The Greatest Show on Earth - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Greatest Show on Earth Reviews

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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.
March 9, 2016
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.
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.
February 11, 2015
Trouble is part of the circus.

A clown with a checkered past resides in the Ringling Brothers circus where he hopes to keep his past behind him. The ringmaster and architect of the events is in love with the main act, but a new entertainer known as The Great Sebastian, joins the show and steal the ringmaster's girl's heart. Another woman in the circus sees this opening as a chance to steal the ring master's heart for herself. Can the circus work as expected with all this drama...because the show must go one?!?!

"I'm going to give him more than you ever could."

Cecil DeMille, director of The Ten Commandments, Samson and Delilah, Reap the Wild Win, Cleopatra, Union Pacific, Temptation, Forbidden Fruit, and The Captive, delivers The Greatest Show on Earth. The storyline for this picture is interesting but a unique mix of circus documentary mixed with several subplots with interesting characters. The acting is very good and the cast includes Charlton Heston, James Stewart, Betty Hutton, Cornel Wilde, and Dorothy Lamour.

"Women are poison."

I found this on Netflix and gave it a viewing because it had Heston and Stewart in the cast, which sounded like an amazing duo. They were fun to watch, and seeing Stewart as a clown was interesting. Overall, this was an average movie but it is a fun film to watch unfold. I'd give this a viewing if you're a fan of the classics.

"Wherever there are trousers you go."

Grade: C+
½ October 11, 2014
The Worst Picture to ever win Best Picture
½ August 2, 2014
(First and only viewing - 2/27/2011)
½ July 4, 2014
Yes, the Greatest Show on Earth may be melodramatic, but it is not short on plot. Even though it runs 2 and a half hours it does not seem 'lengthy". Also you cannot condemn a movie for being bogged down with cliches if it's over 60 years old. It gave birth to plot points that others copied. A movie that won the Oscar for best picture deserves better than 42% and maybe, just maybe, a second look.
½ April 27, 2014
Not quite as bad as I expected, but still fairly atrocious. Everything was overplayed, worst of all DeMille's thoughts about the circus being entertaining.
April 19, 2014
A heavy dose of melodrama at the circus.
½ April 3, 2014
The Greatest Show on Earth has grand circus sequences and dazzling Technicolor for sure, but behind all that dazzle lies shallowness, awfully dramatic acting and extremely cliched and melodramatic plot (in the style of 'The Great Ziegfeld') making you consequently scratch your head thinking how could this have walked away with the highest honor of Best Picture with 'High Noon' in the nominees line-up that year. It is a travesty and definitely one of the worst Oscar winners.
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