Mutiny on the Bounty

Critics Consensus

The historical inaccuracies in this high-seas adventure are more than offset by its timeless themes, larger-than-life performances from Clark Gable and Charles Laughton, and Frank Lloyd's superb direction.



Total Count: 34


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,031
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Movie Info

The 1932 publication of Charles Nordhoff and James Norton Hall's Mutiny on the Bounty sparked a revival of interest in the titular 1789 ship mutiny, and this 1935 MGM movie version won the Oscar for Best Picture. Clark Gable stars as Fletcher Christian, first mate of the infamous HMS Bounty, skippered by Captain William Bligh (Charles Laughton), the cruelest taskmaster on the Seven Seas. Bligh's villainy knows no bounds: he is even willing to flog a dead man if it will strengthen his hold over the crew. Christian despises Bligh and is sailing on the Bounty under protest. During the journey back to England, Bligh's cruelties become more than Christian can bear; and after the captain indirectly causes the death of the ship's doctor, the crew stages a mutiny, with Christian in charge. Bligh and a handful of officers loyal to him are set adrift in an open boat. Through sheer force of will, he guides the tiny vessel on a 49-day, 4000-mile journey to the Dutch East Indies without losing a man. Historians differ on whether Captain Bligh was truly such a monster or Christian such a paragon of virtue (some believe that the mutiny was largely inspired by Christian's lust for the Tahitian girls). The movie struck gold at the box office, and, in addition to the Best Picture Oscar, Gable, Laughton, and Franchot Tone as one of the Bounty's crew were all nominated for Best Actor (they all lost to Victor McLaglan in The Informer). The film was remade in 1962 and adapted into the "revisionist" 1984 feature The Bounty with Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian and Anthony Hopkins as Captain Bligh. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Mutiny on the Bounty

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (8)

  • The case of the crew against the insane cruelty and avariciousness of Capt. Bligh is so powerfully presented that the injustice done to the men gets under one's skin to stir up a variety of emotion.

    Feb 17, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Despite the efforts of Producer Irving Thalberg, Director Frank Lloyd, three scenarists and $2,000,000 to give it balance, polish and direction, the picture lacks all three.

    Feb 17, 2009 | Full Review…
  • There's nothing to stand in the way of Mutiny qualifying for box office dynamite rating.

    Feb 19, 2008 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The story is spellbinding, the acting lusty and the spectacle everything you could expect from a Golden Age MGM production -- though sometimes it's a bit too much on the monumental side.

    Dec 13, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's tainted by a fair amount of middlebrow stuffiness, but it's a fleet piece of storytelling and serves to enshrine one of the great ham performances of all time, Charles Laughton's Captain Bligh.

    Dec 12, 2006 | Full Review…
  • An exotic and gripping piece of Hollywood mythology, made with all the technical skill and gloss one associates with Irving Thalberg's MGM.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Adrian Turner

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Mutiny on the Bounty

  • Mar 26, 2018
    A strong film, and it's surprising that it was panned when it came out in 1962. One of the issues is that it was being compared to the 1935 version with Charles Laughton and Clark Gable; another was that stories of Brando's difficult behavior while filming were followed by filmgoers seeing his unconventional portrayal of Fletcher Christian. Personally, I highly enjoyed it. The film has an epic feel, but even at three hours long, didn't feel padded at all. The cinematography is beautiful, showing a replica Bounty on the ocean, sailing into sunsets or brutally rough seas, as well as the natural beauty of the islands in the south Pacific. The film is loose with the facts, most notably in the treatment of natives and the final outcome on Pitcairn Island, which may put off viewers. It's also a little unbelievable in its depiction of the love Christian had for Princess Maimiti (played by Tarita Teriipaia), but the gist is accurate, and it's a fascinating story. Trevor Howard turns in a fantastic performance as Bligh, and while Brando's foppish and almost effeminate Fletcher Christian had me scratching my head in the beginning, it really grew on me, and he's strong as well. The difference between the two men is clear from the beginning, and I appreciated the film's balanced presentation of them over the first hour or so. Bligh gets the chance to explain that he's driven by duty above all else, and that the crew need to fear the captain and his officers. Christian understands duty, and while he has his personal opinions, is a model of behavior until the actual mutiny. The two of them express their opinions and disdain for one another in deliciously restrained British dialogue. The scenes in Tahiti are gorgeous, and Tarita is stunning. Her hip shaking is mesmerizing, and her smile enchanting. The world these men landed in may seem idealized, but if you read other informed or first-hand accounts (such as Herman Melville's 'Omoo'), it's accurate. Aside from the beauty, the Tahitians were for the most part extremely friendly. The scenes of sailors pursuing women get a little silly, such as when Fletcher Christian is in the bushes with Maimiti when Bligh wanders by, and the rapidity with which Maimiti later picks up English is surprising. Most of all, though, it's unfortunate that the film is stilted towards a white male fantasy, showing delight and frolicking, without showing rape, sexually transmitted diseases, or the devastation to the native culture. The reality was that Tahitians were forced as slaves to go along with Christian and his mutineers when they tried to find a new place to live, not willing adventurers. That's a pretty damning omission. Brando gives us a Fletcher Christian who believes he was morally right to overthrow Bligh, but also knew he no longer had a country as a result. He's a tortured soul from then on, to the point of thinking about returning to England to state his case. That will probably seem odd to the filmgoer, and should - the real Fletcher Christian wanted to do no such thing. It's a shame they took this liberty to set up further dramatic scenes, when the real story itself is so captivating. The film was also of interest to me because as the excellent documentary "Listen To Me Marlon" explains, it marked the point at which Brando started to prioritize enjoying life - realizing that acting, even great acting - was a means, not an end for him. Surrounded by beauty, and in love with his co-star Tarita (who he would marry before the film was released), he felt the same thing that some of the sailors from the Bounty felt - and other such as Gauguin felt - that one could just retire from the world, and live happily in paradise. For film lovers, his approach to his career after "Mutiny on the Bounty" was a real shame, with the exception of a few high points, since he was such an outstanding actor. It wasn't his last great performance, but clearly marked a turning point for him.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 14, 2014
    There is a reason why Charles Laughton secured so many villain roles. He was absolutely brilliant at them. This film is no exception. He and Clark Gable are noble adversaries far away from native England
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 21, 2013
    A first officer, popular with the sailors, challenges an imperious captain. If you were to choose an actor to play an imperious, severe, and often malicious character, you could find no one better than the legendary Charles Laughton. He steals every scene. His protruding lower lip, his hard eyes, and his posture, which makes him look like a spent slug, all convey an immobility and hard-heartedness that make this film a work of art. All this is from the man who could also convey the breadth of human misery in the face of Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame. The plot is rendered ably enough by director Frank Lloyd, and Clark Gable, while nowhere near Laughton's equal, delivers a strong performance, going toe to toe with Laughton and fairly holding his own. The film is remarkable for its special effects, its acting, and its story, which though rendered many time before, still feels fresh and interesting. Overall, Laughton makes this good film great.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Feb 19, 2012
    "Mutiny on the Bounty," winner of 1935's Best Picture Oscar, is an adventurous delight. Charles Laughton owns the role of Captain Bligh, playing him with resolute, forceful evil. But Clark Gable and Franchot Tone really own the movie, playing close friends who go up against Bligh each in his own way. The at-sea photography is extraordinary, with expert direction from Frank Lloyd. Also beautiful is the photography on what was supposed to be Tahiti, but which was probably Hawaii. The pristine restored print that was pressed on DVD (and which is available from Netflix) gives you the chance to see this top-notch production in all its glory. It feels as if it could have been directed last year -- it isn't dated in the slightest. It's as crisp, taut and emotionally engaging as it was back in '35.
    William D Super Reviewer

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