Sophie's Choice (1982) - Rotten Tomatoes

Sophie's Choice (1982)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The year is 1947. Aspiring southern author Stingo (Peter MacNichol) heads to New York to seek his fortune. Moving into a dingy Brooklyn boarding house, Stingo strikes up a friendship with research chemist Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline) and Nathan's girlfriend, Polish refugee Sophie Zawistowska (Oscar-winner Meryl Streep). There is something unsettling about the relationship; Nathan is subject to violent mood swings, while Sophie seems to be harboring a horrible secret. Stingo soons learns that both Nathan and Sophie are strangers to truth; the audience is likewise led down several garden paths by a series of sepia-toned flashbacks, depicting Sophie's ordeal in a wartime concentration camp. The scene in which we discover the facts behind Sophie's "choice" is a gut-wrenching one; it might have been even more powerful had not the film taken so long to get there. It is betraying nothing to reveal that the character of Stingo is the alter ego of William Styron, upon whose best-selling novel the film was based. The film is rated R, due in great part to a disposable scene wherein Stingo tries to put the make on a "liberated" female intellectual.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Drama, Romance
Directed By:
Written By: William Styron, Alan J. Pakula
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 17, 1999
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment


Meryl Streep
as Sophie Zawistowska
Kevin Kline
as Nathan Landau
Rita Karin
as Yetta Zimmerman
Greta Turken
as Leslie Lapidus
Josh Mostel
as Morris Fink
Marcell Rosenblatt
as Astrid Weinstein
Moishe Rosenfeld
as Moishe Rosenblum
Robin Bartlett
as Lillian Grossman
Eugene Lipinski
as Polish Professor
John Rothman
as Librarian
Josef Sommer
as Narrator
Joseph Leon
as Dr. Blackstock
David Wohl
as English Teacher
Nina Polan
as English Student
Alexander Sirotin
as English Student
Armand Dahan
as English Student
Joseph Tobin
as Reporter
Karlheinz Hackl
as SS Doctor
Ulli Fessl
as Frau Hoess
Melanie Pianka
as Emmi Hoess
Krystyna Karkowska
as Prisoner Housekeeper
Jennifer Lawn
as Sophie's Child
Adrian Kalitka
as Sophie's Child
Peter Wegenbreth
as Hoess' Aide
Vida Jerman
as Female SS Guard
Ivo Pajer
as Sophie's Father
Michaela Karacic
as Sophie as a Child
Eugeniusz Priwiezien...
as Prisoner at Shower
Sandra Markota
as German Child
Hrovoje Sostaric
as German Child
Marko Zec
as German Child
Irena Hampel
as German Child
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Sophie's Choice

Critic Reviews for Sophie's Choice

All Critics (28) | Top Critics (6)

Astoundingly tedious.

Full Review… | June 26, 2007
Top Critic

The picture is completely devoid of cinematic interest, adopting instead a tiresome theatrical aesthetic in which showy monologues are filmed in interminable, usually ill-chosen long takes.

Full Review… | June 26, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

By the end, the accumulated weight and lethargy of the production fails to invest Sophie's fate with the significance Styron achieves.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

So perfectly cast and well-imagined that it just takes over and happens to you. It's quite an experience.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Though it's far from a flawless movie, Sophie's Choice is a unified and deeply affecting one. Thanks in large part to Miss Streep's bravura performance, it's a film that casts a powerful, uninterrupted spell.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | April 30, 2009
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Sophie's Choice


Though this film is ultimately just an exercise in melodrama, the character of Sophie Zawistowska is very complex and interesting to watch, and by no means hampered by the brilliant performance from Meryl Streep. Essentially this film is pegged as a story about the Holocaust, but it's much more than that. Though there are undoubted horrors seen onscreen, and this film deals with true facts about the inhuman exploits of the Nazis, the story is more about guilt. Everyone hides something horrible in their past, Sophie included, and that shame and repugnance shape whatever decisions we make in the future. Sophie has a very dire choice to make, and because of it she feels she doesn't deserve happiness in the future. Atrocities loom in her periphery, but she's trying to be friendly with Stingo (MacNichol) and romantic with Nathan (Kline), cheery and forgotten to her past, untied to her family. Using the Holocaust as a backdrop helps permeate the grandiosity of her guilt, and shows the terrors inflicted upon her, though any number of other historical atrocities would have served the same major purpose of influencing Sophie's guilt. It's not until the very last minutes of the film that we realize the true gravity of that guilt, and we understand the outcome for Sophie, Stingo, and Nathan. While it may not have aged especially well, there's still such vibrancy, and the illuminating performance from Streep will hold weight even decades in the future.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer


In Brooklyn in the years following WWll and a young Southern writer falls for a refugee of Auschwitz who is herself embroiled with a charismatic American Jew, only all is not rosy. Everyone is carrying baggage and the film opines that the choices we make (especially with relationships) are directly related to the baggage we carry. Its a mouthful to relay in the space of a film but the actors make it easier, lead by Streep who is at her most luminous.

Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Hmm, let's see here: this hasn't aged well, but it's still a decent film filled with excellent performances. Hoenstly, that's really the highlight here. Essentially this film is just high melodrama with a Holocaust stroy thrown in as a way to make a love triangle seem more interesting. That is, of course, a simplification, but not too far from the truth.

I did like this film though, even if I don't see it as beign a real cinematic masterpiece or anything. Maybe had the film focused more on the Holocaust stuff and less on the post war stuff, or maybe had they taken the titular moment and made it the real centerpiece or something I could find this film to be more brilliant, or at least as brilliant as the performances.

That's all anyone seems ot talk about here are the performances, well, mostly Streep's. It's true, this is her greatest achievement as an actress, and this is a beuatiful turn she gives as a Holocaust survivor with a really dark past. The others are good too though. I used to think that peter MacNicol was only good at playing the creep in Ghostbusters II; I'm happy to report that he does a really good job here as well. Kevin Kline gives a remarkable performance as a really unbalanced man with whom you can never predict what he will say or do next. They both get overshadowed by Streep, but that's kinda understandable.

I liked the music, and the look was decent, but the stroy just didn't quite have me like maybe it should have. I'm no ogre. The scene where the film gets it's title is a very heartbreaking and emotional scene-I just wish the rest of the film could have been as focused and stirring. Maybe they could have trimmed some of the running time in the process.

All in all, a decent film, but nothing extremely remarkable, although that goes for the film as a whole, and not the individual parts that make it up. You should see this if only for the acting. One may think that such a statement is overrated, but I disagree. The work here (mostly Streep's) will forever be one of the greatest examples of successful acting ever committed to film.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

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