The Scarlet Letter


The Scarlet Letter

Critics Consensus

The Scarlet Letter strays far from its classic source material to tell a story that strains for steamy sensuality and leaves the audience red with unintentional laughter.



Reviews Counted: 38

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,450


All Critics | Top Critics
Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Count: 0
Fresh: 0
Rotten: 0


Average Rating: 2.8/5

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Movie Info

Any resemblance between this big-budget, sex, violence, and more sex-filled adaptation and Nathaniel Hawthorne's original melodramatic novel of hypocrisy and repression is almost accidental. Instead, this is a free adaptation of the story, meaning the time frame, setting and major character names are the same, but very little else. The prologue depicts a Native American funeral and their restless rumblings about their Puritanical neighbors. The minute Hester sets foot in the town she is treated suspiciously because she chooses to live alone until her husband comes. Not long after her arrival she spies a sexy naked man swimming in a forest pool. Later she discovers that he is the town's new pastor Arthur Dimmesdale. When the two meet they are instantly attracted to each other and it isn't very long before they are expressing their intense attraction physically in the grain bin of a barn. Hester feels no guilt because she has just heard her husband has died. Then she turns up pregnant. The outraged town jails her until the child is born. She then wears the infamous "A" because she refuses to identify the father. If she does, he could be killed. Suddenly her husband, who had been captured by the Indians returns and that is when the trouble really starts.

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Demi Moore
as Hester Prynne
Gary Oldman
as Arthur Dimmesdale
Robert Duvall
as Roger Chillingworth
Edward Hardwicke
as John Bellingham
Roy Dotrice
as Thomas Cheever
Malcolm Storry
as Major Dunsmuir
Jim Bearden
as Goodman Mortimer
Larissa Lapchinski
as Goody Mortimer
Amy Wright
as Goody Gotwick
George Aguilar
as Johnny Sassamon
Tim Woodward
as Brewster Stonehall
Joan Gregson
as Elizabeth Cheever
Dana Ivey
as Meredith Stonehall
Diane Salinger
as Margaret Bellingham
Jocelyn Cunningham
as Mary Rollings
Francie Swift
as Sally Short
Eric Schweig
as Metacomet
Kristen Fairlie
as Faith Stonehall
Jodhi May
as Pearl
Sarah Campbell
as Prudence Stonehall
Judd Jones
as Mr. Bobbin
Anthony Paton
as Town Beadle
Marguerite McNeil
as Widow Wormser
Kennetch Charlette
as Tarrantine Chief
Deborah Tennant
as Quaker Lady
Kateri Walker
as Female Sachem
Shaun R. Clark
as Militia Guardsman
Jay Carmichael
as Militia Guardsman
Jason Parkhill
as First Guardsman
Jeremy Keddy
as Drummer Boy
Nicholas Rice
as The Clerk
Ashley Nolan
as Goody Hunter
Stephen Aderneck
as Speaking Native
Evelyn Francis Isaac
as Algonquin Native
Gary Joseph Thorup
as Native Rider
Stephen Micalchunk
as Passenger No. 1
Jeremy Akerman
as Middle Aged Passenger
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Critic Reviews for The Scarlet Letter

All Critics (38) | Top Critics (15)

... hilariously wrongheaded.

Jan 31, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

Oldman scores a few points as Dimmsdale, but he's ultimately undone by the muttonheaded script. It doesn't help that his character's been turned into a kind of angsty hippie-dippie dude.

Jan 5, 2018 | Full Review…
Top Critic

"Freely adapted from the novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne," the credits say cautiously. I'll say.

Aug 4, 2009 | Full Review…

A very '90s take on a 1660s tale written in 1850, as a picture of early colonial life it's about as convincing as Pocahontas.

Mar 26, 2009
Top Critic

Not only does the film bear little resemblance to the source novel, but it's cluttered with ridiculous symbolism.

Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

If you've read the book you won't know the ending. Let's just say that Indians with flaming arrows come to the rescue. They manage to keep a straight face, which is more than anyone in the audience will be able to do.

Aug 30, 2004 | Rating: 1/5

Audience Reviews for The Scarlet Letter

M'eh. Demi Moore was a poor choice to star in this classic story. She doesn't really have the gravitas to pull it off and she's got zero chemistry with Oldman. I'd recommend it if you don't want to read the book and Cliff's Notes are too expensive. Otherwise, it's not much of a diversion.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

A ridiculously loose adaptation that squanders the depth of its source material in favor of a generic overlong soap opera with laughably ham-fisted symbolism. English teachers may get a good laugh but otherwise stay far away from this star-studded turkey.

Christopher Heim
Christopher Heim

Super Reviewer


When intimacy is forbidden and passion is a sin, love is the most defiant crime of all.

Wahida K
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

Very poor adaptation of the book, they changed the ending!

Candy Rose
Candy Rose

Super Reviewer

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