Critics Consensus

Roland Emmerich delivers his trademark visual and emotional bombast, but the more Anonymous stops and tries to convince the audience of its half-baked theory, the less convincing it becomes.



Total Count: 173


Audience Score

User Ratings: 20,171
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Movie Info

Set in the political snake-pit of Elizabethan England, Anonymous speculates on an issue that has for centuries intrigued academics and brilliant minds such as Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, and Sigmund Freud, namely: who actually created the body of work credited to William Shakespeare? Experts have debated, books have been written, and scholars have devoted their lives to protecting or debunking theories surrounding the authorship of the most renowned works in English literature. Anonymous poses one possible answer, focusing on a time when scandalous political intrigue, illicit romances in the Royal Court, and the schemes of greedy nobles lusting for the power of the throne were brought to light in the most unlikely of places: the London stage. -- (C) Sony Pictures

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Rhys Ifans
as Earl of Oxford
Vanessa Redgrave
as Queen Elizabeth I
Joely Richardson
as Young Queen Elizabeth I
Sebastian Armesto
as Ben Johnston
Rafe Spall
as William Shakespeare
David Thewlis
as William Cecil
Edward Hogg
as Robert Cecil
Jamie Campbell Bower
as Young Earl of Oxford
Xavier Samuel
as Earl of Southampton
Sebastian Reid
as Earl of Essex
Derek Jacobi
as Prologue
Paolo DeVita
as Francesco
Trystan Gravelle
as Christopher Marlowe
Robert Emms
as Thomas Dekker
Tony Way
as Thomas Nashe
Julian Bleach
as Captain Richard Pole
Alex Hassell
as Spencer
James Garnon
as Heminge
Mark Rylance
as Condell
Ned Dennehy
as Interrogator
John Keogh
as Philip Henslowe
Lloyd Hutchinson
as Richard Burbage
Vicky Krieps
as Bessie Vavasour
Helen Baxendale
as Anne De Vere
Paula Schramm
as Bridget De Vere
Amy Kwolek
as Young Anne De Vere
Luke Taylor
as Boy Earl of Oxford
Isaiah Michalsky
as Boy Robert Cecil
Timo Huber
as Boy Earl of Southampton
Richard Durdan
as Archbishop
Shaun Lawton
as Footman
Detlef Bothe
as John De Vere
James Clyde
as King James l
Christian Sengewald
as Cecil's Spy Servant
Jean-Loup Fourure
as Monsieur Beaulieu
Axel Sichrovsky
as Essex General
Katrin Pollitt
as Lady-in-Waiting
Patricia Grove
as Lady-in-Waiting
Laura Lo Zito
as Selling Maid
Gode Benedix
as Groundling
Nic Romm
as Usher
Henry Lloyd-Hughes
as Bear Baiter
Patrick Diemling
as Oxford's Servant
Patrick Heyn
as Oxford's Doctor
Nino Sandow
as Stage Manager (New York)
Craig Salisbury
as Dwarf/Puck
Jonas Hämmerle
as Child Oberon
Leonard Kinzinger
as Child Titania
Mike Maas
as Pole's Commander
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Critic Reviews for Anonymous

All Critics (173) | Top Critics (51)

  • Will Shakespeare, whose words shine on, bright and brave, Is turning o'er with laughter in his grave.

    Nov 4, 2011 | Rating: 1/4 | Full Review…
  • File this one in the category of entertaining historical fiction. There are facts here, but one must possess more than a passing familiarity with history to be able to spot them.

    Oct 30, 2011 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • John Orloff's screenplay could have used a rewrite by de Vere -- or whomever.

    Oct 29, 2011 | Rating: C- | Full Review…
  • Knowing that non-Masterpiece Theater audiences will grow fidgety over this sort of thing, Emmerich and Orloff throw in plenty of sword-fighting, bear-baiting, and bodice-ripping.

    Oct 28, 2011 | Full Review…

    Alonso Duralde

    Top Critic
  • The digitally wrought period settings are simply gorgeous.

    Oct 28, 2011 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…
  • This is irresistible as self-knowing camp: the players ham it up in high fashion and the script crams at least one lurid revelation into every scene.

