Judgment at Nuremberg (1961) Poster

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9/10
Cinematic Theater Of A Remarkable Kind
M. J Arocena1 February 2007
Beyond its compelling subject matter "Judgement At Neuremberg" revolutionizes the court room drama genre. The camera swings and swerves and dives between the lines of this exemplary Abby Mann script. Stanley Kramer conducts his orchestra of iconic stars with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker. The language barriers and the confinement of the action masterfully resolved. Spencer Tracy is simply magnificent and, as per usual, we believe every word that comes out of his mouth. His judge is an American monument of unsentimental humanity. Twentynine year old Maimilian Schell won the Oscar as best actor and his performance survived the test of time with the vigor of his conviction. Montgomery Cliff makes his short minutes on the screen, one of those memorable moments that nobody that has ever seen it will be able to forget. The man and the character merging into one chilling, shattering truth. "I am half the man I've ever been" Marlene Dietrich gives to her German aristocrat a legendary star quality. And Judy Garland, overweight and almost unrecognizable breaks your heart and gets her last Oscar nomination. My only troubles came with the stoic Burt Lancaster because I could never forget it was Burt Lancaster and with Richard Widmark's strident prosecutor. I have seen "Judgement At Neuremberg" more than a dozen times and it never ceases to amaze me that no matter the darkness of the subject it always manages to entertain and inspire.
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10/10
"My counsel says we were not aware of the extermination of the millions. He would give you the excuse: We were only aware of the extermination of the hundreds."
alexkolokotronis28 January 2009
This quote is one of the most shocking and yet truthful quotes I have ever heard. It is one of many shocking and intense quotes in the movie. Furthermore Judgment at Nuremburg is one of the most absorbing movies I have seen. Even though most if not all of it is dialog it is very much a haunting film. This film is loosely based on the trials in Nuremburg in 1948. Right from the start the movie captures your mind and never lets it go.

The acting was collectively amazing. One of the best casts ever assembled which included Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland, Richard Widmark, Burt Lancaster as well as international stars Maximilian Schell and Marlene Dietrich. It is not just the fact that this is a star studded cast that made it so great, it was the way everyone appeared to blend in together. Maximilian Schell gave the performance of his life in this film playing the defense lawyer for Burt Lancaster who give two superb narratives that will certainly stay in your mind forever. Schell's character use of logic is that of something which will mesmerize use you whether or not you agree or disagree with what he says. Richard Widmark playing the prosecutor gave the type of supporting performance that was necessary for Schell to shine. The way both actors fed off each other was a joy to watch. Then of course the tiny appearances of Garland and Clift were excellent and worth every second they spent on camera. I usually find myself frustrated with cameos and actors receiving recognition for them but this film used cameos the best way I have ever seen. Then of course Spencer Tracy and Marlene Dietrich provided such great presence were perfect for the lead.

The direction of Stanley Kramer was spectacular as the film intensified more and more as it wore on. It was always engrossing and never let up. The writing of Abby Mann was great, filled up with great material and narratives allowing every actor in the cast to give a superb performance. There were many memorable quotes as well. The writing carried the film forward and allowed all the potential and talent to push this film to another level.

Judgement at Nuremburg is not just another movie. It is a very thought provoking movie. More than that though it is haunting. Just thinking about the course of the events being talked about in the movie became subtly haunting in a way I really didn't expect. What was the most compelling though was the way we need to separate what we feel with what has to be truly done, with what is truly right.
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10/10
~One of the most Powerful Films ever made.~
The_Fifth_Echo14 June 2010
Judgement At Nurmeberg is a 1961 film about four Nazi Judges are in trial for crimes against humanity. Well let me just start out by saying that this is a very sad, powerful film. I was expecting it to be very boring and I guess I underestimated it. The film is also very well written, so well written that actually it makes you really think. I'm happy that it won an Oscar for writing.

The best quality about the film HAS to be the acting. Judy Garland, I think should of won a Supporting Actress. This is her finest performance ever, and I'm sad she didn't win one. Maximilian Schell gives the performance of a lifetime in his role as the defense attorney for the judges. He truly deserved his Oscar because he was very powerful. Spencer Tracy also gave a quite exceptional performance as he always had. (He isn't a Two-Time Oscar Winner for nothing. As for Montgomery Clift he deserved his Oscar Nomination. I am kind of ticked off that Marlene didn't get an Oscar Nomination for Best Supporting Actress. I always feel she is underrated.

As for Stanley Kramer (The Director) he had real talent and this film shows it. The 9-Time Oscar nominated Director should've of won an Oscar for Best Director for Judgement at Nuremberg. I hope his talent though will be remembered for many years to come.

My Overall Consensus is that the movie definitely succeeds due to the Extraordinary Performances and the Quite Exceptional Writing.

You Should see this Film. 10/10
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10/10
When films like this can be made.......
stanford-46 October 2005
If this is not considered as one of THE great films of all time, then all of us film fans should pack up bags and go home I cannot fault anyone, any scene, anything in this film. The dialogue races along in its smooth yet supremely captivating style. You grab a film like this, see a whole host of famous actors, and wonder if such a mix could ever work. It does, believe me, it really, really does.

Tracy. He was given the most powerful of dialogues, he presents it to us in a way that does not shout at you, yet holds you in a vice like grip every time he comes on screen. With his characteristic method of looking down whilst talking, hands in pocket, that small sly look up that he does, vintage Spencer, just how you would imagine a judge to be, or should be.

The supporting cast, again, never lets the film down. Some have the opportunity to step up a notch, Snell, Widmark, and others play their roles in a more subtle manner, Garland and Dietrich. And others just wipe away the floor with their presence, Clift and Lancaster for example.

And the story by Abby Mann - incredible.

Shot in black and white, it makes you think, it makes you smile, it will make you sad, and in the end you will be all the better for having seen one of the greatest films ever made, you will be richer for the experience, and you will be wiser.

You will also be able to say that you saw what Hollywood can do, you saw what great actors can do when put amongst their peers and are not 'stars' of a movie but are part of a larger ensemble.

And you will also see why this particular group were, genuinely, the very best Hollywood had to offer, period.
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9/10
Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today?
Beaucoul30 April 2007
I watched "Judgment at Nuremburg" on PBS the other night. I had never seen it before. I expected an empty-headed, Hollywood-style, quasi-melodrama, but I was pleasantly surprised. Even Spencer Tracy, that universally beloved actor whose appeal has always escaped me, gave an honest and heartfelt portrayal of a "simple man" who was also a deeply conflicted judge.

What I liked most about this movie was that it didn't pull any punches, in the manner of other "controversial" films of its time. The defense attorney, superbly played by Maximilian Schell, weaves a simple, but undeniable web of logic:

  • Sterilization of "undesirables," one of the charges against the Nazi war criminals, was at one time condoned by the U.S. courts, and encouraged by none other than Oliver Wendell Holmes. - Numerous leading industrialists in the U.S. contributed to the development of the Nazi war machine. - Encouragement was given to Hitler's expansionism by both Russia and England. - Churchill is quoted as having admired Hitler. - The Vatican actively collaborated with the Nazis.


Correct me if I'm wrong, but it must have taken major cojones to present that kind of message to American filmgoers in 1961. Would a film of that candor have a chance of being made today?

I tend to doubt it.

One further note. The film describes how the Nazis went about stripping the German judiciary of judges who were known for their objectivity, and replacing them with judges who were appointed based solely on their party loyalties.

The mind boggles at the implications and yes, the prescience of this well-written, well-played masterpiece.
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10/10
Revelation of Horror
buckboard25 February 2001
This is a fine film by a fine director, but I can only hope that Stanley Kramer, in committing to full length film a television story, knew at heart the message his movie was trying to say. Because this is truly a message movie, for all mankind, but if the reviews I've read on this site are any indication, the message has been lost to some degree.

I've entitled my review "Revelation of Horror", but the horror revealed was not the Holocaust. That had already been revealed, although Kramer's film certainly lent its emotional impact. The revelation was a deep, true insight into how it happened, and the horror is that it happened in a civilized country. Few on this earth can imagine the true horror of Nazi Germany--I've read criticism of Widmark's Colonel Lawson as too preachy, but the character and the acting conveyed the mission of one who actually saw the horrors, beyond any scope we can identify with.

Kramer's achievement is that everything in this movie reminds us that the Nazi's used every facet of civilization, no matter how minute, to foster their extermination of their enemies, to inculcate it as an ordinary part of life. That was why judges were chosen to portray the issue of "obeying orders" versus "human decency." Herr Rolf is "forced" to defend the worst criminals imaginable, and yet his very defense and the principles behind it are abused in the process, used as a weapon against the very law they represent. Thus did the Nazis prevail with the willing acquiescence of the German people, and the abominable disregard of the rest of the world.

The other horror revealed in this film is the incessant excusing of it. Beyond the obvious pleas of the guilty ("We didn't know", or as one judge says to another, "Was it possible to kill like that?") are the multiplicity of subtle excuses: the reminder of centuries' old German culture, Rolf's plaintive cry of "unfairness" at the showing of the death camp films because of their inflammatory nature, the invocation of "Lili Marlene" throughout the film, to name just a few. While the song evokes sadness, a guilty German society meant for it to invoke sadness. Long before Germany had its country destroyed by bombs, it had its soul destroyed by Hitler.

Because this is a courtroom drama, respecting the sacred role of the Rule of Law in safeguarding humanity, almost every scene, every line is a statement that Nazi Germany perverted the Rule of Law, as did the very defense of the war criminals. But what is principle on a small scale of a single man being judged by society becomes outrage when used to defend the indefensible on an impossibly massive scale. Tracy's character at the film's end has a realization that this is so, as well as an awareness that what happened in Germany during the Third Reich was an Aristotelian tragedy for anyone touched by it, even remotely, so that any personal considerations (such as Mrs. Berthold) are made utterly impossible.

Rolf's speech about the guilty responsibility of the rest of the world was valid--but he was indicting the world to save one man. Where have we heard that in our own time? This quality about "Judgment at Nuremburg" makes its message forever fresh--and its warnings.
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10/10
One of the most thrilling and thought provoking movie of all times
Ali Ilyas9 October 2006
I have always been fond of Stanley Kramer's work , but this movie proved to be quite extraordinary and exceptional .The movie has every thing you can desire and human sentiments are at there level best. The plot is written by Abby Mann who won best screenplay Oscar from that and quite deserving one. The story based on Nuremberg trials held after fall of Nazi's in Germany but this movie is nice blend of history with fiction as the major characters were fictional but the evidences and indictments presented in the trial ever authentic and truly depicts the conditions of Nazi occupied Germany. The most intriguing thing of the movie was the true representation of aftermaths of Nazi's occupation in Germany and the feeling of German toward the trial and immaculate direction of Kramer made possible to convey these types of sentiment on cinema for the very first time. The cast was also fascinating with big names like Tracy and surely he did justice with his role as he was very compelling and humble as Judge Haywood. Maximilian Schell was at his best as a compassionate enthusiastic zealous and patriotic attorney to defend the dignity of Nation. He won best actor Oscar for his role. Montgomery Clift was also the one who made this movie special as he played a role of feeble minded sterile man who was nominated for best actor in supporting role though he only played for 9 min in the movie. Burt Lancaster gave one of the most extraordinary cinematic performances as Ernst Janning. This is one of those movies which provokes our mentality and also our morality and is a treat to watch.
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10/10
A Film Of Enduring Value
Lechuguilla8 May 2005
They say that time heals all heartache. In the case of the Third Reich, I'm not sure that the old saying is true. Out of respect for the Holocaust victims, and as an important history lesson, there's something to be said for not forgetting the evils of Hitler. Fortunately, we have this great film to help us not forget.

"Judgment At Nuremberg" is a dramatization of one of the many real life post WWII Nuremberg trials of high ranking Nazis. Most of the film focuses on the 1948 courtroom trial of four judges who helped to carry out Hitler's decrees. As part of the prosecution's case against the judges, real life, graphic film footage showing the horrors of the death camps engenders a gut level impression that is both powerful and persuasive. The film thus educates viewers in ways that a dry textbook of facts and figures never could.

But there's more to the film than the trial. In other parts of Nuremberg we see ordinary Germans trying to get on with their lives as best they can, three years after the war's end, in a bombed out and bleak city. One of these persons is Madame Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich), the wife of a dead German soldier. In contrast to the harsh and contentious trial, Madame Bertholt's kindness toward the tribunal's lead judge, Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy), provides an example of the innocence and decency of ordinary Germans, and thus adds a softer, more contemplative perspective to the ordeal. In these non-courtroom scenes, the melancholy background music and the soft production lighting create a mood of depression and sadness.

I find very little to criticize in this three hour film. Perhaps the plot could have been clearer in identifying the legal counsel of three of the four defendants. And maybe in those scenes wherein the four defendants conversed among themselves, the dialogue should have been in German, not English. But these are trivial points. Overall, this is a film that is well written and directed, a film with credible actors giving stellar performances, and most of all, a film that assures preservation of that era's historic significance, with a political and social message that has enduring value.
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9/10
Fantastic acting, script, and direction in a thought-provoking movie
Antonius Block11 September 2017
Outstanding film. Star-studded with several fantastic performances. Highly emotional given the subject matter, but presented in a very intelligent, balanced way. I was struck at once by that, and by how well director Stanley Kramer gives us both sides of the argument – and avoids simply paying lip service to the defense of the German judges on trial. Maximilian Schell is brilliant as the defense attorney, well worthy of his Oscar, and is forceful and compelling in his arguments. There are also so many brilliant scenes. Spencer Tracy walking in the empty arena where the Nazi rallies were held, with Kramer focusing on the dais from which Hitler spoke. The testimony of Montgomery Clift and Judy Garland, both of whom are outstanding and should have gotten Oscars. Burt Lancaster in the role of one of the German judges, the one tortured by his complicity, knowing he and others are guilty. The devastating real film clips from the concentration camps, which are still spine tingling despite all we 'know' or have been exposed to. Marlene Dietrich as the German general's wife, haunted but expressing the German viewpoint, one time while people are singing over drinks. Her night stroll with Tracy, as she explains the words to one song, is touching. It just seemed like there was just one powerhouse scene after another, and the film did not seem long at all at three hours. Heck, you've even got Werner Klemperer and William Shatner before they would become Colonel Klink and Captain Kirk! In this film, the acting, the script, and the direction are all brilliant, and in harmony with one another.

As for the trial itself, the defense argument was along these lines: they were judges (and therefore interpreters), not makers of law. They didn't know about the atrocities in the concentration camps. At least one of them saved or helped many by staying in their roles and doing the best they could under the heavy hand of the Third Reich. They were patriots, saw improvement in the country when Hitler took power, but did not know how far he would go. If you were going to convict these judges, you would have to convict many more Germans (and where would it stop?). The Americans themselves practiced Eugenics and killed thousands and thousands of innocents at Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The one small weakness I found was that the defense never makes the simple argument that these judges were forced to do what they did, just as countless others in Germany were, and would have been imprisoned or killed themselves had they not complied. Anyone who's lived under a totalitarian regime may understand, or at least empathize.

