• clydestuff1 April 2004
    10/10
    Not just film, but film history
    The first time I saw To Kill A Mockingbird was at a drive-in theater. I was probably about ten or eleven at the time. Even at a young age I was captivated by this seemingly simple story told through the eyes of children that I could easily relate to. Perhaps also it was the fact that the part of the story that dealt with Boo Radley, held a kind of mystery and an eeriness for me, much in the way a ghost story would. I'm not about to make the pretense that I understood the social significance of To Kill A Mockingbird at the age of ten, or even the greatness of the film. That would come later in life, after having viewed it in one of it's first network television broadcasts.

    One of the things that makes To Kill A Mockingbird a truly great film is the love and respect everyone involved in bringing Harper Lee's novel to the screen had for the original source material. It shows up on screen in every single frame. Each performance in this film is beyond reproach. Gregory Peck had many fine performances over his storied career, but none every approached the perfection he brought to his portrayal of Atticus Finch. As Atticus, Peck brings us the depth of understanding as to how his love for Jem and Scout enables him to treat his children with respect and honesty. He never talks down to them, but approaches them on a level in which children of their age can comprehend and learn from his own wisdom. Yet, he is still able to retain the same no nonsense approach as other parents. Atticus is also a man who believes in the integrity of justice, yet recognizes the failings of our justice system. When called upon to do his duty, he does so, despite the hatred and venom brought to bear upon him and his children by the citizens of the town in which he lives.

    In casting Jem, Scout and Dill, Producer Alan J. Pakula and Director Robert Mulligan faced a daunting task. So much of the success of To Kill A Mockingbird depended on the pivotal role these characters would play in the film. For Jem he chose Philip Alford, for Scout, Mary Badham, and for Dill, John Megna. Alford and Badham were both southern natives who had never been in films before. Megna was a New York native but was also inexperienced. It is this inexperience and lack of polish that enables all three to shine on the screen. Mulligan began filming by letting them act as if making a film was like recess, allowing them to play on the set, and only moving the camera gradually as they became accustomed to their surroundings. It paid off in every way imaginable. None of the three ever appear as if they are actors acting, and bring a childlike wonder and presence to their roles that I had never seen before, and will unlikely witness again.

    Brock Peters as Tom Robinson, the black man falsely accused of raping a white girl, also gives a performance which he would never again surpass. You will not find anywhere a more memorable scene in any court room than when he testifies on the witness stand. Because he dared to care about a white girl, he now faces almost certain death if convicted, and perhaps even if not convicted. It is the first time I was able to begin to understand the effects of man's prejudice and hatred of a man simply because of the color of his skin. Just as Jem and Scout came of age, and realized the significance of the injustices of racial hatred, so did I.

    Equally significant, is Collin Wilcox as Mayella Ewell. She makes it easy for many to hate her, but like Atticus, we see in her a person to be more pitied than hated. She is a product of not only the times in which she lives, but even more so of her wretched upbringing. Mayella is what she is, but only because of the deep cutting prejudices of those around her. To Mayella, being caught enticing a black man into your house for relations, is the ultimate crime and the penalty for doing so is unthinkable to her.

    In his screen debut as Boo Radley, Robert Duvall also brings to life the mysterious neighbor that once frightened Jem, Dill, and Scout so much. Though on the screen for a short length of time, without uttering a word, Duvall shows us a man tortured by years of cruelty, mistreatment, and the gossip and whispers of neighbors. He is a man who wants only to live in his own way, yet the bond that links him to Jem and Scout is significant. They are the childhood he had never really known. Just as Tom Robinson, he has never brought harm to anyone, yet suffers significantly just for the right to be able to exist.

    The care with which To Kill A Mockingbird was brought to the screen can also be seen in the Art Direction by Henry Bumstead and Set Decoration by Oliver Emert. They indeed bring to life what a small Southern Town would have been like in the early thirties. Cinematographer Russel Harlan's black and white photography brings it all vividly to the screen, especially in the way he captures the foreboding of the Radley house, the moments when Bob Ewell approaches Jem when he is left in a car alone, and even more noteworthy near the end of the film when Jem and Scout are walking home from a school play. Elmer Bernstein's score is never boisterous, but yet is as important to setting the mood of many of the scenes played out before us.

    There have been many eloquent words written in many of the comments on this board about To Kill A Mockingbird. Many of the words are far better than those that I have written. Then again, maybe a few simple paragraphs cannot truly describe the significant achievement in film making that To Kill A Mockingbird is. It will be forever remembered, long after you and I have departed from this world. It is at this point that I usually grade a film. I will skip that here, simply because there is no grade that I can give that could possibly do justice for To Kill A Mockingbird.
  • FilmOtaku9 November 2003
    10/10
    One of the most important films of all time
    To Kill a Mockingbird is the movie based on the Harper Lee novel of the same name about Scout, Jem and their father, Atticus Finch who is an attorney in a small southern town. It is both a coming of age story about the children as well as a hard-hitting drama, as Atticus defends a black man who is on trial for the rape of a white woman.

    This review is not an easy one to write, despite the fact that I have seen this film at least 10 times. The reason it does not come easily is that this is one of the most personally important films I have ever seen and is in my personal `Top Five of All Time'. I'm certain there is nothing that can be said about the film that has not already been repeated a multitude of times, so I guess the best thing to do is explain why the film is so important to me.

