The Crucible

1996

The Crucible

Critics Consensus

This staid adaptation of The Crucible dutifully renders Arthur Miller's landmark play on the screen with handsome production design and sturdy performances, if not with the political anger and thematic depth that earned the drama its reputation.

68%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 62

66%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 31,896
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The Crucible Photos

Movie Info

When Arthur Miller's play The Crucible was first staged in 1953, it was widely acclaimed as a metaphor for the recklessness of Joseph McCarthy and his spurious crusade against communism. In its 1996 screen adaptation (scripted by Miller), the tone has been adjusted somewhat and plays as a warning against the dangers of political and religious extremism of all kinds. After a group of young women is accused of witchcraft in the Puritan community of Salem, Mass. in 1692, Abigail Williams (Winona Ryder) is held in suspicion of practicing magic. Abigail in turn levels charges against John Proctor (Daniel Day-Lewis) and his wife Elizabeth (Joan Allen). Abigail has a private grudge against the Proctors; while working as their servant, she had an affair with John, and when John ended the relationship and returned to his wife, Abigail was fired. Now the Reverend Parris (Bruce Davison) is hearing accusations and counter-accusations of misdeeds from all sides of the community in the wake of Abigail's charges, so he brings in Judge Danforth (Paul Scofield) to determine who is guilty or innocent. However, given the moral climate of the time, it seems someone has to be found guilty of witchcraft, even though firm evidence of wrongdoing is becoming hard to come by. This was the second screen version of The Crucible, though it was the first one in English; the previous version, filmed in France in 1956, starred Simone Signoret and Yves Montand. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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Cast

Daniel Day-Lewis
as John Proctor
Winona Ryder
as Abigail Williams
Paul Scofield
as Judge Danforth
Joan Allen
as Elizabeth Proctor
Bruce Davison
as Rev. Samuel Parris
Rob Campbell
as Rev. John Hale
Jeffrey Jones
as Thomas Putnam
Peter Vaughan
as Giles Corey
Karron Graves
as Mary Warren
Frances Conroy
as Ann Putnam
Elizabeth Lawrence
as Rebecca Nurse
George Gaynes
as Judge Sewall
Mary Pat Gleason
as Martha Corey
Robert Breuler
as Judge Hathorne
Rachael Bella
as Betty Parris
Ashley Peldon
as Ruth Putnam
Tom McDermott
as Francis Nurse
John Griesemer
as Ezekiel Cheever
Michael Gaston
as Marshal Herrick
Ruth Maleczech
as Goody Osborne
Sheila Pinkham
as Goody Good
Peter Maloney
as Dr. Griggs
Kali Rocha
as Mercy Lewis
Taylor Stanley
as Joanna Preston
Lian-Marie Holmes
as Deliverance Fuller
Charlotte Melen
as Margaret Kenney
Carmella Mulvihill
as Hannah Brown
Jessie Kilguss
as Deborah Flint
Simone Marean
as Rachel Buxton
Amee Gray
as Lydia Sheldon
Mary Reardon
as Esther Wilkens
Alexander Streit
as Joseph Proctor
Michael McKinstry
as Daniel Proctor
Dorothy Brodesser
as Mrs. Griggs
Dossy Peabody
as Goody Sibber
Mara Clark
as Goody Barrow
Jane Pulkkinen
as Goody Bellows
Katrina Nevin
as Dorcas Bellows
Will Lyman
as Isaiah Goodkind
Karen MacDonald
as Townswoman
Sheila Ferrini
as Townswoman
June Lewin
as Townswoman
Stanely Taylor
as Joanna Preston
Ken Cheeseman
as Goat Owner
Steven Ochoa
as Putnam's servant
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News & Interviews for The Crucible

Critic Reviews for The Crucible

All Critics (62) | Top Critics (23)

  • Then there's always Mr. Scofield, bringing an almost unbearable, yet entirely believable, lightness of spirit to his loathsome character. It's a bold stroke by a great actor, making zealotry and evil seem positively beneficent.

    May 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • I recommend Hytner's movie highly, but a part of me resists a work that makes the audience feel as noble in our moral certainty as the characters it invites us to deplore. Some part of its power seems borrowed from the thing it hates.

    May 17, 2013 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Newsweek
    Top Critic
  • Her cheeks flush, her winsome beauty seared with erotic rage, Ryder exposes the real roots of the piece. Forget McCarthyism; The Crucible is a colonial Fatal Attraction.

    May 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Too bad, though, that The Crucible fails to probe deeper into the sexual, religious, and political conditions that can give false accusations so much power -- even today.

    May 17, 2013 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…
  • Arthur Miller's screenplay keeps everything nice and faithful to the period, and the actors have the dirt on their hands to prove it. The movie lacks polish as well, and that's to everyone's benefit.

    May 17, 2013 | Full Review…
  • I very much admire how Hytner... keeps the pace swift and doesn't fetishize the 17th-century decors and clothes. But I can't help feeling that in more ways than one, The Crucible is a period piece.

    May 17, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Crucible

  • Dec 18, 2015
    Be it an allegory of the American anti-communist witch hunt of the 1950s or a gripping story about the horrors of religious fanaticism, collective hysteria and paranoia, this is a riveting, stomach-turning drama with intense performances by an excellent ensemble cast.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Oct 08, 2015
    The Crucible is probably better than my rating. The acting, directing, and production are all very nice and it feels like I ought to be rating the film higher. But for me, personally, the melodramatic style fell just a bit flat. I think had I seen this in the theater at the time when it had come out then I would rate it higher. But it has a very "90s movie" feel that does not translate so well to present time. Still, I have to say it is a good movie and if you are a fan of any of the actors or are interested in the subject, then by all means, give it a view.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • May 16, 2013
    It's hard to trust girls, and, well, there's just no trusting teenagers at all, and yet, here these people were, letting too many people die because of the words of teenaged girls, but hey, we're talking about radical Christians, and ones who were in the colony that would become the state that would contains the suburbs of Boston, so should we really be all that surprised that these people didn't think all that rationally? I for one wouldn't even trust Winona Ryder in real life, not since that whole shoplifting ordeal, but Daniel Day-Lewis, on the other hand, well, he's just too awesome to deny, and it helps that he went on to be good ol' Honest Abe. Speaking of which, everyone talks about how relevant this story is to this day and all, but I would have to say that the effectiveness of this film adaptation of such a story has become dated as of, believe it or not, earlier this year of 2013, because now I can't look at Abraham Lincoln going on and on about witches and not think about "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" and "Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters". I've been joking about how the fresh films in question should do a crossover, but I reckon this film that actually came out quite a while ago will suffice, even though Lincoln isn't so much taking on witches as much as he's taking on a bigger challenge: radical Christians. Hey, I'm okay with Christians, but these people are taking it a little bit too far, and if Day-Lewis "went on" to have trouble convincing people to accept black people, then I doubt that, by this time, he was ready to take on these kind of people who were prejudice against people they thought were witches. Hey, if the dorky-looking Arthur Miller's marriage to Marilyn Monroe proved anything, it's that challenges that you'd figure would be impossible can be overcome, though this story wouldn't exactly be all that rewarding as a tragedy if it had a happy ending, and this film is nothing if not rewarding... after a while. Yeah, the film isn't exactly consistently strong, for although the final product rewards on the whole, there are almost as many issues with it as there are in a radical Christian church. More often than not, the film, at the very least, entertains just fine, even if it has to sustain liveliness through rather cheesy, overt coloring up of atmosphere that I will touch more upon here in a little bit, but when thins slow down, they really slow down, surprisingly to an almost limp point, quieting things down and drying atmosphere up until you're left with a cold spell that often disengages, and sometimes even bores a bit. The dull spells are neither considerable enough or recurring enough to slow down momentum to the point of driving the final product into underwhelmingness, but they disengage, and it doesn't help that slow-downs' entrances are typically too sudden to be all that organic in the middle of pacing that is generally rather tight, which isn't to say that unevenness ends with the pacing. Even more inconsistent than atmospheric kick is character focus, particularly when it comes to our leads, as the film spends what seems like the longest of times extensively meditating upon Winona Ryder's Abigail Williams character, only to all but abandon her for the sake of extensive focus on Daniel Day-Lewis' John Proctor character, who is certainly the more interesting of the two main focuses, but is still one of several major characters whose uneven usage dilutes engagement value within the characterization departments, which takes even more damage from an aspect that is actually consistent, and that is, of course, subtlety issues. It's hard to fully relate to these people whose sensibilities are so very dated to begin with, but there are only so many layers placed upon the characters, and that does damage to their human genuineness, as surely as subtlety issues also do damage to engagement value through corny spots in writing and overbearing spots in direction that cheese things up and telegraph should-be depths in storytelling. There is enough delicacy taken with this film for the final product to stand as rewarding on the whole, but there's no getting around the questionable moments in subtlety that give you too good of a feel of this story's direction, though not quite as much as the conventionalism whose intensity may be watered down enough to keep compellingness from slipping too far, yet leaves too bitter of a taste to be ignored. You'd be hard pressed to not see where this film is heading, and such predictability dilutes engagement value, much like subtlety issues and