Cleopatra

Critics Consensus

Cleopatra is a lush, ostentatious, endlessly eye-popping epic that sags collapses from a (and how could it not?) four-hour runtime.

60%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 35

69%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,514
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Movie Info

In 1963, this colossal and opulent $60 million spectacular was epic in every sense of the word -- an epic investment, an epic in the annals of Hollywood gossip, and, ultimately, an epic flop that nearly dragged 20th Century Fox down the Nile along with Cleopatra's barge. Handsomely mounted by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, who replaced Rouben Mamoulian as director after six days of shooting), the drama follows the eighteen tumultuous years that led to the founding of the Roman Empire. Cleopatra (Elizabeth Taylor) meets up with Julius Caesar (Rex Harrison) and plans to lure Caesar to her boudoir in order to forge an alliance with Rome so that she may hold on to her Egyptian empire. When Caesar is stabbed to death in the Roman Senate, Cleopatra is left without an ally, and Egypt is up for grabs. When Roman general Mark Antony (Richard Burton) comes along, she seduces him in order to make him over into her new protector. But, under the charms of Cleopatra, Mark Antony is reduced from a an awesome and dominating general to a sniveling, drunken wimp. At the Battle of Actium, Mark Antony is defeated and Cleopatra withdraws her troops, dooming Mark Antony and his army. With Egypt in peril, Antony and Cleopatra, the doomed lovers, meet each other for the last time, as the enemy forces close in. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Cleopatra

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (14)

