Broken Blossoms

Critics Consensus

Thought-provoking and beautifully filmed, D.W. Griffith's Broken Blossoms presents a master at the top of his form.



Total Count: 21


Audience Score

User Ratings: 3,797
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Movie Info

Based on "The Chink and the Child", a story by Thomas Burke, Broken Blossoms is one of D.W. Griffith's most poetic films. Richard Barthelmess plays a young Chinese aristocrat who hopes to spread the gospel of his Eastern religion to the grimy corners of London's Limehouse district. Rapidly disillusioned, Barthelmess opens a curio shop and takes to smoking opium. One evening, Lillian Gish, the waif-like daughter of drunken prizefighter Donald Crisp, collapses on Barthelmess' doorstep after enduring one more of her father's brutal beatings. Barthelmess shelters the girl, providing her with the love and kindness that she has never known. Crisp, offended that his daughter is living with a "heathen," forces the girl to return home with him. In a terrible drunken rage, Crisp beats Lillian to death. Barthelmess arrives on the scene, kills Crisp, then kneels beside Lillian's body and takes his own life.

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Critic Reviews for Broken Blossoms

All Critics (21) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (1)

Audience Reviews for Broken Blossoms

  • Sep 17, 2016
    One of the most controversial films of the silent film area, Broken Blossoms is a story about an unlikely friendship formed by the outcasts of London, it featured "domestic violence" which shocked many at the time. Nonetheless, it was beautifully shot with some of the most elegant set designs and editing.
    Sylvester K Super Reviewer
  • Jun 12, 2012
    Lillian Gish gives an inspiring and masterful performance in "Broken Blossoms," Griffith's film about an interracial romance during a time when phobia against Asians was at plague-like levels. Though many films of today depend on camera techniques and modern editing to create tension in scenes, Gish's acting just about singularly creates the necessary tensions and tones that are carried scene after scene. Her character, along with Barthelmass's pitiful and, ironically, ignorantly named "Yellow Man" character (well, small steps...) serve as glimmers of innocence in the dark and glum Limehouse area the film is set in (it's even said that the dark and gritty environment of Battling's shack, though primitive and stale, is a precursor to noir.) The themes are at a minimum but still conspicuous enough to be amusing. Cheng the "Yellow Man" precociously, and naively, aspired to spread Buddha's message of peace to the West while a western missionary intended to spread the message of Christ to the East with packets on the subject of hell. Subtle social commentary on the peaceful methods of the East, abstractly seen as innocence embodied by Cheng, being stifled by the intimidation methods of the West (the recurring motif of bells is also a welcomed feature.) Battling, the antagonist, and his brute, xenophobic conduct serves as a great opposite to Cheng's timid, oppressed nature. The iris shots, tinting, and general nebulous look of many silent films, meshed with a tranquil score, lend a visually and rhythmically dreamy quality that is very present in "Broken Blossoms;" this was really a joy to watch and just a delightful piece of oneiric escapism. But, what really makes this film is, again, Lillian Gish. Her cradling a baby doll in an allusion to the Madonna or hysterically sobbing before being beaten by her draconian, amoral father makes this film sensational. The way she plays with her eyes, her facial features, and her body language is all fantastic, especially during a time when flat, stationary camera angles and prolonged, uncut shots demanded innovative and immaculate performances from actors and actresses.
    Edward S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 17, 2011
    New-age films definitely get some of their retrospective ideas from films such as Broken Blossoms. With no dialogue present it has to be a powerful story in order to have such an impact of sheer enjoyment and emotions, and this film goes above and beyond all expectations. As an asian man comes to London from his hometown for personal reasons, but when he get's caught up in an ugly, father/daughter conflict, he takes in little 12 year-old Lucy to nurture her after the beatings of her raged "Boxing Champion" father. The only feelings he sees is romantic and he tries to come-on to Lucy even though she would have no idea what he is trying to do. This film is beautifully told, easily understandable, it has an amazing orchestra following it, and the conclusion will make your gut spin. Broken Blossoms has true meaning and it is a film that I will remember forever. D.W. Griffith has made a masterpiece and it may just be one of my favourite films of all time!
    KJ P Super Reviewer
  • Dec 30, 2010
    It was ok, but mostly meh. I was distracted by how stupid the "Asian" dude looked, because he was always squinting and looking 'derp'. It made it hard for me to take it seriously.
    Lauren D Super Reviewer

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