• Unrated, 2 hr. 10 min.
  • Drama, Classics
  • Directed By:
    Robert Mulligan
    In Theaters:
    Dec 25, 1962 Wide
    On DVD:
    Apr 28, 1998
  • Universal International Pictur


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To Kill A Mockingbird Reviews

Page 1 of 400
Bob S

Super Reviewer

July 7, 2007
Trivia: Scout and Jem's fanciful summer friend Dil was based on Truman Capote.
Daniel Mumby
Daniel Mumby

Super Reviewer

October 1, 2013
Films about racial prejudice often date very badly. There's no denying the historical significance of something like In The Heat of the Night, but the style in which such a film conveys its message now seems heavy-handed, even while its message remains important. Many films about racial conflict are so much a product of their time that they quickly become historical caricatures. This is true right back to the days of D. W. Griffith, though with Intolerance he could just have been trying too hard.

In contrast to these films, To Kill A Mockingbird has survived largely untarnished for 51 years, with neither changes in film technique nor wider social changes serving to blunt its powerful message or diminish its memorable characters. Through the steady hand of Robert Mulligan and the brilliance of Gregory Peck, Harper Lee's beloved novel is wonderfully realised in a film which is equally graceful, playful and heartbreaking. It remains, with 12 Angry Men, the standard to which all courtroom dramas aspire, and is a genuinely fine piece of drama in its own right.

I've already reviewed two other films based on Pulitzer Prize-winning novels, namely Gone With The Wind and A Place in the Sun. The common observation about these two was that neither film had enough of a story to warrant their respective running times: the ideas were either improperly executed or not that nuanced in the first place. Whether through the superior nature of its source, Mulligan's solid approach or the influence of producer Alan J. Pakula (All The President's Men), To Kill A Mockingbird does not suffer the same fate.

Horton Foote's screenplay is a great adaptation of Lee's novel, retaining all its unique imagery and rich language while ensuring the story is told in the most efficient and visually intriguing way possible. Just the right amount of time is taken in setting up the lives of our young protagonists: we see Atticus and his children Jem and Scout going about their daily lives, setting up the ease and ethics of their existence before the crime conspires to shatter their world. In short, each movement of the story is accorded as much time as is needed and nothing more.

Mulligan's directorial approach is similar in one way to that of Clint Eastwood. Both are at heart steady, nuts-and-bolts directors, interested in getting the job done quickly and telling their given story in the tidiest manner possible. The vast majority of their films tell their stories plainly and logically, and there is very little slack in either the visual or verbal narrative. You'd think that such an approach would dent the subtleties of Lee's book, but in fact it allows them to emerge freely. By being so reluctant to invade stylistically, Mulligan creates a naturalistic environment in which the young actors can produce their great performances.

That being said, Mulligan does benefit from assistance elsewhere in his crew. The film is shot by Russell Harlan, who also shot Blackboard Jungle and Witness for the Prosecution. Not only is he at home with the formal settings of the school and the courthouse, but his lighting choices add real tension to the story, particularly in the shadows and shot choices for Boo Radley's house. The film also benefits from a score by Elmer Bernstein, later known for his collaborations with John Landis. His light, cheery themes beautifully underscore the childlike innocence of the opening act; their absence is conspicuous during the later, darker scenes, which become more effective as a result.

As a result of these creative decisions, To Kill A Mockingbird is much more tense than you might at first presume. Considering its reputation as a lynchpin of American liberalism, you might regard it as a worthy but overly talky drama, full of big speeches about morality but not enough actual character development. But its moral backbone is only part of the film, since it is also the story of a child's innocence being invaded and ravaged by a dark world of prejudice.

One of the great assets of both the book and the film is presenting the action through the eyes of Jem and Scout. Through the early scenes of them playing with Dill, we get to see the world as it appears from their experience, including their own levels of prejudice regarding the children at school. The case that Atticus takes forces them to confront issues about race and injustice long before they are ready or their father would have wanted. We feel both Jem's pain and Scout's heartache at her revelation, in a way that we wouldn't if we saw the film through Atticus' eyes.

As for Atticus himself, it's not hard to see why the AFI ranked him as the greatest movie hero of all time in 2003. Atticus is the embodiment of all the values Western civilisation holds dear: justice, decency, freedom and equality before the law. He is unbending in his belief in the power of law and the rights of man, and unlike the heroes of many westerns he does not carry out these beliefs by morally duplicitous means. Gregory Peck thoroughly deserved his Oscar for a role which feeds off his natural grace and authority; even amongst such a glittering career, it remains his finest performance.

There is a comparison between this film and A Man For All Seasons. Robert Bolt's original play was written two years before this film came out, and both stories revolve around a tragic hero. Both Atticus and Sir Thomas More are idealists struggling in a world which has abandoned said ideals for the sake of short-term satisfaction, be it power, wealth, status or revenge. The courtroom scene in To Kill A Mockingbird wins out, however, being less stagey and needlessly histrionic than Fred Zinnemann's film. Mulligan uses similar techniques to The Paradine Case (which also starred Peck), using low angles to give the characters more authority over proceedings.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a beautifully nuanced examination of prejudice. Rather than needlessly caricature the more red-neck characters, it takes its time to show how ordinary people defy reason, logic, good argument and morality just to satisfy their own convictions. No courtroom drama since has quite captured the heartache of injustice as this film does when Tom Robinson is found guilty despite all the evidence proving his innocence. The long, slow walk that Peck endures, in the presence of all Robinson's supporters, is a heartbreaking image of a man of good faith broken by needless, gutless hatred.

To Kill A Mockingbird is a truly great film which still delivers an emotional punch even after all this time. Despite a few scenes which seem tame or creaky by today's standards, the film as a whole has held up immensely well. Peck's performance, and those of the young children, are beautifully complimented by Foote's deft writing and Mulligan's unfussy hand. It is a classic of its time, and essential viewing in ours.
Carlos M

Super Reviewer

October 25, 2013
A wonderful yet inevitably condensed adaptation of Lee's sublime novel, and even though harmed by some of the changes, it is heartfelt, moving and always true to the soul of her story, with Gregory Peck in a truly fantastic performance despite also a bit too stiff in the trial scene.
Dan S

Super Reviewer

October 21, 2007
A bonafide classic concerning a calm, cool, and collected lawyer (Gregory Peck) who puts his reputation on the line when he chooses to defend a black man (Brock Peters) in a rape case in the racist south. Meanwhile, his kids become fascinated with a mysterious neighbor (Robert Duvall) who hasn't been seen out of his house in ages. The way director Mulligan concentrates on each character and their story makes this movie a masterpiece thanks to its ability to pivot between themes of youth and innocence and parenting and having to make hard decisions. The movie's pace never wavers, it is consistently interesting, and the ending is shocking and saddening even if you know what is already coming. A great adaptation, and a movie that should be seen by everyone, especially those interested in social issues.

Super Reviewer

December 3, 2007
This is a magnificent adaptation of a magnificent novel, and in general, this is one of the best ever.

Set in a small Alabama town during the 1930s, this is the story of a very honest, no-nonsense widower lawyer named Atticus Finch who, in addition to trying to raise his two children Jem and Jean Louise (better known as Scout), puts his career on the line when he makes the decision to defend a black day laborer named Tom Robinson who is accused of beating and raping a white woman.

This was some bold subject matter, and it is semi-autobiographical. The movie came out two years after the book, and the fact that Civil Rights was still going on is why this was all such a big deal. What really shows the gutsiness is how such a divisive issue is shown through the eyes of Scout, and not Atticus. It's a great idea, and really gives some thought provoking insight by framing such a big issue through the eyes of a young, precocious child. This also serves as a great way to educate children on the issue.

And while the trial is a major highlight, and the main emotional core of the film, a lot of it is built around what happens before and after the courtroom stuff, which is a lot of character development, life lessons, and a nice slice-of-life look at a town and its people during a particular moment in history.

