The Ruling Class (1972)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Music  |  25 May 1972 (UK)
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Ratings: 7.6/10 from 4,556 users  
Reviews: 63 user | 40 critic

A member of the House of Lords dies, leaving his estate to his son. Unfortunately, his son thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other, somewhat more respectable, members of their family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensue.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Hugh Owens ...
William Mervyn ...
Coral Browne ...
James Villiers ...
Dinsdale Gurney
Bishop Lampton
Hugh Burden ...
Matthew Peake
Michael Bryant ...
Henry Woolf ...
Griffith Davies ...
Oliver MacGreevy ...
Inmate (as Oliver McGreevy)
Kay Walsh ...
Patsy Byrne ...
Mrs. Pamela Treadwell


A member of the House of Lords dies in a shockingly silly way, leaving his estate to his son. Unfortunately, his son is insane: he thinks he is Jesus Christ. The other somewhat-more respectable members of their family plot to steal the estate from him. Murder and mayhem ensues. Written by Mark Logan <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | Music


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| | |

Release Date:

25 May 1972 (UK)  »

Also Known As:

A Classe Dominante  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


Alastair Sim cast himself in the role as the Bishop, according to the commentary on the DVD. He called up his friend Peter O'Toole and told him, out of the blue, of course he'd help him by taking the part. No one was about to turn down the offer of such a great character actor, no matter how eccentric. See more »


After falling, Charles' hand is inside his jacket, but in the next cut, his hand is extended along the floor. See more »


[first lines]
Toastmaster: My Lords. Gentlemen. Pray silence for Ralph Douglas Christopher Alexander Gurney, the thirteenth Earl of Gurney.
13th Earl of Gurney: The aim of the Society of Saint George is to keep Gurney a memory of England. We were once the rulers of the greatest empire the world has ever known. Ruled not by superior force or skill, but by sheer presence.
See more »


Featured in The 75th Annual Academy Awards (2003) See more »


All Things Bright and Beautiful
Music by William H. Monk
Lyrics by Cecil F. Alexander
Arranged by John Cameron
See more »

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User Reviews

The insanity doesn't matter... but proper behavior does.
3 July 2000 | by (Oregon USA) – See all my reviews

Peter O'Toole has often played characters who are obsessed and even a bit mad. But in The Ruling Class he is utterly over the top crazy, and it's a bit disquieting how naturally he slips into the role. Yet this is a comedy, a wonderfully bizarre, often black comedy that deals with acceptable and unacceptable behavior -- insanity, and morality, being irrelevant. It's characters mostly belong the English elite, but they simply stand in for all those whose power and prestige demand that appearances be kept up. So this isn't a film for everyone. And some may not like the way it swings from the very flippant to the very dark. It requires a wide range of humor to enjoy it all. Unfortunately, I hear that enjoying it all may be impossible. It seems that all home versions are cut several minutes from the theatrical release, sometimes much more. The longest length available is apparently 141 minutes, so that is the one to get.

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