The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Based on the novel by Muriel Spark, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie stars Maggie Smith in the title role. Smith won an Academy Award for her delicately textured portrayal of an eccentric teacher at an exclusive Scottish girl's school. Miss Jean exhorts her "gels" to follow their hearts and never lose their youthful idealism. Unfortunately for her, she also stumps for her favorite political figures: Mussolini and Franco. In addition, she can't keep the innermost details of her private life a secret, and in fact boasts about her sex life to her students. Her prize pupil (Pamela Franklin) becomes so much a clone of Miss Jean that she ends up a threat to the teacher. Ultimately, Miss Jean loses her position, but not the hearts of her students. The box-office success of Prime of Miss Jean Brodie was due in great part to the popularity of the title song, as recorded by Rod McKuen.
Classics , Comedy , Drama , Romance
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
20th Century Fox Film Corporation


Maggie Smith
as Jean Brodie
Robert Stephens
as Teddy Lloyd
Celia Johnson
as Miss MacKay
Gordon Jackson
as Gordon Lowther
Jane Carr
as Mary McGregor
Lavinia Lang
as Emily Carstairs
Antoinette Biggerstaff
as Helen McPhee
Margo Cunningham
as Miss Campbell
Isla Cameron
as Miss McKenzie
Rona Anderson
as Miss Lockhart
Ann Way
as Miss Gaunt
Molly Weir
as Miss Alison Kerr
Helena Gloag
as Miss Kerr
John Dunbar
as Mr. Burrage
Kristin Hatfield
as Schoolgirl
Hilary Berlin
as Schoolgirl
Jennifer Irvine
as Schoolgirl
Gillian Evans
as Schoolgirl
Janette Sattler
as Schoolgirl
Diane Robillard
as Schoolgirl
Helen Wigglesworth
as Schoolgirl
Antonia Moss
as Schoolgirl
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Critic Reviews for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

All Critics (16) | Top Critics (3)

Maggie Smith's tour-de-force performance as a school-teacher slipping into spinsterhood is one of several notable achievements in this sentimental and macabre personal tragedy.

Full Review… | June 11, 2008
Top Critic

Maggie Smith is handed a part in the eccentric, trite, purposeful and finally pathetic Jean Brodie which allows her to play to all her considerable strengths.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Maggie Smith in one of those technically stunning, emotionally distant performances that the British are so damn good at.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

As is so often the case, you can't help thinking that Oscar voters are easily impressed. Watching the film today, Maggie Smith's flamboyant acting looks awfully hammy,

Full Review… | March 9, 2011
Movie Talk

Maggie Smith deservedly won the 1969 Best Actress Oscar for playing a charismatic, authoritarian teacher in a Scottish girls school in the early 1930s.

Full Review… | January 1, 2011

...stripped of [star Maggie Smith's] presence, there's no doubt that the film would be a complete bore.

Full Review… | July 21, 2004
Reel Film Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie

I hope Maggie Smith isn't crestfallen to have me say "wow, I didn't realize she WAS so beautiful," but she was definitely a beauty in this movie. Not that she isn't now, but there are no qualifiers on the younger her. Her acting and sheer presence carried the movie which was rather ruderless--although I guess we were waiting to see when she would get the az and I loved hearing everyone's Scottish brogues....mai leetle gels. Indeed!

Bathsheba Monk
Bathsheba Monk

Super Reviewer

A tyrannical but occasionally charming teacher indoctrinates her students at a boarding school. This is a profoundly interesting film. The educator initially appears to be of the "nurturing love" variety, but as we get to know Jean Brodie, we realize that her support of Mussolini and Franco isn't just the absent mutterings of a naive teacher but the cornerstone of her pedagogy. As my colleague explained, after we watch films like Dead Poets Society we think, "If only those stuffy administrators would leave geniuses alone to genius-ify their students ..." But after we watch films like The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, we think, "For God's sake, don't leave teachers alone with students." Maggie Smith's almost irresistible charm makes our introduction to Brodie smooth, but her phenomenal characterization make Brodie more interesting, more tragic, and more frightening as we get to know her. If ever there was a performance that deserved an Oscar, this is it. The supporting performance by Pamela Franklin as Brodie's one disloyal charge is also excellent, but the supporting work by the male actors leaves something to be desired as they are often stale cliches. Overall, this is a must-see in the genre of educator films, and Maggie Smith makes it quite an enjoyable time.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


It's been many years since I've seen this movie starring Dame Maggie Smith, who won an Oscar for Best Actress in the titular role. I'm reminded once again of how powerful an acting force she is, how amazingly all encompassing and robust she is in delivery, in expression, in gesture. A consummate acting professional is every sense.

If you only know Smith from her more recent supporting work in the Harry Potter series, you must seek out some of her earlier work to understand just how stunning a screen presence she is.

Here, as the aging, unwed teacher, shaping her students according to her passionately insular mindset, Smith is staggering in her determined, although blinded, pursuit of "true" education. When her high-minded yet sadly naive and idiosyncratic curricular bent leads to a student's unfortunate death, she must face the truth of her shortcomings in a world far more dangerous than she could ever bring herself to realize. Offbeat and perhaps harmful though her life lessons may be, you cannot help but admire Miss Brodie's iron-willed dedication to teaching them, her absolute conviction of the necessity of peculiarly shaping young, susceptible minds, hearts, and spirits.

Maggie Smith is a living treasure who must be cherished for every appearance she makes on screen.

Lanning : )
Lanning : )

Super Reviewer

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