Judgment at Nuremberg

1961

Judgment at Nuremberg

Critics Consensus

No consensus yet.

91%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 22

93%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,628
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Judgment at Nuremberg Photos

Movie Info

After the end of World War II, the world gradually became aware of the full extent of the war crimes perpetrated by the Third Reich. In 1948, a series of trials were held in Nuremberg, Germany, by an international tribunal, headed by American legal and military officials, with the intent of bringing to justice those guilty of crimes against humanity. However, by that time most of the major figures of the Nazi regime were either dead or long missing, and in the resulting legal proceedings American judges often found themselves confronting the question of how much responsibility someone held who had "just followed orders." Judgment at Nuremberg is a dramatized version of the proceedings at one of these trials, in which Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) is overseeing the trials of four German judges -- most notably Dr. Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) and Emil Hahn (Werner Klemperer) -- accused of knowingly sentencing innocent men to death in collusion with the Nazis. Representing the defense is attorney Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell), while prosecuting the accused is U.S. Col. Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark). As the trial goes on, both the visiting Americans and their reluctant German hosts often find themselves facing the legacy of the war, and how both of their nations have been irrevocably changed by it. Judgment at Nuremberg also features notable supporting performances by Marlene Dietrich, Judy Garland, and Montgomery Clift. Originally written and produced as a play for television, the screen version of Judgment at Nuremberg was nominated for 11 Academy Awards, with Maximilian Schell and Abby Mann taking home Oscars for (respectively) Best Actor and Best Adapted Screenplay. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Cast

Spencer Tracy
as Judge Dan Haywood
Burt Lancaster
as Ernst Janning
Richard Widmark
as Col. Tad Lawson
Marlene Dietrich
as Mme. Bertholt
Judy Garland
as Irene Hoffman
Montgomery Clift
as Rudolph Petersen
William Shatner
as Capt. Byers
Edward Binns
as Sen. Burkette
Kenneth MacKenna
as Judge Kenneth Norris
Alan Baxter
as Gen. Merrin
Torben Meyer
as Werner Lammpe
Ray Teal
as Judge Curtiss Ives
Martin Brandt
as Frieidrich Hofstetter
Virginia Christine
as Mrs. Halbestadt
Joseph E. Bernard
as Maj. Abe Radnitz
Ben Wright
as Halbestadt
John Wengraf
as Dr. Wieck
Karl Swenson
as Dr. Geuter
Howard Caine
as Wallner
Olga Fabian
as Mrs. Lindnow
Sheila Bromley
as Mrs. Ives
Jana Taylor
as Elsa Scheffler
Paul Busch
as Schmidt
Joseph Crehan
as Spectator
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Critic Reviews for Judgment at Nuremberg

All Critics (22) | Top Critics (3) | Fresh (20) | Rotten (2)

  • Tracy delivers a performance of great intelligence and intuition.

    Nov 7, 2007 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Variety
    Top Critic
  • Watchable enough on its own terms, but insufferably glib next to something like Shoah.

    Nov 7, 2007 | Full Review…
    Chicago Reader
    Top Critic
  • There are no surprises in the direction, and Abby Mann's screenplay plays the expected tunes, but there's enough conviction on display to reward a patient spectator.

    Jun 24, 2006 | Full Review…
    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • Judgment at Nuremberg remains an epic film.

    Aug 13, 2019 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • The screenplay, by Abby Mann, must be given A for effort. It concentrates on the moral-historical question of the responsibility of the German people for the Nazi horrors... Without Mr. Mann's script, it would have been just another courtroom drama.

    Jul 30, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Most powerful for its subtle and shaded characterizations of both victim and victimizer.

    Aug 1, 2013 | Rating: 72/100 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Judgment at Nuremberg

  • Sep 11, 2017
    Outstanding film. Star-studded with several fantastic performances. Highly emotional given the subject matter, but presented in a very intelligent, balanced way. I was struck at once by that, and by how well director Stanley Kramer gives us both sides of the argument - and avoids simply paying lip service to the defense of the German judges on trial. Maximilian Schell is brilliant as the defense attorney, well worthy of his Oscar, and is forceful and compelling in his arguments. There are also so many brilliant scenes. Spencer Tracy walking in the empty arena where the Nazi rallies were held, with Kramer focusing on the dais from which Hitler spoke. The testimony of Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland, both of whom are outstanding and should have gotten Oscars. Burt Lancaster in the role of one of the German judges, the one tortured by his complicity, knowing he and others are guilty. The devastating real film clips from the concentration camps, which are still spine tingling despite all we 'know' or have been exposed to. Marlene Dietrich as the German general's wife, haunted but expressing the German viewpoint, one time while people are singing over drinks. Her night stroll with Tracy, as she explains the words to one song, is touching. It just seemed like there was just one powerhouse scene after another, and the film did not seem long at all at three hours. Heck, you've even got Werner Klemperer and William Shatner before they would become Colonel Klink and Captain Kirk! In this film, the acting, the script, and the direction are all brilliant, and in harmony with one another. As for the trial itself, the defense argument was along these lines: they were judges (and therefore interpreters), not makers of law. They didn't know about the atrocities in the concentration camps. At least one of them saved or helped many by staying in their roles and doing the best they could under the heavy hand of the Third Reich. They were patriots, saw improvement in the country when Hitler took power, but did not know how far he would go. If you were going to convict these judges, you would have to convict many more Germans (and where would it stop?). The Americans themselves practiced Eugenics and killed thousands and thousands of innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The one small weakness I found was that the defense never makes the simple argument that these judges were forced to do what they did, just as countless others in Germany were, and would have been imprisoned or killed themselves had they not complied. Anyone who's lived under a totalitarian regime may understand, or at least empathize. I'm not saying I bought into these arguments or that one should be an apologist to Nazis, but the fact that the film presented such a strong defense was thought provoking. How fantastic is it that Spencer Tracy plays his character the way he does - simply pursuing the facts, and in a quiet, thoughtful way. It's the best of humanity. How heartbreaking is Burt Lancaster's character, admitting they knew, admitting their guilt, knowing that what happened was horrible and that they were wrong, and yet seeking Tracy's understanding in that scene in the jail cell at the end - intellectual to intellectual - and being rebuked. Even a single life taken unjustly was wrong. Had the Axis won the war, I don't know which Americans would have been on trial for war crimes for the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, or for dropping the atomic bombs, but the film makes one think, even for a war when things were seemingly as black and white as they could ever be. The particulars of this trial were fictionalized, but it's representative of what really occurred, and it transports you into events 70 years ago which seem so unreal today - and yet are so vitally important to understand, and remember.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 19, 2017
    Kramer's films can be a bit overlong and a bit too obsessed with their own importance. While "Judgment at Nuremberg" suffers from both, neither issue eclipses the film's stronger elements (namely most of the performances, and the writing).
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 09, 2016
    Excellent. One of the best courtroom dramas ever made. If you're interested in World War 2, you should check this out.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • May 21, 2014
    Leaders of the Third Reich are put on trial at Nuremberg with a thoughtful American judge at the helm. The themes in the film are remarkably varied and explored with an impressive degree of depth. How do we judge a people, a society? Can we separate individuals from the society to which they belong? What is the proper response to travesty? Does following orders exonerate those who carry out crimes? This is a film about deep philosophical matters, and it both poses answers and puts the onus on its audience. The natural dignity of Spencer Tracy has never been put to better use, and his performance is matched by the soulful Burt Lancaster and the fiery Maximilian Schell. Overall, usually important films are tedious, but this one is too important to miss.
    Jim H Super Reviewer

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