Lawrence of Arabia (1962) Poster

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Peter O'Toole as Lawrence, what a treat!
maureenmcqueen10 July 2018
Did you know that Cary Grant had been approached to play it? Yes, as well as Albert Finney and that made a lot more sense but it was Albert Finney who said, have you considered Peter O'Toole? Who? - Yes, I love that story. It goes to prove that certain things are meant to happen. I'm sorry if I'm going on about it. But I saw Lawrence Of Arabia for the nth time in a 70mm print in a crowded theater and what came across as the one major reason this film will be relevant forever is Peter O'Toole. His performance is timeless because it is unique. Cinematic and theatrical but always true. David Lean brilliantly created a sense of intimacy in O'Toole's eyes within the vast, arid landscape. I know the film has its detractors. I heard once director Michael Apted call it a "silly movie" Wow, I had Michael Apted's quote in my mind when I saw the film last and for the life of me, I don't know what he meant. I love this film.
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Simultaneously personal and panoramic
MidniteRambler23 May 2004
Sweeping, epic and literate version of British adventurer and soldier T E Lawrence's experiences in Arabia during the First World War. Lawrence, miraculously well played by Peter O'Toole, "went native" when sent into the desert to find Alec Guinness's Prince Feisal. Before long he was striking out himself against the Turkish Ottoman Empire, which still held sway in the region at the beginning of the last century. Lawrence's efforts to unify the various Arab factions are particularly prescient.

Lawrence became an inspirational warlord whose neutral presence amongst the Arab tribes, lead by Omar Sharif and Anthony Quinn, amongst others, served to glue together shifting and uneasy alliances. As well as wrestling with himself, with his own demons, and with the cruel desert environment, the Englishman was also faced with culture clashes which pitted not only the imperialists against the indigenous populations, but also the mercenary practices of the Arab guerillas against the discipline of the British army. In the end, Lawrence himself does not know which side he is on, nor which party he belongs to. Set against a backdrop of the Arabian desert, the nomadic allies under Lawrence's direction, attack and disrupt the Turks' efforts to maintain control of the territory, whilst the elephant - the British army and its heavy guns under General Jack Hawkins - pushes ever deeper into the area: not until his job is done does Lawrence learn that the French and British governments have carved up the middle-east between them and that the battle-lines for the 21st century are already being drawn.

Scripted by the inimitable Robert Bolt and directed by David Lean, Lawrence of Arabia is one of those films without a weakness, despite drawing complaints for its near four hour length. The dialogue, cinematography, soundtrack and especially direction are superlative; likewise the supporting actors. But it is O'Toole at his charismatic best who steals the show in his starring debut; he never looked back. It may take an effort to watch this movie, but is well worth the ride and will, by the bye, provide some insight into the fractious and volatile world of Arab politics.

One of the best films ever made.
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Still my personal favourite
iain_connell26 January 2005
I first saw this film on its release, aged 13, and it forms an important part of my transition towards adulthood. I am pleased to see that it consistently rates 20something in the IMDb listings, even from others (whom I envy, for I can't see it with fresh eyes) who are seeing it for the first time. Pleasing too is that some of those are also teenagers, for whom a forty-three year old film must itself seem part of the past. As for the minority who are bored by intentionally slow pacing (and for whom punctuation, paragraphing and grammar are a lost art), I suggest they learn a little about the history of film-making (from which it may become apparent that much of today's fast editing techniques were invented in the 1920s: try Eisenstein's October, for example).

From the universally admired cinematography of Freddie Young, the long shot of Omar Sharif's floating mirage entry, the pre-CGI battles and pan-up scene changes, to O'Toole's florid but career-defining performance and the (then) novel time-shift narrative, this film set standards not matched even by Lean himself, and, as many reviewers have commented, financially and practically unlikely to be attempted today. I too have rarely seen such clarity of image outside of Imax, and in my view the script by Robert Bolt (and I now have learnt, an uncredited Michael Wilson) is the finest in cinema. Maurice Jarre's music and some of the acting style now seem a little excessive, but repeated viewing (around 35 times in my case) does not diminish the impact and quality, and the restoration and now DVD release still, after all these years, approaches the effect of that first 1962 viewing.