I'm not saying I bought into these arguments or that one should be an apologist to Nazis, but the fact that the film presented such a strong defense was thought provoking. How fantastic is it that Spencer Tracy plays his character the way he does – simply pursuing the facts, and in a quiet, thoughtful way. It's the best of humanity. How heartbreaking is Burt Lancaster's character, admitting they knew, admitting their guilt, knowing that what happened was horrible and that they were wrong, and yet seeking Tracy's understanding in that scene in the jail cell at the end – intellectual to intellectual - and being rebuked. Even a single life taken unjustly was wrong. Had the Axis won the war, I don't know which Americans would have been on trial for war crimes for the fire bombings of Dresden and Tokyo, or for dropping the atomic bombs, but the film makes one think, even for a war when things were seemingly as black and white as they could ever be. The particulars of this trial were fictionalized, but it's representative of what really occurred, and it transports you into events 70 years ago which seem so unreal today – and yet are so vitally important to understand, and remember.
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8/10
Magnificent film based on actual events with top-notch performances by all star cast
ma-cortes20 April 2010
A stimulating portrayal of the Nuremberg trials in which members of the German judiciary were brought to response their crimes in the immediate post-war period.The movie initiates with scenes of Nuremberg, Germany, 1948. The destruction of the war is clear everywhere. Judge Haywood(Spencer Tracy) is driven through the rotten buildings. Judge Hayward along with two other judges (Ray Teal, Kednneth Mackenna), to preside over the trial of Ministry of Justice, judges and Nazi prosecutors for their complicity in Third Reich. Hayward is helped by his assistant Harrison (William Shatner). In its opening declaration , the prosecution (an excellent prosecutor played by Richard Widmark) calls these defendants to account not for violation of due process or other constitutional violations but for killings, tortures, and cruelties committed during WWII. The accuser statements that the accused cannot claim ignorance that they should have known better for their high position and knowledges.Defender Hans Rolfe (Maximilian Schell) counsel's opening statement he declares that the aim of this judgment is the reestablishment of the code of justice with honor and innocence, because of judges don't make the laws . He argues the disobedience to the Fuehrer would have been choice between patriotism and treason for the justices with the subsequent firing squad. Finally the defending explains that not only are the judges on trial, so are the German people.One of the more dramatic portions of the film centers around Judge Janning's (Burt Lancaster) performance during the Feldenstein case (in real life, the Katzenberger case). Fedlenstein was charged with race mixing, of having relations with an Aryan, Irene Hoffman (Judy Garland). The trial was to be used as a showcase for National Socialism. Emil Hahn (Werner Kemplerer) had been the accuser and he was determined to find Feldenstein guilty despite evidence that he had merely been a family friend to Irene Hoffman. Hahn had told Irene that it was no use to deny having relations. That if she protected Feldenstein she would be arrested for perjury. She said she couldn't lie and was arrested. She said that Emil Hahn mocked Feldenstein, ridiculed him. Janning had been the presiding judge and he took no action to prevent the injustice. He had been the only hope for the defense since he had a reputation for being fair. Feldenstein was found guilty and executed.Prosecutor Lawson (Richard Widmark) submitted documents by which the judges and prosecutors had sent thousands to their deaths. A film was shown , a short-documentary is based on real events by means of photographs and stock-footage. As appears work camps are transformed into extermination centers to implement the policy of genocide thought at the Wannsee Conference . At the concentration camps was some minor industrial activity linked to the war effort but the main work was the execution of inmates.Millions of prisoners died in the concentration camps through mistreatment, disease, starvation, and overwork, or were executed as unfit for labor. More than six million Jews died in them, usually in gas chambers, although many were killed in mass shootings and by other means . As the documentary showed a gas chamber at Dachau , but it is a mistake because of it was never used, prisoners died from mistreatment or from execution by means other than gas. The archival footage shows tattooed skin , but Buchenwald prisoners with unusual tattoos were killed , then their skin was preserved for the tattoo collection of convicted war criminal Ilse Koch. Defense counsel speaks to the content of the films shown the previous day. He states that there is no justification for what happened, but, that it was wrong and unfair to show such films in court against these defendants. He claims that the extremists are responsible, not the defendants. He says that very few Germans knew what was going on. He claimed that the defendants stayed in their positions to keep things from getting worse. The defending then calls Irene Hoffman. In this unseemly portion of the defense, the defense counsel tries to portray Irene Hoffman as a law breaker and Judge Janning as merely doing his duty. The hypocrisy is evident and seems to bother even defense counsel Rolfe. Yet he continues to badger Irene, trying to break her down, to show that she did in fact have an affair with Feldenstein. Janning interrupts him and stops him from continuing.The next day Janning testifies about the Feldenstien case. He tells that there was fear in the country. That Hitler told the people to lift their heads. That once the gypsies, Jewish, and others were destroyed all would be well.Janning was content to sit by during his trial until he realized the same arguments were being used in this trial in his defense that had been used in the Feldenstien trial. Janning denies that Germans were unaware of the exterminations. He says that all were aware of what was going on, maybe not the details, but only because they did not want to know the details.Judge Hayward affirms the value of a single human life, and the responsibility of the justices, and by implication the German people, for their actions and inaction.

This graphic account of the Nuremberg trials were immediately brought to book and subsequently adapted by Stanley Kramer in ¨Playhouse ¨ style. Judge Haywood is perfectly played by Spencer Tracy, he gives us the uneasy feeling that the German people never really came to terms with their innocence or guilty. This film takes the point of view that Germany, at the time of the picture was realized, was moving beyond the war a little too fast, and was doing so with the help of the US and other allies because of the Cold War. For his passionated acting of the defending advocate Maximilian Schell won an Oscar as the years's best player and special mention Montgomery Clif, also uncredited as screenwriter. Rating : Excellent, better than average.
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Do the right thing.
LMRusso-115 April 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I'd been meaning to see this movie since I can remember but never made it happen until it was on PBS last night. What makes this movie a classic is the message it conveys as well as the way it conveys it. The screenplay has many layers and makes it's points very subtlety-

As a first generation American of parents who were both concentration camp survivors, the message had particular meaning for me. It's a message especially poignant as Americans today better understand the pitfalls of confusing constructive political criticism/dissent with not being Patriotic -and putting political party before country.

"The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing", is a quote attributed to Edmund Burke- and is entirely what "Judgement at Nuremberg" is all about. What happened in Nazi Germany is not confined to the German people, it could happen in almost any country of the world, given the right circumstances. The defense "I was just following orders" is without merit.... -that is, if we are serious about wanting to live in a society we can be proud of.

Spencer Tracy is so good in this movie it's difficult to put into words. His role is a very delicate one and he pulls it off like few actors in history could ever hope to. Tracy's role is all the more impressive in the company of scores of Hollywood stars that grace this film.

There are weaknesses in the movie. I was surprised that, even given the subject matter, I found "Judgement at Nuremberg" too often melodramatic- the pacing and dialog often so slow that it bordered on comical. In this regard Director Stanley Kramer overdoes it IMHO.

Spoiler: The full weight of the story is brought to bear at the end when the guilty verdicts are given. Spencer Tracy, as the lead judge, pronounces the sentences on the Nazi government officials. Many of the accused officials are unrepentant and antagonistic to the idea of being judged by the American court, but Burt Lancaster plays the role of a German official who takes shame in his actions during the war.

Lancaster was a Nazi court Judge who allowed himself to take orders from party officials. His testimony shows that he did things against his better judgment and we see him as a relatively good man who got caught up in the political momentum and Nazi system.

When Tracy pronounces life sentences to the hard core Nazi's, he does so in a voice that betrays little emotion or anger. When he gets to Lancaster's character you're expecting Tracy to be more lenient on him, but instead he raises his voice in great anger and emotion as he also sentences him to life imprisonment. Tracy was angrier with him because he expected more from Lancaster -because he knew better yet didn't act.

In the last scene Lancaster is a broken man seeking some form of forgiveness from the man who sentenced him, and asks to see Tracy in his cell-room. Tracy obliges and takes his time to listen. Lancaster expresses his sorrow and pleads for the judge to understand that no one could have predicted the incredible evil that resulted from the Nazi regime... as the times were so chaotic it was impossible to not get caught up in it all. "I couldn't know".

As Lancaster is broken and repentant, one is tempted to forgive him for his actions. The camera goes to Spencer Tracy- he pauses and, with a soft voice, respectfully states... "you should have known as soon as you sentenced men to die who you knew were innocent". Understanding the point is inescapably true- Lancaster's face falls, Tracy leaves and the movie ends.

It's powerful stuff and a poignant lesson for all of us who like to think of ourselves as "good people".
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A sickening truth, A story needed to be told.
Scaramouche200417 February 2005
Warning: Spoilers
At the end of the Second World War in 1945, the world was dealt the final blow, with the discovery and liberation of the Nazi death camps.

The human race who had already faced up to and who had become hardened to nearly six years of murder and violence, found this level of barbarity and cruelty unlike anything the world had witnessed before or since.

For four years after the war, the heads of the former Nazi state were gathered and put on trial for their crimes. This film tells the story of these trials at Nuremberg.

Richard Widmark, plays an American army officer, one of the unfortunate few who marched in to liberate a concentration camp and was sickened by what he saw, a man who is now hell bent on prosecuting the culprits and bringing them to justice.

Spencer Tracy, without doubt one of the greatest screen actors of all time plays Judge Haywood, the man who is to sit in judgement over the proceedings,a man trying to remain impartial, despite his own personal views of disgust and hatred.

Burt Lancaster, in probably his finest performance, plays Dr. Ernst Janning, a former German lawyer, a man who had worked for the Nazis and had been responsible for sending many innocent men to their deaths in the interests of Hitler's Reich. A man now eaten away by his inner torment and feelings of guilt. A man who is now on trial for his own life just as his victims had once been on trial for theirs.

Maximillian Schell, deservedly won an Oscar for his portrayal of Hans Rolfe, the German defence lawyer, trying to defend these men he knows are guilty, while at the same time trying to salvage some threads of dignity for the people of his defeated and war battered nation.

Other notable performances come from Judy Garland, who showed us what a fine dramatic actress she could be when give the opportunity, and Marlene Deitrich as the widow of an already executed German officer...both performances, especially that of Garland were in my opinion Oscar winning level.

It is however Lancaster's performance which gripped me most. He takes the stand against Rolfe's advice and speaks to the court of his crimes, his guilt and his repentance.

He says that for the German people to rebuild their self respect, then they need to face up to the terrible things they have done. He lays mention to the fact that most Germans are saying that they didn't know of the death camps, and his speech is both heartfelt and moving.

'When train loads of women and children past through our towns, crammed in like cattle on the way to their extermination.....were we blind? When we heard those children crying out to us in the night and did nothing to help them....were we deaf? We didn't know because we didn't WANT to know.' He mentions how he thought Nazism was a good thing in the beginning, but how he had become too heavily involved and was too scared to back out once he realised the levels to which it had risen.

A poignant speech and one that still leaves a lump in my throat.

Spencer Tracy has the most accurate and thought provoking line in the whole movie.

Jannings tells Haywood, that he was shocked and appalled at the figure of six million victims....he explains how he never knew it would go that far.

Spence looks down at his shoes and says with neither hatred or kindness, 'It went that far the first time you ever sentenced someone to death whom you knew was innocent.' A truer word could not have been spoken.

It is my belief that every person in the entire world should be made to watch two movies as part of their education of life. Schindlers List and Judgement at Nuremberg. In no other film has the horrific and sickening crimes of the Nazis, been described or portrayed more vividly or graphically as in these two productions.

It is only by keeping this fresh in the mind of future generations can we ensure it can never happen again.
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10/10
A True Cinematic Masterpiece
bsmith555225 September 2004
Warning: Spoilers
"Judgment at Nuremberg" is one of the great films of all time. This can be attributed to the excellent script written by Abby Mann, its skillful direction by Stanley Kramer and possibly one of the greatest casts ever assembled for a motion picture.

The subject trial takes place in 1948 long after the trials of the major German military generals when most people had lost interest in such proceedings. Writer Mann chose to write about the trial of German judges, the people who above all, should have seen the evil of Hitler and his followers coming.

Assigned to the trial as Chief Judge is Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) a low profile justice who by his own admission was not the original or subsequent choice. The prosecutor is Col. Tad Lansing (Richard Widmark) an "army man" who vows to convict the four ex-German Judges. Defending the accused is Hans Rolfe (Maximillian Schell) who must convince the court that the defendants were acting only for the love of their country.

Among the defendants are respected Judge Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) who has written several books on law accepted the world over. Lawson accuses the defendants of signing orders for the sterilization of innocent men and the execution of those who opposed to the Reich and the extermination of the jews. He puts Rudolph Peterson (Montgomery Clift) on the stand as a victim of sterilization. Rolfe manages to expose the pitiful Peterson as mentally challenged. Later Irene Hoffman (Judy Garland) is put on the stand to explain her alleged affair at the age of 16 with an elderly jew. As his coup de grace, Lawson shows a film depicting the horrors of German concentration camps.

In between the sessions, Judge Haywood strikes up a friendship with Madame Bertholt (Marlene Dietrich) the widow of a former German general, in whose former home the judge is staying. In spite of their differences they begin to grow fond of each other.

The army pressures Lawson to ease up and suggests that acquittal or light sentences would best serve American interests since this was the time that the blockade of Berlin was beginning. Judge Haywood is also pressured to go easy on the sentencing.

Maximillian Schell deservedly won an Oscar for his outstanding performance as Rolfe. Any one of the other principals could have easily won as well. Clift and Garland are simply outstanding as are Widmark and Lancaster. And Tracy, did he ever give a bad performance? The still beautiful Dietrich was also excellent.

Others in the cast are a very young William Shatner as Capt. Byers, a court officer, Werner Kemperer as Emil Hahn the most militant of the defendants and Ray Teal as Judge Ives. Teal had long been a fixture in westerns and is probably best remembered for playing Sheriff Coffey on TV's Bonanza.

The DVD release contains an excellent conversation between Abby Mann and Maximillian Schell plus an interview with Kramer's widow, the still beautiful former actress Karen Sharpe.

A true cinematic masterpiece.
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10/10
A great humanistic document, compelling and nearly timeless
Scott (scottnyc)29 April 2006
I am actually humbled by this film, and I am unusually grateful to have seen it, finally, 45 years after its making.

There are some superficial aspects of *Judgement at Nuremberg* that are dated: some of Stanley Kramer's camera-work is unnecessarily showy or gimmicky. Some of the sets are noticeably fake, and some of the dialog is stilted, especially in early scenes outside the courtroom. The music goes momentarily over the top in the climactic confrontation between the key defendant, played by Burt Lancaster, and the chief judge (Spencer Tracy) after the trial.

Much more striking, however, are the film's strengths, and how unusually well it holds up. I usually think of Kramer as an overstated liberal autodidact, but here the acting is, for the most part, admirably restrained and authentic. Even *William Shatner*--no kidding--is subtle here. After an unpromisingly sensational opening salvo by Richard Widmark as the chief prosecutor, this movie settles into a gravity, balance and rigorous honesty (both intellectual and emotional) that are utterly necessary for a serious treatment of a subject as overwhelmingly important as the origin and expression of Nazi evil.

Balance is a key to this film's greatness. It is not insignificant that it was Maximillian Schell, who played the Nazi judges' defense attorney not as a slimy shyster but as a powerfully rigorous advocate determined to hold the *world's* feet to the fire rather than let his clients become patsies for a vast breakdown of moral responsibility with astonishingly widespread implications. By looking courageously into the teeth of the reality of German society and politics leading up to and during the Second World War and the reality of American, European and Communist moral failings, Abby Mann's great screenplay creates an extraordinarily persuasive context for the extraordinarily powerful thematic statements against Nazi atrocities with which it concludes.

Two scenes near the movie's conclusion struck me most powerfully. First, I have never been more sickened, enraged and humbled by visual evidence of the Holocaust than I was when it was presented in the context of the trial at this film's center. Second, I was chilled--frightened in a very contemporary and immediate way--by the great speech of judgment given at the trial's end by Spencer Tracy's Chief Judge Dan Hayward. I urge anyone that is concerned about the erosion of civil liberties in America today to watch this film to better understand how insidiously evil may overtake a modern nation in crisis. More important, I urge anyone that believes that America is today in a crisis that requires extraordinary measures to watch this movie, listen with an open mind to this speech, and consider its implications for the direction of our own country today.

Stepping down now from my soap box, let me say more clearly: Do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Never mind how old it is or how long it is or how dreary the subject may seem. If you care about the fate of humanity, you too will be grateful.
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10/10
The Hare Was Shot by the Hunter in the Bunker
wes-connors3 July 2010
Abby Mann re-documents his stunning 1959 "Playhouse 90" teleplay for director Stanley Kramer, with Maximilian Schell towering over a magnificent ensemble cast. The focus isn't on Nazi atrocities (though they are here, in horrific images). But, this being a trial drama, "Judgment at Nuremberg" attempts to answer questions about humanity, beginning with HOW? "How could this have happened?" And, while only four mid-level Nazis receive justice, the film makes you wonder…

Where does punishment for the Holocaust end? And, if you do not stop, don't you become the enemy?

That wanders, of course, into subjective interpretation; and, there are certainly others. This only makes an already strong piece of work more relevant. Criticisms about it being fictionalized and too long are curiously incongruent. Fewer people would sit through the real trials. The actors seem to employ demons (two, nakedly) to give electrifying, all-time greatest performances. The film is repellent and manipulative, but necessarily so. It exposes guilt, innocence and timeless evil.

********** Judgment at Nuremberg (12/14/61) Stanley Kramer ~ Maximilian Schell, Spencer Tracy, Montgomery Clift, Judy Garland
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10/10
Great acting and Movie
chlewis7 August 2003
As I see again the old movies of the 40s, 50s and early 60s, I am impressed by the quality of material and acting in those movies. Judgment at Nuremberg is an excellent example. Although Montgomery Cliff had a very brief part, he was, as usual, outstanding. He always was. Clearly the acting and direction were flawless. Can't beat it for a view of the period just after WWII, and its effect on both Europe and the USA. Highly recommend the film -- especially on DVD as a brief scene was omitted in going from Tape 1 to Tape 2 on VHS (running time 3 hours and 7 minutes).
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10/10
A film that stands the test if time
mianobekes9 October 2005
As I watched Judgement at Nuremburg, I could not help but feel that the film's message is as timely today as it was when the movie was made at the height of the Cold War. Spencer Tracy's monologue at the end of the film is as viable a commentary on the United States of today as it was on the situation of guilt in World War II.

The ideology of the current American leadership is strikingly similar to that of the Germans who claimed they knew nothing of the atrocities that were occurring. The idea that when threatened, a nation may do whatever is expedient or felt necessary to protect itself sounds a hollow echo of words I have heard from Cheney and Rumsfeld.

And the sad thing is that these men, like the Burt Lancaster character in the film, these men are intelligent, patriotic men who love their country. Yet like the four characters on trial in the film, how misguided they are.
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10/10
One of the most important films about the war and its meaning in the perspective of history.
rondine1 February 1999
SPOILER: This is perhaps one of the best movies regarding WWII because of the point that Spencer Tracy's character makes towards the end of the movie in his summation. He points out that the defendants were people of ability and intelligence- some were even remarkable. If all of the people that helped this terrible thing along were depraved criminals and monsters, then these events would have no more moral significance than an earthquake or a flood. That good, even remarkable people in a time of crisis can delude themselves into heinous crimes against humanity is something to remember, to be guarded against. Personal morality is more important than the good of the state or going along with someone else's idea of right. The movie is a bit long, it actually takes the time to go into depth with the characters. It is definitely a powerful statement about personal responsibility. In one of the closing lines, Burt Lancaster's character (a defendant) tells Spencer Tracy's character (a judge) that he never knew it would come to that- all those people, he never knew. Tracy's character tells him that is came to that the minute he sentenced a man to death that he knew to be innocent.
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7/10
Well made, very grave and somewhat dull
JasparLamarCrabb24 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
Stanley Kramer's extraordinarily lengthy take on the Nuremberg trials is truly an actor's showcase. However, Abby Mann's grave and somewhat verbose teleplay is never particularly entertaining. Spencer Tracy is a Maine judge sent to Germany to oversee the trial of four German judges accused of crimes against humanity. Tracy is quite stoic and the film offers a number of great parts for a number of great actors: Montgomery Clift; Burt Lancaster; Marlene Dietrich; Judy Garland. Garland in particular is astounding in the role of a German woman forced to relive the horrors she endured under the Third Reich. Richard Widmark is the American prosecutor and he's well matched against Maximillian Schell as the fiery German defense attorney. Filmed both on location and on a Hollywood sound stage, the film is decidedly non-cinematic; as though Kramer did not want to present such a serious subject in any way that may seem too flashy. Werner Klemperer, Edward Binns and William Shatner are in it too. The music score is by Ernest Gold and the B&W cinematography is by Ernest Laszlo. Clift, unable to remember his dialog, reportedly improvised much of his part. Director Kramer would lighten up considerably with his next film (IT'S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD).
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9/10
" Just for laughs general, what was the war all about? "
thinker169110 December 2008
There are many people in the world today who suffered the tattooed numbers, visible scars, tortured memory and indelible atrocities of the Concentration Camps. It's strange for a history teacher to hear that many want to forget the past, the pain and agonizing suffering inflicted on the innocent. For those who were actually there, or had friends, family or loved ones murdered by the Nazis, there can be no erasing the past. Occasionally a courageous film arises which endeavors to bring to light the black memories which so many wish would go away. In this black and white film called " Judgement at Nuremberg " the audience is offered a dramatic depiction of the War Crimes trial of the German Judges who themselves sent so many to die to appease their Nazi leaders. The star power of this movie is what makes it a monumental triumph and a fitting tribune to the victims of the Germanic court. In this story, based on the courtroom dockets of the Nuremberg trials, we have Spencer Tracy playing Chief Judge Dan Haywood, an American judge who makes an obvious observation and says, 'I've been here for some time now and as far as I can tell, No one, knew what was going on.' Burt Lancaster is Dr. Ernst Janning, the most senior judge on trial, who tried to explain the fervor of the times, the 'passing phase', saying, "I never meant for things to go that far." Richard Widmark plays Col. Tad Lawson, who's despite his serious and sober evidence, is asked to show leniency. Maximilian Schell is brilliant as Hans Rolfe, the defense attorney. Werner Klemperer is Emil Hahn and William Shatner as Capt. Harrison Byers. True there are other stars of great distinction, but you must see the movie, to see how each contributed to make this incredible movie into a film Classic. ****
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10/10
Only true victim is humanity
cloudgrin7 March 2006
What more can be said then the underlying principle being demonstrated in this film that great injustices to the masses start with an injustice to one person.

Further illustrated is that it is not the maniacal or crazed that creates and expands a culture of injustice but the willing, self-preserving actions of cultured, intelligent people who knew better and looked the other way.

The character of Madame Bertolt showed how charming and beautiful one can be, and yet compromised by such weakness... even more so than Lancaster's portrayal of Janning.

What worth is it to save a country by a means that makes the country not worth saving?

Max Schelling's role as the defender was astoundingly good, even as his character sought out accessories to the crimes against humanity including Stalin, Churchill and American Industrialists to excuse his client's actions. As the judge played by Tracy stated, the only one complaining at the bar is humanity itself.
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10/10
Superb exploration of morality
Cincy9 June 1999
As my late father was a WWII vet, I've tried to read and see as many films about the war as possible, to get some idea of his experience. This was the second (to "The Best Years of Our Lives") that seemed to me to capture realistically the time and emotions of the war era. In this movie, the issue is the leadership of the country and its accountability for the war, and how that accountability will be handled. No one escapes criticism as the protagonists try to assign blame. Stunning performances all around (even from William Shatner!) and cinematography that proves why b/w films were art. In the end, though, it all comes down to the moral decisions we each make as individuals and our willingness to live with our choices. Brilliant and intelligent, without the contrivances and sentimentality of "Saving Private Ryan."
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10/10
Reflections from watching "Judgement at Nuremberg" again
Harry T. Yung23 June 2006
The first reflection is a musical one, as I suddenly realize how Stanley Kramer liked to use hauntingly beautiful songs to enhance scenes. "Lili Marleen" is already itself a languid, melancholic song and the effect it has in "Nuremberg" is plain to see. Really ingenious however is the transformation of "Waltzing Matilda" into a dreamy a cappella background song that takes the dancing scene in "On the beach" (between Gregory Peck and Eva Gardner) to an emotional height.

On a more serious plane, it's uncanny how this movie, 45 years later, is still right on its mark about American occupation of foreign soil, as of today. Defense attorney Hans Rolfe's (Maximilian Schell) biggest challenge is not in convincing the tribunal that his client Ernst Janning (Burt Lancaster) is innocent, but in convincing the client himself. The arguments he put before the court were the best he could marshal under the circumstances: (a) his client was obligated to carry out the law existing in his country at the time, no matter how evil these laws were; (b) if his client, and also the German people, were guilty of condoning Hitler's rise to power, the rest of the world must also be guilty; (c) his client was not aware of the atrocities going on under the Nazi regime, so chillingly depicted by prosecuting attorney Col. Tad Lawson (Richard Widmark). None of these was very compelling but he did the best he could, as even Judge Dan Haywood (Spencer Tracy) admitted.

Rolfe's biggest challenge was to convince Janning that it's up to them both to be the last defense of the dignity of the German people. Without that dignity, Germany could never be rebuilt. But it was Janning, after all, who had better insight and foresight, to be able to see that to uphold the dignity of the German people, he must honestly admit his guilt rather than deny it. Janning was of course right. It's the German leaders who have the courage to admit the Nazi crimes (even when they were not part of it) that enable the country to be raise its head high again, cleansed of atrocities committed by a minority of extremists.

The 4 key roles were superbly acted. I realize that it's quite meaningless but if I have to rank them, I would have to put Tracy first, followed by Widmark, Schell (even when he won the Oscar) and Lancaster. Not to be forgotten are the 3 marvelous actors in the supporting roles, played with no less excellence than the key roles – Marlene Dietrich, Montgomery Cliff and Judy Garland (not in any particular order).
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9/10
Post war courtroom drama still challenging and powerful today
mlraymond21 December 2006
Warning: Spoilers
I've seen this film many times, and it still can affect me powerfully,with small, previously unnoticed details of performances and direction. Spencer Tracy has the job of carrying most of the movie, aided by strong performances from the other actors. Most of the story line is seen through his eyes, with frequent opportunities for ordinary Germans to try to explain that, as Marlene Dietrich's widow tells the judge, " we are not all monsters." Judge Haywood studies the writings of defendant Jannings in a serious effort to understand the man on trial, who seems apart from his unrepentant colleagues.

Maximilian Schell, as the German advocate for Jannings, gets equal time with the impassioned, righteously angry prosecutor Richard Widmark. It would have been easy to let this character become a one dimensional villain, but Schell achieves the difficult task of showing Herr Rolfe not as a Nazi apologist, but a patriotic German trying to clear his country's name, and doing the best he can in a very difficult position.

All of the cast are excellent, with particularly fine performances from Montgomery Clift, Dietrich and Judy Garland. The writing is taut and disturbingly effective, in showing the ruins of a once civilized nation trying to rebuild itself ,while haunted by war guilt and the shame of defeat. The only weakness is an occasional tendency to get a little too preachy, or some scenes perhaps being a little too neatly dramatic, with the result that the movie is a little stagy at times. But its strengths far outweigh any minor faults.

Perhaps one sequence might best sum up the historical reality, in a small but brilliant scene. Judge Haywood is shown attempting to maintain order, apply justice fairly, and combat his own prejudices, as well as those of many other Americans. He has befriended the widow of a German general, and they are having a quiet drink in a tavern, when the crowd of revelers breaks into a cheerful old folk song, sung with great gusto by all present. Haywood looks around the room at the merry making Germans and his face tightens into an appraising frown.He clearly is thinking that the people are a little too eager to put the war and its memories behind them. It is an extremely powerful moment in a very dramatic film.

Highly recommended as both history and a compelling courtroom drama, with some unforgettable performances by a great cast.
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