A Man for All Seasons

1966, Drama/History, 2h

42 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Solid cinematography and enjoyable performances from Paul Scofield and Robert Shaw add a spark to this deliberately paced adaptation of the Robert Bolt play. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

When the highly respected British statesman Sir Thomas More (Paul Scofield) refuses to pressure the Pope into annulling the marriage of King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw) and his Spanish-born wife, More's clashes with the monarch increase in intensity. A devout Catholic, More stands by his religious principles and moves to leave the royal court. Unfortunately, the King and his loyalists aren't appeased by this, and press forward with grave charges of treason, further testing More's resolve.

Cast & Crew

Paul Scofield
Sir Thomas More
Robert Shaw
King Henry VIII
Orson Welles
Cardinal Wolsey
Wendy Hiller
Alice More
Leo McKern
Thomas Cromwell
Susannah York
Margaret More
John Hurt
Richard Rich
Nigel Davenport
The Duke of Norfolk
William N Graf
Executive Producer
Georges Delerue
Original Music
Ted Moore
Cinematographer
Ralph Kemplen
Film Editor
John Box
Production Design
Terence Marsh
Art Direction
Joan Bridge
Costume Designer
Elizabeth Haffenden
Costume Designer
Eric Allwright
Makeup Artist
Helene Bevan
Hair Stylist
William Kirby
Production Supervisor
Peter Bolton
Assistant Director
Josie MacAvin
Set Dresser
Buster Ambler
Sound
Robert Bolt
Screenwriter
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Critic Reviews for A Man for All Seasons

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (35) | Rotten (7)

  • Like all Zinnemann's best films this is a story of moral conflict and personal victory; his respect for his material and his players allows that victory real nobility.

    January 28, 2020 | Full Review…
  • It is profoundly stirring in its dramatic conception, appealing as it does to the mind, heart, eye and ear.

    February 18, 2015 | Full Review…
  • There's more than a little of the school pageant in the rhythm of the movie: Though it's all neater than our school drama coaches could make it, the figures group and say their assigned lines and move on.

    August 30, 2012 | Full Review…
  • Superb movie of More's stand against Henry VIII.

    December 21, 2010 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Scofield's screen presence is alternately momentous, menacing, and severe, with speeches and mannerisms that perfectly exude the confidence appropriate for the role.

    August 27, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…
  • More lively and biting than typical English history Oscarbait, a genuinely engaging story of political intrigue made palatable through its sharp cast and dialogue.

    April 27, 2020 | Rating: 3.5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for A Man for All Seasons

