The Grapes of Wrath (1940)


Critic Consensus: A potent drama that is as socially important today as when it was made, The Grapes of Wrath is affecting, moving, and deservedly considered an American classic.


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Adapted from John Steinbeck's novel, this classic drama shows how the Great Depression affects one American family. Evicted from their Oklahoma farm homes, the Joads head West to seek work, but two die during the journey. In California, the family's deterioration continues as they live in poverty in migrant camps.

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Henry Fonda
as Tom Joad
Jane Darwell
as Ma Joad
Dorris Bowdon
as Rosaharn
Charley Grapewin
as Grandpa Joad
Doris Bowden
as Rosasharn
John Qualen
as Muley Graves
Eddie Quillen
as Connie Rivers
Eddie Quillan
as Connie Rivers
Zeffie Tilbury
as Grandma Joad
Frank Darien
as Uncle John
Darryl Hickman
as Winfield Joad
Shirley Mills
as Ruth Joad
Ward Bond
as Policeman
Frank Faylen
as Tim Wallace
Joe Sawyer
as Accountant
Hollis Jewell
as Muley's Son
Selmer Jackson
as Inspector
Eddy Waller
as Proprietor
Cliff Clark
as Townsman
Irving Bacon
as Conductor
Jack Pennick
as Committeeman
Walter McGrail
as Gang Leader
Tom Tyler
as Sheriff
Robert "Buddy" Shaw
as Gas Station Attendant
Ralph Dunn
as Deputy
Ted Oliver
as State Policeman
Gloria Roy
as Waitress
Erville Alderson
as Arkansas Storekeeper
Harry Strang
as Fred the Truck Driver
Inez Palange
as Woman in Camp
Louis Mason
as Man in Camp
Harry Tenbrook
as Deputy/Troublemaker
Walter Miller
as New Mexico Border Guard
William Haade
as Deputy Driver
Peggy Ryan
as Hungry Girl
Selmar Jackson
as Inspector
Wally Albright
as Boy Who Ate
Mae Marsh
as Floyd's Wife
Francis Ford
as (unconfirmed) (uncredited)
Shirley "Muggsy" Coates
as Girl in Migrant Camp
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News & Interviews for The Grapes of Wrath

Critic Reviews for The Grapes of Wrath

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (7)

Movies will probably go on improving and broadening themselves; but in any event, The Grapes of Wrath is the most mature picture story that has ever been made, in feeling, in purpose, and in the use of the medium.

Aug 29, 2012 | Full Review…

Ford's admirers have rightly tended to play this down in favor of his later and more personal westerns, but there's much to admire here in Gregg Toland's sun-beaten photography and Henry Fonda's meticulous performance.

Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…

The Grapes of Wrath is possibly the best picture ever made from a so-so book.

Apr 27, 2009 | Full Review…

It is an absorbing, tense melodrama, starkly realistic, and loaded with social and political fireworks.

Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

Captures the stark plainness of the migrants, stripped to a few possessions, left with innumerable relations and little hope.

Feb 9, 2006 | Full Review…
Time Out
Top Critic

The Grapes of Wrath is just about as good as any picture has a right to be; if it were any better, we just wouldn't believe our eyes.

May 20, 2003

Audience Reviews for The Grapes of Wrath


Ford and Johnson were able to transpose Steinbeck's masterpiece into a splendid film that preserves the book's essence (even with a different, upbeat ending) without infringing the infamous rules of the Hays Code, yet it also feels a bit rushed and lacking in sufficient information (e.g., Noah vanishing without explanation).

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer

It can be a bit slow and some scenes are unnecessary, but this is usually the case with all films this old. On the other hand, it's well made and at times very powerful. I especially love the end when Tom Joad makes an important decision with his life. Some scenes are suspenseful (well, 1940s suspenseful) and the characters are interesting for the most part. Probably John Ford's best film.

Eric Shankle
Eric Shankle

Super Reviewer


An amazing film. Just as relevant today.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


Casy: I wouldn't pray just for a old man that's dead, 'cause he's all right. If I was to pray, I'd pray for folks that's alive and don't know which way to turn.  The Grapes of Wrath is very much the classic I was expecting. It is probably the best example of the human struggle to better one's life. The story is one of the most known, as most read it before their out of high school. It's setting is the depression era dust bowl. There's a lot of bad going on and not a whole lot of good. Everyone struggles to find work so that they can feed their families. But work isn't easy to come by. Watching The Grapes of Wrath now, during this economic climate is rather sobering. The story follows one family, the Joad family. Tom has just been released from prison and makes it home just in time; right before his family was to set off from their land. They have lived in Oklahoma all their life, but the land is turning a profit or any crops and the government is taking it away from them. So the Joad's decide to do what everyone else is doing, and head for California in hope of finding the land they were promised. Handbills don't always tell the exact truth though. California is just as much a struggle as Oklahoma. This is only the second John Ford film I have seen, but I'm already seeing why he is so highly regarded. He captures the hardship of the depression like no film I've seen. He does it extremely well, but also never overplays it. He let's the Joad family speak for themselves. Their hungry, their tired, and their poor.  Something else Ford does really well is showing the different ends of the spectrum, when it comes to people helping people. Their are always people that will help and their are always people that will exploit. In one scene the Joad's go into a diner and the workers there give them food at a discounted cost because they see how hard they got it. Then when they actually get work, all the employers are just exploiting how poor the workers are.  Grapes of Wrath is often regarded as one of the best American films ever. It's a movie that everyone knows about and it's influence is just about everywhere. It's one of those movies that everyone almost has to see before they die; a true classic in every sense of the word.

Melvin White
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

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