The Nun's Story (1959)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Nun's Story Videos

The Nun's Story Photos

Movie Info

Audrey Hepburn stars in The Nun's Story as Sister Luke, postulant of a Belgian order of nuns. Though frequently disillusioned in her efforts to spread good will -- at one point she is nearly killed by a mental patient (Colleen Dewhurst) -- Sister Luke perseveres. Sent as a nurse to the Belgian Congo, an assignment she'd been hoping for, Sister Luke is disappointed to learn that she will not be ministering to the natives but to European patients. Through the example of no-nonsense chief surgeon Peter Finch, the nun sheds her idealism and becomes a diligent worker -- so much so that she contracts tuberculosis. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Sister Luke tries to honor the edicts of her order and not take sides, but this becomes impossible when her father (Dean Jagger) is killed by the Nazis. Realizing that she cannot remain true to her vows, Sister Luke leaves the order and returns to "civilian" life. The Nun's Story ends with a long, silent sequence in which Sister Luke divests herself of her religious robes, dons street garb, and walks out to an uncertain future. There is no background music: director Fred Zinnemann decided that "triumphant" music would indicate that Sister Luke's decision was the right one, while "tragic" music would suggest that she is doing wrong. Rather than make an editorial comment, the director decided against music, allowing the audience members to fill in the blanks themselves. The Nun's Story is based on the book by Kathryn Hulme, whose depiction of convent life was a lot harsher and more judgmental than anything seen in the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi
Classics , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Home Video

Watch it now


Audrey Hepburn
as Gabrielle Van Der Mal
Peter Finch
as Dr. Fortunati
Edith Evans
as Mother Emmanuel
Peggy Ashcroft
as Mother Mathilde
Dean Jagger
as Dr. Van Der Mal
Mildred Dunnock
as Sr. Margharita
Beatrice Straight
as Mother Christophe
Patricia Collinge
as Sr. William
Rosalie Crutchley
as Sr. Eleanor
Ruth White
as Mother Marcella
Eva Kotthaus
as Sister Marie
Niall MacGinnis
as Father Vermeuhlen
Barbara O'Neil
as Mother Katherine
Lionel Jeffries
as Dr. Goovaerts
Margaret Phillips
as Sister Pauline
Colleen Dewhurst
as Archangel
Stephen Murray
as Chaplain
Errol John
as Illunga
Jeannette Sterke
as Louise Van Der Mal
Richard O'Sullivan
as Pierre Van Der Mal
Marina Wolkonsky
as Marie Van Der Mal
Penelope Horner
as Jeannette Milonet
Ave Ninchi
as Sister Bernard
Charles Lamb
as Pascin
Dara Gavin
as Sister Ellen
Elfrida Simbari
as Sister Timothy
Dorothy Alison
as Sister Aurelie
Molly Urquhart
as Sister Augustine
Frank Singuineau
as Murderer of Sister Aurelie
Show More Cast

Critic Reviews for The Nun's Story

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (3)

Fred Zinnemann's production is a soaring and luminous film.

Full Review… | November 1, 2007
Top Critic

It's still a long haul (made no lighter by Franz Waxman's abominably insistent score) for anyone not committed to theological problems of faith, conscience and obedience.

June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

In the role of the nun, Miss Hepburn is fluent and luminous.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

... on target and godlike.

Full Review… | April 8, 2010
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A superbly restrained piece of filmmaking, with Zinnemann directing in simple, unadorned style and Hepburn giving a truly radiant performance.

Full Review… | November 1, 2007
TV Guide

Zinnemann's drama depicts the spiritual tug of war of a young nun, beautifully played by Audrey Hepburn, between adherence to vows of chastity and obedience and rebellion against those values for her self-fulfillment

Full Review… | August 23, 2006

Audience Reviews for The Nun's Story

It's wonderful to catch up with classic films that may have lost of their buzz over time. THE NUN'S STORY is truly perfect work but not one that is mentioned in the same breath as other classic films from great directors like Fred Zinneman and star Audrey Hepburn. This sublime film is subtle to the extreme. Almost flat in fact, depicting the inner struggle of a nun who wishes nothing more than to be a citizen of the world, something the convent does not allow. THE NUN'S STORY takes its time. There is no emotion. No evil. No greatness. Just the struggle to define one self and become the person you must be. Simply stunning and perfect!

Michael Lupetin
Michael Lupetin

Audrey Hepburn is superb as the nun who undergoes a number of personal changes as a sister in an order of nuns. The ending is blunt in a positive way.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Having been raised in a Catholic School, this paints a pretty accurate pic of nuns -- I'm sorry she left, because she had more common sense than all the others

Tom Ericksen
Tom Ericksen

Super Reviewer

The Nun's Story Quotes

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Nun's Story on our Movie forum!

News & Features