Lawrence of Arabia

Critics Consensus

The epic of all epics, Lawrence of Arabia cements director David Lean's status in the filmmaking pantheon with nearly four hours of grand scope, brilliant performances, and beautiful cinematography.



Total Count: 84


Audience Score

User Ratings: 74,932
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Movie Info

This sweeping, highly literate historical epic covers the Allies' mideastern campaign during World War I as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole, in the role that made him a star). After a prologue showing us Lawrence's ultimate fate, we flash back to Cairo in 1917. A bored general staffer, Lawrence talks his way into a transfer to Arabia. Once in the desert, he befriends Sherif Ali Ben El Kharish (Omar Sharif, making one of the most spectacular entrances in movie history) and draws up plans to aid the Arabs in their rebellion against the Turks. No one is ever able to discern Lawrence's motives in this matter: Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) dismisses him as yet another "desert-loving Englishman," and his British superiors assume that he's either arrogant or mad. Using a combination of diplomacy and bribery, Lawrence unites the rival Arab factions of Feisal and Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). After successfully completing his mission, Lawrence becomes an unwitting pawn of the Allies, as represented by Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and Dryden (Claude Rains), who decide to keep using Lawrence to secure Arab cooperation against the Imperial Powers. While on a spying mission to Deraa, Lawrence is captured and tortured by a sadistic Turkish Bey (Jose Ferrer). In the heat of the next battle, a wild-eyed Lawrence screams "No prisoners!" and fights more ruthlessly than ever. Screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson used T. E. Lawrence's own self-published memoir The Seven Pillars of Wisdom as their principal source, although some of the characters are composites, and many of the "historical" incidents are of unconfirmed origin. Two years in the making (you can see O'Toole's weight fluctuate from scene to scene), the movie, lensed in Spain and Jordan, ended up costing a then-staggering $13 million and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The 1962 Royal Premiere in London was virtually the last time that David Lean's director's cut was seen: 20 minutes were edited from the film's general release, and 15 more from the 1971 reissue. This abbreviated version was all that was available for public exhibition until a massive 1989 restoration, at 216 minutes that returned several of Lean's favorite scenes while removing others with which he had never been satisfied. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi


Peter O'Toole
as T.E. Lawrence
Alec Guinness
as Prince Feisal
Omar Sharif
as Sherif Ali Ibn el Karish
Anthony Quinn
as Auda abu Tayi
Jack Hawkins
as Gen. Allenby
José Ferrer
as Turkish Bey
Anthony Quayle
as Col. Brighton
Claude Rains
as Mr. Dryden
Arthur Kennedy
as Jackson Bentley
Donald Wolfit
as Gen. Murray
Michel Ray
as Farraj
Howard Marion-Crawford
as Medical Officer
Jack Gwillim
as Club Secretary
Harry Fowler
as Cpl. Potter
Jack Hedley
as Reporter
Hugh Miller
as RAMC Colonel
Kenneth Fortescue
as Allenby's Aide
Stuart Saunders
as Regimental Sergeant Major
Fernando Sancho
as Turkish Sergeant
Henry Oscar
as Reciter
Norman Rossington
as Corporal Jenkins
John Ruddock
as Elder Harith
M. Cher Kaoui
as Khitan of Aleppo
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Critic Reviews for Lawrence of Arabia

All Critics (84) | Top Critics (22) | Fresh (82) | Rotten (2)

  • No special effects are front and center here, simply the way a master creator of images pulls us into a dramatic story of great psychological complexity.

    Aug 28, 2019 | Full Review…
  • Lean and photographer Fred A. Young have combined their artistic talents in an evocation of the Arabian desert that makes it both terrifying and deeply moving in its lonely grandeur.

    Feb 16, 2016 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • It has an epic hero whom it doesn't hero-worship...[O'Toole] brings flawlessly to life the film's vision of a flawed warrior who is corrupted by pride, soured by empty victories and betrayed finally by the jubilant jump of his heart every time he kills.

    Feb 16, 2016 | Full Review…
  • Of all miracles readily apparent on screen, perhaps the greatest is that the film even got made in the first place.

    Feb 26, 2014
  • This is a movie with the excitement of a cavalry charge.

    Feb 24, 2013 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • You'll need to dedicate half a day to it - but this deserves to be seen again on the big screen.

    Nov 20, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Dave Calhoun

    Time Out
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Lawrence of Arabia

  • Aug 16, 2016
    A masterwork. The scene walking in the desert left me breathless. Highly recommended.
    Christian C Super Reviewer
  • May 30, 2016
    Classic film. As long as you can get past the insanely long run time (it's close to 4 hours I believe), you'll really enjoy this movie.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Mar 17, 2014
    A splendorous epic restored to near perfection, running now for almost four hours of magnificent visuals and fantastic dialogue, and it offers us both O'Toole and Sharif in superb performances - especially the former as a complex, contradictory man in a journey from eccentric soldier to mad exhibitionist.
    Carlos M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 18, 2013
    The movie has you from the moment that you see the vistas of sand across the horizon. Lean is a master of the big film. While ordinarily I don't enjoy the "white man leads dark men" type of picture, O'Toole is magnificent enough to make you forget about such trivia.
    John B Super Reviewer

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