62 user 37 critic

The Handmaid's Tale (1990)

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


(novel), (screenplay)
1,596 ( 189)

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2 wins & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Zoey Wilson ...
Aunt Helena
Kathryn Doby ...
Aunt Elizabeth
Luke (as Rainer Schoene)
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


Branded: Sold: Controlled See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

9 March 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

A História da Aia  »


Box Office

Gross USA:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


The lead role of Kate/Offred was offered to Jodie Foster and Sigourney Weaver, the latter of whom had to drop out when she got pregnant. See more »


In separate washroom stalls, Kate and Moira shake hands above the wall. We see Moira's hand go up, but when camera looks from Kate's side, her eyes look up before Moira's hand appears above the wall. See more »


Preacher: We pledge allegiance to the Bible. The Old Testament shall be our sole and only Constitution.
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Referenced in The Staircase (2004) See more »


Save A Soul In Every Town
Written by Henry Priestman
Published by 10 Music Ltd.
Performed by The Christians
Courtesy of Island Records
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User Reviews

Startling visual impact
21 May 2001 | by 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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