Quiz Show (1994)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, History  |  7 October 1994 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.5/10 from 51,483 users   Metascore: 88/100
Reviews: 158 user | 59 critic | 13 from Metacritic.com

A young lawyer Jim Goodwin investigates a potentially fixed game show. Charlie Van Doren, a big time show winner is under Goodwin's investigation.



(screenplay), (book)
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

The accidental death of the older son of an affluent family deeply strains the relationships among the bitter mother, the good-natured father, and the guilt-ridden younger son.

Director: Robert Redford
Stars: Donald Sutherland, Mary Tyler Moore, Judd Hirsch
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow looks to bring down Senator Joseph McCarthy.

Director: George Clooney
Stars: David Strathairn, George Clooney, Patricia Clarkson
Frost/Nixon (2008)
Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A dramatic retelling of the post-Watergate television interviews between British talk-show host David Frost and former president Richard Nixon.

Director: Ron Howard
Stars: Frank Langella, Michael Sheen, Kevin Bacon
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Reporters Woodward and Bernstein uncover the details of the Watergate scandal that leads to President Nixon's resignation.

Director: Alan J. Pakula
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Robert Redford, Jack Warden
Comedy | Fantasy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

In Milagro, a small town in the American Southwest, Ladd Devine plans to build a major new resort development. While activist Ruby Archuleta and lawyer/newspaper editor Charlie Bloom ... See full summary »

Director: Robert Redford
Stars: Rubén Blades, Richard Bradford, Sonia Braga
Bugsy (1991)
Biography | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

The story of how Bugsy Siegel started Las Vegas.

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Warren Beatty, Annette Bening, Harvey Keitel
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A naive business graduate is installed as president of a manufacturing company as part of a stock scam.

Directors: Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
Stars: Tim Robbins, Paul Newman, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A partially idealized film of the controversial pornography publisher and how he became a defender of free speech for all people.

Director: Milos Forman
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
The Piano (1993)
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she's soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.

Director: Jane Campion
Stars: Holly Hunter, Harvey Keitel, Sam Neill
The Insider (1999)
Biography | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A research chemist comes under personal and professional attack when he decides to appear in a "60 Minutes" expose on Big Tobacco.

Director: Michael Mann
Stars: Russell Crowe, Al Pacino, Christopher Plummer
JFK (1991)
Drama | History | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A New Orleans DA discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon
A Simple Plan (1998)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

When three blue collar acquaintances come across millions of dollars in lost cash they make a plan to keep their find from the authorities but find complications and mistrust weaving its way into their plan.

Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bill Paxton, Billy Bob Thornton, Bridget Fonda


Cast overview, first billed only:
Dan Enright
Johann Carlo ...
Toby Stempel
George Martin ...
Account Guy


An idealistic young lawyer working for a Congressional subcommittee in the late 1950s discovers that TV quiz shows are being fixed. His investigation focuses on two contestants on the show "Twenty-One": Herbert Stempel, a brash working-class Jew from Queens, and Charles Van Doren, the patrician scion of one of America's leading literary families. Based on a true story. Written by Tim Horrigan <horrigan@hanover-crrel.army.mil>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Fifty million people watched, but no one saw a thing.


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

7 October 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Kviz  »

Box Office


$24,822,619 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film cast includes four Oscar winners: Mira Sorvino, Paul Scofield, Martin Scorsese, Barry Levinson; and four Oscar nominees: Ralph Fiennes, David Paymer, Ethan Hawke and Douglas McGrath. See more »


When Enright and Freedman attempt to convince Van Doren to appear on 21, they ask him how much does he think Bozo the Clown makes. Bozo's first TV show was in 1949 on Los Angeles's KTTV. However, Bozo did not gain national prominence until Larry Harmon established Bozo shows in various markets. The first was in LA in 1959, with the New York show also starting that year. Since Van Doren's conversation would have occurred in 1956, Bozo was not yet well known among adults or a high grossing star. See more »


Herbie Stemple: [offering rugelach] Come on, they're a Jewish delicacy. Before Toby eats it.
Toby Stempel: I'm retaining water, for your information.
Herbie Stemple: You and the Grand Coulee Dam.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Herbert Stempel went to work for the New York City Transit Department. He still lives in Queens. See more »


References Tic Tac Dough (1956) See more »


Written by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A colorful, well-written portrayal of a forgotten event in the history of television
23 October 2006 | by (Baltimore, MD) – See all my reviews

"Quiz Show" is the type of movie that invites viewers to ask themselves how they would act under similar circumstances. If you were a contestant on a TV game show and the producers offered you a load of money to do a fixed show where you're given the answers in advance, would you do it? Or would you turn your back on the producers and walk away? In this film, Charles Van Doren does not walk away, but he does hesitate. As played by Ralph Fiennes, he's a bright, likable fellow who seems like a good man despite his willing participation in a fraud.

