The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

R  |   |  Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi  |  9 March 1990 (USA)
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Reviews: 53 user | 21 critic

In a dystopicly polluted rightwing religious tyranny, a young woman is put in sexual slavery on account of her now rare fertility.


(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Kate / Offred
Serena Joy
Aunt Lydia
Janine / Ofwarren
Zoey Wilson ...
Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby ...
Aunt Elizabeth
Reiner Schöne ...
Luke (as Rainer Schoene)
Lucia Hartpeng ...
Karma Ibsen Riley ...
Aunt Sara
Lucile McIntyre ...
Officer on Bus


Set in a Fascistic future America, The Handmaid's Tale tells the story of Kate, a handmaid. In this America, the religious right has taken over and gone hog-wild. Kate is a criminal, guilty of the crime of trying to escape from the US, and is sentenced to become a Handmaid. The job of a Handmaid is to bear the children of the man to whom she is assigned. After ruthless group training by Aunt Lydia in the proper way to behave, Kate is assigned as Handmaid to the Commander. Kate is attracted to Nick, the Commander's chauffeur. At the same time, a resistance movement begins to challenge the regime. Written by Reid Gagle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A haunting tale of sexuality in a country gone wrong. See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

9 March 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A História da Aia  »

Box Office


$4,960,385 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio turned down the role of Moira, before Elizabeth McGovern was then cast. See more »


The photo of Natasha's daughter that she is holding. See more »


Moira: What they get you for?
Kate: We tried to cross the border. You?
Moira: Gender Treachery. I like girls.
Kate: My God! They could've sent you to the colonies for that.
Moira: They don't send you to the colonies if your ovaries are still jumping.
See more »


I Don't Know Enought About You
Written by Peggy Lee and Dave Barbour
Performed by The Mills Brothers
Published by Duchess Music Corporation
Rights administered by MCA Music Publishing, a division of MCA, Inc.
See more »

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User Reviews

Startling visual impact
21 May 2001 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The handmaids in brilliant red, the wives in electric blue, the children in white--Margaret Atwood's neo-fascist state comes startingly alive in Schloendorff's film. The bright colors are oppressive in their uniformity, whether in the "ceremony"--Robert Duvall's passionless copulation with Natasha Richardson as she lies in the lap of his sterile wife, Faye Dunaway--or in the party to celebrate the birth of a handmaid's child, or the execution of another handmaid for fornication. There are several fine actors--Elizabeth McGovern and Aidan Quinn also play memorable, if brief, roles--but the cinematography steals the show here, giving this anti-Utopia the same oppressive tension as the original 1984 and far surpassing any version of Brave New World. It may be that Atwood's book, which I haven't read, adds layers of depth to the characters and plot, but Schloendorff's visualisation is a real enhancement to the tale. He creates the tension of a police state with only momentary intrusions of brutality or machinery. A strong film that will gain its following with time.

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