The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)




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Adapted by Philip Dunne from the novel by Irving Stone, The Agony and the Ecstacy is the story of the 16th century war of wills between Renaissance artist Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) and "warrior pope" Julius II (Rex Harrison). Commissioned to paint a religious fresco on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, the independent-minded Michelangelo balks at the assignment. He is virtually strongarmed into accepting the job by Pope Julius, who wants to leave something for future generations to remember him by. Director Carol Reed deftly juggles screen time between the Pope's activities on the battlefield and Michelangelo's slow, arduous completion of his monumental task. The film also gingerly approaches the subject of Michelangelo's sexual orientation vis-a-vis his relationship with the Contessina de Medici (Diane Cilento). Too long and limited in subject matter to score at the box office, The Agony and the Ecstacy holds up pretty well when seen today, especially when viewed in a wide-screen print. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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Rex Harrison
as Pope Julius II
Charlton Heston
as Michelangelo
Diane Cilento
as Contessina de' Medici
Adolfo Celi
as Giovanni de Medici
Harry Andrews
as Bramante
Alberto Lupo
as Duke of Urbino
Venantino Venantini
as Paris De Grassis
John Stacy
as Sangallo
Fausto Tozzi
as Foreman
Tomás Milian
as Raphael
Richard Pearson
as Cardinal
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Critic Reviews for The Agony and the Ecstasy

All Critics (7)

Required viewing for the fan of pious filmmaking or the cinematographer in film school. From a story and character perspective, it's sadly very forgettable.

Full Review… | March 9, 2014
7M Pictures

For some viewers, the agony will be watching Charlton Heston (over)act, and the ecstasy Rex Harrison. But it IS refreshing for a period film to cover such new and (pun intended) artistic ground.

Full Review… | March 2, 2014
Movie Metropolis

As a chronicle of the artist Michelangelo, this is one of Carol Reed's most underwhelming films, though some of the production values are good.

Full Review… | July 6, 2010

Audience Reviews for The Agony and the Ecstasy

The work of an artist who did not want to paint. Michelangelo is a renowned sculpture, perhaps the best the world has ever seen; however, when the Pope has finished the infamous Sistine Chapel, it isn't as gorgeous or inspirational as he hoped. He assigns Michelangelo to paint the ceiling. Michelangelo is reluctant and really wants no part of the project; but once he begins, he will stop at nothing to make his work a masterpiece. "Michelangelo burst from his heritage like an unexpected flame." Carol Reed, director of The Third Man, Oliver (1968), The Fallen Idol, The Public Eye, Trapeze, A Girl Must Live, Night Train to Munich, and Odd Man Out, delivers The Agony and the Ecstasy. The storyline for this picture is awesome and well portrayed. I loved the setting, dialogue, and acting. The cast includes Charlton Heston, Rex Harrison, Diane Cilento, Harry Andrews, and Adolfo Celi. "You shouldn't mock the apostles." "I don't mock the apostles. They mock me." I came across this picture on Netflix and thought it looked interesting; that, and I adore the Roman/Greek history. This movie was outstanding and a fun look at the life and challenges of Michelangelo as he executed one of his greatest masterpieces, despite not being a painter. This is an absolute must see. "I planned a ceiling. He planned a miracle." Grade: A

Kevin Robbins
Kevin Robbins

The battle of wills between Pope Julius II and Michaelangelo that culminated in the painting of The Sistine Chapel. Worth a watch.

Marcus Woolcott
Marcus Woolcott

Super Reviewer


Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison portray two of the Renaissance's most colorful figures in this brilliant historical epic drama based on Irving Stone's best selling novel. When Pope Julius II(Harrison)commissions Michelangelo(Heston) to paint the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel,the artist initially refuses. Virtually forced to do the job by Julius,Michelangelo later destroys his own work of art and therefore flees Rome. Nominated for three Oscars including Best Supporting Actor(Harrison),Best Director(Carol Reed),and Best Cinematopgraphy and was named of the year's best films by the National Board of Review,"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is a fascinating dramatization behind one of the world's artistic masterpieces. Filmed on location in Italy and Spain and shot in brilliant Todd-AO and Color and directed by the great British director Carol Reed,Charlton Heston and Rex Harrison(in their first and only film together)give two of the screen's best performances.

Mister Caple
Mister Caple

Super Reviewer

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