63 user 24 critic

Ship of Fools (1965)

3:37 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

A varied group of passengers boarding a ship bound for post-war Germany represents a microcosm of 1930s society.



(novel), (screenplay)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 13 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

An aging actress travels to Rome with her husband; after he suddenly dies during the flight, she begins a passionate affair with a young gigolo.

Director: José Quintero
Stars: Vivien Leigh, Warren Beatty, Coral Browne
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A middle-aged iconoclast, doggedly avoiding the tedium of employment and conventional life, faces the prospect of losing custody of his young ward.

Director: Fred Coe
Stars: Jason Robards, Barbara Harris, Martin Balsam
On the Beach (1959)
Drama | Romance | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After a global nuclear war, the residents of Australia must come to terms with the fact that all life will be destroyed in a matter of months.

Director: Stanley Kramer
Stars: Gregory Peck, Ava Gardner, Fred Astaire
R.P.M. (1970)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

R.P.M. stands for (political) revolutions per minute. Anthony Quinn plays a liberal college professor at a west coast college during the hedy days of campus activism in the late 1960s. ... See full summary »

Director: Stanley Kramer
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Ann-Margret, Gary Lockwood
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.1/10 X  

Father Rivard is a priest in a small, economically depressed coal mining town. Working on what he thinks is a "controversial" work, he lives with the brutal lives of his poor parishioners, ... See full summary »

Director: Stanley Kramer
Stars: Dick Van Dyke, Kathleen Quinlan, Maureen Stapleton
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

An ambitious young accountant schemes to wed a wealthy factory owner's daughter, despite falling in love with a married older woman.

Director: Jack Clayton
Stars: Laurence Harvey, Simone Signoret, Heather Sears
Darling (1965)
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A beautiful but amoral model sleeps her way to the top of the London fashion scene at the height of the Swinging Sixties.

Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Laurence Harvey
Certificate: Passed Drama | War | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

During World War I, believing her fiancé to be dead, a young ballerina loses her job and is forced to turn to prostitution.

Director: Mervyn LeRoy
Stars: Vivien Leigh, Robert Taylor, Lucile Watson
Cat Ballou (1965)
Comedy | Romance | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A woman seeking revenge for her murdered father hires a famous gunman, but he's very different from what she expects.

Director: Elliot Silverstein
Stars: Jane Fonda, Lee Marvin, Michael Callan
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

With her infant daughter Margaret Rose in tow, Georgette Thomas pulls up stakes from Tyler, Texas to head to Columbus, Texas to be reunited with her husband, Henry Thomas, who has just been... See full summary »

Director: Robert Mulligan
Stars: Steve McQueen, Lee Remick, Don Murray
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A woman unhappy in her passionless marriage leaves her husband for a younger and more ardent lover.

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Vivien Leigh, Kenneth More, Eric Portman
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Plain, repressed spinster falls for a dashing young medical student, but he prefers the wilder life, until it's too late.

Director: Peter Glenville
Stars: Laurence Harvey, Geraldine Page, Rita Moreno


Cast overview, first billed only:
Siegfried Rieber (as Jose Ferrer)
Pepe (as Jose Greco)
Karl Glocken
Capt. Thiele
Julius Lowenthal (as Heinz Ruehmann)
Frau Hutten
Amparo (as Barbara Luna)
Alf Kjellin ...
Lizzi Spoekenkieker


1933: An ocean liner belonging to a second-rate German company is making a twenty-six day voyage from Veracruz, Mexico to Bremerhaven, Germany. Along the way it will stop in Cuba to pick up a large group of Spanish farm laborers who are being shipped home and who will be housed like cattle in steerage. There it will also pick up La Condesa, a Spanish countess. It will stop in Tenerife, where the farm workers will disembark and where La Condesa will be sent to a German-run prison for her "traitorous" activities in Cuba. This voyage will be the last of three for the ship's doctor, Willi Schumann, who has a serious heart ailment and who thought he could find some meaning to his life through this job. Willi and La Condesa fall in love, with the ship's Captain Thiele, who is Willi's closest friend on board, believing the drug-addicted La Condesa is only using him to get her fixes. Willi and La Condesa have to figure out if there is a future for them after the voyage, as Willi's life also ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




Drama | Romance | War


See all certifications »




| |

Release Date:

October 1965 (Austria)  »

Also Known As:

Das Narrenschiff  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This was Vivien Leigh's final film before her death on July 8, 1967 at the age of 53. See more »


Tenny and Mrs. Treadwell, seated together in the dining room, order dinner. In the next scene at the captain's table, Tenny is shown in the background looking through the menu and Mrs. Treadwell is not seated at the table. See more »


Lowenthal: How old are you?
Elsa: Sixteen.
Lowenthal: Adolescence. What is adolescence? Adolescence is a time when people worry about things there's no need to worry about. Sixteen... I promise you, at seventeen you will be even more charming than you are now. At twenty-one, you will be gorgeous. And at twenty-five... devastating! And I won't stand any argument!
See more »


Referenced in Murder, She Wrote: Ship of Thieves (1993) See more »


Tales from the Vienna Woods
Music by Johann Strauss
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Ship of archetypes.
6 May 2005 | by (Deming, New Mexico, USA) – See all my reviews

The only person aboard who seems to have his wits about him is Michael Dunn, the dwarf. His character tends to reserve judgments about people and things, more of an "observer," as he puts it. He has common sense too, and foresight. And as a matter of fact, he gives one of the few outstanding performances, although he's always good. Equally memorable are Lee Marvin as a washed up baseball player and Oskar Werner as a disillusioned ship's doctor. The other performances are competent, but these three are rather more than that.

