The Snake Pit (1948)

The Snake Pit


No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...


Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

In this film, Olivia deHavilland stars as an outwardly normal young woman. As deHavilland's behavior becomes more and more erratic, however, her kindly husband decides that she needs professional help. She is sent to an overcrowded state hospital but is sorely abused by the resentful matrons and the profoundly disturbed patients.

Rating: Unrated
Genre: Drama, Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Mary Jane Ward, Frank Partos, Millen Brand
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jun 1, 2004



as Virginia Stuart Cunn...

as Robert Cunningham

as Dr. Mark Kik

as Dr. Terry

as Miss Davis

as Gordon

as Mrs. Greer

as Asylum Inmate

as Asylum Inmate

as Asylum Inmate

as Asylum Inmate

as Asylum Inmate

as Dr. Curtis

as Mrs. Stuart

as Dr. Jonathan Gifford

as Miss Hart

as Miss Bixby, the Ward...

as Valerie

as Mr. Stuart

as Virginia at Age 6

as Nurse Vance

as Celia Sommerville

as Hester

as Miss Greene

as Miss Seiffert

as Tommy's mother

as Young Man

as Patient

as Patient

as Patient

as Patient

as Patient

as Patient

as Singing Inmate

as Miss Servis

as Gertrude

as Doctor Somer

as Nurse

as Virginia at Age 2

as Miss Neumann

as Young girl

as Visor
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Critic Reviews for The Snake Pit

All Critics (8) | Top Critics (3)

It's entertaining enough in a hysterical sort of way, even if it never matches up to the excesses of Fuller's later Shock Corridor.

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

Full Review… | June 12, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | June 12, 2004
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

This remains one of the best screen explorations of mental illness and its treatment.

Full Review… | January 31, 2012
TV Guide's Movie Guide

As one of Hollywood's first "serious" chronicles of life in an asylum, the film is uneven, containing some intelligent observations but also lurid sequences and simplistic psychological explanations.

Full Review… | January 5, 2009

For the audience of today, the primary draw of the picture is watching Olivia de Havilland deliver a particularly terrifying performance.

Full Review… | May 30, 2004
Not Coming to a Theater Near You

Audience Reviews for The Snake Pit

An underrated gem. It's all about the performance and de Havilland's is utterly brilliant!

Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer


Olivia de Haviland gives a brilliant performance as Virginia Stuart Cunningham, a young woman committed to a mental institution after a "nervous breakdown".

This is one of the first flims to deal with mental illness on a serious adult level, and it is sometimes sad and sometimes harrowing to watch. Virginia spends several months in various wards of the hospital -- the higher the ward number, the worse off you are -- moving up and down in wards as she recovers and then relapses. She receives treatment such as hydrotherapy and shock treatments, which are treated much more gingerly that most other, more graphic, examples in other films.

While the plot of this film is interesting, what held my attention were the other patients in minor roles and background. Various mental illnesses and symptoms are featured, including bipolar disorder, depression, schizophrenia and paranoia, delusions of grandeur, aural hallucinations and persecution. To know that there are people all over the world who suffer as these women did in this film is painful to imagine.

The film is a slower version of One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, without the black humor. And it does move slow at times, when the doctor is explaining in detail the possible explanations for Virginia's illness. The only thing that keeps it from being five stars is the slightly manipulative scene between Virginia and Hester, the distrustful mute girl Virginia has befriended, and a few times when de Havilland fell back into the posturing that so many actresses in the 40s adopted. Otherwise, director Anatole Litvak should be commended for this fine film.

Cindy I

Super Reviewer

Few performances have equaled the raw power of Olivia de Havilland's in The Snake Pit. In the film, de Havilland plays Virginia, a young woman who suffers a mental breakdown and is committed to psychiatric hospital. We follow her treatment, diagnosis, and suffering as she climbs out of and falls back into the snake pit (in ancient times, the film explains, an insane person was lowered into a pit of snakes, the rationale being any sane person would be driven insane by the process, thus the opposite would occur for the insane). De Havilland is so amazing it's easy to overlook the story (which is quite well-written) or the direction (which is also amazing). In spite of all this, the film only won one oscar, for best sound recording. In the history of classic film, this one can get lost in the shuffle, and that's a shame.

Mr Awesome
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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