    I first saw this film several years ago and was so profoundly affected by it that I immediately watched it again. Of course, the defense of a man wrongly accused of a crime is a common story line, but To Kill a Mockingbird stands out as an exceptional example for several reasons. Among them, the date that the film was released: 1962, on the cusp of the civil rights movement in America, and the fact that it takes place in the south in the 1930's. It is also far from the first film to explore the experiences of children and their own personal growth, but To Kill a Mockingbird stands out because of its sheer honesty and natural performances by the child actors portraying these rich characters.

    But most of all, this film is special because of Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch, a true hero. At the risk of sounding histrionic, my heart aches when I watch him on screen because he is such an incredible man, and is so inherently good. No matter how many times I have seen this film, I smile when I see his interaction with his children, and I well with tears when I see his incredible strength of character. (No easy feat to break through the armor of this cynical film geek who, if given the chance would remake at least a few dozen films with tragic endings.) I was sitting in my car listening to National Public Radio recently the day Gregory Peck died, and I'm not ashamed to admit that I sat and cried hearing the retrospective they offered – mainly because the man who portrayed my own personal cinematic hero was gone, but also because Peck lived his life with the same conviction as his best known role; a fact that makes Atticus Finch all the more tangible. The American Film Institute recently named Atticus Finch the number one hero of all time, a choice I consider both brave and insightful in an age where our heroes generally either wield weapons or have super human physical strength. Atticus Finch fights evil as well, but with his strong moral fiber and his mind.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is generally required reading during the course of one's education. If you have not read it, do so. If you have not seen the film, do so; and share it with others. It is an exceptional film that stands the test of time and will remain an important addition to film history for as long as the genre exists.

    --Shelly
  • Donald J. Lamb30 March 1999
    9/10
    Wonderful Social Classic That Echoes Issues of Its Day...
    TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is presented like a play in three acts. It is also from the children's perspective. Through the kids, we find that racism is a learned attitude or feeling. We also see a delightful coming of age drama as the young kids realize that there is no Boogeyman down the street and their father is capable of doing a lot more than they think. The great Gregory Peck plays Atticus Finch, a pillar of nobility, social conscience, and, rare for 1930's Americana, a single parent. Peck is such a strong presence, you believe everything about him. It is something you can compare to America's trust in TV anchorman Walter Cronkite. We always took his word for it.

    Act one puts Atticus in the background and allows the kids to flourish. Director Robert Mulligan was able to get such realistic performances from non-professional kids. They are amusing and fun to watch. The big mystery lies in the house down the street in this small Georgia town. Who is the monstrous, "6 and a half feet big" legend living in the end house? Some light suspense ensues, while the buildup to a stirring act two is happening. Atticus must defend an African-American man for the alleged rape of a white woman.

    After threats galore, an unshaken Peck takes to the courtroom jungle in, without a doubt, one of the top 5 court scenes in motion picture history. Brock Peters lends the film its best moments as the accused "negro" on trial. This man has a face chiseled with suffering and deep, deep sorrow. We know Atticus is a good man, a decent human being with a soul. He sees this in his client as well, and in a closing argument that must have roused the civil rights movement, implores the jury to vote justice. An all-male, all-white jury in the 1930's were tough listeners. Peters' breakdown on the stand is one of the most realistic, emotionally saddening moments you'll ever see, especially in Hollywood films of the 1960's. The scene when Peck leaves the courtroom is now legendary as well.

    Act three produces a tragic death, an unlikely hero, and the bringing together of a family. The filmmakers have such a passion for the material, they seem to handle it with gentleness. Racism is a hard-boiled subject and it is depicted and dealt with through grace and patience. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD poses the injustice of race relations in the 1930's as a front for the events happening in the 1960's. The film came out during turbulent times and was also an adaption of a literary classic. I am one to judge a film solely by film only. The book is a separate art form and should not be compared to the film, an art form itself. It is important, it is enlightening, and it has not aged. Watch it.

    RATING: 9 of 10
  • TBJCSKCNRRQTreviews4 September 2004
    10/10
    Amazing film
    After hearing nothing but critical acclaim for this film, and the book it was based on, I finally got to see it. I am quite amazed at how well done this film is, and how timeless the theme is. I haven't read the book, but I'm considering it, just to see if there are any details that were left out. The story is amazing and exceptionally told. As far as I know, the film is as close to the book as it could possibly be; some call it the most accurate book-to-film conversion ever. The plot is very good, it takes a timeless problem and presents it to us, through the innocent eyes of a naive child. The pace is very good; apart from The Godfather(the first one) and one or two other exceptions, this is the only drama where there was truly not one single moment that I found dull, boring or unimportant. Nothing seemed trivial in the film. The perspective that is forced upon us is that of a young child, naive and innocent. This is a brilliant idea, as the eyes of a child is without a doubt one of the most impressionable things in the world, and the film handles this perfectly. What really makes the film, apart from the brilliant and possibly unique perspective, is the fact that the children are likable, credible and charming. You couldn't help but like them; believe me, normally I really dislike children. I find them annoying, loud and egotistical. But with this film, I couldn't, for one second, muster up any tiny amount of aggression, or even annoyance. They come off as so likable, charming, and, most importantly, *real*. Almost every kid in any Hollywood movie is either a completely ridiculous stereotype/cliché of a brat, who does nothing but destroy things around him, or the exact opposite, a little angel. Everyone knows that no child is the latter all the time, and even I will admit that there probably doesn't exist too many children who are the first, either. In this film, the children are completely real. They are naive, innocent, they disobey what their father tells them, but ultimately, they obviously love and respect their father, and they never do anything, anything at all, with the intent to hurt or harm someone or something. That is what a child is; innocent. They do what they do because they do not know better. This film provides a perfect view into their world, or, rather, their perspective of it. The acting is excellent. The child actors exceed all expectations. I was amazed at how professional and convincing they were. The other actors all give great performances as well. The cinematography is excellent; once again, it gives a perfect perspective on what your surroundings look like when you're a child. The characters are well-written, credible and well-casted. The dialog was well-written. The script was excellent. A very memorable and beautiful film, should be viewed by almost anyone. I recommend this to anyone who likes dramas, and just about anyone who for one reason or another might enjoy this. Don't be scared off by it being over forty years old, or it being black and white; it's an excellent film, and just about anyone would enjoy it. Don't miss this perfect film. 10/10
  • acmilan03c13 February 2006
    10/10
    Wonderful
    This is why I watch movies. Every once in a while I stumble upon such a masterpiece which moves me to tears, because it reminds me that, all bad things aside, there is good in all of us - we just have to help each other search for it and bring it to light.

    This is definitely one of the best films I've ever seen. Mary Badham is absolutely wonderful as 'Scout', and I think she deserves just as much credit as Gregory Peck for this picture.

    The rest of the cast are great as well, and a special mention goes to Elmer Bernstein for his delicate and so appropriate score.

    I love this movie and recommend it to anyone. 10/10
  • Tom May15 December 1998
    9/10
    It does the book justice.
    After studying the outstanding book of To Kill A Mockingbird at school, I viewed this film, and was on the whole very impressed. Scout and Jem are portrayed brilliantly, considering the ages of the children who played them, and they, as with everything else in the production, are true to the book's spirit. Gregory Peck is perfect as the unflappable Atticus Finch, and deserved his Oscar. The music is worthy of praise, especially for the climatic scene, and the raw emotion and feeling of the book is amply conveyed. All of the cast are well cast, and it's interesting to ponder how much this film, at the time, would've shocked. That the book explores racism and outsiders in a southern town, through the eyes of a child is genius and works very nicely here. The only problems are minor- much of the book's counter-balancing humour was left out, certain characters are omitted (Dolphus Raymond and Aunt Alexandra), and some of the book's early characterisation is missed. Aside from these gripes, this is a magical film and a "must-see," as a companion piece to the classic novel. 9/10
  • lizziebeth-120 October 2002
    10/10
    Every bit as good as they say (B&W). Still POWERFUL. 10/10. Spoilers.
    Warning: Spoilers
    Horton Foote's Oscar-winning screenplay is so good, it really supplants the 1960 Harper Lee book. I've recently re-read the novel, and it seemed weighed down and paced with backwoods vernacular and situations right out of the 1930s, that are shockingly removed from the 21st century. My goodness. I hope it doesn't strike others so, because the book is a gem too. It's just in need of ...updating perhaps, which is what the 1962 movie excels at; it translates the Depression Era for us. The characters (played, eg by Gregory Peck and Brock Peters in their signature roles) seem so much better-depicted on screen than merely in my own imagination from having read the book!

    Only Arthur/'Boo' Radley (a peroxided Robert Duvall) seems at first a jarring casting choice to me; but in the end all seem terrific.

    Now THESE child actors, Mary Badham ('Scout'), Philip Alford ('Jem'), and John Megna (as 'Dill'), should've won Oscars. I'm sure they're all better than Haley Joel Osment, who strikes me as 'studied'. These kids are just natural, completely oblivious of the camera. Unbelievable. Actually, I wonder what genius DID do the casting, because the film gives no casting credit. I guess in 1962 the CSA didn't exist yet... That casting director deserves an Oscar too.

    This is what great filmmaking is all about; when several areas of perfection are jointly present a film that reaches into your heart and yanks you up and down. Those were real acting jobs, not the cretinous drivel passing for 'work' these days. The reason we don't see too many better movies than Das Experiment is because post-modernism has long encamped in Hollywood (it set up a Starbuck's years ago).

    The first scene instantly captures Scout's world. She's learning fast at the shoulder of her loving widower lawyer father that she shouldn't embarrass people who are even poorer than they are; and Jem is tantrumming up a tree because he can't brag about his dad's non-existent cool to his friends. Jem demands Atticus play football(!) for the Mets, or more uproariously as Scout tells it, for `the Methodists', hahahaha. (Can we picture Methodists in a sackrace? How many Methodists does it take to change a lightbulb?)

    The Boo Radley story arc is much better paced in the movie than the book; but because I want to focus on the race-relations arc, I will only make passing comment on Boo: he is gently painted in both the book and movie as another previously dismissed but highly virtuous person, who deserves to be analogized with the fragile, hopeful beauty of the mockingbird.

    The harrowing exploration of entrenched injustice through various acts of racist violence are adult themes that really couldn't be explored well in a book constrained by the first person narrative of a 7-yr-old little girl. The movie is able to show the Tom Robinson court case much more objectively. Robert Mulligan's direction quickly telegraphs Bob Ewell's shifty creepiness with the scene of his slovenly leering at Atticus' children in the car. Collin Wilcox is also heartrending as Mayella, the ignorant, uneducated and abused daughter of Bob Ewell. Inexplicably, Gregory Peck's cross-examination scene is not quite as sensitive as Atticus is in the book; Peck never reveals that flash of pain at having to destroy Mayella's false testimony.

