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The Elephant Man (1980)

PG  |   |  Biography, Drama  |  10 October 1980 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 151,050 users  
Reviews: 350 user | 114 critic

A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.



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Top Rated Movies #138 | Nominated for 8 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bytes' Boy
Pat Gorman ...
Fairground Bobby
Claire Davenport ...
Fat Lady


John Merrick (whose real name was Joseph, as this is based on a true story) is an intelligent and friendly man, but he is hated by his Victorian-era English society because he is severely deformed. Once he is discovered by a doctor, however, he is saved from his life in a freak show and he is treated like the human being that he really is. Written by Sam Cibula

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


I am not an animal! I am a human being! I...am...a man!


Biography | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

10 October 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El hombre elefante  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)


SEK 2,253,306 (Sweden)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


Mel Brooks hired David Lynch to direct the film because he admired Lynch's work in Eraserhead (1977). See more »


When we see an image of smoking pipe stacks, it's obviously stock footage because it's much grainier then the rest of the film. See more »


[first lines]
Skeleton Man: Get rid of them! I don't want to see them!
Fat Lady: Darling, don't be difficult! Let's take our sweet lovely children on an outing.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Closing disclaimer: This has been based upon the true life story of John Merrick, known as The Elephant Man, and not upon the Broadway play of the same title or any other fictional account. See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: Basket Case (2013) See more »


Adagio for Strings
By Samuel Barber
Played by London Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by André Previn (as Andre Previn)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Masterpiece, Truly Remarkable

David Lynch is a remarkable director and The Elephant Man is a remarkable film. Inspired by a true story in the streets of London during the Victorian Age, the film is based entirely around the life of John Merrick (John Hurt), an individual dubbed by his `owner' Bytes (Freddie Jones) and others as 'The Elephant Man' because of his hideous deformities. With this film, Lynch grasps his audience and stretches them to a new parallel of an emotionally capturing film. And what makes this so daunting and so intriguing is the fact that 'The Elephant Man' is a true story, no part of it is fictional. Anthony Hopkins plays Dr. Frederick Treves, the man who somewhat saves John from those who persecute him for being a freak, being a `monster.' A story of human triumph could never be so remarkable as that of The Elephant Man. Lynch takes The Elephant Man to a new level of technical aspiration with a dark, dank setting shot completely in black and white. This film is amazing and would undoubtedly be just okay any other way. The black and white adds to the story in a way that touches the audience much deeper and much more personal. Not to mention stunning performances and dialogue by all cast, `David Lynch's portrait of John 'The Elephant Man' Merrick stands as one of the best biographies on film.' Literary critic Leslie Fiedler maintains that freaks stir `both supernatural terror and natural sympathies' because they `challenge conventional boundaries between male and female, sexed and sexless, animal and human, large and small, self and other.' In this very interesting and moving film, we are challenged to clarify our values in regard to `very special people.' However, in one powerful scene of tension and curiosity, John Merrick screams out, `I am not an animal! I am a human being! I.am.a man!' This particular sequence, I believe, is incredible and it ties in with the whole focus of the film itself, human dignity and emotion. David Lynch is known for some pretty twisted films, and yet, The Elephant Man is not that twisted at all. Even though his audience views John Merrick as not the average person because of his medical condition, the story is cherished because of how it is put onto the big screen. Compared to his other films such as Blue Velvet and Eraserhead, The Elephant Man is more surreal in terms of what Lynch was going for. Lynch does a magnificent job in portraying his version of The Elephant Man, and many people along with critics alike agree. I can easily rate The Elephant Man with four stars because David Lynch deserves no less. The Elephant Man is a classic, a striking and devastating film depicting the account of John Merrick's search for a dignified and normal life. I would definitely recommend this film to those in search of a wonderful story about one man's conquest to a regular life. Dr. Treves' account with John not only presents him with respect and normalcy, but also takes him as far as an uplifting scene where upon John states `my life is full because I know I am loved.' With such an inspirational and true story, David Lynch puts on a film that should be loved by many, if not all.

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This made me cry.... roaddog54
Impossible movies to not cry on? Top 5. blazetariq
Is There a Movie much sadder than this Masterpiece !! slayerkolik13
Why is it b+w if it's from the 80's? lady-dinobug
Proof David Lynch Isn't Insane gamoore0
One thing that bugs me ... roman_g
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