Audience Reviews for Cleopatra

  • Apr 21, 2014
    Classic epic film from director Joseph L. Mankiewicz , Cleopatra upon its release was an ambitious film with a larger than life production. This is not a perfect film, but is one that boasts a well layered story, matched by some strong performances by Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. What is very impressive with the film of course, the set designs, costumes and sheer scope of the film. Cleopatra is a richly detailed picture that is bold in its vision, and the performances match the look of the film. The most common complaint of the film is that, it's very long, and that it may be a hard film to get into because of it. Cleopatra has a terrific story and is aided by a broad cast of talented actors. However I also felt that compared to other epics of this style such as Ben-Hur, Cleopatra tries to be far too ambitious than it needed to be. In doing, the film becomes tedious; however the performances should keep you involved. The film is very long, like I've stated earlier, and I think the film could have been shortened a bit as well and if it would have been simply a 3 hour film instead of a nearly 4 hour film, then maybe this film would really have been something. Cleopatra is a very good film that is well acted, directed and paced, but it's also ambitious in its scope, and it's a picture that suffers more from its length than anything else. Despite this, Cleopatra is a big film, and tells a great story, if only the filmmakers would have trimmed an hour or so from the film, then Cleopatra would have truly been something to watch. However, despite its flaws, the sheer grandeur of the film can't be ignored and everything from the performances to the look of the film of the film is truly great and unique. If you enjoy big epics, Cleopatra is one that you should watch, but be warned this is nearly four hours in length. I enjoyed the film and thought it was a very well crafted film, and in terms of epic filmmaking, Cleopatra is certainly one of the largest film productions that I have seen. With a good story, this is a must watch, but due to its length it's not worth revisiting again and again.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Sep 04, 2012
    'Cleopatra' (1963) is at points tedious especially since its running time is over 4 hours and the performances are overplayed, but it doesn't deserve to be one of the most underrated classics. There was a lot of effort put into this movie and I can't ask it for more.
    Noah N Super Reviewer
  • May 31, 2012
    Yeah, Elizabeth Taylor was really pretty and all, but really, I'm not quite sure she could conquer empires with those looks, or at least not now, because by 1960s standards, she could have her own small country if she wanted to, so lord knows how much damage she could do back in Caesar's day. I was thinking that it was probably a bit of a good thing that they've lost all but mere seconds of 1917's "Cleopatra", as Theda Bara would be too unbelievable as an empire-conquering bombshell by today's standards, but now that I think about it, the world would fall at her non-voluptuousness, because not even the artistic interpretations of the actual Cleopatra are all that flattering. Well, in all fairness, what they can't tell you in film is that she was topless quite a bit, and if you know how to use that in this man's world, that right there can earn you about a city or two, at least, though if she was prettier, she would pretty much rule the world. I guess Egyptians were never really all that good looking, so that's another strike against the casting decision to get the lovely Miss Taylor, yet it's still not enough to keep her from being too good of casting, because she was in more brief relationships with powerful men than Cleopatra was, and most of them were with Richard Burton. Maybe they just kept getting divorced and remarried simply because they had could, considering that they probably got quite the bit of moolah after this movie broke budget at the box office, which is unreal when you consider that this film was the most expensive ever at the time, and even now, adjusted for inflation, continues to go unparalleled in expense. Meanwhile, the most relatively expense film of all time is the third "Pirates of the Caribbean" film, and yet, it still didn't win Best Visual Effects, because everyone and their grandmother (That's one cool granny) are throwing away money on simple special effects, instead of actually digging into the core and substance of it all, like, I don't know, "Titanic" or something, because this messy little number number didn't sit terribly well with the critics at the time, though lucky for it, these dumb nostalgiacs think that most everything from the '60s and before were masterpieces, so of course this puppy has stood well against the test of time for a lot of people. I suppose I can kind of see why, and I don't know if it's because this film is actually good or if I too am blinded by my own critical mindset that anything over three hours, let alone four hours, better be good, but eitherway, I had a good time watching this mammoth mama, though I am not at all blind to what the critics of the '60s were complaining about. This film's being released during an era in which the many films of its type found themselves heavily padded out, and doing so with a runtime that exceeds four hours attached, it hardly needs to be said that this film finds itself outstaying its welcome in some parts, yet what needs to be discussed is how the film is padded out, as the problem isn't necessarily excess footage - as the film is relatively tight, for the most part, for such complex subject matter - as much as it simply is excess substance, in that the film's episodic segments run too long and go overly focused upon, to where you find yourself checking your watch once these segments officially outstay their welcome and find yourself thrown off a fair bit upon a shift in focus and story layer. I'll give it to the film that it is truly amazing how these drastic segment shifts aren't terribly jarring, with the barely bumpy transition into the second half after we've spent almost two hours with a now-removed (For obvious reasons) Julius Caesar almost more prominent than Cleopatra being a particularly impressive storytelling feat, yet there's no getting around a certain degree of throw-off in the drastic changes. Shockingly enough, the off-putting moments stem less from the excess over focus, and more from something you definately wouldn't expect from a film this mammoth in length, and that would be - sit back, because this is pretty ridiculous - "rushing", as the film, even with its sprawling four-hour-plus runtime, still has a shockingly considerable amount of points in which it finds itself rather hurried, glossing over not terribly significant points in exposition, yet pieces that could have made the film more fleshed-out and certainly more comfortable in its flow. This issue is most prominent during the Caesar segment of the film, during which Cleopatra pretty much summed up perfectly and hilariously when that she melodramatically proclaimed that she couldn't quite remember if her first meeting Caesar took place "a year ago or just last night", a line I just couldn't help but chuckle at, which isn't to say that it was the only laughable piece of dialogue. Okay, now, the dialogue isn't terribly poor, yet it is often rather stiff, with a deal of particularly notable lines that actually are weak, if not embarassing, particularly the melodramatic exchanges between Cleopatra and her lovers, which are particularly embarassing, yet at least it sparks a considerable resonant reaction, as opposed to many of the other rather bland lines. Running such a mammoth length and tripping a fair bit along the way, the film's full potential feels rather unrealized, and were it more comfortable in its storytelling, with a tighter flow, looser exposition and more oomph, it could have been one of those particularly remarkable classic epics, in terms of substance quality, rather than production value. Still, for every fault made by the film, there are a fair deal of good moves in its place, and although particularly sharp pick-ups come along here and there, when they do arrive, they deliver, while the keeps you engaged to that point with aspects that are consistently attractive. At $44 million, or, adjusted for inflation, as of 2012, an unparalleled $330-338 million, the film has been noted as quite possibly the most relatively financially draining film in cinematic history, and really, I'm not seeing it exactly, for although the production designs are undeniably remarkable, I'm not entirely certain that they are the equivalent to almost three hundred and forty million big boys remarkable. Still, make no bones about it, this is a top-notch production if there ever was one at the time, with wildly dynamic and elaborate uniqueness of such radically intense quality that it's difficult to discern production design from authentic material - particularly when phenomenal action sequences find themselves incorporated in that latter part of the film -, making it difficult to avoid falling into the clutches of the immersiveness within this world, made all the stronger by what storytelling moves main director Joseph L. Mankiewicz does deliver on. Makiewicz could only do so much to empower the too imperfect script, yet that's still enough to pump the film with consistent charm and, in a good couple of spots, even a degree of depth and resonance that made such scenes as the assassination sequence and, well, pretty much almost all of the latter part amdittedly pretty brilliant, and the film, as whole, consistently engrossing, and made more so by a few notable performances. True, there is the occasional performance that is not quite up to par, yet many of the talents within this massive cast play their parts with a typically attractive level of charisma, with our main men, Rex Harrison and Richard Burton, standing as particular show-stealers, with Harrison portraying the legendary Julius Caesar's presence of strength, cleverness and charm with engrossing believability and Burton especially owning the spotlight at times as he portrays the depth and layers, as well as both the strength and vulnerability of Mark Antony with a compelling presence and even powerful emotional range. Still, it all comes down to the lady of the night, the late, great and lovely Miss Elizabeth Taylor, who is delivering what might very well be one of the greatest bad acting performances in classic cinema. Seriously though, Taylor goes tainted by that classic piece of overbearing actress melodrama in her line delivery, overacting and exaggerating to the point of being embarassing in some spots, and it doesn't help that in just about every other acting regard, she's surprisingly razor sharp. I joke about this being a great bad acting performance, considering the faults in Taylor's line delivery, yet the fact of the matter is that what Taylor lacks in line delivery, she makes up for in presence, boasting the legendary manipulative grace, power and brilliance that defined the definitive female ruler of both a man's world and a man's mind, while incorportating a deep shroud of mystery upon that presence, leaving Cleopatra's intentions, actions and all around position between good and corrupt hardly predictable, yet Taylor at least conveys that Cleopatra is a human, vulnerable and spirited, and as Cleopatra faces accomplishment, as well as tragedy and pain, it's hard to not be enthralled by the atmosphere Liz Taylor emits as she delivers what is decidedly a spotty performance, yet still one to watch, as she helps greatly in carrying this mammoth and, at times, messy epic through advanced acting techniques that all but wash away the faulty, yet less effective traditional acting mistakes. To summarize, the film's potential of emerging among the excellent classic epics goes tainted by a bloated and, at times, hurried and rather uneven story, with more miss than hit, yet mostly rather stiff dialogue intensfying the lack oomph within the atmosphere, yet with stellar production designs making the film aesthetically enthralling and generally strong storytelling making the film often emotionally engaging, when not thoroughly charming, as well as massive cast of colorfuls, headed by an electrically charismatic Rex Harrison, an almost hauntingly emotional Richard Burton and a rivetingly atmospheric Elizabeth Taylor, "Cleopatra" towers as a thoroughly entertaining and generally engrossing mega-epic study on the legendary seductive power. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Mar 04, 2012
    This is proof that critics have short attention spans. If you read the critic reviews they basically say that the biggest flaw was the time length. Why can't they just sit and stay seated. This film has it's flaws but all films have some flaws. There have only been a few films with no flaws. Critics tend to be bias. If they see a film they like but it has flaws they still give it a high review. If they see a film they don't like and it has flaws then they give it low reviews. If you have read many reviews then you would know what I'm talking about. Getting to the actual review. This was okay. I loved the acting especially by Elizabeth Taylor. I read somewhere that this was going to have a really low budget but once they casted Elizabeth Taylor it all changed. I wonder how much they paid her? I liked the emotions that the cast put on. That's what acting is all about, being able to show emotion. The story seemed a little to weak but it was entertaining. It was easy to identify the key points in the plot. So I don't know what critics are saying that this has a weak plot. Maybe there viewing compensation skills are weak. What I liked best about this film was Elizabeth Taylor. So if you love her like me then watch this.
    Eduardo T Super Reviewer

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