    Little Scout's key scene, where she embarrasses the lynch mob (collectively no better than Tom Ewell alone) just with her amiable child's chatter, is EVERY BIT as powerful and stressful as in the book. Probably more, because body language is a much better form of expression for a scene like this.

    Brock Peters' Tom Robinson is the archetypal decent black man who, YES, felt sorry for a brutalized white woman, as we all ought to. Don't bother debating `what if he was guilty', because TKAM is not a whodunnit; it's an expose of what used to happen WHEN a black man was innocent. The heartbreaking destruction of Tom Robinson's proverbial mockingbird is our collective shame, even now, because similar dismissive laziness still happens. It's every person's character that matters, not whether they're `Methodists'.

    We do construct our identities as part of various groups. But no group membership, or belief about it, makes any person categorically virtuous. That still hinges on a person's strengths, and crucially, their weaknesses. A person's bad character will overwhelm whatever beliefs they hold; their good character will enhance them. We are all free to act better, or worse, than our beliefs; we're NOT powerless over them, so no-one should ever die over a belief. Cooler thinking than mere violence must rule, or else objective justice will never materialize. And it's only justice if the judgement is accurate; but accuracy requires the abolition of the sort of intellectual/societal laziness that regularly befalls the weakest subgroups of society. Well, we all saw the intellectual rigour of that lynch mob. Would you trust them to tell the time? You might not feel happy trusting even the sheriff (Frank Overton), testifying in court but no better than a hick himself: `Oh, I guess that would make it her LEFT'. Those powerful imbeciles stood in judgement over some societally fragile people, like Tom, and yes, like Mayella.

    It's still powerful how Tom's hammering as sarcastic legal argument by the prosecutor (William Windom) served to bring home Tom's societal fragility; and we're humbled at the quiet dignity of the entire black population who soberingly stood in the rafters to honor Atticus' failed attempt. The movie was made in 1961, some 7 years before the martyrdom of Martin Luther King Jr, yet in the light of recent gang-related violence, it's clear there are still many who think their group belonging excuses/masks their brutality as people. It does not. And the brutality came first.

    This movie needs to be seen by the young, to open their hearts to humanity, and their standards for their own personal character, for the rest of their lives. 10/10.
  • dweck9 December 1998
    An Unforgettable Drama
    Hoo boy, am I a sucker for courtroom dramas. The wrangling of legal points and the investigation into the truth just gets my cinematic blood pumping (I s'pose it's in response to my own dashed hopes of becoming an attorney).

    "To Kill a Mockingbird" rises to the top of the pile easily.

    Yes, the courtroom proceedings are nail-bitingly engaging. But played out against the tapestry of bigotry and hate make the legal goings-on even more compelling.

    The writing here is so beautiful, so lyric, so poetic. The Harper Lee-based screenplay captures wonderfully a time and a place that are absolutely real--where big brothers could solve the universe's problems in an instant and all the treasures of the world could be contained in a cigar box.

    "To Kill a Mockingbird" also contains three of the most impressive child performances I have ever witnessed--there's not a false or affected moment in any one of them. Until seeing "Ponette," a movie I would highly recommend, the kids in "Mockingbird" received my best child performance ever awards. "Ponette" has ratcheted them down one notch, but that doesn't diminish the achievement here. The scene in which Scout dispels the mob simply by identifying its individual members is one of the most powerful moments in filmdom.

    Peck more than deserved his best actor nod. His quiet dignity is a definite asset. Brock Peters, too, is terrific in what could have been a cliched role.

    If you are a moviegoer who has a bias against black and white movies and who has therefore never seen "Mockingbird," I pity you. You've passed on one of Hollywood's most unforgettable experiences.
  • jam521911 April 2002
    10/10
    enough can't be said
    Enough good things can't be said about this movie. It is undoubtedly one of the best and most moving films ever made. No other racial injustice or discriminatory based movie can even compare with "To Kill a Mockingbird". This movie not only makes you sympathize with those who were being discriminated against, but also those who fought for those people. One of the most moving parts of the movie is when Atticus Finch is leaving the court room and Reverend Sykes tells Scout to "stand up your father is passing".

    Gregory Peck has always been one of my favorite actors. This is definitely one of my favorite roles that he has ever played, and he does an excellent job at it. Mary Badham and Philip Alford are excellent as Jem and Scout. Mary Badham became the youngest girl to receive an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress for her role as Scout. Although it had a short time on screen, Robert Duvall's portrayal of "Boo" Radley was one of his very first roles on screen and what better movie than "To Kill a Mockingbird" to kick off your acting career.

