A Man for All Seasons


A Man for All Seasons

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.



Total Count: 38


Audience Score

User Ratings: 9,735
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A Man for All Seasons Photos

Movie Info

Adapted by Robert Bolt and Constance Willis from Bolt's hit stage play, A Man for All Seasons stars Paul Scofield, triumphantly repeating his stage role as Sir Thomas More. The crux of the film is the staunchly Catholic More's refusal to acknowledge King Henry VIII (Robert Shaw)'s break from the church to divorce his first wife and marry Anne Boleyn (an unbilled Vanessa Redgrave). Sir Thomas willingly goes to the chopping block rather than sacrifice his ideals. Director Fred Zinnemann retains the play's verbosity without sacrificing the film's strong sense of visuals. The impeccably chosen cast includes Wendy Hiller as Sir Thomas' likably contentious wife Alice, John Hurt as the deceitful Richard Rich (More's put-downs of this despicable character provide some of the film's biggest laughs), Orson Welles as a dour Cardinal Woolsey, Leo McKern as the ambitious Thomas Cromwell, and Susannah York as More's daughter Margaret. The "Common Man," an important bridging-the-scenes character in the original play, is removed from the film version, which does just fine without him. A Man for All Seasons won six Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Actor, as well as seven British Film Academy awards.

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Paul Scofield
as Sir Thomas More
Leo McKern
as Cromwell
Robert Shaw
as Henry VIII
Susannah York
as Margaret
Orson Welles
as Cardinal Wolsey
Corin Redgrave
as William Roper
Yootha Joyce
as Averil Machin
Anthony Nicholls
as King's Representative
Eira Heath
as Matthew's wife
Paul Hardwick
as Courtier
Michael Latimer
as Norfolk's Aide
Philip Brack
as Captain of Guard
Martin Boddey
as Governor of Tower
Eric Mason
as Executioner
Matt Zinneman
as Messenger
Vanessa Redgrave
as Anne Boleyn
Cyril Luckham
as Archbishop Cranmer
Matt Zimmerman
as Messenger
Jack Gwillim
as Chief Justice
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Critic Reviews for A Man for All Seasons

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (7)

  • It is profoundly stirring in its dramatic conception, appealing as it does to the mind, heart, eye and ear.

    Feb 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.

    Aug 30, 2012 | Full Review…
  • One of the most intelligent religious movies ever made.

    Feb 20, 2009 | Full Review…
  • Producer-director Fred Zinnemann has blended all filmmaking elements into an excellent, handsome and stirring film version of A Man For All Seasons.

    Jan 29, 2008 | Full Review…

    A.D. Murphy

    Top Critic
  • Robert Bolt's boring historical drama functions best as an anthology of British acting styles, circa 1966.

    Dec 13, 2006 | Full Review…
  • Orson Welles alone relieves the boredom in a marvellous cameo as Cardinal Wolsey. If only they'd let him loose with the whole sorry history...

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Tom Charity

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for A Man for All Seasons

  • 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
  • Jan 10, 2012
    I saw this play as a kid--I was raised Catholic, so this was seen as the triumph of a martyr for his faith--and saw just last night again on DVD. It's probably one of those stories (like Anna Karenina) that it's interesting to view at different stages of your life. So, now as a mature woman, I saw the story as that of a man who is steadfast in his refusal to change while the winds of change blow him off his pedestal. I saw loyalty to a corrupt church: but as he says, the Catholic church was the only one with a pedigree from JC. His son-in-law was adamant that he destroy everything corrupt, not realising as I do with the advantage of advanced years hahaha, that man is corrupt and killing a few doesn't change corruption, it just changes the names of the people in charge. The final question is what are you willing to die for, remembering of course that the life span was a lot shorter then. The questions the story of Thomas Moore raises are complex and the answers not easily apparent and I think it might be good for youngins to view it as a way into the complex ideas of life now--nothing is black and white.
    Bathsheba M Super Reviewer

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