It is rare that repeated watching of a film (as opposed to a live performance) does this, and the reasons go beyond the photography, performances and editing. In my opinion, it is because the characterisation and storytelling encourage an appreciation of the ambiguity and inconsistency behind our motives and behaviour, and, in a wartime scenario, in the contrast between political expedience and personal morality. For a 13-year old, this opened a window into the adult world, and it explains why the story has resonance far beyond its setting. The film doesn't require an understanding of middle-east politics (though it does have some very current relevance), but it does require an ability to look, listen and understand. The fact that so many people rate it so highly says everything about its wider impact. When The Matrix and even Lord of the Rings have slipped out of the ratings (and the adolescents who inhabit these pages have grown up), I believe this film will still be in the 20s or 30s, perhaps enabling young people to once again see the world through adult eyes.

Like Ali, I fear Lawrence. I fear the power of art to change us, to challenge our preconceptions. Every time I see this film I learn a little more, discover something new. When I was 13 I didn't understand much, but this film helped me to see that I wanted more, knew more, than my peers. I can't rate it more highly than that.
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A True Must See
caseyt-4851112 July 2018
Warning: Spoilers
"Lawrence of Arabia" is either the greatest movie ever made, or the second greatest. The true power and scope has only been matched by few other films. It is a film that really does stand the test of time. In an age where special effect driven films are king(as much as i like those), it is great to watch a film where you truly see thousands of people charging a fort on horse, and camel, back. It's a long ride, but it is never boring. It is full of fantastic characters acted out by even better actors. Peter O'Toole should have won every acting award available to win. His performance is consistently ranked among the greatest in movie history.

It's not only a wonderful film but a symbolic one. This could have easily fallen into typical tropes but it almost always manages to subvert epic conventions and challenge us. Lawrence clearly doesn't want the English to interfere with the new Arab state. He wants them to be independent after they were conquered for so long. He genuinely cares. But unfortunately, little to no promises were kept. The English and other countries cut up the Middle East and changed everything in the name of empire... No wonder Lawrence looks so sad at the end. He knows what's about to happen to his friends and allies that he fought so hard with. There would be no true freedom for them.

Omar Sharif and Claude Rains are also deserving of much praise. The music is extraordinary and captures each scene very well. The personal journey of Lawrence is fascinating as well. He isn't your average epic hero. He's flawed, egotistical and by the end of the film he has lost his way. He started to see the revolt as being about him when it wasn't. He began to believe the legend that had evolved around him. He saw himself as a god but was brought down hard.

David Lean's direction is practically flawless and proved that he is still one of the best directors ever. All in all, David Lean's masterpiece is a timeless, must see movie that has not been diminished by time.
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rbhagwat23 December 2004
I first saw this movie on a scratchy VHS almost twenty years ago (I was 10). Liked it (sort of-enjoyed the battle scenes and the train blowing up), but didn't understand why my dad was so crazy about it.

The next time was on laserdisc (remember those?) almost 10 years ago and I was hooked. I finally got it - the conflict, the performances, the music, the dialogue - all mesmerising.

But it was only in 2002, when I saw the 40th-anniversary reissue on 70mm that I was completely blown away seeing the scale, the enormity of Lean's accomplishment. There were scenes that gave me goosepimples (the opening credits, the cut from the matchstick to the desert sunrise, "nothing is written" - others too numerous to mention).

The point of this rather rambling review is this - a movie that can evoke such passion in its admirers stands by itself, beyond reviews or criticism. If you haven't seen it yet I envy you, because you get to experience it for the first time.
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A Majestic Masterpiece Beyond All Other
Le-Samourai1 November 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Spoilers herein.

There are films that define a time. There are films that define a genre. There are films that define cinema. 'Lawrence of Arabia' defines all of the above. Within its frames 'Lawrence of Arabia' captures the essence of a man, a time and place with unparalleled cinematic magic. Though a winner of 7 Oscars and one of the Top 100 ticket sellers of all time, most people were not able to see 'Lawrence of Arabia' the way it was intended until 1989 (and I still imagine most people have only seen it during one of its annual Christmas TV viewings). Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese and Robert Harris deserve massive applause for their efforts to restore this film to its 2.20:1 widescreen, 220 minute glory.

I, myself (thankfully) have never seen any other version of this film. So when I first saw the film it was in its untainted glory and it's an experience I shall never forget. Never before had I seen a film that blurred the lines between storytelling and art so much. Never before had I seen a film so assured in visual storytelling. Never before had I been so transplanted into a film's world. The awesome acting, the stupendous story, the remarkable visuals, the sublime script, the fascinating dialogue and majestic music all combine to make a film like none other.

'Lawrence of Arabia' is played out in five acts, each one of them represents a different part of Lawrence's psyche. The first act is Lawrence's introduction into Arabia where he is very much an Englishman – albeit an outcast. The second act concerns his assimilation into Arabia, the taking of Aqaba and his rise to deity. The third portrays Lawrence at the peak of his military career and his growing egotism. The fourth act is his capture, torture, mental breakdown and dissertation of his troops. The fifth concerns his comeback, revenge and both his greatest and most flawed accomplishment: the slaughter of Turks and the liberation of Damascus. Every scene in these acts is essential to the development of his persona. Lean and Bolt raise the question of who Lawrence was, but they never answer the question. This is one factor that brings me back to the film time and time again – each time I watch the film I am left with a different perception of Lawrence's character.

The film contains an all star cast including Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins and Claude Rains. Only 'JFK' rivals it in my view. Of course, there was been many all star casts that haven't performed to their usual standards, but it is not the case here. Everyone is on top of there game especially Peter O'Toole who gives the greatest cinematic performance I have ever seen. From extremes of joyous extremes and heated contempt he dominates the screen with undeniable screen presence and charisma. Many an actor would be lost on screen amidst all the sand, but O'Toole never is. Watch Lawrence's scene in the mess hall near the beginning then watch his immense 'No prisoners' scene – the change is remarkable. Omar Sharif is also superb and it is easy to see why he became a big international star following his charismatic performance.

I have never been a fan of desert films and find the majority of them boring, but Freddie Young's 70mm widescreen photography brings the desert alive in such an exciting and absorbing way. The film is simply full of memorable and beautiful scenes such as Sharif's introduction, the long pan over the assault on Aqaba or the glorious reveal from a purple flag of Lawrence and Sheriff Ali leading their final army. 'Lawrence of Arabia' is a unique visual experience and one you will not forget in a hurry.

Although it comes in at over three and a half hours, 'Lawrence of Arabia' never lulls and if not for the forced DVD intermission I doubt I would move at all while watching it. The innovative editing (including some of the most famous examples of direct-cutting) keeps the film moving at a brisk pace. There are no gratuitous scenes. Every scene is a required piece of the puzzle. Maurice Jarre's phenomenal music also helps keep the film going. I'm sure some of the scenes of people crossing the desert would have been tedious without his music, but with his majestic music transplanted over the images they are simply compulsive viewing.

The epic action scenes are breath-taking in their scope and execution. But what gives them their impact is that Lean (perhaps limited by censorship laws) is not concerned with the visceral thrill of battle, but rather the effect they have on the battlers. What drives men to war and what do they get from it. And thankfully the action scenes are succinct and progressive with no blasted shaky-cam or CGI troops. Everything you see on screen is real and was performed, which just adds to the gob-smacking sense of the shots. It is this sense of realism that deepens the experience.