The performances all around are brilliant. The kids are great and likeable (which is quite a rarity), Robert Duvall makes a stunning film debut, Brock Peters is agonizingly sympathetic and compelling as Robinson, and then we get the man who really shines above all: Gregory Peck. This was a much deserved Oscar winning and career defining performance for him, and it really is one of the greats. He's wonderful through the whole thing, and he comes off as the kind of dad a person would love to have as their own. What seals the deal though is his lengthy courtroom monologue. I get all kinds of shaken and emotionally stirred up every time I watch that scene. It's some of the most powerful, riveting, and memorable acting ever put on film.

This is a pretty faithful, though slightly trimmed adaptation, and besides the great way it handles issues and things and the acting, there's some very assured direction, great cinematography, and a really touching and haunting score. It pretty much goes without saying that this one is a must see, so do it.
Apeneck F

Super Reviewer

July 21, 2007
Altho Peck is perfect here as sort of a modern day Abe Lincoln defending a black man of raping a white woman in a pre-Civil Rights southern town, there is a whole 'nother film here about the wonder, mysticism and magic of childhood that is forgotten with all the fire and brimstone of important social issues and yet is equally as weighty. Wonderful performances abound, by child actors, et al.
Alexander D

Super Reviewer

June 14, 2011
Although I didnā(TM)t really care for Harper Leeā(TM)s 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird, I really enjoyed this film adaptation of a mere two years later. Peckā(TM)s Oscar-winning delivery of Atticus Finch was (for once) almost exactly like I imagined him while reading the book: a brave, strong lawyer who seemed to accept the stereotype about African-Americans, but also disregarded it. We see him, much more in the film than in the book, growing to befriend and have a certain sense of love for the man accused of raping a white woman.

Needless to say, Iā(TM)m glad I watched TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, but it seems to be getting a lot of undeserved acclaim. Itā(TM)s a good movie, definitely, but itā(TM)s not one of the best of all-time, in my opinion. Somewhat contrarily, this should have easily won the Oscar for Best Picture, especially since the book won a Pulitzer Prize. A movie that can outdo its source material for sure deserves more honor than Best Actor, Best Art Direction, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Happy 50th anniversary, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

Super Reviewer

February 5, 2012
Film version of Harper Lee's classic, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of cinema's greatest classics. The book is one of my all time favourite novels, and this screen adaptation does it justice. Director Robert Mulligan directs a phenomenal cast of actors, most notably Gregory Peck in the role of Atticus Finch. Gregory Peck delivers a strong, powerful and unforgettable performance. The film differs a bit from the book, but it keeps the essence of the story intact, and just like the book; this film is a classic. The performances of the cast are wonderful, and the story is one that will keep you interested from start to finish. This film is a definite classic of cinema and it is a must see film. This film adaptation of Harper Lee's classic is just as memorable as her book, and this is simply a well acted film with a powerful story. As an avid fan of the book, director Robert Mulligan stays faithful to the story, and creates a phenomenal film. This film is a classic that should be seen by any film fan. Gregory Peck definitely made the film what it is, and no other actor could portray Atticus Finch. He really brings the character to life, and makes the character his own. If you've read the book, you'll most likely enjoy this film. To Kill a Mockingbird is a wonderful, well acted film with an unforgettable story. This is simply put an amazing film.
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

November 2, 2011
To Kill a Mockingbird is inspiring and I guess its charming at times and Gregory Peck is well deserving of the Best Actor Oscar but its a bit over rated, I found it hard to sustain interest at times. What bothers me the most is that I felt it was to slow for its own good. Sometimes the tensions not there and sometimes it is but overall its above average quality entertainment.

Super Reviewer

August 15, 2011
To Kill A Mocking Bird is a story about a hero, and this movie is one of the best films in the history of cinema.

Super Reviewer

June 23, 2011
As much as the story is a true classic, this really bored me and I couldn't properly pay attention to most of it.
Anthony L

Super Reviewer

May 23, 2011
To Kill a Mocking Bird is an American classic and one of the greatest books of modern literature. The fact they managed to adapt it into one of the greatest films ever made is pretty impressive. It's not exactly the same as the book but it is all the better for all the changes. The actors bring the characters to life brilliantly, Duvall is great in his small but powerful role, the two children are great (it's a shame they didn't go on to act more) and of course, Gregory Peck's Atticus Finch is one of the greatest screen characters of all time. Robert Mulligan's beautifully lit Black and White film is a joy to watch too, it's almost dream-like which works perfectly considering it is technically all from the memory of the narrator. Pretty much the perfect film.

