Zorba the Greek - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Zorba the Greek Reviews

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Super Reviewer
November 8, 2006
Zorba: Damn it boss, I like you too much not to say it. You've got everthing except one thing: madness! A man needs a little madness, or else...
Basil: Or else?
Zorba: ...he never dares cut the rope and be free.

A solid film centering on two men. One playing it straight, the other a larger than life character who gives this film the right kind of energy every time he is on screen. Well made, with a great soundtrack.

An aimless Englishman, Basil, played by Alan Bates, finds he has a small inheritance on the Greek island of Crete. His joyless existence is disturbed when he meets Zorba, played by Anthony Quinn, a middle aged Greek with a real lust for life. As he discovers the earthy pleasures of Greece, the Englishman finds his view on life changing. Other adventures occur, including the pursuit of love for both men and the construction of crazy contraptions.

Basically, Anthony Quinn owns this film. Every time he is around, I love everything that is going on. His character provides laughs, a sense of adventure, and other endearing qualities that kept me entertained. Plus he's a damn good dancer. The other actors do a solid job in the film as well.

Taking place in Crete, and actually having been filmed there, this is a very good looking film as well. It certainly captures the surroundings quite well, while giving a specific portrayal of this Greek society.

The other great element of this film was its score. I've heard its key tune many times before, but here it is perfectly mixed into the story. As this film mixes some more light-hearted moments with much darker dramatic material, it was great to have a Greek-themed musical vibe running throughout, which helped keep me engaged.

While the film does run a bit long, it still had plenty of well accomplished elements to make it worthwhile.

Basil: I don't want any trouble.
Zorba: Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive is to undo your belt and *look* for trouble.
Super Reviewer
January 16, 2009
A much darker film than I expected it to be. Anthony Quinn's energetic and charismatic Zorba seems almost out of place amidst a cast of cowardly, vengeful, parasitic villagers who always seem to linger ominously in the background. Ultimately, Zorba the Greek is an uplifting film, but it will route you through a few valleys before it reaches the mountaintop.
Super Reviewer
April 23, 2006
When Zorba's son dies, everyone else cries. Zorba? He dances. If Quinn had only done one film, this film, his contribution to the history of movies would have been enormous and his place in that history assured. Life, death, comedy, tragedy, love, hate, nastiness, compassion . . . this movie encompasses every aspect of existence. I'm not sure if Bates and Quinn ever did another movie together, but what great chemistry. To live life no matter what may come, the "philosophy" behind this movie, makes more and more sense the older you get. And when all else fails, eat, drink, laugh, and dance . . .
Billie P.
Super Reviewer
½ December 18, 2014
Zorba the Greek (1976) came out during a time when Hollywood was reaching out in all kinds of directions to release films to butts in movie theater seats. This US-Greek production stars Alan Bates as Basil, a half-Greek, half-English man who is en route to Crete to take over his now-deceased father's mine there. In transit he meets Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn), who is a lively good-humored man who volunteers to do work for Basil. Zorba dances in the face of adversity, and he's not afraid to lie and bend rules in order to maintain a sense of playfulness, especially in this movie's world, which just seems to be such a bummer. Troubling, however, is the way in which the women in the film get so easily cast aside or how they're viewed as means to men's lusty ends. Basil's and Zorba's world is definitely a man's world, and women have no agency here. I'm thinking here of the Widow and Madame Hortense. You'll see.
Super Reviewer
June 3, 2014
The be all and end all of Anthony Quinn's career. It is the role that defined him even though I am pretty sure that he isn't Greek. It nonetheless led to a bunch of roles as swarthy individuals. Nonetheless he is wonderful at the centre of a delightful production.
Lord Naseby
Super Reviewer
December 15, 2010
This movie looked so incredibly boring, that it took me an entire year to work up the nerve to watch it. Maybe more maybe less. I almost didn't. Especially because it is almost 2 1/2 hours long. I have to watch this because of my Oscar list. If I didn't have that I would never ever bother.

