Terror at the Opera (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

Terror at the Opera (1987)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

The polar-opposite worlds of opera and horror collide in this gory giallo film from director Dario Argento. Christina Marsillach (Tom Hanks' romantic interest in Every Time We Say Goodbye) stars as Betty, a beautiful understudy who gets an unlikely break to play the female lead in a contemporary opera of Verdi's +Macbeth. Her fear of Macbeth's notorious curse proves to have foundation when a psychopath with a strange connection to Betty murders a stage hand in the midst of her debut and later kills several ravens being used in the opera. Characters introduced at this point who could be the killer include: the show's director, Marco (Ian Charleson); Betty's publicist, Mira (Daria Nicolodi); and the police inspector, Alan Santini (Urbano Barberini). The middle third of the film is devoted to the killer's bloody work which serves to torment Betty. The madman binds her and tapes a row of tiny needles beneath her eyes so that she is forced to watch him butcher a young stage manager and a costume designer, among others. With the police investigation going nowhere and the killer zeroing in on Betty's death, Marco decides to enact his own plan to stop the madman; he releases the ravens (apparently, they always remember their enemies) during a performance. The birds circle wildly before attacking the killer and plucking one of his eyeballs out. He absconds with Betty, but dies in a fire after revealing his demented motivation and his connection to the young singer. A final scene set in the Swiss mountains provides a couple of final shocks.

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Urbano Barberini
as Inspector Alan Santini
Barbara Cupisti
as Signora Albertini
Peter Pitsch
as Diva's Assistant
Michele Soavi
as Inspector Daniele Soavi
Bjorn Hammer
as Cop No.1
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for Terror at the Opera

All Critics (15)

The color restoration is beautiful and Bluray shows off the color splendidly on home video. The singing is beautiful also. It is a pity the story was not more engaging.

January 15, 2018 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review…

Storytelling isn't much of a concern for Argento (it rarely is), but his gonzo interests remain flared up, enjoying one last romp armed with a reasonable budget and creative freedom, clearly relishing his time experimenting with operatic extremes.

January 15, 2018 | Rating: B | Full Review…

Movies like Opera can be treasures for minds inclined to dip further into the shadows. They are reminders that terror begins with uncertainty, not with howls of obvious pain.

October 26, 2016 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Italian horror master Dario Argento may have the most lopsided strengths and weaknesses of any director I've experienced.

September 26, 2009 | Rating: 61/100 | Full Review…

An art film through and through, though it be an art film with an unusual number of bloody deaths... one of Argento's most memorable films.

June 29, 2009 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

Argento's masterful use of colors and music keep help to keep the film feeling fresh.

May 26, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Terror at the Opera

Released in 1987, Dario Argento's giallo thriller 'Terror at the Opera' perfectly blends the grandeur of the opera with his unmistakable brand of violence. Cristina Marsillach plays Betty, the beautiful understudy of a soprano who finds herself centre stage when the show's star is in an accident. With her newfound fame comes a cost, however, and Betty soon becomes entangled with a murderous stalker who forces her to watch him kill. 'Terror at the Opera' feels Shakespearian in essence, with ideas about love, obsession, and violence fuelling Argento's vision and immersing viewers in a world of tragedy and death. As well as this the film is very successful in building tension, utilising silence and unconventional camera-angles to great effect and keeping audience members on their toes, waiting for the patented violent Argento outbursts. When the violence comes its brutal and gripping, blood fills the screen and much like the film's protagonist, you'll find yourself unable to look away. The soundtrack is used perfectly and the mix of Opera, heavy metal, and 80s progressive rock perfectly suits the film's unpredictable nature. Despite everything it has going however for it the film feels overlong in its final 2 scenes, becoming somewhat ridiculous and taking away from the experience that preceded them. Verdict: an effective study of audience complicity and voyeurism, Terror at the Opera, despite being great, fails to live up to the high of Argento's earlier work 'Suspiria'.

Cameron Sherwell
Cameron Sherwell

Super Reviewer


If you're OK with the outlandish work of Italy's premier horror director-able to accept his outrageous story lines and flamboyant style-then you should have a great time with Opera. If you don't, then you won't. Cristina Marsillach plays Betty, a beautiful young opera understudy who is given a shot at fame (in an avant-garde production of Macbeth) when the star of the show is hit by a car. As any thesp who has 'trod the boards' will know, Macbeth is a production that carries a curse-and Betty soon discovers that the show in which she is now the star is no exception: a killer is systematically offing the staff at the theatre-and poor Betty is forced to watch by the sadistic murderer (who tapes needles under her eyes to prevent her from closing them!). With the help of a little girl who crawls through her air-conditioning ducts, her director and agent, and a few ravens who have seen the murderer's face (!!!), Betty discovers the killer's identity, and the truth about her mysterious past. Let's face it... Opera is one crazy film, with its preposterous plot-turns, convoluted death scenes, and an ending that beggars belief. And whilst director Dario Argento has never been one for, shall we say, conventional story lines, this particular giallo is so daft, and features so many of his trademark stylish touches (all ramped up to the max), that it's almost as if, with each successive film, he is seeing what he can get away with (at times almost parodying his earlier work). This is exactly why I find the film such fun!!! Argento's camera movements are absolutely incredible: gliding, creeping and, in one amazing scene, even swooping around the opera house above the audience; the power of Verdi's music is combined perfectly with the synth majesty of Claudio Simonetti's score, providing a suitably grandiose accompaniment to the sumptuous visuals; and several outstanding set-pieces (featuring Sergio Stivaletti's nauseating gore FX) go to prove that no-one does death better than Argento (check out one character's stunning demise, in which a bullet passes through a spy-hole in a door in slow motion, and straight into their eye!).

Cassandra Maples
Cassandra Maples

Super Reviewer


I really couldn't decide whether or not I liked this movie. I mostly liked it: Argento's style is evident, there are a lot of great special effects, and cool music. The story starts out interesting, but then there are a bunch of crazy plot twists, most are confusing too. Overall, it could have been better.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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