    Oct 28, 2011 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Anonymous

  • Aug 15, 2017
    Anonymous ambitiously conveys the theory that Shakespeare did not write a single play. A theory that I am very much interested in, The Oxfordian Theory proposes that the Earl of Oxford actually wrote the plays and penned Shakespeare to them. Being raised in a Puritan household, poetry and art was frowned upon but the Earl yearned to keep writing plays. Honestly if you have time, research on this's absolutely fascinating and definitely makes you question the legitimacy of Shakespeare. On top of this though we have political conspiracies within the Elizabethan court, illicit romantic affairs and plenty of back stabbing nobleman. Very ambitious, both in scale and it's subject...but unfortunately just exceeds Roland Emmerich's grasp. His desire for cinematic grandeur merely takes away from the plot focus and becomes messy. There is just too much. What I did admire though, was the portrayal of how the utilisation of words and art can convey ideologies. As the Earl looks down from his balcony in the Globe Theatre, you can see the power he holds through his plays and how the audience are manipulated through certain character portrayals. After all, words are the most powerful tool one can have. The Globe Theatre scenes were actually some of my favourite moments, watching Mark Rylance performing famed plays such as Henry V, Richard III and Twelfth Night. Rhys Ifans was excellent casting as the Earl of Oxford, his calm demeanour held much authority and power. Vanessa Redgrave and David Thewlis were also noteworthy. I wasn't too keen on Rafe Spall's portrayal of Shakespeare but in order to convey this theory it kind of made sense to make him a rather slimy character. The script and narrative is where the film falters. Exposition followed by backstory followed by politics followed by more exposition...just, turn it down a notch! Focus on the intrigue of Shakespeare being a fraud, would've been a far tighter plot. Also the ending was too...anti-climatic? Having said that, this film is full of ambition and I find it be rather watchable. Not bad from Emmerich I must say.
    Luke A Super Reviewer
  • Jul 15, 2016
    In Emmerich's hands the "truth" about Shakespeare turns out to be boring.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2014
    The idea that Shakespeare didn't write his plays is not a new one and is definitely worthy of a film treatment but Emmerich isn't clear which direction he should take this. Is it a comedy? Is it a drama? Is it a tragedy? He seems to have modelled the film on the whole of Shakespeare's canon and the whole thing is a hodgepotch of styles. Ifans is very good as the lead but Spall seems to be playing more of the comedy and it all gets a bit ridiculous towards the end with loads of secrets revealed. A nice try but it's all a bit of a mess.
    David S Super Reviewer
  • Nov 23, 2012
    Whether you believe in the theory posited in Anonymous, or whether facts are ignored or distorted is irrelevant - since this is a fine production that, from the very first frame, tells you the yarn you are about to witness is nothing more than a play based on a theory. Get past whether the theory has merit and you have a ripping good tale, extremely well acted by all concerned that is excellently filmed with a script that, while not necessarily worthy of the Bard of Avon, is intriguing and holds passages of truth and beauty. I really enjoyed how the tale weaves back and forth in time and place, picking up threads from earlier scenes that may be nothing more than portents of what will follow, or things that will give later scenes greater impact. I also enjoyed the injection of selected scenes from the Bard's plays and how they infer what is going on politically at the time. Having seen Henry V at an outdoor theater built to resemble the Globe this past summer, it was a true joy to see the before the battle scene in all its "hooray for England" glory; and then watch the reaction from the "mob" in the audience. Similarly I was also taken with the scenes from Richard III and the explanation that the portrayal of R3 as a hunchback was a direct and intentional jab at the Queen's chancellor. Having seen Sir Ian McKellan in the role also didn't hurt my enjoyment of the scenes. As in even the most serious of the Bard's dramas, there are elements of frivolity, as when the actor Will Shakespeare first read's Romeo and Juliet and then pitches the "but soft, what light by yonder window breaks" bit at a saucy wench and then turns to Ben Johnson and proclaims that he is going to become the premier cocksman in all England. In retrospect, while this tale has enough political intrigue on its own merit, it is the inclusion of the Shakespearian canon that really makes the film sing. Of course if you aren't into the Bard then your reaction may of course be different - and yes, the script does lay on the reverence a bit too heavily, but brilliance is brilliance and I think anyone who values prose can certainly agree that there are wondrous passages of beauty within the Bard's canon. There is a scene when Ben Johnson (who the film reminds us, was the first poet laureate of England) comes to the Earl of Oxford's death bed (said Earl is the true author in this case) and gushes how the Earls words are true masterpieces - similar to the Requiem scene in Amadeus where Solinari sits in awe as Mozart composes the piece totally in his head, without a keyboard present. As I mentioned, all the performances are solid, but special mention should go out to Vanessa Redgrave who gives a stunning performance as Queen Elizabeth, and to Derrick Jacobi as the academian/narrator - using his theatrical training to give each and every word its own sense of space and meaning. Finally, I just have to mention a wondrous bit of writing which occurs about 2/3 of the way through the film. When the Earl's wife confronts him about continuing to write his plays (which, in the protestant faith of his wife, is blasphemy), he explains that he is bewitched by characters who talk to him and it's only by writing of them and what they tell him that he may banish them for a spell. Excuse my clumsy summation of this speech, but it is indeed truly beautiful and strikes a chord within any artist - they don't do what they do because they want to, but because they simply must.
    paul s Super Reviewer

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