Zorba the Greek

1964

Zorba the Greek

Critics Consensus

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78%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 9

87%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 7,121
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Movie Info

If ever there was a role that Anthony Quinn was born to play, it was the lusty, life-affirming title character in Zorba the Greek. The scene is the isle of Crete, where English writer Alan Bates arrives in the hopes of realigning his own values and outlook on life. He is "adopted" by the flamboyant Zorba, who determines to educate Bates in the ways of the world-or, to be more precise, Zorba's world. Along the way, Bates is introduced to widow Irene Papas, the unrequited love object of everyone on the island, who comes to a tragic end when she is accused of adultery. The writer is also a spectator to the equally benighted romance between Zorba and venerable courtesan Lila Kedrova. Other disasters follow, but Zorba is able to convince Bates that failure is an inescapable part of life, and that only by constantly tasting defeat can one truly enjoy life's victories. Based on the novel by Nikos Kazantzakis, Zorba the Greek earned Oscars for actress Lila Kedrova, cinematographer Walter Lassally and art director Vassilis Fotopoulos. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Critic Reviews for Zorba the Greek

All Critics (9)

Audience Reviews for Zorba the Greek

  • Jul 10, 2018
    Anthony Quinn really makes Nikos Kazantzakis' character of Zorba come to life, turning in a fantastic performance, and conveying Zorba's philosophy of living life to the full, of dancing and laughing in not just moments of joy or success, but also those of tragedy or failure. The book is a masterpiece, and while the movie doesn't (or perhaps can't) get quite as deep, Michael Cacoyannis (producer/director/screenwriter) certainly does it justice, shooting on location in Crete, capturing beautiful images and an authenticity in his film, and letting Quinn shine. We're given a wonderful philosophy in this gruff character who eschews pretense, book learning, rational analysis, religion, and nationalism. He is at once both hedonistic and simple, and also profound and deep, having gone beyond all theories and frameworks while living his life with a kind of purity. Zorba grabs us from the beginning, asking an Englishman (Alan Bates) "Will no man ever do something without a 'why?' Just like that, for the hell of it?" as they await their ferry, and then quickly sizing him up by saying "You think too much, that is your trouble. Clever people and grocers, they weigh everything." There is a challenge to rationality and convention here, and while the Englishman hires Zorba, it's clear that Zorba will be the one doing the mentoring, on how to live. A part of this is in nudging him into pursuing women, which Zorba does with relish. Aside from his ribald moments, there are others which are pretty risqué, including an old widow (Lila Kedrova) recalling an evening she spent with four admirals, and making it clear they all had sex together after a champagne bath. There are two very disturbing scenes in the film, one of which is when a young woman (Irene Papas) a man has killed himself over is surrounded by the townsfolk, stoned, and then killed. It's truly horrifying, and even if we can 'accept' it as an honest portrayal of old-world culture (though she's not guilty of anything!), the fact that her death means nothing to the two principal characters, the Englishman especially, doesn't seem genuine. Regardless, it's very difficult to watch. Later, the instant an old woman dies, her home is ransacked and looted, in another ugly mob scene. It's as if Cacoyannis is emphasizing how primitive Crete is, and juxtaposing this with Zorba's primitive (though enlightened) philosophy. This is consistent with Kazantzakis' writing in the novel, as well as in 'Freedom or Death'. There is a ruggedness in the people, as rugged as Crete itself, and if you're sensitive to that or behavior which is far from politically correct, you may not like the film as much. A couple more quotes: On aging: "They say that age kills the fire inside of a man, that he hears death coming. He opens the door and says, 'Come in. Give me rest.' That is a pack of old damn lies! I've got enough fight in me to devour the world. So I fight." On being irrational: "A man needs a little madness, or else he never dares cut the rope and be free." On war: I have done things for my country that would make your hair stand. I have killed, burned villages, raped women. And why? Because they were Turks or Bulgarians. That's the rotten damn fool I was. Now I look at a man, any man, and I say, 'He is good. He is bad.' What do I care if he's Greek or Turk? As I get older, I swear by the bread I eat. I even stop asking that. Good or bad, what is the difference? They all end up the same way...food for worms."
    Antonius B Super Reviewer
  • Dec 18, 2014
    Zorba the Greek (1976) came out during a time when Hollywood was reaching out in all kinds of directions to release films to butts in movie theater seats. This US-Greek production stars Alan Bates as Basil, a half-Greek, half-English man who is en route to Crete to take over his now-deceased father's mine there. In transit he meets Alexis Zorba (Anthony Quinn), who is a lively good-humored man who volunteers to do work for Basil. Zorba dances in the face of adversity, and he's not afraid to lie and bend rules in order to maintain a sense of playfulness, especially in this movie's world, which just seems to be such a bummer. Troubling, however, is the way in which the women in the film get so easily cast aside or how they're viewed as means to men's lusty ends. Basil's and Zorba's world is definitely a man's world, and women have no agency here. I'm thinking here of the Widow and Madame Hortense. You'll see.
    Billie P Super Reviewer
  • Jun 03, 2014
    The be all and end all of Anthony Quinn's career. It is the role that defined him even though I am pretty sure that he isn't Greek. It nonetheless led to a bunch of roles as swarthy individuals. Nonetheless he is wonderful at the centre of a delightful production.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 29, 2011
    Kakogiannis is introduced into Hollywood and conquers the Academy with Quinn's exceptionally charismatic and lustful performance. And just before I can think of something smart to say, instead I should encourage you to read a pretty good paragraph about Alexis Zorbas written by Flixster user Randy Tippy (flixsterman). 84/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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