Critics Consensus

It has aged somewhat awkwardly, but the performances are inspired, the songs are memorable, and the film is undeniably influential.



Total Count: 33


Audience Score

User Ratings: 56,061
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Oliver! Photos

Movie Info

Inspired by Charles Dickens' novel Oliver Twist, this film version of the musical hit does a masterful job of telling its story almost exclusively through song and dance. Once 9-year-old orphan Oliver Twist falls in with such underworld types as pickpocket Fagin, it becomes necessary to inject more "straight" dialogue.

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Ron Moody
as Fagin
Jack Wild
as Dodger
Hugh Griffith
as Magistrate
Leonard Rossiter
as Sowerberry
Peggy Mount
as Widow Corney
Hylda Baker
as Mrs. Sowerberry
Kenneth Cranham
as Noah Claypole
Megs Jenkins
as Mrs. Bedwin
Wensley Pithey
as Dr. Grimwig
James Hayter
as Mr. Jessop
Fred Emney
as Chairman of Workhouse Governors
Edwin Finn
as Workhouse Pauper
Foy Evans
as Workhouse Pauper
Norman Mitchell
as Arresting Policeman
Robert Bartlett
as Fagin's Boy
Graham Buttrose
as Fagin's Boy
Jeffrey Chandler
as Fagin's Boy
Kirk Clugeston
as Fagin's Boy
Dempsey Cook
as Fagin's Boy
Christopher Duff
as Fagin's Boy
Nigel Grice
as Fagin's Boy
Ronnie Johnson
as Fagin's Boy
Nigel Kingsley
as Fagin's Boy
Robert Langley
as Fagin's Boy
Brian Lloyd
as Fagin's Boy
Peter Lock
as Fagin's Boy
Ian Ramsey
as Fagin's Boy
Peter Renn
as Fagin's Boy
Bill Smith
as Fagin's Boy
Kim Smith
as Fagin's Boy
Freddie Stead
as Fagin's Boy
Raymond Ward
as Fagin's Boy
John Watters
as Fagin's Boy
Clive Moss
as Charlie Bates
Veronica Page
as Oliver's Mother
Henry Kay
as Doctor
Jane Peach
as Rose the Maid
Keith Roberts
as Policeman in Magistrate's Court
Peter Hoar
as Court Clerk
John Baskcomb
as Workhouse Governor
Norman Pitt
as Workhouse Governor
Arnold Locke
as Workhouse Governor
Frank Crawshaw
as Workhouse Governor
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News & Interviews for Oliver!

Critic Reviews for Oliver!

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (8)

  • [A] picture that will as firmly imprint itself on the imagination of the young as did some scenes in Snow White more than a generation ago.

    Sep 25, 2018 | Full Review…

    Ian Wright

    Top Critic
  • Oliver! is a timeless classic that will be as lovable in 10 or 20 years as it is today.

    Feb 27, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • The focus of the movie is so wide, and the logistics of the production so heavy, that Oliver himself, dutifully played by 9-year-old Mark Lester, gets flattened out and almost lost, as if he had been run over by a studio bulldozer.

    Feb 24, 2014 | Full Review…
  • There's plenty of mileage left in the famous story.

    Feb 19, 2008 | Full Review…

    Rich Gold

    Top Critic
  • After a season of watching inane twitching in the name of dance, the viewer is most happily greeted by Onna White's choreography, an exuberant step-by-step exploration of Victorian zeal.

    Feb 19, 2008 | Full Review…
  • In retrospect, it seems emblematic of the triviality Reed descended to in the last years of his career. The Third Man it's not.

    Dec 13, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Oliver!