If one's respect for 'Lawrence of Arabia' is not enamored after viewing the film, perhaps it will be when thinking that we will NEVER see a film like this again. No studio would take the risk of a project this big that excludes many of their 'key demographics' and 'film rules'. There are no talking parts for women. There is no love interest. There is no happy ending. 'Lawrence of Arabia' a product of Hollywood showing its balls, which for many a year it seems to have lost. 'Lawrence of Arabia' is an awe-inspiring Goliath of cinematic perfection. The best film I can lay claim to having seen.
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The best movie of all motion picture history
nisitpav24 August 2005
I first watched "Lawrence of Arabia" when I was about 11 years old. Being a big fan of Steven Spielberg at that time, I was sort of awed by the fact that this was his personal favorite (check the "conversation with Steven Spielberg" featurette in the special features disk and you'll really see Spielberg's affection for that film)

Over the years, Lawrence remained among my DVD collection, and I can't say I actually watched it since that first time, when, by the way, I didn't really like it. But "time does things to movies", and when I watched it again last year, I found my eyes to be weeping at the end. It instantly became one of my favorite movies.

Since then I learned a lot about the history of cinema, and I also learned a great deal about the movies of Sir David Lean. I found my self watching films like "Brief Encounter", "The Bridge on the River Kwai", "Doctor Zhivago", "Ryan's Daughter", and the underrated, "A passage to India". Lean became one of my favorite directors, and, just a few months ago, I decided to watch Lawrence with some friends. Although I had seen it a couple of times before, this time it was a different experience altogether: from the starting credits, to the blowing of the match, the crossing of the Nefud dessert, finding Gassim and bringing him back to the camp, the invasion of Aqaba, his torture and rape (?), Lawrence's laugh after the slap by the "outrageaous" guy, his being left alone, to the final gaze to the motorcycle. I sensed something when I watched that film, which leaves my with the undoubted feeling that "Lawrence of Arabia" is the greatest film ever made. For me, this is it. Ever since '62, it's been a downfall. No other film has managed to reach Lawrence in its poetic greatness. Few do come very close (Vertigo for instance).

If we are to classify the two complete different cinematic styles, it would be those of Hitchcock and Ford. Hitch was a very "confined" director. He captured his movies from the point of view of one character. His movies took place, most of the time, in closed spaces. In a sense, Hitchcock's films were a journey in people's emotions and a study in people's characters. On the other hand, Ford was an open director. He wasn't confined to one character, or one location, his films where actual journeys. His basis was mostly on theme, and his main ability was to amaze with his imagery. Thus, these are the two different shooting styles....Well, Lean combines both.

Which is basically why his best film, Lawrence, is the best film of all times. But not only in terms of style. Also, in terms of content. The intelligent script written by Robert Bolt, the powerhouse performances by O'Toole and Shariff (a shame they didn't get the statuette), but also, the ultimately heroic yet tragic figure of T.E. Lawrence, contribute in making this the most visually and emotionally sweeping film of the last 111 years.

Such a shame that Lean retired for 14 years after "Ryan's Daughter", there's no way to know where he would have gotten.
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A film that literally excites the senses...
Nazi_Fighter_David29 November 1999
Warning: Spoilers
David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" is one of the few films that legitimately deserves to be called great… It appears on virtually all "ten best" lists and reveals deeper layers of meaning with repeated viewings…

Lean, a man devoted to the art, gives "Lawrence of Arabia" its spectacular values... He unifies the sand and the sun to flame out the silver screen... Maurice Jarre's terrific music escorts the appearance and disappearance of the sun below the horizon in the sleepy desert...

"Lawrence of Arabia" is a prodigious labor, a masterful mixture of fact and artistry, a masterpiece of intimate moment and spectacular largesse, a film that literally excites the senses... In a visual sense, Lean combines a sure sense of place with an approach to the action that he borrows from an unlikely source—John Ford… Lean turns his vast desert canvas into another Monument Valley, and when his Bedouins ride across it, they are not far removed from Ford's cavalry… In many of the early scenes, the stately gait of the camel's walk gives the film a slower pace, and this is precisely what Lean is trying to achieve… Lean even manages to surpass Ford with his understanding of the relationship between his characters and the landscape; how the desert changes those who go into it…

The film is the story of a solitary adventurer who always knew he was different, but in Arabia he discovers that his proportions are heroic... Perhaps this is the secret of Lawrence of the legends — that at the bottom of all the violent action is a protagonist about whom one cares... A puzzling personality whom one glimpses but never fully understands... Throuhout the picture one has a sense of a man discovering his own unique dimensions...

Lawrence's mission, largely his own creation, is to unite the feuding Bedouin tribes under the leadership of Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness), and to keep the British politicians, as personified by Mr. Dryden (Claude Rains), from putting the Arabs under their colonial thumb after World War I is over… It is accomplished through a semi-episodic series of battles and raids where Lawrence is sometimes accompanied by Ali (Omar Sharif) and Sheik Auda (Anthony Quinn), and equally difficult bureaucratic struggles he faces with Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins).

All the conventional elements of the genre are at peaks of excellence here: The stretch desert with its white golden sands; peril, anywhere and everywhere; danger–for Lawrence of Arabia is a film about guerrilla warfare; prowess–Lawrence crosses Sinai on foot; physical torture–Lawrence in the hands of the Turkish bey; impossible mission– Lawrence takes the seaport of Jordan from behind; ruthlessness–Lawrence shouting 'take no prisoners' leading his men to put to death a Turkish column...

Every component is here, everything one needs for a great adventure film, many spectacular sequences, each of them so perfect: Lean cuts to the sun again and again, turning it into a character; the scene in Feisal's tent when Lawrence first talks with the king; Lawrence striding on top of a captured train, parading before rows of cheering Arabs; the scene between Lawrence and Ferrer illuminating Lawrence's strange perversity, a mixture of masochism and repressed homosexuality; the scene when a Beduin prince appears on his camel, an exceedingly long take in which a strange figure is first resolved out of waves of heat and then, as he approaches, becomes a frightening threat to Lawrence's escort at the desert well...

The photography, the script and the acting are so superb that "Lawrence of Arabia" becomes a lavish epic winner of 7 Academy Awards for Best Picture, Directing, Color, Cinematography, Sound, Muscial Score and Film Editing...
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Majesty in the Desert
evanston_dad29 April 2005
The moment David Lean makes you aware you are in the hands of a master comes early on in "Lawrence of Arabia." Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) holds a lit match close to his lips and with one quick puff of air blows it out. Before the action is even completed, however, Lean has cut to a shot of a desert vista, with the sun slowly rising over the lip of the horizon. It's one of the most famous elliptical edits in cinema history, second maybe only to the bone/spaceship cut in "2001: A Space Odyssey." And it's only the first of countless memorable moments in "Lawrence of Arabia." The appeal of David Lean epics has always been his ability as a director to maintain an equilibrium between the scope of his films and the characters in them. Character development is never sacrificed to massive set pieces or knock-your-socks-off action sequences. "Lawrence of Arabia" has these elements too, but at heart it's a character study of one remarkable man. Lean seemed to understand that impressive landscapes alone are not inherently interesting; but if you place a fascinating character among those impressive landscapes, you can have movie magic.

"Lawrence" feels unlike other historical epics of its time. In most "big" films--I'm thinking of movies like "Ben-Hur," "Spartacus," "Cleopatra," all movies that premiered roughly around the same time as "Lawrence"--one gets the sense that directors framed compositions based on how much they were able to fit into their widescreen lenses. One rarely sees characters filmed from anything closer than a medium shot, and usually the background is stuffed to overflowing with garish art direction. Everything feels static and wooden. But in "Lawrence," Lean keeps his frames constantly alive by juxtaposing huge landscape shots with extreme close-ups of actor faces. In one especially brutal scene, after a battle that results in the slaughter of many people, the action cuts to a close-up of O'Toole, looking panicked and crazed, gripping a bloody knife in his hand as if he's reluctant to drop it, obviously both disturbed and titillated by the carnage he just witnessed. It's moments like that---not just an impressive battle scene but a character's reactions to the results of that scene---that set "Lawrence" apart from other standard epics.

And of course, I have to reserve space in my review for the performance of Mr. O'Toole. He is perhaps my favorite actor, not one of the most prolific, but certainly one of the most unpredictable. He has a flair for choosing eccentric characters that give him almost unlimited room in which to perform. He carries "Lawrence of Arabia" almost singlehandedly on his slim shoulders. That's not to say the supporting cast isn't great, but O'Toole towers above them all. O'Toole understands that the most influential figures in history could also be the most difficult and ruthless when they needed to be, and he gives Lawrence an incredibly complex characterization, leaving his audience in doubt as to whether he should be worshiped or feared, or perhaps both.

Lean would never direct an equal to "Lawrence of Arabia" again. His later films are certainly more than watchable, and "A Passage to India" is even quite remarkable in its own way, but we would never get another "Lawrence." Even more reason to appreciate it now.

My Grade: A+
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Makes a Strong Case for Best Film Ever.
tfrizzell6 August 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The definitive epic of the cinema's history. "Lawrence of Arabia" is hands-down the finest production of the 1960s and makes a strong case as the best movie ever made. The titled character (Oscar-nominee Peter O'Toole in his career-defining role) dies in a freak motorcycle accident in the early-1930s in his homeland of England. In spite of being honored by the nation, many knew nothing of him. Some loved him, others despised him, but no one seemed to know the man at all. Flashbacks immediately start as we meet the character during World War I. He is a lieutenant assigned to mundane duties, but suddenly he is thrust into a greater role in North Africa. He is to assist a Saudi Arabian prince (Alec Guinness). The goal is to fight off the dreaded Turkish regime that poses a threat to the Arabs. If the Turks take over this land in Africa, what will it mean for the English? This concern leads to those in charge (most notably Claude Rains) wanting the titled character to help the Arabs to win their freedom back from the Turks. With the help of allies Omar Sharif (Oscar-nominated) and Anthony Quinn, among a whole host of others, O'Toole starts to assist the Arabs in their all-or-nothing task. An ambitious American journalist (Arthur Kennedy) wants to tell O'Toole's story in the hopes of getting the U.S. interested in the war (basically trying to get his nation involved in World War I by presenting them with a larger-than-life hero). During the venture O'Toole becomes a bit war-crazed and looks at himself as a sort of Christ-like figure who thinks of himself as immortal. O'Toole proves to be someone who is very at home in combat and when the combat is over, will he be able to function properly? Franklin J. Schaffner's "Patton" benefited greatly from David Lean's (Oscar-winning for directing) masterpiece. This Best Picture Oscar winner from 1962 just grows in importance as the years pass by. "Lawrence of Arabia" is a thinking person's film that is much, much deeper than it appears on the surface (and it appears deep on the surface to start with). The film deals with a slice of history that really did not seem that important back during World War I, but the situations in the Middle East now are greatly due to T.E. Lawrence's acts nearly a century ago. Did leading the Arabs to freedom make the world a safer place? This is the main question that Lean's film raises. Guinness' character is someone who changes almost immediately near the end of the production and it is a somewhat frightening foreshadower of things to come. A monumental milestone in film-making that stands so tall against all the other great productions of all eras. 5 stars out of 5.
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a memento from the days when they made real movies
rupie15 June 1999
It is, in a way, depressing to watch this movie today. One winds up contrasting it with the sort of technologically slick and aesthetically shallow spectacles, like "Titanic", that garner the sort of adulation that a truly great movie like "Lawrence" received in its day, and one realizes how far we have fallen.

Ignore David Lean's painterly technique, the way he fills the screen like a canvas. Ignore Freddie Young's stunning cinematography in fulfillment of Lean's vision. Ignore the fabulous score by Maurice Jarre. Ignore the stupendous cast. Ignore the topnotch script.

What we have, beyond all this, is an absolutely gripping and psychologically perplexing character study of a uniquely enigmatic individual that keeps us on the edge of our seats for the full length of the movie. "Lawrence", at over 200 minutes, goes by faster than many a movie of half its length, due to Lean's brilliant pacing and direction, and superb acting all around. To make a comparison in the world of music, this movie, like Mahler's 8th symphony, is a universe contained within itself.