    A great movie of all times.
  • elliexphant11 May 2005
    10/10
    An utterly moving film, made perfect by the outstanding performance of Gregory Peck. Must see
    'To Kill a Mockingbird' is one of the best books ever written but this film does it justice. The performances throughout are stunning, especially that of Gregory Peck (Harper Lee was so impressed she gave him her late father's pocket watch, a prop he uses in the film, to keep). This film will make anyone think hard about how they treat others and it is really heartwarming without being soppy. It isn't necessary to have read the book before seeing this film but it might be advisable. This is one of the classic films of its generation and very few films of nowadays come close to matching it either. A real must-see.
  • shan seehar7 March 2005
    10/10
    A Remarkably Simple and Simply Remarkable Masterpiece!
    Very rarely, it happens that movies are made that are very simple in expression but possess monumental appeals and significant life lessons in a style only of the kind of their own that, we can't expect even. This fact is truthfully exemplified in this movie. It's not just a movie or even just a promising story in general, but all it portray's is "Innocence". A girl's recollection of her childhood days which are still at their full bloom in her mind, depicting the innocence of juvenile as well as as adult minds, a period where mostly immature minds become curious to the racial bigotry and sometimes mature minds become its prey and a time when harsh realities of life like intolerance, hatreds, prejudice and adversities of society gradually dawn upon them.

    Atticus Finch ( Gregory Peck ) is an absolutely Gentleman Lawyer whose wife has passed away and he has a son and a daughter. A Black man Tom Robinson is wrongly alleged of raping a poor white woman. In fact, he a victim of white woman's effort to hide her guilt by targeting his innocence and utilizing favors of racial attitude of unsocial society towards Negros. Finch decides to defend him on his principles realizing that the narrow minded society will turn against him and so it happened and townspeople started making his life agonizing. The whole story is masterfully out shined by the ingenuousness, purity and innocence of his children with with a unique inspirational interaction with their father.

    Boo Readly who lives in the town is mentally retarded and is sidelined by the society. He is a mark of fear and curiosity for children because he is different from others. But he is the one who marks the ultimate climax of this emotionally crafted masterpiece.

    It's a must see movie for all ages in all times because it gives many priceless emotional and touching lessons for those who are sincere and perceptive.

    A Remarkably Simple and Simply Remarkanble Masterpiece!!!
  • bkoganbing27 January 2006
    10/10
    Our Greatest Film Hero
    When the American Film Institute polled its members and they selected Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch as the greatest hero on film ever, the selection was met with very few dissenters. I'm sure not going to argue the merits of the choice. But I do have a theory as to why.

    Gregory Peck for the most part played decent honorable thinking men in his films. A few films like Duel in the Sun and The Boys from Brazil have him as a villain, but the public never accepted him really in those parts.

    Few of us in our lives can be Horatio Hornblower or spike the Guns of Navarone or command a submarine as in On the Beach. But Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird is well within our grasp. He's a small town lawyer, raising his children as a single parent and most of all trying to lead them by example. The performances of Mary Badham and Philip Alford show the kids have learned it very well as does the uncredited narration of Kim Stanley as the grown-up Scout.

    Atticus Finch is a very attainable ideal. It is I believe the secret of the popularity of both the book and the film.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is the story of Atticus Finch and his family during the Thirties in rural Alabama. The action takes place over several months of a given year. The most important part of the film deals with Finch defending a black man for allegedly raping a white woman.

    It's a thankless task and Finch knows it, because he knows the attitudes of the people there, those who would make up an all white jury. Still he proceeds with courage and determination. His summation to the jury is a film classic and Peck's innate decency is nicely counterbalanced by William Windom's prosecutor who smirks through out the trial knowing he just has to play the race card to win.

    Other outstanding performances are Brock Peters as the man Peck is defending, James Anderson as the father of the girl he's accused of violating, and Frank Overton as the county sheriff.

    This film was the debut of Robert Duvall in the part of Boo Radley who plays the autistic neighbor of the Finches. No dialog at all for Duvall who conveys great and pained emotion with a series of expressions that are unforgettable. Duvall played a similar role in another Peck film, Captain Newman, MD.

    Gregory Peck got the Best Actor Award for 1962. He was up against some very stiff competition that year. Peck beat out Jack Lemmon for Days of Wine and Roses, Burt Lancaster for Birdman of Alcatraz, Peter O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia and Marcello Mastroianni for Divorce Italian style.

    No doubt sentiment did play a part in the final award. Lemmon and Lancaster had already gotten Oscars and O'Toole and Mastroianni were relative newcomers. But I sure think the Academy selection that year has stood the test of time.

    This film has sure stood the same test.
  • John Foster27 May 2005
    10/10
    Life in the Deep South during the Depression...
    Warning: Spoilers
    I first saw this movie, and read Harper Lee's prize-winning novel, when I was in High School. And the subject matter has stood the test of time...

    'To Kill a Mockingbird' would have to be one of the classic on-screen court-room dramas and Gregory Peck once said that his award-winning portrayal of Atticus Finch, a small-town lawyer during the Depression, was his crowning achievement as an actor.

    The other character dominating the movie is 'Scout', Atticus' school-age daughter, who seems like she would rather be a boy at times. Her adult character (never seen on screen) acts as a narrator, quietly reflecting on and interpreting some of what we see.

    'Jem' is Scout's older brother. Jem and Scout's mother had passed away previously and there is a touching scene early in the film where the children quietly remember their mother and are overheard by Atticus. At the same time Sheriff Tate arrives to offer Atticus the most difficult case of his career -- that of Tom Robinson.

    Tom is an African-American and race relations in the 'Deep South' is another major theme of the film. Tom has been accused by a white woman, and will face a white judge and white jury. Some might say that the movie points to social inequalities and the fallibility of our judicial system.

    The movie is filmed in black and white and this seemed wholly appropriate given the subject matter and austere setting. It's a poignant movie that can be enjoyed many times over...
  • mmr8203 February 2001
    10/10
    One of the most memorable and wonderful movies of the 20th century.
    "To Kill A Mockingbird" is truly a much loved and critically-acclaimed film. It is a perfect portrayal of childhood innocence, racial prejudice, moral tolerance and courage. No other words can describe this film except marvellous. The film is so wonderfully done that the audience actually feels as if they were in Alabama during the 1930s. This is a must see for anyone of any age.
  • little_biker_girl6 December 2005
    10/10
    A film that's close to my heart
    About ten years ago, a year or so after I was married, I became quite ill and was bed-ridden for almost two weeks. I was in so much pain I could not sit on the sofa and look at television; my eyes hurt so badly from my fever that I couldn't even lie in bed and read. It was Christmas season and my husband, working in retail, worked extra long hours. With no way to entertain myself or even to sleep, the long hours spent alone were almost unbearable. Then I had an idea: I had seen that our public library had books on tape. I asked my husband if he would find something interesting for me, not having any idea what sort of "books" they might have. He chose To Kill a Mockingbird.

    I had, of course, always heard of the book but apparently it was not on our required reading list in high school. Remembering how I had loathed so many of the books I was forced to read in school, I had mixed feelings when he brought it to me. Still, I welcomed ANY distraction to help pass the time. What an absolutely wonderful book it turned out to be. (If my memory is correct, it was read by Meryl Streep. What a beautiful job she did of it!) Looking back at it now, I'm glad I got so sick that winter, or I might not have had the opportunity to "read" it. What a comfort it was to me during a painful, difficult time.

    A few years later I ran across the movie on television. I was so very pleased to see how well they translated it to film. No film ever captures EVERY facet of a book (or we'd have an awful lot of eight hour films out there!) but the book was definitely given justice. Having grown up in the deep south myself, even having myself attended segregated school and seen INTENSE prejudice amongst the privileged white upper-class, I applaud the book's writer and the film's producer all the more for producing such works during a time of indescribable social struggle and upheaval.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a strong, quiet film of great dignity... qualities that are sadly lacking in almost every film made in this country today. To me though, having first come across the book in the isolation of of sickness, listening to it hour after hour in the dim light of my bedroom, watching the grey winter clouds pass by the window as I listened, it will alway be my own special, personal film.
  • gracenwilk12 August 2004
    10/10
    Masterful transformation of book to screen, evokes the better angels of our nature
    Exiled to Pennsylvania for four years, I read this book to then later watched the film with my children because I saw it as the best gift I could possibly give them from my heritage. TKAM showed a whole generation of southerners how we might live up to our ideals and grow out of our bigotry.

    This is film making at its unpretentious best- unlike Kane or the Godfather, or Kurosawa, this film isn't about the director or even the actors; it is about a story whose poetry and truth have the power to change people. In that sense it renders powerful testimony to what film making can be. Cleverness and "genius" in making films will, at best, only rate an "8" from me. This film represents what I think a "10" rating should be about.

    Gregory Peck's performance fits the intent of the film perfectly- quietly dignified and accessible because of his ability to get himself out of the way. Not every book deserves or even affords film makers the luxury of making a movie that so closely reflects the feel of the book, but TKAM is one of those films that understood the book it was based on and the dream of the author who wrote it.
  • mcardmtbr19 October 2004
    A Healing View of Fatherhood
    I'm surprised that there aren't more comments on Peck's amazing depiction of Atticus Finch, the father. In this era of absent fathers, preoccupied fathers, abusive fathers, immature fathers, etc, etc, Peck's Finch gives us all a soothing view of the best of fatherhood. Where else do we get to watch a man sit up with his ill child, stand firm in his convictions, show patience and gentleness with his children, demonstrate an appropriate level of humility, communicate righteous values to his children, and give his children a picture of integrity to emulate. Every time I view this film I wonder how Peck was able to pull this off. Every time I view this film, it gives me hope for the future of fatherhood.
  • Manthorpe21 June 2004
    10/10
    Essential.
    Undoubtedly a classic hallmark in cinema, To Kill a Mockingbird dealt with social issues when social issues were still very much an issue in society, much more so than today although some of the same basic feelings are still present. Being younger than the film itself, I can only imagine the impact it had on people when it first came out. And seeing how the film has not been forgotten after the decades since it's release, I think it's safe to say that it had quite an effect as it continues to do so. Having read the book in high school, the film seems fairly accurate to the story except for a few very minor things that are mostly the result of a book being condensed into a much shorter journey.

    Gregory Peck is perfect in his role as Atticus Finch and apparently I'm not alone in that opinion as he won an Oscar for the role. All three children in the movie are also quite impressive and entirely convincing. I particularly enjoyed seeing Robert Duvall in his first film appearance as the ambiguous Boo Radley.

    It's very difficult to give reviews for older films, particularly ones that were made prior to my existence, mostly due to the inevitable fact that like everything else films also age, sometimes weakening the original potency. But to be honest, the only thing that I can see that has noticeably aged is the music, which is entirely understandable and is to be expected. And given the fact that it's over four decades old, that is quite a statement. It all boils down to a very important film about a very important and popular book in which social issues were dealt with and still holds relevance today. Like many classics, it's not just a movie, but a film with a message. A heart warming classic and an essential notch in the belt of film history.
  • MisterBernstein17 June 2004
    10/10
    Sense and Sentiment
    There are two highlights of this film: One is, as could be expected, Gregory Peck's portrayal of Atticus Finch as the rock of his family, the law, and even the entire Maycomb County. The other is the sharp, focused direction by Robert Mulligan.

    Hopefully, every movie-lover has seen at least one or two films in which every single camera angle is perfectly done. This film is one of them for anyone who has seen it. The silences and long pauses (almost Ingmar Bergman-esque in their magnitude) accompanied with some of the sharpest b & w photography in American Cinema make this a film that sears its images into your brain.

    The story, as anyone who has read Harper Lee's novel can say, is both sentimental and powerful. The screenplay by Horton Foote is good, but only as long as it follows Lee's clearly stated boundaries.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a film with a brilliant lead performance, sensible, savvy directing which, when mixed with Lee's touching, fulfilling story of American values, is not going to be forgotten for a long time after the initial viewing.
  • Pickwick125 April 2004
    The Best
    Generally, I prefer to review movies I dislike, because I am better able to quantify negative opinions than positive ones, but "To Kill a Mockingbird" deserves a review as few other movies I have ever seen. I probably cannot make any statement about this film that has not already been made many times, but it really is one of the most beautiful and moving films I have ever seen.

    I first read Harper Lee's lovely novel when I was a young teen, and it was one of those books that gave me an experience that changed the way I perceived the world and my own family. The movie stays true to the wonderful, innocent prose.

    Every time I watch, I see my father in Atticus Finch. He, too, is a southerner who respects people and defends his beliefs. He also has always respected his children and treated us the way Atticus treats Scout and Jem. I also see other family and friends in various characters in the film, because we have such strong southern roots. Even the negative aspects of racial antipathy and loss of childish innocence bring certain memories to mind.

    Those who did not grow up in the south or with southern families might not see parallels the way I do, but the movie would be a gem to anyone. Gregory Peck put in the performance of his career, and the children acted in the least forced manner I have ever seen. The cinematography is also beautiful, and the script is perfectly balanced-not too sparse, but also not dialogue heavy.

    The best thing about "To Kill a Mockingbird" is that it preserves the spirit of the novel that resounds with so many people. This film stands as one of the best ever arguments for tolerance, loving families, and the beauty of life through a child's eyes. Everyone who watches movies ought to see it.
  • tatyz28 January 2004
    10/10
    a beautiful movie about innocence and racism.
    To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best movies that I have ever seen. This movie shows some of the problems between blacks and whites. These differences between two races make this story so special. The characters adaptation was very interesting, starting with Atticus Finch and his children. Also, I love how this story was told through the eyes of one child.

    In this movie were many things that make it interesting such as the characters, the theme, plot and mysterious elements. First, the main actors had a very good representation on their characters, for instance, Atticus Finch, Scout and Jem. The theme of this story was based in prejudice and was showing the differences between blacks and whites. Also, the plot was very detailed and exciting because Boo was scary and mysterious. Finally, Tom Robinson also brings to the plot the essentials of the movie.

    Although the movie To Kill a Mockingbird is very exciting, some things do not show the truth of the story. One of these things is when Mr. Radley cemented the tree's knothole and the children get down without knowing the cause. Also, something needing to change may be the Ewell family because they are an evil family without any feeling toward other people. The trial of Tom Robinson is conspicuous and sad because the movie itself makes him an important character. But knowing all these things, this movie is still great.

    To Kill a Mockingbird is a great movie where you can find one of the most recognized actors of all time, Gregory Peck. Mr. Peck stands out in all his qualities that are made by his values. One of the foremost qualities of Gregory Peck is his courage to confront the goals of his work and his personal life. Atticus Finch and Gregory Peck have a different life and feelings, but they are both moral men. Finally, both conduct themselves with dignity.

    In conclusion, To Kill a Mockingbird is a beautiful movie that I will like to recommend to everybody to watch. In this movie one learns about the social class, the good and evil. One thing that I really liked was to know about Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch. Also, I felt empathy with many situations in the movie that reminded me of similar times in my life.
  • taurus-1815 May 2004
    How I love this movie!
    The film takes my breath away. It's a perfect drama! It is so unpretentious, profound, simple, truthful, and elegant. It is absolutely timeless. It seems to deeply move everyone who watches it. I own this movie and bawl my eyes out every time I see it. But it's a good cry. To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM, I'll call it) both breaks my heart and inspires me, because it reminds me of human beings' capacity for decency and bravery.

    Has there ever been a more touching character than Atticus Finch???? Not a perfect man, not a God, but just a person who respected the rights of other people and tried to do the right thing; he was a "decent" man. He tried to live his life according to the saying "do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Such quiet dignity! I can see why Atticus Finch was recently named the #1 movie "Hero" of all time by the American Film Institute. Just thinking about this movie brings tears to my eyes. The only other film to affect me in such a deep way has been The Shawshank Redemption.

