A Streetcar Named Desire

1951

A Streetcar Named Desire

Critics Consensus

A feverish rendition of a heart-rending story, A Streetcar Named Desire gives Tennessee Williams' stage play explosive power on the screen thanks to Elia Kazan's searing direction and a sterling ensemble at the peak of their craft.

98%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 56

90%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 55,068
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A Streetcar Named Desire Photos

Movie Info

In the classic play by Tennessee Williams, brought to the screen by Elia Kazan, faded Southern belle Blanche DuBois (Vivien Leigh) comes to visit her pregnant sister, Stella (Kim Hunter), in a seedy section of New Orleans. Stella's boorish husband, Stanley Kowalski (Marlon Brando), not only regards Blanche's aristocratic affectations as a royal pain but also thinks she's holding out on inheritance money that rightfully belongs to Stella. On the fringes of sanity, Blanche is trying to forget her checkered past and start life anew. Attracted to Stanley's friend Mitch (Karl Malden), she glosses over the less savory incidents in her past, but she soon discovers that she cannot outrun that past, and the stage is set for her final, brutal confrontation with her brother-in-law. Brando, Hunter, and Malden had all starred in the original Broadway version of Streetcar, although the original Blanche had been Jessica Tandy. Brando lost out to Humphrey Bogart for the 1951 Best Actor Oscar, but Leigh, Hunter, and Malden all won Oscars. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Cast

Marlon Brando
as Stanley Kowalski
Vivien Leigh
as Blanche Dubois
Kim Hunter
as Stella Kowalski
Rudy Bond
as Steve Hubbell
Nick Dennis
as Pablo Gonzales
Peg Hillias
as Eunice Hubbell
Wright King
as Young Collector
Ann Dere
as The Matron
Edna Thomas
as Mexican Woman
Chester Jones
as Street Vendor
Marietta Canty
as Black Woman
Lyle Latell
as Policeman
Maxie Thrower
as Passersby
Mel Archer
as Foreman
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Critic Reviews for A Streetcar Named Desire

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (10)

  • Some movie goers will be bored by its unlovely subject and wealth of talk, but others will admire it as an excursion into art.

    Aug 7, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Vivien Leigh gives one of those rare performances that can truly be said to evoke pity and terror.

    Jan 2, 2018 | Full Review…
  • The blistering sexual repression is the entire point of the 1950s. Quite simply, fabulous.

    Nov 14, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The film is perhaps best regarded as an intelligent and engaged recreation of the original Broadway experience, in which Jessica Tandy first played the role. There's no denying the awful horror and pity of the final scene.

    Nov 14, 2008 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • ...if the hothouse style was ever justified, this is the occasion.

    Jun 28, 2007 | Full Review…
  • ...Kazan achieves a sort of theatrical intensity in which the sweaty realism sometimes clashes awkwardly with the stylisation that heightens the dialogue into a kind of poetry.

    Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…

    Geoff Andrew

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for A Streetcar Named Desire

