Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?


Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Critics Consensus

Led by a volcanic performance from Elizabeth Taylor, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a scathing adaptation of the Edward Albee play that serves as a brilliant calling card for debuting director Mike Nichols.



Total Count: 42


Audience Score

User Ratings: 21,604
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Movie Info

In this film, married couple George and Martha know just how to push each other's buttons. Tiring of attacking each other, George and Martha invite newcomers to join in the invective. After an evening of sadistic "fun and games," the truth about George and Martha's son comes to light.

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Critic Reviews for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

All Critics (42) | Top Critics (8)

Audience Reviews for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

  • Jun 08, 2016
    As this black and white film opens and the credits are rolling, we see a couple leaving a party and walking slowly back to their house. They're arm-in-arm and seemingly all is quiet and right with the world. The second the action starts, when Liz Taylor flicks on the light and we begin hearing her talk with Richard Burton, we know all is definitely not right. And thus begins 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'. The two play a college history professor and his wife, who is also the dean's daughter, and we quickly come to know that they are (a) very unhappy and frustrated with one another, (b) highly blunt and sarcastic in expressing this, and (c) functioning alcoholics. The first scene which lasts something like 50 minutes and has a younger professor and his wife (George Segal and Sandy Dennis) coming over to drinks is absolutely stunning. The script and Taylor and Burton's performances are outstanding. Humiliation, flirting with the opposite sex, telling stories and confusing "truth and illusion" to play mind games with the other are the order of the day, and the two serve it up again and again in ways which may make your jaw drop. The movie is minimalistic in the sense that it only has these four major characters, two extremely minor characters (who briefly appear when they visit a roadside bar), and it all takes place in a single night, mostly in their home. However, the performances are explosive and 'larger than life'. Taylor in particular really put herself out there, because let's face it, putting on weight and acting like a loud, cheap, bully is far more dangerous for a woman than it is for a man. Images of the SNL sketch from a decade later may come to your mind as she munches on a chicken leg and then carelessly tosses the bone back on the plate in the fridge. She is absolutely exceptional, and was worthy of the Academy Award she received. I was also reminded of the power in some of Jennifer Lawrence's recent performances as I watched her, but Taylor takes it to another level. Burton is also fantastic, trying to remain intellectual and appear above it all, but displaying a frustrated rage within and constantly needling all the three of the other characters. When he goes out for the rifle in the garage as Taylor is telling an embarrassing story about him and returns with it, we feel serious tension, and I thought first-time director Mike Nichols did a great job here and throughout the movie. It loses a teeny bit of momentum towards the middle, and I have to say, the story behind their child, whose apparent death seems to be an explanation for why they've gone a bit kooky, but who has been an imaginary child all along, does not ring true, at least in the emotions it evokes out of each of them. While it's a symbol of an unrealized dream they share, just as Burton's failure to advance in the hierarchy at the college is, to me this is a weakness in the original play. The ending, which as them tenderly resigned to one another despite all that bickering and fighting (and bottle breaking, and choking!), is powerful nonetheless. It's not exactly a feel-good movie, but it's one that will stir you.
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • May 27, 2014
    Taylor and Burton use their previous off screen romance to full effect methinks as George and Martha on the night when the walls fall down around their relationship.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jan 03, 2014
    This film is a must-see simply because it is a classic, it is expertly written, and Elizabeth Taylor is absolutely mesmerizing. However, while the beginning of the film is full of energy, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? unfortunately delves into a static melodrama. I am reluctant to criticize the film because of its iconic status, but it simply did not engage me in the way that I hoped it would. It's only particularly impressive in the amount of emotion displayed on the screen.
    Matthew Samuel M Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2013
    The vitriolic honesty of the impeccable source material when paired with a quartet of the finest performances in film history make for a work of legends..... Just doesn't make too much sense as to why the couple opposite Martha and George don't just.... Leave.
    Kevin C Super Reviewer

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