  • Aug 24, 2014
    Carol Reed, a master of noir, takes on "Oliver Twist", so, naturally, this is going to be intense and bleakly colorless. Oh, dude, a noir musical would be awesome, with moody jazz numbers and whatnot (Oh yeah, that sounds really exciting), but no, for the guy who did "The Third Man", the closest thing you get to that is a starring role for Ron [u]Moody[/u]. I'd sarcastically say that nothing says, "perky musical", quite like childhood poverty and starvation, but this film came out only three years after "The Sound of Music", so the idea of turning the rise of Nazism into a musical was still fresh in people's minds, I reckon because the premiere of that film was about halfway through when this film came out. Well, this film is at least shorter than "The Sound of Music", but in case you were asking for "more" "Oliver Twist", first off, shut up if you're actually pulling those puns, and secondly, this might be a little too much. It's at least a meatier and, of course, shorter musical take on Cockney misfortune than "My Fair Lady", so of course it was a shoe in for the Academy Award for Best Picture. Man, the Oscars were big on musicals back in the '50s and '60s, but, alas, until 2002's "Chicago", this was the last musical to win Best Picture. It took them long enough, because I'd rather they never give Best Picture to another musical after "West Side Story", and I like "The Sound of Music", "My Fair Lady", "Chicago" and, of course, this film, which still manages to pick up some flaws along its lengthy and fairly palpable course. The film is highly reliant on lively musicality, perhaps too much so, and yet, when the film finally settles down to more traditional storytelling styles, you're faced with some serious tonal unevenness which, through contrast with the colorful musical numbers, makes worse a certain atmospheric dryness that blands things up through a thoughtfulness that isn't even especially subtle. I don't mind the subtlety error of this film consistently, for Charles Dickens' subject matter already does a tight job of juggling harsh realism with tasteful melodramatics, and it's not like you should expect all that much subtlety to a musical this flamboyant, but, whether it be because the color of the style and the grit of the subject matter all but cancel each other out, or whatever, there are times in which the contrivances are too hard to buy into, what with their thematic obviousness, dramatic thinness, and, of course, overblown filler fluff. With either wit or realization to the simplicity, the humor and other aspects of fluff - such as certain musical numbers - get a little too cheesy, particularly when placed outside of the context of extravagant musical numbers. Well, people, in that case, you can take relief in the excessiveness of the musical numbers, but even though they help in saving the film as rewarding by their anchoring so much of the generally outstanding entertainment value, and even though this film isn't as overblown with its reimagining classic literature with theatrical musicality as, say, "The Phantom of the Opera" or "Les Misérables", - both of which were a ways away from being brought to the musical theatre at this time, for the record - it relies too much on the numbers in its progression, and get too hung up on most individual numbers. A lot of the numbers go on and on, but they're not entirely the culprit behind this film's questionable length of over two-and-a-half hours, because, in general, this film is overlong, dragging its feet with its plotting and filler, and challenging your patience, with only so much dramatic edge to compensate. Sure, there is some weight, and that's enough to join all of the high-caliber entertainment value in securing reward value, but even when you take this film for what it is, as a fluffy take on weighty subject matter, your patience is tried by a problematic length, and either too much coldness or too much cheesiness. The film actually comes to the brink of falling into underwhelmingness, but in the end, the final product is very compelling, in its taste and heart, in addition, of course, to its aesthetic value. Plenty ambitious as both a flashy musical and a grand interpretation of Charles Dickens' legendary property, this film is at least rich with production value, with John Box's production designs and Phyllis Dalton's costume designs backing up art direction by cinematic musical visionary Terence Marsh which captures the underbelly of England so intricately and distinctly that it is fairly unconventionally handsome, at least before Oswald Morris' gorgeously and crisply dream cinematography. The visual style of the film is almost haunting in its glow and, for that matter, sweep, rivaled by the grandness of Johnny Green's Oscar-winning score, which, for all its familiarity, is delightfully dynamic and colorful, especially in the context of Lionel Bart's classic musical numbers, which tend to outstay their welcome, yet are always a delight, with catchy compositions and memorably snappy lyrics, enhanced from a visual standpoint by incredibly and creatively dynamic, intricate and all around flashy choreography by Onna White which help in making certain numbers simply awe-inspiringly stellar in their ambition (The "Who Will Buy?" number is truly amazing). Stylistically, the film is pretty outstanding as a glamorous interpretation of gritty subject matter, and such aesthetic value within the visual and musical aspects of the film are instrumental in establishing entertainment value which is itself instrumental in establishing a reward value that it also threatens, due to all of the excessiveness of the style which limits dramatic edge and depth, and will need to be made up for by tight scripting. Needless to say, Vernon Harris' script is far from airtight, as it carries excess beyond the musical numbers, and hits plenty of moments of cheese and histrionics, yet where a lesser writer would have allowed the final product to succumb to these shortcomings, what Harris does right is done very right, whether it be very amusing highlights in comic relief, or surprisingly organic fluidity to the layering of this potentially disjointed epic which doesn't even give all that much attention to Oliver Twist, and whose dynamicity and fair degree of depth are adequate enough to build a foundation for sweep that, even by itself, does a great justice to worthy subject matter. Through all of the flash and fluff of Bart's delightful vision as a man of musical theatre is a classic and dynamic story by Charles Dickens which, as I said, bonds edgy realism with tasteful melodramatics to craft a compelling, grand portrait on the struggles of a good-hearted lad growing up in poverty that is rich with a dramatic potential that can still be betrayed if the direction gets carries away with a stylish vision. Harris had done his part with an overblown, but inspired script, and now it's on director Carol Reed to secure this film's compellingness, and although he challenges one's investment through anything from cheesy subtlety issues to, of all things, slow spells, he never fails to draw colorful style from the technical department, or to draw plenty of charm in a cast which features such surprisingly very effective talents as the lovely Shani Wallis, the chilling Oliver Reed, or the solidly convincing Ron Moody, and when he finds realization in the more dramatic, or at least more tender moments of this film, he resonates, humanizing this overstylized affair and finalizing the final product's sound marriage of sweeping style and compelling substance. Again, the final product flirts with a certain flatness, as it's so often so overblown and sometimes rather misguided, but much more often than not, it's a huge deal of fun, augmented by heart which make this a rewarding epic of a musical drama. When there's no more left to give, the occasional slow spot still isn't recurrent enough to make up for glaring subtlety issues, many of which are accompanied by cheese, while overdrawn musical numbers mark heights in an excessiveness which encompasses all of the bloatings which threaten the final product's reward value, firmly fastened by the immersive art direction, beautiful cinematography, grand score work, marvelous musical numbers, and generally tastefully tight and dynamic writing and direction behind an obviously worthy story concept which make Carol Reed's adaptation of Lionel Bart's "Oliver!" a splendidly entertaining, thoroughly compelling and ultimately rewarding, refreshing take on Charles Dickens' "Oliver Twist". 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Jan 28, 2014
    Great as a child, Oliver gets on your nerves as an adult. The sickly sweet songs are used in all sorts of other contexts and you feel embarrassed for the buggers who have to sing them.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 17, 2012
    "Oliver!" certainly doesn't rank among the classics, but it's nevertheless an enjoyable, technically-accomplished musical that still holds together after all these years. There's a nice selection of songs and marvelous choreography to accompany them, and the camerawork brings back memories of another Carol Reed venture, "The Third Man." Of the film, I have few complaints. Mark Lester can't carry a tune to save his life and the film isn't interesting enough to be as long as it is, but it's well-made and well-acted, even if not totally memorable.
    Stephen E Super Reviewer
  • Aug 25, 2011
    This multi-Oscar winner is the film version of the satge musical adaptation of the classic novel Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens. As you might expect, it's a sumptuous well-done British affair filled with excellent sets and costumes, good music, and some decent performances. As for how it fares as an adaptation? Well, pretty decently. It's certainly entertaining, though I can't say I've ever really been all that into Oliver Twist (in any form). That makes my praise seem odd no doubt, but I'm the sort of person who can give praise to something when it is well done, even if it's really not my thing. The casting is good, as are the performances, but special credit must be given to Oliver Reed as Bill Sykes, a chilling performance that the Nostalgia Critic (Doug Walker) rightfully included on his list of the Top 11 Scariest Performances. He's a real creep, and Reed's take is wonderfully done. Shani Wallis's Nancy and Ron Moody's Fagin are pretty good too. Mark Lester is capable as the title character, but his voice (mostly singing) is a bit much for me. I know I can't fault him for not hitting puberty by the time this film was made, but damn. It's not distracting enough to take the movie down though. Carol Reed, the director behind the masterpiece that is The Third Man, does a really good job of bringing this musical to life on the big screen. There's nothign really cinematically showy going on, but it's solid and well played nonetheless. If you happen to like musicals or the source material, then yeah, give this one a go. Unlike almost all 1960s movie musicals, this one is at least under 3 hours.
    Chris W Super Reviewer

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