are the public being led to believe in order for big wigs to win out financially, and should we trust the box in our living rooms over what we know to be true. Though it's an amazing story and a turning point in advertising taking over television and influencing all new forms of media, it's the tension over the investigation that keeps this film thrilling. Ralph Fiennes is the intellectual pretty boy, a role that he was born to play, and though he usually grates on my nerves, here he is neither condescending nor problematic to the rest of the story. The casting of the entire film was spot on. Rob Morrow as the investigating government agent who likes Van Doren but also has to bring down all the people around him was perfect, with his easy accent and intense scrutiny of the indiscretion around him. Turturro does irritate like a bothersome gnat, while also being pitiful and naïve. This film is so sickeningly good it makes me cringe to think about everything yet it's also so important. Certainly my favorite Redford directed film.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


An under-rated gem of the 90's that features outstanding performances from its ensemble cast, and a sensational gutting and ravaging of the television industry concerning a popular 50's quiz game show and the internal corruption of how the studio has certain contestants fix matches. Robert Redford's fantastic detailing of his characters and plot keeps this thing clicking at a fast pace, and thanks to fine turns from John Turturro (as a bitter ex-contestant who is intent on bringing the studio down after they wrongfully deceive him), Ralph Fiennes (as a hot-shot college professor who can not be beaten), and Paul Scofield (as Fiennes very accomplished, caring father) this story is anchored masterfully all the way to its end. The only thing it is really missing is the dramatic punch its finale sets us up for, but being that Redford is aiming for subtlety, I can understand why he decided to not potentially overplay his cards. Overall, a fantastic exercise in moral dilemmas and the seedy underbelly of the television industry, even at its seemingly rich, innocent beginnings.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Quiz Show Quotes

– Submitted by Jayathra L (3 years ago)
– Submitted by Chad E (4 years ago)
– Submitted by Chad E (4 years ago)
– Submitted by Chad E (4 years ago)

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