unevenness in focus and pacing, thus resulting in a final product that may be inspired enough to be saved as genuinely rewarding, but is flawed to the point of almost slipping into underwhelmingness. Still, the fact of the matter is that underwhelmingness doesn't quite claim this film, which is messy in plenty of places, but finds itself cleansed enough through commendable competence to compel, or at least sell you on the era. Subtlety issues certainly shake the genuineness within this portrayal of late 17th century enough to keep you from buying into this time all that much, and it doesn't help that this era doesn't provide too many opportunities to get all that extensive with production designs, but the value behind the crafting of this distinct, if a bit minimalist environment is adequately realized enough for you to get a grip on the setting, while the occasional high point in handsomeness within Andrew Dunn's cinematography helps in keeping your attention gripped. Okay, when it comes to production and photographic value, there's not really too much to praise in this film, yet there is enough to appreciate within the final product's aesthetic value to compliment the selling of substance, which is good, because substance of this kind deserves to be well-delivered, as Arthur Miller's classic interpretation of the infamously terrible Salem witch trials conceptually boasts both intriguing and still-relevant thematic depth, as well as juicy dramatic depth. The value of this story concept certainly sparks a fair degree of immediate intrigue, but really, it's what is done right with Miller's vision within this film interpretation that really compels, for although Miller's story isn't done so much justice that the final product doesn't tend to flirt with underwhelmingness, shortcomings, of which there are many, are more often than not compensated for by the areas in which storytelling accels, with director Nicholas Hytner making the entertaining spots between the dry spells lively enough to sustain some degree of your investment, until big pay-off comes in the form of heights in kick within dramatic resonance, whose strong moments are recurring enough to exceed the underwhelming moments and keep compellingness alive and well throughout the film's course. After a promising hook, the film begins to slip in quality, and all but slips into underwhelmingness, but by the halfway point, the film finds momentum again, then proceeds to gradually build on it, until we come to a pretty powerful and thought-provoking ending, preceded by a body that ended up being quite compelling more often than not, for although the low points in this film are pretty considerable, there's no ignoring what is done right Hytner's inspired storytelling, which generally does about as good a job at keeping engagement value firm as the performances, or at least certain performances. Most of the young performers whose roles end up being instrumental to the film's dramatic intrigue don't exactly do disengaging areas in character handling any favors by turning in distancingly awkward overacting, with Winona Ryder, of all people, being arguably the film's worst performance, being disconcertingly lacking in layers and intensity control in her near-laughably unconvincing portrayal of an antagonist who should come off as humanly corrupt, but ends up feeling distancingly artificial, and such a fall-flat major performance could do some serious damage to the final product's engagement value, yet Ryder's and her fellow youth performers' questionable efforts are all but made up for by commendable efforts by their peers, or at least one in particular. As expected, leading man Daniel Day-Lewis stands out, and by a pretty considerable margin, being handed material that is about as thin as the material handed to most every other talent in this film, but handled so particularly well by Day-Lewis that the conceptually prevalent straightfoward acting moments are obscured by excellent heights, which range from Day-Lewis' trademark commanding charisma, to profoundly human dramatic punch that moves most every time it is played up, and helps greatly in defining the John Proctor character as a driving force for this story. Day-Lewis carries this film when focus lands upon him, and while the final product isn't quite as gripping as Day-Lewis' performance, what it does right it does very well, and while you cannot deny shortcomings in the final product, there are enough high points and consistent areas of competence for compellingness to persevere and reward the patient. At the end of the trial, it's hard to disregard the slow spells that bland things up at times, while disconcerting unevenness in character focus does damage to your investment, which is further harmed by the subtlety issues that join storytelling conventions in reinforcing predictability and distancing engagement value, almost to the point of driving the final product into general underwhelmingness, which is ultimately kept at bay enough by attractive production and photographic value, resonant high points in directorial storytelling, and generally strong acting - especially by Daniel Day-Lewis - to make Nicholas Hytner's interpretation of Arthur Miller's "The Crucible" a generally compelling effort that overcomes shortcomings enough to reward on the whole. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Dec 25, 2012
    Just as good in 2012 as 1996. The screenplay by Arthur Miller is wonderful...the dialogue is true (I guess) to the times, at least it sounds archaic while still being witty and the beginning sequence where the girls rush out to "pray" for specific boys to love them is so right on the money I kept wondering how Miller knew this about girls, and then remembered he was married to Marilyn. The power it unleashes is right on the money as well...You can make comparisons of witchhunts to just about any mass hysteria and this movie nails it. Really wonderful performances by Winona Ryder, Daniel Day-Lewis and Joan Allen. I thought the sets were great, too, and I usually don't pay specific attention to them.
    Bathsheba M Super Reviewer

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