  • Sep 29, 2020
    Like Miller's "The Crucible" it will never not be relevant. Paul Scofield is marvelous to be sure but I still think that it's Shaw's portrayal of Henry VIII that is the real standout here.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 23, 2014
    This sounds like some kind of a cheesy commercial trying to sell a man for any occasion, though probably mostly for labor. Ladies, if that grass has to be cut in the spring, or if you need leaves cleaned out of the gutter in fall, or if you need the Christmas tree put up in winter, or if you simply want to be served a cold drink on a hot summer day, then you need a man for all seasons! Man, speaking of diverse men, Fred Zinnemann has done noirs, westerns as big as "High Noon", war films as intimate as "From Here to Eternity", and even "Oklahoma!", but now he takes on his greatest challenge: portraying devout Catholicism, even though he's such a Jew that he moved from Austria to Hollywood. I think I'm more baffled by how British he, as an Austro-American, made this film, because the only American he has in this film is Orson Welles, the most British man in Hollywood. Welles was so awesome that I think that they should have given him a spin-off, like "A Cardinal for All Seasons", or, better yet, "A Cardinal's Story". Zinnemann would have be involved in that film, because the filmmakers would be sued hard enough by the guys who made "The Cardinal" without the obvious consent of the dude who made "A Nun's Story". If it was to be as long as either "The Cardinal" or "A Nun's Story", then I would hope that it would be more exciting than this film, which is reasonably engaging, but not especially momentous, and definitely not all that original. The film is widely recognized for its freshness and impact on storytelling sensibilities in period dramas of its type, so, of course, what unique attributes there are prove to be notable and important, but they're limited, because in a lot of ways, this is a rather formulaic period drama which draws familiar characters and plotting tropes which come with their traditional shortage in subtlety. Among the impacting attributes of this film is its not being all that melodramatic, so much so that its story takes from a true tale, although this tale is set in a romantic, and had to be interpreted into a play before it was made into this '60s drama, so there are certain theatrics in histrionics and somewhat stereotypical characterization which are hard to buy into, even in the context of this romantic period piece which stands to flesh out its depths to a more compelling extent. I've already noted that there are some histrionic tropes to the characterization of this weighty, but formal character piece, but the expository shortcomings go deeper than that in this well-acted and generally well-drawn melodrama which is short on the background development of each one of its many major roles, and stands to be more nuanced after a while. The film doesn't take as much time as it probably should to flesh out the depths of its characters and their distinguished roles in this narrative, although it does dedicate a good amount of time to excess in order to reach a runtime of two hours, or at least seems to, as it runs into a lot of minimalist material which gets to be repetitious, and perhaps would have been more aimless if it wasn't for a degree of predictability. This film takes its time to limp down an arguably overly intimate path, but along the way, it is backed up by many an intriguing strength which prove to be the makings of a truly rewarding film, so for the final product to not reward, that means that the big issue here is Fred Zinnemann's attempt at a dryly British directorial storytelling style whose frequent quietness leads to a coldness to the bite of the dramatic tone and tension, and, of course, bores. Yes, the film is kind of dull, not at times, but all but consistently, having enough strong aspects to border on engrossing through and through, but still trying your investment through conventions, melodramatics and developmental shortcomings, and your patience through questionable pacing to the story structuring and storytelling. The final product cannot transcend underwhelmingness, but it does come close enough to meet all challenges to your investment with compelling traits that shine a light on the potential of this drama. A melodramatization of the legal and spiritual angles, and the controversies surrounding Henry VIII's seeking annulment, this story is politically, legally, religiously and even humanly charged, being intimate to the point of minimalism, but layered in its focusing on most all sides of this legendary story of a long-ago time whose convincingness is, of course, important in this drama. Terence Marsh's art direction, backed by production designer John Box and costume designer... whoever, goes well above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to restoring 16th-century England, not simply crafting designs which are convincing to begin with, but lavishly distinguishing them as good-looking in their intricacies, whose handsomeness is augmented by cinematography by Ted Moore which carries a rugged bleakness to capture a sense of grit to this subtly intense affair. I don't suppose the aesthetic integrity of this sophisticated, but light film is especially glowing, but there's so much taste in the overall craft of this handsome, immersive period drama, and it wouldn't be so effective if there wasn't taste to the manipulation of the style through direction. Director Fred Zinnemann manages to orchestra style with such delicacy because he approaches this film with a consistent thoughtfulness, and all too often, it is not justified in this already conceptually dry and steady drama, thus, the film falls to dullness, but not beneath respectability through a subtle, sophisticated atmosphere that holds a certain immediate intrigue, expanded upon by Zinnemann's finding material through which to deliver biting dramatic highlights. Robert Bolt's script is sure to provide some solid material for Zinnemann to work with, though far from consistently, hitting some tropes and overt histrionics while it drags along with repetitious plotting aspects, but aiding in securing some degree of engagement value through sharp, often outstanding dialogue of great wit, and through an audacious, often surprisingly tight exploration of thematically dynamic and consistently intimate narrative branches. Of course, the intimacy of this ensemble character drama truly thrives on the underwritten performances of talents so great that they transcend characterization thinness and deliver, whether it be the briefly present Orson Welles as an old and wise, yet trouble cardinal, or Robert Shaw as a flamboyant and problematic king, or John Hurt as a chancellor faced with a questionable case he might not be able to easily dismiss, or the primarily focused upon Paul Scofield as a hero of faith, respectability and tragedy whose worthy stances may only lead him deeper into trouble. These are but a few members in a cast full of solid performances, and although no one is truly great, the acting plays an instrumental part in driving this film to the brink of rewarding, helped greatly by sharp style and sophisticated, if questionable storytelling. Once the seasons have come and gone, conventional and melodramatic attributes shake intrigue about as much as questionably structured expository depths, despite all of the repetitious dragging that is made all the more glaring by a cold - nay - dull thoughtfulness which secures the final product as underwhelming, but just barely, for conceptual intrigue, handsomely immersive art direction and cinematography, tasteful direction, sophisticated scripting, and across-the-board strong performances prove to be enough to make Fred Zinnemann's "A Man of All Seasons" an intriguing, if challenging period melodrama. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 11, 2013
    Scofield is tremendous as Thomas More and the personal tribulations that he felt in reacting to the shenanigans of his King and his break from the Catholic Church. A matter of principle ultimately ending in a man's destruction. A classic tale told well.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2013
    Thanks to its timeless message of standing up against the man when the man is wrong, "A Man for All Seasons" remains a poignant period drama. Paul Scofield acts to minimalist perfection with his portrayal of Thomas More, but the real scene-stealer is Robert Shaw, who shows up for literally a single scene and milks every second of it. The film itself is a challenging watch because of its detached nature and laggard pacing, but if you manage to stick it out, you'll find yourself unquestionably satisfied, even if not overly amazed.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer

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