The Leopard

Critics Consensus

Lavish and wistful, The Leopard features epic battles, sumptuous costumes, and a ballroom waltz that competes for most beautiful sequence committed to film.



Total Count: 47


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,518
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Movie Info

Arguably Luchino Visconti's best film and certainly the most personal of his historical epics, The Leopard chronicles the fortunes of Prince Fabrizio Salina and his family during the unification of Italy in the 1860s. Based on the acclaimed novel by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, published posthumously in 1958 and subsequently translated into all European languages, the picture opens as Salina (Burt Lancaster) learns that Garibaldi's troops have embarked in Sicily. While the Prince sees the event as an obvious threat to his current social status, his opportunistic nephew Tancredi (Alain Delon) becomes an officer in Garibaldi's army and returns home a war hero. Tancredi starts courting the beautiful Angelica (Claudia Cardinale), a daughter of the town's newly appointed Mayor, Don Calogero Sedara (Paolo Stoppa). Though the Prince despises Don Calogero as an upstart who made a fortune on land speculation during the recent social upheaval, he reluctantly agrees to his nephew's marriage, understanding how much this alliance would mean for the impecunious Tancredi. Painfully realizing the aristocracy's obsolescence in the wake of the new class of bourgeoisie, the Prince later declines an offer from a governmental emissary to become a senator in the new Parliament in Turin. The closing section, an almost hour-long ball, is often cited as one of the most spectacular sequences in film history. Burt Lancaster is magnificent in the first of his patriarchal roles, and the rest of the cast, especially Delon and Cardinale, become almost perfect incarnations of the novel's characters. Filmed in glorious Techniscope and rich in period detail, the film is a remarkable cinematic achievement in all departments. The version that won the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival ran 205 minutes. Inexplicably, the picture was subsequently distributed by 20th Century Fox in a poorly dubbed, 165-min. English-language version, using inferior color process. The restored Italian-language version, supervised by cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno, appeared in 1990, though the longest print still ran only 187 minutes. ~ Yuri German, Rovi


Critic Reviews for The Leopard

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (18) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (1)

  • The film aches with regret over a crumbling empire, but its feelings are complicated by the wise prince, who recognizes his place on the wrong side of history.

    Dec 11, 2013 | Full Review…

    Scott Tobias

    AV Club
    Top Critic
  • A magnificent film, munificently outfitted and splendidly acted by a large cast dominated by Burt Lancaster's standout stint in the title role.

    Feb 23, 2012 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic
  • The film is a long, rich sigh at the end of the day, one that only Don Fabrizio can hear.

    Nov 24, 2011 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…

    Ty Burr

    Boston Globe
    Top Critic
  • Two-plus hours of engrossing machinations and opulent scenery point the way to the pièce de résistance: a 45-minute gala scene that the Almighty himself would approve as a luxuriant prelude to the Rapture.

    Dec 22, 2010 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Keith Uhlich

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • The film is one of the most sumptuous ever made in Europe.

    Sep 1, 2010 | Rating: 5/5
  • Is this the most beautiful film ever made?

    Feb 9, 2006 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Leopard

  • Apr 18, 2013
    Lancaster's unlikely appearance in this Italian film is memorable across the film's epic length.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 30, 2012
    Visconti remembers the good ole days (ala Gone With The Wind) of an stately affected upper class ruling the dirty lower classes with humble grace and dignity (only this story's set in Sicily, though at about at nearly the same time), and their fading demise ... whatever (I got no sympathy at all for sad rich folks mooning over the good ol'days, sorry). Sumptuously filmed and orchestrated, with loads of loving details and drenched in melancholy (like GWTW), its about the changing of the guard, and maybe that is sad. The cast is worthy if the subject isn't.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 10, 2012
    Man, this movie is some bull for not delivering on its promises, because I didn't see a single leopard in here. No, I didn't go into this film actually expecting to see leopards, or at least no more than I usually do when I see a film, because, as a big cat person, I always find it nice to see a kitty, something that I hear some movie called "Gummo" is filled with, so I look foward to seeing that whenever I get around to it. Joking ignorance over brutal cat killings in a film that no one saw aside, I do think it would be cool to see this film with leopard, and I don't mean that I want to see them happen across leopard, but that I want to see this film with leopards as the people. I can just see one of those majestic things going around with a top hat and a giant moustache, dancing with another leopard at the ball. Yeah, so if you can't tell, this joke isn't turning out as inspired as I thought it was going to. This film, on the other hand, is no stranger to inspiration, because if you can say nothing else about Italians, it's that they make great food, but next to that, next to that, you can say that they make great food, because they're food is so nice, you mention it twice, and, of course, finally, next to that, you can say that they really are pretty creepily similar to Jews in New York. Oh yeah, and they knew how to do some cool, unique stuff with films, though not at all to where they could drown out the flaws in their films, including this one. The film is a very dry and often talkative one, so it's to be expected that the film dulls down here and there. Really, the film surprisingly doesn't slow down all that much, even with all of its extensive mumbo-jumbo (That's the Italian word for "talk", right?), yet the film only goes so far before drying up, and the editing isn't really helping with that. I'm not sure how smoothly this film moves on its tighter American runtime, yet what I'm looking at is a three hour film that's not about to let you forget its length, dragging things out, not all that terribly, yet enough for the film to disengaging here and there, as the editing is so loose, allowing much excess material and repetition to set in. The film simply takes just too long to pick up, and when it does finally pick up, it never really takes off that far. The film has plenty a high point, yet can't transcend blandness in a lot of spots. However, make no mistakes, there are so plenty of high points, and just enough to ultimately triumph and make the film worthwhile. Sure, things stand to be tighter and more engrossing, yet it's not hard to stick with this film through and through, partially because it's difficult to look away. For its time, the film was incredibly well shot, and remains quite the piece of eye candy, even today. Giuseppe Rotunno's cinematography is lush and colorful, yet still with a degree of saturation that gives the film an elegant style that reflects the its classy themes and tones, and looks good while doing so. This can of course be said about the just as, if not more remarkable production designs that's glory goes enhanced by the cinematography, as if it could look better. The designs are elaborate, detailed and a joy to behold, with grand broadness to capture the stellar scope of the era, as well as both the fortunes and misfortunes within this time and environment. The film is a very well-produced, very elegant art piece, and that fine style, alone, make it engaging, even with all of the dryness, though it certainly helps that most of the intrigue within the film is, well, generally intriguing, if not simply compelling, and for that, credit not only goes out to director Luchino Visconti and his team of screenwriters, but also his colorful cast of distinctive charismas, whose appeal goes augmented by very human moments. Burt Lancaster, in particularly, really stands out, nailing the Prince Don Fabrizio Salina character's stern presence of charming prestige, yet occasionally throws in touches of humanity through subtle, yet poignant, if not quietly intense and deeply emotional vulnerability that makes his performance among the most compelling aspects of the film. The film is not without its faults, running too long of a line, and doing so very limply, yet it ultimately delivers upon reaching its destination in style, making it well worth the sit. In the end, the looseness in editing and story, as well as repetition exacerbates the sting of dryness that leaves the film to all too often dull down, occasionally to the point of being simply disengaging, yet for every mistake the film makes, it wins you back, whether it be through its phenomenal art direction or its fine cast of talents - from which Burt Lancaster particularly stands out -, both of which serve to supplement the generally compelling and consistently elegant story structure and telling that helps in making Luchino Visconti's "The Leopard" a mostly intriguing, always handsome and ultimately rewarding watch. 3/5 - Good
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Feb 01, 2012
    Luchino Visconti's The Leopard is just as fantastic as I've always heard it was. I picked up the Criterion Blu-ray of this a while back and I'm just now getting around to watching it. An absolutely lush film with big open landscapes and vistas as the backdrop to a story about the old generation succumbing to the new. I've only seen the Italian version of this (more or less the director's cut), and the one thing I really missed was Burt Lancaster's voice. It grabs hold of you when he speaks and you want to hear everything that he has to say, so judging his performance via an overdub was a little bit tricky. It's fabulous, of course, as is the rest of the cast's. The film is also a bit of an art film without a clear-cut story. The visuals are vastly more important than the story, I think, but the performances are so good that it doesn't matter. Everything about it is striking. Most will complain about having to read subtitles or sitting through its leisurely three hour running time, but if you can invest yourself in it, you'll find The Leopard to be a very beautifully melancholy work.
    Tim S Super Reviewer

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