The Greatest Show on Earth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Greatest Show on Earth Reviews

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March 29, 2017
The Greatest Show On Earth is a massive fail from beginning to end with bad acting and feels like commercial for the circus of all things
February 28, 2017
It's literally the worst movie to ever win Best Picture. Not only was it not the 'greatest' show on Earth, it wasn't even slightly decent.
February 18, 2017
I do kind of enjoy this movie, but getting an Oscar for Best Picture while Singing in the Rain wasn't even nominated?? Really?????
½ January 11, 2017
A talented group of actors present the wonders of the circus in a fun and colorful film that rightfully won the best picture Oscar. (First and only full viewing - 2/27/2011)
½ January 1, 2017
"The Greatest Show on Earth" is often considered to be one of the worst films to win the Best Picture Oscar. I found much of the film to be above that categorization. I also found many of director Cecil B. Demille's decisions about the format of the film and length of sequences to be questionable. It is basically half-feature film and half-documentary. Its "cast" includes the 1400-member crew of the 1951 Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey's Circus with much of the film's footage shot during the actual set-up, tear down, and performances of this crew. I love that the film preserves the legacy of performers like Emmett Kelly as the sad hobo clown "Weary Willie" and famed circus band leader Merle Evans, as well as the exciting atmosphere surrounding the circus that has faded with each new generation. One of the most interesting segments of the film is pure documentary with an in depth look at the set-up of the circus tent. It has nothing to do with the plot but it's fascinating. Still, it doesn't fit with the actual storylines of the film. Some of the circus sequences go on for way too long. I understand that the inclusion for the real Barnum and Bailey performers is what makes this an epic, but it is never good when 20 minutes goes by without any story. All of the non-circus actors do a good job of bringing their characters to life within the circus atmosphere. Charlton Heston, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, and Gloria Grahame all have nice performances but we forget that during the long tangents away from the plot. The final 20 minutes is cinema at its finest. The mystery behind Jimmy Stewart's character and his acting in the final moments are the film's saving grace. Many have criticized this film for not deserving to win the Oscar for Best Picture but this is the portion of the film that they should be praising. I believe that the film could have cut 30 minutes of material to make the story feel more consistent and still maintained its epic stature. "The Greatest Show on Earth" will always be remembered in infamy but it is a film that every movie fan should see, even just for the final 20 minutes.
November 17, 2016
Fantastic slice of life under the big top. Keep an eye out for all the cameos!
½ November 5, 2016
In 1952, people loved movies about the movie industry like 'Singin in the Rain' and 'The Bad and The Beautiful', while The Academy Awards liked grand, literally over the top movies like this. Unlikeable characters, costuming that seem dated, idiotic performances: nothing about this brought me a smiling face, not even a James Stewart clown.
½ October 8, 2016
Brad Braden (played by Charlton Heston) is the manager of a circus. The circus is his life and everything else is secondary. The next most important thing to him is Holly (Betty Hutton), a trapeze artist, but she realises she will always take second place. Then Brad hires a world-famous trapeze artist, The Great Sebastian (Cornel Wilde) and Holly is bumped to second place in the trapeze act. The Great Sebastian has a reputation as a womaniser and Holly soon falls under his spell.

Entertaining. This is Cecil B DeMille's homage to the Big Top and being a Cecil B DeMille movie means a massive production. No extravagance or expense is spared and the movie is incredibly grand in scale. We see and feel the size, wonder, enchantment and entertainment of the circus, it is that confronting.

Plot is fairly average though. The main plot - the love triangle - feels overwrought and clumsy. Most of the sub-plots, especially the fraudster, feel silly and contrived. The only plot-line that was reasonably engaging was the Buttons the Clown one, and that had limited coverage.

Narration is also off-putting, being overly dramatic and superlative-filled. It was like watching a WW2 propaganda documentary.

Can't generally fault the performances though. Charlton Heston over-acts, but know to expect that. Betty Hutton is wonderful as Holly - bubbly, athletic and vivacious. And speaking of visual delights, there's Gloria Grahame...

While being the biggest star in the movie, James Stewart, only has a supporting role. And his face is covered for the entire movie...
September 19, 2016
This movie lives and dies on the idea that you will enjoy watching the circus on the big screen. Sure, they try to weave a romantic pentagon in there, but the movie is mostly one big love letter to the circus. There are entire 30-minute segments where all we're watching is simply circus acts one after another, and rarely are they adding to the plot of the movie. It doesn't help that the plot is so convoluted and stupid, it's kind of painful. This movie treats women as morons who fall in love with every other man, and they will gladly settle down with whichever one happens to be giving them attention at the time. There's also a strange B-story that is not properly fleshed out about Jimmy Stewart being a man on the run hiding in clown makeup, and an even less fleshed out C-story about corrupt guys taking advantage of people at the circus. But, hey, don't sweat how poorly-executed these stories are because it's time for another circus parade where everyone just walks in front of the audience in costumes. It's as if someone at Ringling Bros. thought it would be a great advertising gimmick to simply recreate the circus experience on the big screen, so everyone would want to come and see the real thing the next time they rolled in town. I might be able to tolerate all of that if it didn't drag the movie out to a run-time of two and a half hours. I'll never understand how The Greatest Show on Earth won the Oscar for Best Picture. This movie is one you can definitely avoid.
July 23, 2016
This is often cited as the worst Best Picture winner. I don't think it's that bad, but it's a hugely bloated film with a very thin plot. It's difficult to see why anyone would have thought this was a better film than ... to pick an example ... "Singin' in the Rain". At an hour and a half, this would have made a sleek if inconsequential little melodrama. The additional hour of parades and circus acts is excruciating. I also detest Betty Hutton, so there's that, but Lawrence Tierney as a mobster shaking down Heston over the side show games almost makes up for her abrasive presence.
July 22, 2016
Cecil B. DeMille's lavish Oscar-winner probably didn't deserve that award but it's wildly entertaining, fast-moving and colorful; enjoy the cliches and that stunning train wreck!
May 10, 2016
Cecil B. De Mille's best fun filled big top!
½ April 11, 2016
Don't let it's name or it's Oscar win fool you, Cecil B. DeMille's circus epic, "The Greatest Show on Earth," is not a great film and it's not a great circus, it's a poorly-written, high-budget borefest. It has more circus footage than plot, the plot itself is melodramatic, the characters are cliché and one-sided, and, as a film, it's as dated as circuses themselves.
January 31, 2016
Yeah so the graphics of course are dated and the propaganda is obvious at parts but everything else i really liked. Its a good family movie. It had a lot of love stories going on and i enjoyed watching the actual acts of the circus. I liked the sad clown, u dont see much clowns anymore esp not sad. It had a decent script, I especially like watching old movies like this how they fight with their tongues very well without cursing. Some of the acting is overdramatic as r most movies with Heston in it. Its kinda like ur typical big picture old hollywood film with lots of big names, long running time, big production sets, lots of costumes, and a big storyline. It was dramatic and entertaining and you could feel the excitement of what once was a huge event that is now a dying act. This is one of the few films were i actually think it is underrated by critics.
January 29, 2016
I enjoyed the movie. Their were some weakpoints, but nothing important. This catches the atmosphere of the times Tennessee Ernie Ford would announce the circus on TV.
½ September 28, 2015
What's that movie with Jimmy Stewart in clown makeup the whole time? Oh right, this one. Also, reportedly the first film ever seen by Steven Spielberg.
April 1, 2015
just as the title emplies this is a BIG picture like only CB DeMille could do, just as a sidebar, my mom loved Demille esp his religious epics and I many fond memories of watching his movies with my mom and a big bowl of popcorn.
March 1, 2015
A decent treat/experience of the infamous circus that includes behind-the-scenes set-up and capturing the acts, but it later turns out to not be that interesting by a lot when interfered by the Hollywood cheese when it comes to these kind of storytellings. (B-)

(Full review coming soon)
February 21, 2015
This was my favorite movie as a kid. I had it memorized. It's filled with classic drama and sass. Not to mention the elaborate sets and stunts. These ratings are not fair at all.
½ February 16, 2015
For basically being a two-and-a-half hour advertisement for the circus, The Greatest Show on Earth isn't bad. Is it the best film of 1952? Probably not. But it's still better than some other Best Picture winners I've seen. Part fiction and part documentary, this movie is an impressive spectacle. The dialogue may be corny and the performances may be over the (big) top, but this is a fun way to experience the magic of the circus.
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