Orlando (1992)



Critic Consensus: Orlando can't match its visual delights with equally hefty narrative -- but it's so much fun to watch that it doesn't need to.

Movie Info

Independent filmmaker Sally Potter's gender-bending epic, which views four centuries of sexual politics through the eyes of a sex-switching main character, is based on the 1928 novel by Virginia Woolf. The androgynous title character is played with delicate quietude by Tilda Swinton. The story begins during the reign of the aging Queen Elizabeth I (Quentin Crisp, in a droll turn recalling his The Naked Civil Servant). Queen Elizabeth takes a shine to the attractive young Orlando and seeks out … More

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama, Romance, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By:
Written By: Sally Potter
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 3, 1999
Box Office: $57.3k
Sony Pictures Classics


as Shelmerdine

as The Kahn

as Archduke Harry

as Nick/Publisher

as Queen Elizabeth I

as William of Orange

as Mr. Addison

as Falsetto >Angel

as King James I

as Earl of Moray

as Orlando's Mother

as Translator

as Orlando's Father

as 1st Older Woman

as Courtier

as First Butler

as Queen Mary

as 3rd Valet

as 1st Official

as Mr. Swift

as Harpsichordist

as Euphrosyne

as 2nd Older Woman

as 2nd Valet

as Young French Woman

as Young French Man

as Courtier

as 1st Older Woman

as Russian Sailor
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Orlando

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (16)

The good news about this historical vaudeville is that Orlando's consciousness, like his/her gender, is a delightful work-in-progress.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

What it lacks in coherence it makes up for in sheer spectacle.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

Though visually impressive and assured, it is the hollowest of successes, all chic set design, smug posturing and self-satisfied attitude.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

Reminiscent of the low-budget lushness of the early films of Peter Greenaway and Ken Russell, Orlando could turn out to be the art-house smash of the summer.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Seattle Times
Top Critic

Potter possesses a natural gracefulness in presentation that helps a little but, finally, not nearly enough. Orlando is vague when she means it to be mysterious, coy when it ought to be witty, familiar when it should be bold.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

See Orlando for its fabulous costumes, fascinating look at changing eras, and impressive performance by Tilda Swinton. Viewing this film for other reasons will almost certainly lead to a negative impression.

Full Review… | March 23, 2015
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Orlando


Simply put one of the best movies I have ever seen. The cast is amazing and deliver in their performances, the stunning visuals and beautiful music combine to create a dreamy atmosphere through which S. Potter uses Orlando as a medium to make subtle and elegant commentaries about life, the human condition and the struggle of the sexes to understand each other when they are basically two aspects of the same coin. As opposed to some of the other reviewers here I did not find the movie slow or boring at any time. Nor is it just about Orlando; there are multiple layers. It flows simply and quietly but with great intensity and an underlying irony at every moment. This film must be Potter's masterpiece.

Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer


A young nobleman in the seventeenth century makes a promise to his Queen to never grow old, living on through to the twentieth after undergoing the transformation to womanhood. Based on a story by Virginian Woolf, Orlando is an ambitious attempt to portray gender issues spanning the centuries. Tilda Swinton shares the limelight with some wonderful costumes and locations, appearing just at home in doublet and hoes as a corset and bustle and her central performance is arresting. It's a pity that the rest of the cast don't really get a look in, as the story is represented as a series of all-too-short vignettes where some initially intriguing supporting characters appear briefly but are gone again before there is any chance to explore them or relationship with Orlando. This is a real shame because some of the scenes, especially concerning her receiving the kind of attitudes that she was herself guilty of having when she was a man, had real potential. This is doubly true of Zane's character who is the other side of the coin of Orlando's transformation. It is sometimes guilty of being too "arty" for its own good, the gimmicky casting of Quentin Crisp as Elizabeth I (although it could be argued that he is the perfect choice to play an old queen...) and the appearance of Jimmy Somerville as a golden angel overstep the boundary to campness. It's certainly an interesting and beautifully realised film visually, but Benjamin Button did something similar with a lot more heart.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


A true forgotten classic. Watching Orlando is heartbreaking because you know they're never going to make another film as bizarre or beautiful as this ever again. Modern Hollywood just wouldn't allow something involving an androgynous immortal, inexplicable gender changes, the breaking of the fourth wall, and a bizarrely evangelical ending to be distributed, let alone created for 5 million dollars.

This is art. It doesn't always make sense, but trying to parse it and giving it personal meaning makes the experience completely worthwhile. Kudos to Sally Potter for creating such an uncompromising adaptation of a Virginia Woolf novel. Kudos to Tilda Swinton, who I fall more in love with every day and who has one of the most exciting and diverse filmographies of any living performer today. Kudos to all involved with this striking, unique, powerful innovation.

Drew Smith

Super Reviewer

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