The Miracle Worker


The Miracle Worker

Critics Consensus

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Total Count: 22


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,824
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The Miracle Worker Photos

Movie Info

Arthur Penn directed this powerful film version of William Gibson's play about the adolescent Helen Keller, a deaf-mute sealed off from society in her own world, and Annie Sullivan, the teacher who works with Helen to teach her how to communicate with others. Originally presented on television in 1957, the story was transferred to the Broadway stage and became a major success, starring Patty Duke as Helen Keller and Anne Bancroft as Annie Sullivan. Duke and Bancroft re-created their stage roles for this film version, earning them both Academy Awards. Helen Keller is first seen in her Tuscumbia, Alabama home, groping around in her own silent world. Annie Sullivan comes to Tuscumbia to teach Helen to communicate through sign language. Annie immediately sees the main hurdle is to keeping Helen away from her overly loving mother Kate (Inga Swenson) and imperious father (Victor Jory). The parents agree to allow Annie to stay with Helen alone for a few weeks at a small building on Captain Keller's property. Confined together, Annie manages to teach Helen how to dress herself and to recite the alphabet by touch. But Annie hits a stone wall when she tries to get Helen to understand the connection between the alphabet and what the letters represent. The Kellers now take Helen back home and she rapidly slips back into her old patterns. But one night at the dinner table, Helen knocks over the water pitcher and Annie forcibly drags Helen outside to the water pump to refill the pitcher. It is there that a transcendent revelation occurs for Helen.

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Anne Bancroft
as Annie Sullivan
Patty Duke
as Helen Keller
Inga Swenson
as Kate Keller
Victor Jory
as Capt. Keller
Andrew Prine
as James Keller
Jack Hollander
as Mr. Anagnos
Grant Code
as Doctor
Peggy Burke
as Helen at Age 7
Mindy Sherwood
as Helen at Age 5
Michael Darden
as Percy at Age 10
Dale Ellen Bethea
as Martha at Age 10
Walter Wright Jr.
as Percy at Age 8
Donna Bryan
as Martha at Age 7
Diane Bryan
as Martha at Age 5
Keith Moore
as Percy at Age 6
Michele Farr
as Young Annie at Age 10
Alan Howard
as Young Jimmie at Age 8
Judith Lowry
as 1st Crone
Helen Ludlam
as 3rd Crone
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News & Interviews for The Miracle Worker

Critic Reviews for The Miracle Worker

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (4)

  • The centerpiece is a one-room, nine-minute war of attrition, as a tutor (Anne Bancroft) imposes table manners on her feral charge (Patty Duke). It's a heaving, shin-cracking donnybrook, done with complete commitment.

    Nov 12, 2008 | Full Review…
  • Where the picture really excels, outside of its inherent story values, is in the realm of photographic technique.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • It's a stunningly impressive piece of work, typically (for Penn) deriving much of its power from the performances.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Derek Adams

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Anne Bancroft is superb as Annie Sullivan, the teacher who finally reached into Helen Keller's darkness, and Patty Duke is chillingly real as the young Helen.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • When it came out, The Miracle Worker was seen as dynamic and rule-breaking; in today's lights, it's a finely crafted film, well-acted, a bit stiff.

    Jan 28, 2019 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • The Miracle Worker structurally has much in common with a Western. The plot turns on a stranger who comes to town, confronts a problem the townspeople cannot solve, and leaves when that problem has been addressed.

    Jan 15, 2018 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Miracle Worker

  • Jan 02, 2016
    Even with a slight tendency towards melodrama, this is a wonderful film that impresses with a gorgeous cinematography, beautiful direction (the mise-en-scène is exceptional), two superb Oscar-winning performances and an incredible 8-minute fight to "housebreak" a feral child.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 04, 2014
    Intense from the get-go, in both style and acting; still cinematographically modern in a lot of ways and dominated by a fiery performance by Anne Bancroft. It struck me as unusual for a film of its era to start SO in media res, with the stakes already so high and the parents already so distraught, but it's for the better. Stark and powerful, even if it slows into a somewhat repetitive groove after a while. Definitely see it once, it's a classic, winner of Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress Oscars... given that it's largely a two-hander of a script, it kind of makes you wonder how it wasn't nominated for Best Picture, too, but 1962 was a deep year... Lawrence of Arabia (winner), To Kill a Mockingbird, Mutiny on the Bounty, The Music Man and The Longest Day got that nomination, which means that other great films like The Manchurian Candidate, Days of Wine and Roses, Long Day's Journey Into Night and Birdman of Alcatraz also didn't get the nod. There's one argument in favour of the return to (up to) 10 nominees for the big prize! I digress, though; The Miracle Worker is a fine film and may well have cast the die for future "inspirational caregiver, teacher, etc." films.
    Daniel P Super Reviewer
  • Dec 24, 2013
    This story has always amazed me. How do you teach someone with no sight and hearing to have an appreciation for the broader world and be able to be highly functioning as a human being. This is the story about how it came to happen and Anne Bancroft is an excellent choice for someone to bring it to life.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 11, 2012
    Few get to men and women's hearts than this movie. When it does, it goes deep and buries itself so that when years later after seeing it, it's still pretty much there to incite again the momentous experience. Power is the word that describes, from the characters that everyone with a heart will care about, and the retelling of the one of the most brilliant stories ever told, not mere fantastical tale, but something that really actually happened.
    Adriel L Super Reviewer

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