Acting/Characters: Anthony Quinn as Zorba is the only reason to even watch this movie. He did an absolutely fantastic job. Were it not for Peter sellers in Dr. Strangelove, I would be perfectly alright with giving Best Actor to him (I to this day am still trying to find out why on earth they gave it to Rex Harrison that year). But he is the only remotely interesting character in the film. I just didn't care about anyone else. I was never really given any reason to to be honest. There was one other character who was interesting to watch and that was the town idiot. There was actually a character whom annoyed me to the point where I didn't care about her fate (Incidentally it was an Oscar winning performance). Maybe that was the point if so, bravo. I only really cared about Zorba. He was a lot of fun to watch. 5/10

Plot: Like the rest of the movie, I just didn't care. I felt like I should care but I didn't. I know that this is an Oscar winning film and that it is culturally important but yeah. Meh. The plot did get really interesting at the end though which I liked a lot. It was kinda too little too late though. But the film didn't need to be nearly as long as it was. And it was almost much longer too. It was kinda too little too late though. 5/10

Screenplay: This was the best part I will say. Zorba had a lot of excellent lines. He was always really interesting to watch and what he would say was always very interesting too. But I don't think that this fully redeemed the film but I dunno. I still liked it. 8/10

Likableness: When Zorba was onscreen it was great. he was a lot of fun to watch. When he wasn't I just didn't care. Maybe I'm being way too hard on this film. I probably am. But I just didn't care. I dunno. Sorry if this is incoherent, a 2:00 AM review isn't the best. 6/10

Final Score: 24/40 60% (M)

TRIVIA TIME: 1. Anthony Quinn had a broken foot during filming, and thus couldn't perform the dance on the beach as scripted, which called for much leaping around. Instead, he did a slow shuffle. Director Mihalis Kakogiannisasked Anthony Quinn what the dance was, and Anthony Quinn made up a name and claimed it was traditional.

2. Simone Signoret was the original choice for Madame Hortense. After filming began, director 'Michael Cacoyannis' realized that she wasn't what he wanted for the part and asked permission from Darryl F. Zanuck to replace her. He agreed and he proposed Bette Davis. 'Michael Cacoyannis' though had Lila Kedrova in mind. Darryl F. Zanuck had no idea who Lila Kedrova was, or how she even looked, but he trusted 'Michael Cacoyannis' very much, so he agreed.

3. The project was turned down by every major studio in town.

4. In the earlier stages of filming, Mihalis Kakogiannis and Anthony Quinn had frequent disagreements as the director felt that his leading actor was being too over-the-top.

5. The original cut was over 3 hours long.

6. Lila Kedrova learned English specially for the film.

7. Such was the interest in an adaptation of Nikos Kazantzakis's hugely popular novel, the film was already in the black before it opened.
½ November 25, 2014
***Due to the recent RT changes that have basically ruined my past reviews, I am mostly only giving a rating rather than a full review.***
½ May 11, 2013
I think I'm gonna need to rewatch this. And to watch it with the commentary. Cause I really feel like I should've liked it more than I did. I think I expected to feel better by the end of the movie than I did and instead, despite the embracing life theme, the whole movie was a massive downer. I'm not sure I cared for the director's style. But Anthony Quinn was fantastic and made me like Zorba despite my apathy or annoyance with everyone else.
January 25, 2013
Anthony Quinn's title character is a force of nature, and the rest of the people in the movie are tossed and buffeted helplessly by his whims. The writer played by Alan Bates is stunned into almost catatonic inaction by the strange, harsh society he encounters on Crete. The pervasive unpleasantness of the place even dims Zorba's spirit until the only option apparent to either character is to embrace their powerlessness over their surroundings. Irene Papas is excellent but underutilized as a nearly-silent widow.
½ July 13, 2010
Would have been so good in colour! I liked parts of it, but it was also kind of upsetting, to say the least... especially the scene with the old ladies. That gave me nightmares.
November 27, 2009
''If a woman sleeps alone, It puts shame on all man.'' Great book, great story. A grate vision for religion and politics. And that quote before the dance scene '' What could I do, boss? My joy was choking me. I had to find some outlet. And what sort of outlet? Words? Pff!'' Efharisto poli Kazantzakis kai Quinn !!
½ June 17, 2009
Great Music. Beginning and ending were great; the middle was unnecessary. If you are going to visit greek villages, do not watch this movie.
½ April 6, 2009
I do have a couple of problems with this movie. Coming from the Balkans and studying Balkan culture, I was less aghast at the viscious murder of Irene Pappas' character, although nonetheless tragic. I understand the honor/shame complexes that guide the village in Crete, and the inherent hypocrisy of the position of females vis-a-vis men. A culture that has been identical in my own Albania. Androgenous, misogenistic and brutal. What I couldnt and still can't understand is the relative ease of Basil's acceptance of her death. It was his actions that caused it. And yet in only a few scenes, its forgotten. A beautifulyoung lady just lost her life... and very soon things go back to normal. Neither he nor Zorba make any significant attempt to help. And yet near the end we are meant to celebrate life as Zorba just dances away. It is a hypocritical film, in a sense, since this 'enjoyment' is but a mask in a far darker reality. Yet another was the ease in accepting the savage treatment of Kedrova's character's death. Her house looted by screeching old peasant ladies. I get it though, customs are customs and isolated villages tend to be the most zenophobic. Yet still, Basil just accepts it. He continues to live in a village whose culture he is so very distant from and one that has completely disgusted him.

His character is certainly not one I appreciated much. Then again, Im not fond of intellectuals much. Too detached and idealistic.

Admittedly, however, this was the reason why I loved this film. To me the message to 'relax' and 'just dance' is a bit misleading. I certainly wouldnt want to be like Zorba, throwing people's cash away, cursing and using used ladies, craving just for pleasure. The man is actually pretty damn detestable. Yet there are good sides to him, as there are in well (well, maybe not Hitler).

I nevertheless still love the ending for what it is. The final dance sequence doesnt fix anything, nor help really. But in the end, sometimes we just do need to say opa and dance, life is only so long.... Its a hypocritical film, but still it does teach some valuable lessons... let it be, acting stiff wont make anything easier to swallow.
½ June 21, 2008
Although I found the film itself to be boring and depressing despite Anthony Quinn?s energetic performance, I also found the score to be one of the film?s greatest asset along with Quinn?s performance.
May 10, 2008
Spoiler contained in this review: I'm amazed at the number of reviews celebrating this one, and equally amazed at how well it did. While Anthony Quinn's performance is indeed wonderful, Alan Bates' character is appalling in his impotence, as is the tolerance and acceptance of the horrific behavior of the Crete islanders. The cold-blooded murder of the widow was atrocious. But more atrocious was the reaction of both Quinn and Bates, i.e. barely an eyeblink. How can you celebrate the characters' "joy of life" dance in the finale knowing they witnessed the execution of an innocent woman and then go on to employ the same people who executed her? To me, this is not a movie about the joy of life, but rather about selfishness and sociopathic behavior, remaining completely unaffected by the suffering of others while you go on your merry way. Disgusting.
May 9, 2008
usually i'm a sucker for the classics, but found this movie was just ok. great performance by the person who played zorba, but the basil character didn't really do anything and was forgettable. zorba had an interesting view of life, but it wasn't that astounding, as mine is similar. but at the same time, i didn't really relate to zorba, as he was more out-there, in an extroverted way. i connected to Cool Hand Luke alot more.

decent, accoladed movie, but not one i would recommend however.
½ March 4, 2016
Would have been good but for the barbarism.

An Englishman, Basil (played by Alan Bates), is en route to Crete where
he owns a long-disused mine. Along the way he encounters, befriends and
employs Zorba (Anthony Quinn). Once in Crete they set about trying to
get the mine operational. Basil is quite risk averse, studious and
introverted while Zorba is extroverted, gregarious, happy-go-lucky and
lives life to the fullest. Over time, Zorba's zestfulness starts to rub
off on Basil...

Starts slowly but over time the movie starts to accumulate a feel- good
factor, especially when we see Zorba's antics and Basil start to open

However, this is all ruined by two acts of sheer barbarism towards the
end, both committed by the moronic inhabitants of the village. What's
worse, both these acts are just taken as par for the course, and there
is no ultimate justice for these acts. You could understand the
imbecilic villagers feeling that way, but both Basil and Zorba continue
as if nothing had happened. What's more, the first case involves
someone quite dear to Basil.

From the point of the first atrocity, the air goes out of the movie and
this is made worse by the second act. There are some lighter moments in
the last few scenes but these can't repair the damage. What should have
been a light, happy movie, even a comedy of sorts, ends as an uneven
study in the barbaric customs and thinking of primitive people.
December 6, 2015
A film that simply grows on you second by second until your caught under it's spell. A simple but significant story of a English Man who inherits land in Crete in Greece and along his way stumbles across Zorba the Greek.

You couldn't have to polar opposites on screen but the charm & chemistry of the two is undeniable. Zorba is owned by the performance of Anthony Quinn that is truly once in a lifetime.

It's a film filled with passion (especially the luscious look of the film made by the Cameraman) & the perils of life. It's refreshing & a great study of two people in the unforgettable backdrop of coastal Greece. A must see classic!
December 29, 2007
Classic. Anthony Quinn's performance exemplifies the Greek spirit. There were some uncomfortable scenes. Good movie for the most part. Lila Kedrova was outstanding.
½ June 12, 2015
Boring as fuck. I didn't even want to finish it. Boring stories from Greek people and the crazy Zorba in Greece of 1940's(?)
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