The film is smartly written, tightly plotted, and populated by interesting characters. It is also entertaining. It unfolds like a great detective story, except that no murder has taken place. There isn't even any crime. As shocking as it may seem, there were no laws against rigging a quiz show back in the 1950s, because no lawmaker had considered that such a thing would ever happen. When the scandal came to light, those working behind the scenes who engineered the fraud managed to survive with their careers intact, and the people who suffered the harshest consequences were the contestants, who were simply pawns. That says something about the distortions of television culture, but this theme, among others, is nicely understated in the film.

Director Robert Redford has a gift for finding the drama in seemingly mundane topics, but not in a contrived or manipulative fashion. The '50s quiz show scandal is the sort of topic that could easily have made for a preachy and artificial TV movie. It's a great credit to Redford's film that it doesn't contain any long moralizing speeches. Though the movie has many great quotes, the characters talk like real people, and the situations grow out of their personalities. We end up rooting for several characters at once. We want Richard Goodwin (Rob Morrow), the lawyer sent to investigate the show, to succeed in uncovering the scandal. But we also feel for Van Doren, who almost comes off as a tragic hero. We even feel a little for the pathetic and unlikable Herb Stemple (John Turturro), the whistle-blower who's been bamboozled and humiliated by the producers.

The movie works on the most basic level as simple drama, the high points being those scenes where Goodwin uncovers each new layer to the case. The first time I saw the film, I was put in mind of a detective story like "Colombo." There's no mystery, of course, since we know from the start who the perpetrators are, what they did and how they did it. But the labyrinth of corruption that Goodwin must probe is fascinating to behold.

Goodwin naively assumes he's practically taking down the network (the movie hints that the scandal goes to the very top) even though no laws were broken. The situation has the feel of a conspiracy, the people talking in euphemisms like they were mob bosses or something ("For seventy grand you can afford to be humiliated"). The contestants themselves are no dummies: they are smart, knowledgeable people who could very well have been used honestly on a trivia show. The producers simply wanted to control the responses to make the show more dramatic. What made this unethical was the amount of deception it required. It's one thing to have entertainment that everyone knows is fake (e.g., pro-wrestling), it's quite another to pass off something phony as something real. Of course now I'm getting preachy, something I praised the movie for not doing. But that's exactly my point. In a lesser movie, there would have been characters explaining the distinction. Here, it's left to us to assess the situation. That's the best kind of movie, the kind that invites further discussion.

Above all, the movie is about integrity and what defines it. Goodwin (in a classic reversal of our culture's typical view of lawyers) is the boy scout in the story, who says at one point that he would never have participated in the fraud if he were in Van Doren's shoes, and we believe him. But a large part of the film involves his relationship with Van Doren, a man he likes and doesn't want to hurt. His desire to protect Van Doren (but not Stemple) from ruin while bringing down the true perpetrators of the scandal leads to one of the movie's most memorable lines, when Goodwin's wife calls Goodwin "the Uncle Tom of the Jews," because he's sticking up for a corrupt Gentile. We respect Goodwin and admire his reluctance to hurt Van Doren, but we, too, wonder whether he's handling the case with the proper objectivity.

The movie has some interesting subtexts dealing with the anti-Semitism coming from Jewish producers themselves. In one scene, producers Dan Enright and Albert Freedman basically explain to Van Doren, in so many words, that Stemple is too Jewish for the show. This is a phenomenon I've rarely seen dealt with in the movies, possibly because there aren't too many films depicting the history of television.

The film is often criticized for departing significantly from the facts of the case. For example, the real Goodwin actually played a minimal role in exposing the scandal. I can understand why those involved in the case may have resented these inaccuracies. But filmmakers do have dramatic license. Probably this film should have changed the names of the characters from their real-life counterparts, to reinforce the fact that it's not an exact account of what happened. The purpose of movies isn't to duplicate real life, but to reflect on real life, to gain fresh insight, and "Quiz Show" achieves that purpose with dignity and style.

47 of 51 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
has the distribution of this movie been supressed since it's release? robtromp
Rob Morrow miscast? j-scott-adams
The real Best Picture, 1994 cdrw74minutes
Is Charles Van Doren really at fault? MovieGuy89
Ruben Sandwich cann85
Did anyone else find Charles van Doren's(Fiennes) smile annoying? lgforce
Discuss Quiz Show (1994) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: