Down 1,287 this week

Jefferson in Paris (1995)

PG-13  |   |  Biography, Drama, History  |  31 March 1995 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 5.7/10 from 2,372 users   Metascore: 45/100
Reviews: 26 user | 20 critic | 22 from

One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old ... See full summary »


0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video


Celebrate IMDb's 25th Anniversary with Photos We Love

IMDb turns a classy 25 on October 17! To celebrate, we put together a gallery of some of our favorite movie, TV, and event photos from the last 25 years.

See the Photos We Love

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 30 titles
created 07 Jun 2011
a list of 40 titles
created 26 Aug 2011
a list of 46 titles
created 22 Feb 2013
a list of 42 titles
created 15 Feb 2014
a list of 36 titles
created 27 Sep 2014

Related Items

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: Jefferson in Paris (1995)

Jefferson in Paris (1995) on IMDb 5.7/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of Jefferson in Paris.
2 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

The passionate Merchant-Ivory drama tells the story of Francoise Gilot, the only lover of Pablo Picasso who was strong enough to withstand his ferocious cruelty and move on with her life.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Natascha McElhone, Julianne Moore
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Dorothy Parker remembers the heyday of the Algonquin Round Table, a circle of friends whose barbed wit, like hers, was fueled by alcohol and flirted with despair.

Director: Alan Rudolph
Stars: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Campbell Scott, Matthew Broderick
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

This fictionalized story, based on the family life of writer James Jones, is an emotionless slice-of-life story. Jones here is portrayed as Bill Willis, a former war hero and now successful... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Leelee Sobieski, Kris Kristofferson, Barbara Hershey
Sylvia (2003)
Biography | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Story of the relationship between the poets Ted Hughes and Sylvia Plath.

Director: Christine Jeffs
Stars: Gwyneth Paltrow, Daniel Craig, Lucy Davenport
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Love is complex and relationships deteriorate.

Directors: Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh
Stars: Alan Cumming, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Phoebe Cates
Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.8/10 X  

A young widow still grieving over the death of her husband finds herself being comforted by a local housepainter.

Director: David Anspaugh
Stars: Elizabeth Perkins, Whoopi Goldberg, Kathleen Turner
Biography | Drama | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

Epic television miniseries exploring the complicated relationship of Thomas Jefferson and slave Sally Hemings, who conducted a 38 year love affair, spanning an ocean, ultimately producing children, grandchildren, and lots of controversy.

Director: Charles Haid
Stars: Sam Neill, Carmen Ejogo, Diahann Carroll
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 4.7/10 X  

Two teachers vie for the right to stage a play written by Jane Austen when she was twelve years old.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Anne Baxter, Robert Powell, Michael Wager
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

A man marries an heiress for her money even though he is actually in love with her friend.

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Uma Thurman, Jeremy Northam, Kate Beckinsale
Hush (1998)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.2/10 X  

Helen is the young girlfriend of good-looking Jackson Baring. When Helen gets pregnant and marries Jackson, they decide to move to his hometown, Kilronan, and have a baby there. But his ... See full summary »

Director: Jonathan Darby
Stars: Jessica Lange, Gwyneth Paltrow, Johnathon Schaech
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

It's about a five member family. The father is a conservative and traditional person who directs the family. The mother is at home, she tries to hold together the family, while Mr. Bridge ... See full summary »

Director: James Ivory
Stars: Paul Newman, Joanne Woodward, Saundra McClain
The Pupil (1996)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  
Director: Olivier Schatzky
Stars: Vincent Cassel, Caspar Salmon, Caroline Cellier


Cast overview, first billed only:
Estelle Eonnet ...
Polly Jefferson
James Hemings
Todd Boyce ...
William Short
Nicolas Silberg ...
Monsieur Petit
Catherine Samie ...
Lionel Robert ...
Cook's Helper
Jean Rupert ...
Yvette Petit ...
Paolo Mantini ...
Mutilated Officer (as F. van den Driessche)


One of the obsessive speculations in American history is whether Thomas Jefferson, in the years before he became president, had an affair with (and fathered a child with) his 15-year-old slave Sally Hemings. JEFFERSON IN PARIS follows Jefferson to France (as the U.S. ambassador to the court of Louis XVI), following the death of his wife his friendships and flirtations with the French, his relationship with his daughters and slaves from home (especially Sally), against the backdrop of the beginning of the French Revolution. Written by Michael C. Berch <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature theme, some images of violence and a bawdy puppet show | See all certifications »






Release Date:

31 March 1995 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jefferson em Paris  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)


$2,474,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Sally Hemmings' gown made from the patterned gray fabric selected by Thomas Jefferson and Mrs. Cosway is the same costume worn by Jessica Oyelowo (Sarah) in Sleepy Hollow (1999), and by Billie Piper (Fanny Price) during the play rehearsal scene in Mansfield Park (2007). See more »


Thomas buys items from Parisian merchants who use the metric system of measure over a decade before the adoption of metric units in France. See more »


Thomas Jefferson: Independence is not a toy for children to play with, but the privilege of a fully matured mind.
See more »


Featured in The Cutting Edge: The Magic of Movie Editing (2004) See more »


Written by Maria Cosway
Performed by Mary Nichols (alto) and Jan Walters (harp)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Something for every taste
3 February 2005 | by (Over the mountains of the moon) – See all my reviews

I wouldn't have been too surprised if Merchant and Ivory had attempted to suit up Anthony Hopkins as Thomas Jefferson or perhaps even fitted Hugh Grant with shoe lifts and an ersatz Viriginia accent for the role. Instead they went with Nick Nolte - who at first glance seems an almost equally unlikely choice. However the casting proved to be inspired for Nolte does a remarkable job of capturing Jefferson during his stint as U.S. ambassador to France on the the eve of the French Revolution. Nolte effectively projects Jefferson's pride, intelligence and intellectual curiosity............ and human frailties.

Most of what I read and heard about this movie led me to believe that it was chiefly concerned with Jefferson's relationship with Sally Hemmings (Thandie Newton) - However, there are other threads running through that take up as much time and attention in this film. If there is a central theme here it seems to be an examination of some of the failures of Jefferson as a man of principle. Both Jefferson's public and private ideals are put to the test during his stay in Paris. And he, arguably fails on every count. However, somehow (at least for me) he remains a sympathetic character-even with his many faults.

Early on in the film Jefferson is called to account by the liberal French aristocrats that he associates with regarding the failure of the American Revolution to address the issue of slavery. Jefferson admits that slavery is evil (he even tried to have an anti-slavery clause inserted in the Declaration of Independence) -but he has no answer when the Frenchmen assert that the American Revolution was "incomplete".

The question of slavery also figures into Jefferson's rather ethereal romance with the wife of an English painter (Mrs Cosway played by Greta Scacci). When questioned about the matter he is only able to put her off by simply saying that it would be impossible for a foreigner to understand slavery as practiced in the American south.

Gwyenth Paltrow gives perhaps the best performance in the film as Jefferson's troubled oldest daughter (Patsy). She sees her close relationship with her father threatened by both Mrs Cosway and then later by Sally Hemmings' appearance on the scene as the nursemaid to Jefferson's younger daughter. Jefferson puts Patsy into a convent but is later taken aback when she evidences an interest in converting to Catholcism. The Mother Superior (Nancy Marchand) of the convent taunts Jefferson, when he comes to retrieve his daughter. by pointing out that freedom of religion is an idea (after all) championed in the U.S. Constituion. The idea here, of course, is that Jefferson is being a hypocrite once again by denying his daughter her own choice in the matter. I must say though that the Mother Superior's jibes ring rather hollow to me in as much as an 18th century Catholic nun would not be my first choice to represent the voice of conscience regarding the promotion of human liberty.

Thandie Newton may have the most difficult job here in so much as so little is known about Sally Hemmings (We do get a couple scenes of ineffective exposition in the guise of Sally's son (James Earl Jones) being interviewed seventy years later). Newton chooses to play the character very broadly and she comes across as quite believable in both reflecting the speech and manners of a 15 year old slave girl fresh off a Virginia Plantation (all the more remarkable since she is a 22 year old Englishwoman---her accent only fails her in one scene I think). The character of Sally Hemmings stands in sharp contrast to the almost painful sophistication exhibited by the French nobility that Jefferson associates with. I note that some posters on IMDb criticize Newton's portrayal as lacking depth and even sinking at points to the "stepanfetchit" level. I disagree. Newton- is showing us a confused girl-far from home--and certainly a girl at times who has her own agenda--however naive.

It is obvious here that Merchant and Ivory are attempting to get us, at every point in the picture, to question the character of Jefferson--However,- the way the affair between he and Hemmings is handled speaks much to the limit of how far the film-makers were willing to go. The affair itself is still clouded by controversy but in almost all circumstances, a 50 year old man having an affair with a 15 year old girl must be considered, at least, culpable if not criminal. There really is no such thing as consensual sex between a slave and a master. Since nobody really knows the hows and whys of the affair, Merchant and Ivory had free license to present it in any light that they wanted---and they chose to make (unrealistically in my view) Sally Hemmings the sole initiator of the affair -- In fact, it's difficult to picture Nolte's Jefferson as initiating the affair--much less forcing it. I think that this version of events rather begs credulity.

As usual, Merchant and Ivory, have produced a movie that has wonderful period details - the costumes and sets are at the very top of the line in every way. The building storm of the revolution is set as the backdrop to all that happens in the film. Mob scenes are inserted between views into the luxury and leisure of the French nobility in an effort to remind us that many of these extremely glib and well dressed people will be without heads in the near future.

"Jefferson in Paris" offers a little something for everyone---History -Romance----class and race conflict----take your pick....It's a movie well worth watching.

22 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
sally is white gangsta__fairy
Why are there no subtitles? Sparrowhawk
M. Cosway's make-up! ownerbluesky
Modern mores. Petie3-2
Antoinette and Ben Franklin? ClassicMovieholic
Discuss Jefferson in Paris (1995) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: