The Elephant Man

1980, Biography/Drama, 2h 5m

54 Reviews 50,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

David Lynch's relatively straight second feature finds an admirable synthesis of compassion and restraint in treating its subject, and features outstanding performances by John Hurt and Anthony Hopkins. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Dr. Frederic Treves (Anthony Hopkins) discovers Joseph (John) Merrick (John Hurt) in a sideshow. Born with a congenital disorder, Merrick uses his disfigurement to earn a living as the "Elephant Man." Treves brings Merrick into his home, discovering that his rough exterior hides a refined soul, and that Merrick can teach the stodgy British upper class of the time a lesson about dignity. Merrick becomes the toast of London and charms a caring actress (Anne Bancroft) before his death at 27.

Cast & Crew

Critic Reviews for The Elephant Man

Audience Reviews for The Elephant Man

  • May 14, 2015
    Having recently enjoyed a critically hailed revival starring Bradley Cooper on Broadway, the 1980 film adaptation of The Elephant Man definitely deserves a revisit. In many regards, The Elephant Man drives home the human factor of morality tales Beauty & the Beast and The Hunchback of Notre Dame better than these adaptations themselves. Certainly, the fact that it's a true story makes your heart beat with more compassion. 'Truth' becomes the operative word, however. Freddie Franciss stark black and white cinematography acts as a truth serum, laying bare these amazing real-life characters creatively licensed by screenwriter Christopher De Vore. As realized by a pre-Silence of the Lambs Anthony Hopkins and an unrecognizable John Hurt (sporting phenomenally realistic make-up by Christopher Tucker), this heartfelt story hits you beat for tender beat. In this PG-rated bio-pic, a Victorian surgeon (Hopkins) rescues a heavily disfigured side-show freak (Hurt), only to discover that behind the deformity exists a man of great intelligence and sensitivity. For his follow-up to the offbeat oddity Eraserhead, David Lynch thankfully mostly takes a straightforward approach, taking you by the hand and effortlessly walking you right into the hospitals and freak shows of Victorian London. Some of his indulgent nightmare sequences ring closer to in tone the surrealist moments of later successes Blue Velvet or Mulholland Drive, but these indiscretions dont entirely kill the drama. Bottom line: Trunk Show Jewel
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 06, 2014
    Lynch's involvement is probably what ensured that the film did not come off as mawkish (which would have been a danger with the screenplay), instead it's just plain heartbreaking. All in all it's a worthwhile and effective demand for simple human decency.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 03, 2013
    [img]http://images.rottentomatoes.com/images/user/icons/icon14.gif[/img]
    Directors C Super Reviewer
  • Aug 12, 2013
    John Hurt is masterful as the title character in the Elephant Man embodying all the anxiety and prejudice faced by individuals due to physical disability. Not given its due by the Oscars, it doesn't get the play that it should on television. It seems like something from the distant past.
    John B Super Reviewer

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