    Gregory Peck would be forever known as Atticus Finch, and he expressed how honored he felt to be associated with such a character. I saw an interesting documentary about Peck's life, and in it he was doing one-man shows around the country. These shows were question-and-answer sessions with the audience, and the majority of questions and comments were related to TKAM and how portraying Atticus Finch had impacted Peck's life. It was so interesting and touching to hear people talk about how the film and that character affected them. I remember one man standing up and saying that TKAM inspired him to become a lawyer, and that he named his son Atticus. I've read here and there about the favorite movies of various celebrities, and have been amazed that of all the movies out there in the world, there's one title that pops up frequently as a favorite - and that's TKAM. And it's the favorite of all kinds of people, both young and old. I almost fell off my chair when I read that it was Madonna's favorite movie. Didn't think she has such good taste! Anyway, how extraordinary it must have been for G. Peck, Robert Duvall and all the other people who were part of TKAM to realize that they created something really, truly impacted people - and could inspire people to try to be better human beings. Wow. Such a legacy!
  • JoeKarlosi2 February 2005
    9/10
    To Kill a Mockingbird (1962) ***1/2
    Based on the classic novel by Harper Lee, this wholesome adaptation stars Gregory Peck in an Oscar-winning part as Atticus Finch, a righteous defense lawyer during the depression era down South. He's a loving single parent who tries to instill values into his two children, Jem (Philip Alford) and his younger sister "Scout" (Mary Badham). The story is told as a flashback from the perspective of a now-grown Scout (who narrates) during one memorable summer in her youth where her father elected to defend a Negro farmhand named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters). At a time when black people were not well respected in small southern towns, Finch stands alone in his plight to help the innocent young man who has been wrongly accused of raping and beating a white woman. Brock Peters is highly sympathetic as the good-natured Robinson during an unfair courtroom trial, with Gregory Peck as his well-meaning attorney with the odds stacked against him. Fine acting also by young Alford and especially Badham as the children learning about bigotry through their dad in addition to the ongoing trial. Robert DuVall makes his very first motion picture appearance in a small but unforgettable part that remains crucial to the success of the story. ***1/2 out of ****
  • cwente221 December 2005
    9/10
    "To Kill a Mackingbird" -- Memorable Because of What It Doesn't Purport to Being
    After forty-three years, "To Kill a Mockingbird" (TKAM) remains one of the most effective testimonials to the ravages of ignorance and prejudice ever recorded on film. Asking myself why this gracefully paced narrative has left such an indelible impression on so many, I've concluded it's because the film isn't about what most of its supporters and detractors claim it's about. Not about race or prejudice? . . . No. At its core, TKAM is about "neighbors" and "community", which concept forms the basis for the gravity of its message in the matter of Tom Robinson.

    Other films have followed on the familiar theme of racial bigotry and its well-documented devastations. These films have been consistently less effective because we are not asked to think so much, or to connect the history depicted with the histories of our own lives and our own communities.

    I've performed in two stage versions of TKAM, neither of which benefited from the brilliant input of screenwriter, Horton Foote. Both plays focus, almost exclusively, on the racial element of the story. They, like so many films of later years, come off as "heavy-handed" or "in-your-face" regarding this element. Well . . . "If you think this way -- you're bad." End of story. In TKAM (the film), we see a community of poor, unique, and apparently respectable people helping one another through a Depression. In stark contrast (and beautifully prepared by the film's creators) the injustices meted out to Tom Robinson and his family represent a dramatic anachronism of unthinkable proportions. And, it's as routine, in this gentle Southern community, as a child's fear of a mysterious neighbor, or a shy but happy exchange of hickory nuts for legal services rendered. Memorable? Most emphatically. Think about it. It's what director Mulligan wants us to do.
  • Harry T. Yung7 October 2003
    Some scattered thoughts
    Warning: Spoilers
    Spoilers warning

    I bought the DVD for `Mockingbird' recently, remembering the courtroom scene where the defence attorney Atticua Finch (Gregory peck) throws a glass to Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) the defendant, asking him to catch it with his right hand, and then again with his left hand. After watching the DVD, I still cannot remember whether I've seen the film before. The above scene I might have seen in a trailer but I do have some vague recollection of the `scary' visits to the strange house.

    The strongest themes that come out of the movie would undoubtedly be racial injustice and the law enforcement system purportedly originated from Camelot. The film does not stoop to poetic justice on both counts, which puts it one notch above your usual courtroom thrillers. Do not forget though the title of the film. The mockingbird alludes not to the wronged black defendant, but a mentally disturbed young man who appears only at the very end. Most ironically, the injustice is vindicated not by the machinery of the legal system, but rather by a `crime' committed by this mentally disturbed youth. This is the most thought provoking aspect of the film.

    Gregory Peck won his Oscar in this film. Recently, we have witnessed more and more cases where an Oscar is won by bawling and howling on the screen, augmented by helps from the general political atmosphere, best exemplified by the year 2001. Peck won his in 1962 purely on the merit of his performance.

    The moving spirit of Mockingbird is in the trio of kids, brother and sister at (about) 12 and 6, plus a little guy of 7 in neighbourhood, who appears at the commencement of every summer holiday. While both guys are excellent, it's Mary Badham who stole the show playing the little girl. Of all the child stars that I have ever seen, she is the only one that does not suffer in comparison with Haley Joel Osment (`Six sense' etc). I would love to see this pair together on screen, except that they are in real life almost 40 years apart. A wild and crazy thought: could she have been his mother? One delightful final surprise, noticed only when I checked into IMDB, is that Boo, the mentally disturbed young man, was played by none other than Robert Duvall !
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