Most of the comedy is provided by Dunn and Marvin. Dunn and Marvin have a scene together that is nearly perfect in its dialogue and timing. Marvin is drinking and getting maudlin. He tells Dunn that he can't hit a curve ball over the outside corner. Dunn asks him to explain what he's talking about, and there follows this outrageous schtick in which Marvin describes with horror how -- once it got about that he couldn't hit a curve ball over the outside corner -- that's all he ever saw, curve balls over the outside corner. He remembers his father sitting in the stands and hollering at him ("even though he wasn't there") -- "You're a BUM!" At one point, without adumbration, he suddenly claps his hands to his face and bursts into a torrent of sobs. He smashes glasses on the table while demonstrating his failure, and a shocked and slightly frightened Dunn looks on.

When Marvin's outburst is finished, Dunn chuckles and asks something like, "Do you know how many people know what a curve ball is?" There is a long pause while Marvin stares at him, unsmiling, unblinking, his flabby lower lip pendulant. The pause continues. And continues. And continues. (It's an old scene-stealing trick -- delay your answer to make your lines seem more important.) At long long last, Marvin answers, "No." Dunn explains that out of a billion people in the world, only a handful even know what a curve ball over the outside corner is, let alone that Marvin can't hit one, so he's being a little harsh on himself. Marvin ponders this, then asks, "You know what I think?" And there follows another of those infinitely long pauses before Dunn answers. (The two actors and the director must have worked on this together for a long time, otherwise none of them could have helped breaking up with laughter.) Dunn finally replies, "No." Marvin says slowly and emphatically, "I think you're a sawed off INTELLECTUAL." Then adds, "Drink up, shorty." That scene, with its improvised quality, its near-perfect timing and acting, its camera placement, should be shown in every film class.

I don't want to leave out Oskar Werner who, along with Simone Signoret, provides the romance and the drama. He is a doctor with a heart condition and, out of pity for Signoret, begins providing her with the morphine she's addicted to. They fall in love. Now -- that's usually about the last thing I want to see in one of these "Grand Hotel" movies, a tragic romance. But this one WORKS. I can't remember many performances on film that improve on Oskar Werner's. He seems almost inspired and the role has depth enough for him to display some range too. I'm not sure the romance with its inherent conflict between the 40ish Signoret and the 30ish Werner would be as admirable as it is if it weren't for the actors. Signoret is not particularly attractive. She's overweight and has a husky voice and is a social outcast. If the role had been cast with a younger, beautiful actress, it could easily have been turned into just another star-crossed-lover sob story. It's especially because Signoret looks so beat upon and worn and dumpy that the relationship has some resonance with real life, which is always sloppy when it comes to romance. (We always fall in love with the wrong person, don't we?)

There isn't space to go into the plot, which isn't really worth too much attention anyway. I haven't read Katherine Ann Porter's novel, the title of which is based on a painting by Hieronymous Bosch that hangs in the Louvre and was finished some time before 1500. The plot has a bit of ambiguity. We sympathized with the displaced Spanish laborers in steerage, but two of their kids throw overboard a dog that belongs to a childless couple. A laborer dies saving the dog, but the "parents" don't inquire about his identity or show any gratitude. They care more about the dog's having gotten wet than about the death of a proletarian. I think we're meant to feel superior to the elderly couple with the dog.

Therein lies the problem I have with Abbey Mann and, to a lesser extent, Stanley Kramer. The simple people of color are good. The wealthy white people are neurotics. (Except for a dwarf.) The rich whites are dumb, too. "Listen, my friend," says a Jewish salesman, "there are one million Jews in Germany alone. What are they going to do -- kill all of us?" The viewer's memory toggles into "six million" right away, a figure that rings chimes in our brains.

I can't speak for everyone but I dislike being preached at by self-righteous screenwriters, particularly when they deal with "big" issues that must be handled delicately so as not to be cheapened. Abbey Mann accepted his Oscar in the name of "all intellectuals everywhere." I have a feeling that when he was writing "Ship of Fools" it didn't occur to him that he might himself be aboard.

Give wardrobe an award. At a costume party, Jose Ferrer as the Nazi, is dressed as some kind of jester or devil, and the costume seems to have leaped right out of Bosch's painting.

38 of 59 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
The clothes etc. - my theory suaheli
The Biggest Fool Napoleon799
An Old Favorite tylermadcap
What is the German song sung with Piano CineTigers
What was La Condesa's story? Noir-It-All
Jug Band Music eotl2002
Discuss Ship of Fools (1965) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: