The Elephant Man 1980

The Elephant Man

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.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 53

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 64,550

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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

John Hurt
John Merrick, 'The Elephant Man'
Anthony Hopkins
Dr. Frederick 'Freddie' Treves
Anne Bancroft
Mrs. Kendal
Wendy Hiller
Mothershead
Michael Elphick
Night Porter
Hannah Gordon
Mrs. Anne Treves
Helen Ryan
Princess Alex
Sir Frederick Treves
Writer
Ashley Montagu
Writer
Stuart Cornfeld
Executive Producer
Mel Brooks
Executive Producer
John Morris
Original Music
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News & Interviews for The Elephant Man

Critic Reviews for The Elephant Man

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (4)

  • It is an absorbing and satisfying drama, and Hurt's Merrick is very powerful.

    March 12, 2020 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Many Lynchian tropes are here, from a sense of foreboding to a fascination with the grotesque, in terms of Merrick and outsiders' reactions to him.

    June 14, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Ed Potton

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • This is a tale of redemption and transcendence, of the hunchback of London Hospital, of the noble phantom who wanted to go to the opera, of Beauty and the Beast.

    April 22, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Lynch's powerful depiction of Merrick (played by John Hurt) moves a viewer from revulsion and fear to empathy and tenderness. That's the very movement of the story itself.

    April 22, 2014 | Full Review…
  • The picture itself is a strange trade-off between Lynch's personal themes -- the night world of obscure, disturbing sexual obsessions -- and the requirements of a middlebrow message movie.

    April 30, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Director David Lynch has created an eerily compelling atmosphere in recounting a hideously deformed man's perilous life in Victorian England.

    April 30, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic

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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