Legends of the Fall

Critics Consensus

Featuring a swoon-worthy star turn by Brad Pitt, Legends of the Fall's painterly photography and epic sweep often compensate for its lack of narrative momentum and glut of melodramatic twists.



Total Count: 56


Audience Score

User Ratings: 184,168
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Movie Info

The sweeping, melodramatic saga of three brothers, their powerful father, and a beautiful woman, the popular period drama Legends of the Fall presents a romanticized view of rugged masculinity against lush Montana scenery. Based on a novel by Jim Harrison, the film covers decades in the lives of Alfred (Aidan Quinn), Tristan (Brad Pitt), and Samuel (Henry Thomas) Ludlow, the sons of retired military man William Ludlow (Anthony Hopkins). Raised by the unorthodox Ludlow after the departure of their mother, the boys grow up close, sharing an appreciation of the land and a pioneering spirit. The family becomes divided, however, when young Sam enlists in World War I over his father's objections, and his brothers follow suit to protect him. Despite these efforts, Sam dies in battle, leaving Alfred and Tristan to return home and deal with the lingering torment. Further complicating matters is the presence of Sam's beautiful fiancée, Susannah (Julia Ormond). After Sam's death, she attracts the romantic attention of both the responsible Alfred and the brooding Tristan, a conflict that threatens to drive the brothers apart. Aspiring to epic status, the film utilizes period detail and attractive landscapes as a backdrop for tragic, doomed romance. While some critics complained that the film resembled a romance novel writ, veering at times into the overwrought, audiences embraced the combination of emotion and grand historical scale, making the film a box-office success. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi


Brad Pitt
as Tristan Ludlow
Anthony Hopkins
as Col. William Ludlow
Aidan Quinn
as Alfred Ludlow
Julia Ormond
as Susannah Finncannon
Henry Thomas
as Samuel Ludlow
Karina Lombard
as Isabel Two
Robert Wisden
as John T. O'Banion
John Novak
as James O'Banion
Kenneth Welsh
as Sheriff Tynert
Bill Dow
as Longley
Sam Sarkar
as Rodriguez
Keegan MacIntosh
as Boy Tristan
Eric Johnson
as Teen Tristan
Randall Slavin
as Teen Alfred
Doug Hughes
as Teen Samuel
Sekwan Auger
as Young Isabel Two
David A. Kaye
as Samuel Decker
David Kaye
as Samuel Decker
Christine Harder
as Isabel Three
Charles Andre
as Federal Officer
Bart the Bear
as the bear
Aaron Goettel
as Corporal's Friend
Bill Croft
as Bartender
Ray Godshall Jr.
as Businessman
Marc Levy
as Butler
Ken Kirzinger
as O'Banion Thug
Winnie Hung
as Chinese Woman
Rob Hrdlicka
as Canadian Soldier
Channing Knull
as Canadian Soldier
John D. Cameron
as Proprietor
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Critic Reviews for Legends of the Fall

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (19) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (24)

Audience Reviews for Legends of the Fall

  • Jun 11, 2016
    An old film that I have only just got around to seeing. Well acted, especially from Brad Pitt and Anthony Hopkins and, whilst the plot is not quite as sweeping and epic as some of the camerawork or superb soundtrack, I can see why it received such acclaim.
    Ian W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 17, 2015
    Melodramatic and overwrought. Even the (nice) score was sometimes not proper for the film in some places. I found it sometimes quite amusing for probably not-intended reasons. With that said, it keeps itself going along at a nice pace and the cinematography is spectacular. Some parts work better than others, but it never truly descends into cringe. Between 3 and 3.5. Sort of occupies the same territory as Coppola's 'Dracula' but is a bit better than that film. As with that film, it looks great, and this film has such a tremendous eye that I bump it to 3.5.
    Kyle M Super Reviewer
  • Dec 02, 2011
    Legends of the Fall is a decent romantic western that I found enjoyable but at times very cheesy. The plot of the film concerns three brothers all in love with the same woman, and I can honestly say I was interested what was going on in the film, the characters are greatly detailed and I liked them all, but I could not ignore the fact that many huge parts of the story were unrealistic and to cheesy for my taste, but still a pretty good plot. The cast is pretty good I think. Brad Pitt was not in many films back then and this is one of the few films that made him grow to be a huge movie star. Anthony Hopkins is always incredible and he did great as the father of the three brothers. The score of the film was truly incredible, it makes this film very upliftIng and without the music this would have been a very sad movie. The cinematography won an Oscar, and boy did it deserve it, every scene was great and it was mostly due to great camera work. Legends of the Fall is a movie by Edward Zwick who I respect as a director, and although this was not his best work it was definently a good movie that could have been much less cheesy.
    Bradley W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 19, 2011
    Edward Zwick had his fun in the Civil War with "Glory", but now he's heading to WWI, and if you thought that there was too little actual military combat in "Glory", well, folks, let me tell you that, well, this film is about WWI for, like, less 30 minutes or something, and then it's just about a bunch of family problems. Sorry to go this quote, but I love it so much that I just have to say, "It was 'Legend-wait for it-s of the Fall; it was okay." Well, Mr. Barney Stinson, I reckon you're on the money, as this film is not much more than alright on the whole, which I suppose is a definitive opinion, seeing as how the reception of this film is split, probably because people had a real beef with Kevin Costner in the 1990s, and this film is such a 1990s pseudo-epic about nature, humanity, history and what have you that it's near-impossible to believe that Costner didn't show up. Looking at the critics' bias, Costner could have ruined this film, but as much as people praise, of all things, the casting, I feel that this cast is just awkward without Costner, and with Van Helsing playing the father of a vampire. This film came out a little too soon after Francis Coppola's "Dracula" and way too soon (A month; no joke) after "Interview with the Vampire" for you to not get weirded out by Anthony Hopkins and Brad Pitt playing father and son, and that's just from looking at this film in 1994, long before the release of "The Curious Case of Benjamin Button". I don't know if I'm more disturbed by Brad Pitt and Julia Ormond playing lovers, then going on to play father and daughter, or simply by Brad Pitt's hair, because in the 1990s, the only thing longer and more questionable than a Brad Pitt hairstyle was, well, an epic by or featuring Kevin Costner. Forget you, retrospect, I still loved "Dances with Wolves", but don't get too excited, other three guys who still love "Dances with Wolves" after all these years, this film is hardly close to that level, let alone legen-wait for it-dary, and not just because of Pitt having being intimate with his future daughter and apparently not a barber. With all my joking about how this film is such a 1990s epic, it is near-hopelessly conventional in its feel and subject matter, both of which were done to death around this time, and would be less unnerving as genericisms if the typical formula for films of this type and time didn't call for sentimentality. Well, sure enough, the film hits subtlety issues to the occasional graphic attention to violence and other disturbances, but especially gets carried away with the melodramatics, hitting one questionable plotting beat after another, that, when backed by one sentimental tonal beat after another, while handled with enough genuineness to compel through the heavy-handedness pretty often, is generally, not simply corny, but near-cloying. Again, the sentimentality is endearing on the whole, but whether it be because the most overt moments of melodrama are really over-the-top, or because the melodrama is so prominent throughout the final product, it ends up being a huge issue, not unlike aspects beyond tone which go overblown. Mind you, briefness, rather than bloating, is also a pretty considerable problem in this heavily layered epic which runs a relatively near-mere length of just over 130 minutes, tightened to through the occasional glaring undercooking of motivation to important elements in plotting, but bloating is still a pretty big issue, not so much because Susan Shilliday's and William D. Wittliff's script is overwrought with repetition and whatnot to filler, if not material, but because there's simply too much going on in this film. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for a meaty epic, but there are oh so many layers and subplots, and with only so many characters, to a story concept that I'd imagine worked pretty compellingly in Jim Harrison's novella, but is all but exhausting in this interpretation whose uneven pacing beget jars between the many branches of this extensively layered, or rather, uneven focus, which only grows greater and greater as the plot grows thicker and thicker. After a while, the film loses a sense of progression, as surely as it gradually loses a comfortable grip on the uniqueness, sentimentality and pacing, ironically all in the name of an ambition that is most overblown in this messy epic, and betrays genuine inspiration enough to not simply do something of an injustice to a greatly promising dramatic storyline, but drive this film so far shy of its potential that it reaches underwhelmingness. With that said, the film comes close enough to rewarding, at the very least, to endear time and again, through all of the grimy overambition, particularly with an artistry that is itself touched by some overambition. By saying that certain artistic attributes go touched by overambition, I mean that James Horner's score has an overt heart that plays a sizable role in crafting the sentimentality which shakes much of the effectiveness of this drama, and isn't even unique, following the traditional James Horner formula that is, of course, still mighty worthy, with a haunting tastefulness and remarkable sweep which are primarily effective in sustaining entertainment value, if not genuine emotional resonance, while reinforcing a sense of grandness. Horner does his ultimately considerable part in building the atmosphere of an epic, but more direct contributors to a sense of scope are, of course, art directors Andrew Precht and Rick Roberts, whose fine tastes in grand locations and subtly immersive production values go complimented by a cinematographic performance by John Toll that may not keep consistent in its beauty, but has highlights that are truly captivating in their plays on dreamy lighting. Musically and visually grand, this film's stylistic value, while also formulaic, is about as immense as any admirable quality of this epic, which sees more inspiration than the ambition that plagues the execution of this epic, even though it, quite frankly, is perfectly understandable. No matter how conventional, melodramatic and overblown, this epic's story concept is very worthy, maybe even remarkable, painting a grand portrait on love and environmental and atmospheric evolution throughout the early and mid 1990s that is messily executed to the point of being relatively disappointing, but whose value cannot be easily overshadowed by misguidedness, let alone an ambition to do justice to this subject matter. Once such ambition is realized into inspiration, Edward Zwick's directorial performance shines a light on what could have been for this epic of sizable potential, keeping consistent in a certain degree of entertainment value, until reaching near-soaring dramatic heights, particularly within a final act that is pretty solid and reflective of a stronger film. What helps in getting you to that point is, of course, the performances, or at least most of them, as Aidan Quinn falls mediocrely flat, with pretty disconcerting, if not near-embarrassing lowlight, yet isn't devastating to this character drama, despite his being a major cast member, as all the other leads deliver, with Anthony Hopkins nailing the pride and anguish of a worrying father who eventually comes to face his own medical mishaps, and Julia Ormond capturing the sense of emotional confusion within the fruits of a feud between brothers, while leading man Brad Pitt delivers a trademark charisma and dramatic range which sells the pride, love and instability which define the Tristan Ludlow character as a passionate, but flawed man of nature who is challenged with more than he can handle by society and family conflicts. Most everyone plays his or her part as he or she usually does, but more often than not, they do so well enough to joining outstanding style in driving this epic, which ultimately falls short on substance, and suffers great consequences because of it, but entertains and compels adequately, even though it could have soared higher. When the fall has passed, conventions, subtlety issues, uneven pacing and uneven focus to the telling of an overblown narrative send a promising drama crashing into underwhelmingness, from which James Horner's sweeping score, Andrew Precht's and Rick Roberts' lovely art direction, John Toll's solid cinematography, Edward Zwick's moving directorial highlights, and generally strong performances - particularly from Anthony Hopkins, Julia Ormond and Brad Pitt - carry "Legends of the Fall" far enough to craft an endearing, if improvable epic. 2.75/5 - Decent
    Cameron J Super Reviewer

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