  • Sep 23, 2014
    I've heard of bringing a play from the stage to the screen, but if anyone was involved in a major production of this Tennessee Williams drama around this time, then he or she is involved in this film, although this particular interpretation of Blanche DuBois may be a little too recognizable even to people who didn't see this play during its early runs. Vivien Leigh returns to being an abused, somewhat disturbed southern belle in "Gone With the Wind II: The Oppressive Man Strikes Back, Because the Only Way He Knows to Settle Issues is Through Violence"! Man, this film's actual title is awesome, but that title I just made up better fits the obvious feminist themes about this woman who... doesn't so much stand up for herself, as much as she tries to figure out a way to run away when a man is allowed to walk all over her. You know, come to think of it, this is closer to being the ultimate fantasy for husbands, because, come on, fellas, which guy hasn't thought that his sister-in-law is crazy? Yeah, with a statement by that from someone who has watched this film, I guess it's obvious that the feminist themes of this film aren't quite that obvious, and it doesn't exactly help that this film made Marlon Brando a sex symbol, and about all he does throughout this movie is abuse a woman. Hey, the chicks dig the bad boys, which would explain why Brando ended up with 16 kids, because he did turn out to be a bit of a jerk in real life, although that might just be a reflection of just how committed he was to his method acting in this film. Yeah, well, whether it be as a sexy man, or as an actor, Brando is awesome in this film, but the film itself, while plenty decent, is not quite awesome, or, well, tight. Running just over two hours, and being minimalist in its being so intimate and dialogue-driven, the film manages to sustain a fair bit of momentum and intrigue through plenty of smart scripting and engaging performances found on and off of the screen, but it is still too long, losing a lot of momentum and getting to be repetitious with its great deal of chatter, much of which may as well be about a whole lot of nothing, if it's not going to bring much to the expository depths. There's not much in the way of immediate development in this intimate drama which drops you right into the story of characters who you get used to amidst all of the dialogue, and get invested in through good acting, but who still have something missing in their exposition, feeling like types whose circumstances feel rather unconvincing, at least in the wake of histrionics. As a southern gothic, this drama has the potential to be both fresh and realist, and it betrays both of the those aspects by conforming, to melodramatics, exacerbating a sense of somewhat unconvincing thinness to the characterization with improbable happenings and turns, made all the worse by sentimental dramatic atmospherics and some theatrical aspects. Marlon Brando and a few other performers are right on the money, and Kim Hunter is solid for the most part, but Vivien Leigh, often bombing in a way only a 1950s film starlet could, joins Elia Kazan's overdramatic directorial touches and Tennessee Williams' and Oscar Saul's aforementioned lapses in written genuineness in reflecting the dating and staginess that really does a number of the full effectiveness of this film. To make matters worse, although the subject matter and certain other elements of this melodrama are very weighty, there's not much one can do with a basic story concept that is so reliant on dialogue and an almost claustrophobic scope, which could be better embraced as intimate if it wasn't for the shortcomings that extend beyond the natural. There are a number of rewardingly engrossing attributes in this melodrama, and the final product at least manages to come to the brink of rewarding, yet momentum gradually sinks under the overwhelming weight of natural shortcomings that you grow more aware of the more dragging, histrionics and dated staginess set in. I find the final product rather underwhelming, but it would have been more so if there weren't a couple of elements that hit fairly hard, including aesthetic elements. Considering the black-and-white palette and a lack of spectacular visuals in this minimalist, very 1950s film, cinematographer Harry Stradling finds his abilities held quite a ways back, but when he is given the opportunity to deliver on visual style, he sure knows how to take it, delivering on a handsome, almost noirishly bleak emphasis on shadows and subtle lightings in order to give this drama a sense of taste and intimacy, capitalized on by thoughtful direction. Mind you, thoughtful direction is a bit of a rarity, for Elia Kazan's storytelling is mostly overblown, with some sense of theatrical bloating and staginess, although it does manage to keep up a decent pace which entertains sufficiently, until those thoughtful moments come into play, molding scenes of dramatic punctuation that shine a light on what could have been. The minimalism of this drama seems to hold back a dramatic scale when the direction doesn't entirely work, but when tensions mount, that minimalism feels intimate, maybe a little fittingly claustrophobic, drawing you into this southern gothic, and selling the weight of its subject matter. The overall plot concept of this film is minimalist, and coated in melodramatics, but the thematic subject matter at its heart is almost remarkable in its audaciously, if not realistically studying on a woman's instability, brought to a breaking point when she is exposed to the abusive nature of flawed men, and to the vulnerability of fellow women of sophistication and potential. Oscar Saul's and playwright Tennessee Williams' script does not have the sophistication or edge to live up to weighty subject matter, being superficial, melodramatic and often unconvincingly thin, and yet, for every misstep in writing, there is a strength, whether it be within memorable, if occasionally melodramatic dialogue, or within distinguished, if rather lacking characterization that is mostly brought to life by the roles' portrayals. Upon hitting the scene, Karl Malden initially offers plenty of charm, and comes to sell a good bit of intensity as a seemingly good man with deep dark sides, yet this is all about the leads, and although Vivien Leigh falls flat in her sometimes embarrassingly dated portrayal of an aging and unstable woman, Kim Hunter, as an oppressed woman who may have to face much danger and uncertainty to find a better life, is fairly dramatically effective, even if she doesn't convince quite like the show-stealer, Marlon Brando, who has a smooth charisma that endears you to the Stanley Kowalski character's masculine charm and intimidating presence, until Brando showcases near-groundbreaking dramatic acting sensibilities, which utilize a devastating emotional range, and project vulnerability, power and passion to sell you on the depths and layers of the antagonist much more than the script, often engrossingly. Kowalski may be a brute, but he is more compelling than the female protagonists, almost strictly because of the effectiveness of Brando, a powerhouse who is among the most compelling attributes of the final product, which slowly, but surely loses too much momentum under the weight of its problematic pacing, histrionics and natural shortcomings, yet hits enough highlights along the way, on the back of adequately inspired direction, writing and acting, to at least border on rewarding in its engagement value. All in all, the film often drags its feet to not have enough exposition to entirely sell you on character types, let alone on conventional melodramatics and a staginess which in turn make it hard to disregard the minimalism of this story concept, which gradually loses momentum, until the final product stands as decidedly underwhelming, yet still on the brink of rewarding, thanks to the fine cinematography, sharp heights in direction and writing, worthy subject matter, and generally decent acting - the strongest of which being by a show-stealing Marlon Brando - that secure Elia Kazan's "A Streetcar Named Desire" as a seriously improvable, but generally effective and sometimes moving melodrama. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 27, 2013
    I didn't like it much. The story was plain and the characters were unlikable. Stanley's violent tendencies, Blanche's pathetic pretense, and Stella's ignorance- they were all annoying. The only thing that made me tolerate the film until the end was the topnotch acting. PS Despite its positive reviews, awards, and nominations, I don't think the film is a must-see. However, Marlon Brando's irresistible charm is an offer nobody can refuse.
    Maymay A Super Reviewer
  • Oct 26, 2012
    Classic Brando letting out the pure id in Stanley Kowalski for all to see leading to the destruction of Vivien Leigh. Classic Brando means classic film.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 28, 2011
    Nearly 100 percent faithful to the original Williams broadway play. Elia Kazan shoots this picture well with shadows and darkness, almost like a noir, which give it a doomed atmosphere despite the lively setting of New Orleans. The actors are all fantastic of course. Marlon Brando yet again demonstrates why he may be the greatest actor and most special talent to ever be on stage and screen.
    G S Super Reviewer

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