Super Reviewer

December 28, 2008
Next to The Wizard of Oz, this is undoubtedly the most beloved film of my childhood. To Kill a Mockingbird introduced me to the concept of motion pictures as catalysts for change and social commentary. For this, I am forever grateful to Harper Lee and Robert Mulligan.
Jason O

Super Reviewer

December 23, 2010
Loved the book and loved the movie almost as much....closer to being as good as the book as any movie's ever been!
Thomas J

Super Reviewer

February 2, 2008
I see why this movie is so high on so many lists. Also I plan to go back and read the book. It was funny to see such a young Robert Duvall.

Super Reviewer

September 5, 2010
I think this is one of the best screen adaptations of a novel I've ever seen. I do recommend both reading the book and seeing the movie, though. It's a very powerful and insightful story, and the actors really bring it all to life. I highly recommend this movie.

Super Reviewer

February 23, 2009
Of course I had to watch this movie in my english class and I liked it the same way I like the book. I didnt really enjoy it THAT MUCH until the last couple chapters/ 20 minutes. Robert Duvall is fantasic even though he doesnt say anything! Gregory Peck was very good as well.

Super Reviewer

July 14, 2010
The novel that earned Harper Lee the 1961 Pulitizer Prize for Literature,becomes one of the greatest American films ever made. "To Kill A Mockingbird" stands out as one as the apex of 1960's cinema and it shows this in fine detail. Based on the 1960 novel of the same title,it is the story of widowed attorney and legislator Atticus Finch(played brilliantly to perfection by the great Gregory Peck,who won the 1962 Oscar for Best Actor)who must defend Tom Robinson(Brock Peters),an African-American falsely accused of rape and assault. The story is set in fictional 1930's Maycomb County,Alabama,during the time of segregation and during the era of the Jim Crow South,where blacks endure pure hell and suffering within the deep South,especially in Alabama was "hell on earth."

Atticus has no illusions about the struggle he takes on. He tells his son Jem
(Phillip Alford),"In our courts,when it's a white man's word against a black man's,the white man always wins. They're ugly,but those are the facts of life." Atticus takes the case anyway,because "if I didn't I couldn't hold up my head in town," he tells his daughter Scout(Mary Badham who gives one of the most electrifying performances ever from a child actor). Atticus,with the help of Calpurnia,an African-American,is raising his son Jem and his daughter Scout. The story is told through the eyes of Scout(and also from the narration by actress Kim Hunter)who gives the audiences observations not only about race relations,but Southern notions of decorum and class distinctions. The trial of Tom Robinson and its consequences become the central events in the film while its gives us a grand perspective of young Scout's growing and understanding of the adult world,especially in the time of the violence and hatred in the Jim Crow South of the 1930's. Directed by Robert Mulligan and Produced by Alan J. Pakula,this movie was one of the biggest boxoffice hits of 1962,it which won two Academy Awards..one for Best Actor Oscar to Gregory Peck,and the other won for Horton Foote,the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay. It has become a staple in movie history not only for the riveting storyline,but for also film composer Elmer Bernstein's Oscar-nominated theme score. Suggusted For Mature Audiences.
Jay H

Super Reviewer

July 30, 2010
Am I missing something here? This is supposed to be a coming-of-age classic, but I couldn't figure out what exactly the film was trying to say. My aunt was sitting there afterward trying to tell me that the story is all about the children's mental maturation. Perhaps half of the film is focusing on the young ones and their misadventures, and there are parts that certainly show just what she was talking about. But the courtroom scenes (which were quite good) for which the film is most well-known have nothing to do with the star children, only with the alternate theme of southern racism--these scenes stray from the message the film was supposedly trying to send. While the acting is certainly superb, I found that the story was just quite messy and without a clear direction. This film couldn't just stick with just one theme; it wanted to send multiple messages. While that's not necessarily a bad thing, "To Kill A Mockingbird" did it in rather poor fashion. Not a bad movie by any means, but far from a classic.
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