Of course, it is an exercise in self-denial and philistinism to watch this movie in anything other than the wide-screen - or "letterbox" - format, due to Lean's complete use of every inch of the wide screen. To watch it otherwise is to miss half of Lean's intention.

To use a hackneyed phrase, they simply don't make 'em like this anymore.
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744 people need to rethink their ratings
earlgreyboy1 August 2005
The fact that 744 people on the Internet Movie Database gave Lawrence of Arabia a "1" one the the 1-10 scale is outright obscene. Not only is Lawrence of Arabia one of the best cinematic achievements of all time, and historically intriguing to boot, it's a just plain great film with a little bit of something for everyone, including a rich historical plot, vibrant characters, great setting, and plenty of fabulously choreographed battle scenes. The film is also topical for today's society, for example: "Why is terrorism so popular in the middle east today? Well, it might just have something to do with the fact T.E. Lawrence encouraged the Arab tribes to deal with their Ottoman occupiers using bombs and machine guns." How anyone with eyes and ears could dislike this movie that much is beyond my comprehension.
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I am totally gobsmacked!
poofta19703 October 2004
Warning: Spoilers
I am totally amazed by some of the negative responses to this film. Yes it is a long film; a very long film. Perhaps this is a symptom of the short attention spans of people today. But you know what? I wish it was 3 or 4 times longer. Every time this film finishes I compare it to the badly acted special effects laden rubbish that passes for 'epic' cinema these days and wish that T.E Lawrence had his motorcycle accident at 93 (rather than 47 as he did in 1935) so I could have had more of Peter O' Toole's electrifying performance.

The cinematography is acknowledged as being some of the the best in any film ever. When Mr Lean wanted to capture a sun rise, he stood in the dark (in a REAL desert) and waited for the sun to REALLY rise (No computerized nonsense in this film). As for the reviewer who thought Lawrence looked like a homosexual because he had a 'effeminate' walk, well ... I can only hope that one day he joins the 21st century; hero's aren't all musclebound apes, leaders aren't all fluffy paragons of virtue, and so what if he did turn out to be homosexual?

If you and you dad like watching a man being whipped before being violated there is, I believe, a wealth of material available to cater for your taste at your local pornography shop.

In my opinion its one of the best films ever made and certainly the best film I've seen based on real events.

Forget the length feel the quality.
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Heroism brilliantly shown
bleakeye2 March 2001
When it come to making epics, David Lean is the master and what better proof than this masterpiece. "Lawrence Of Arabia" was first shown in 1962 and after almost 40 years later, it is still beautiful. The story of T. E. Lawrence is wonderfully brought to us by David Lean, director of another masterpiece called "The Bridge On The River Kwai".

David Lean has shown us a man's long, yet never boring (at least for me) journey into the deserts of Arabia. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole) is an ordinary man that becomes a hero (at least in my eyes) during his extensive tenure in Arabia. He becomes a traveler, a great man, and a leader to the people that he has associated with. Only director David Lean could have given us a movie experience like this.

An assortment of phenomenal actors are collected for this movie and what a cast! Peter O'Toole, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quinn, Alec Guiness and so much more portray their characters with intensity and believability. Never have I been so impressed. As Lawrence, Peter O'Toole plays the role of which his name is most associated with and is surprising for me that he made the role his own because before I got a chance to see this movie I imagined a man opposite from someone like Peter O'Toole. Omar Sharif as Ali is one of the most charismatic characters in film history. I will not say anymore about the cast because I'm allowed only 1,000 words to use in my comment.

Will all do respect to classics such as "Gone With The Wind" and even "Bridge on the River Kwai"this is without a doubt the most exciting epic of all time. I highly recommend it!
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possibly one of the greatest films ever made
amostom5 November 2005
This film requires no introduction. It's one of the greatest movies ever made if not the best. Truly inspiring. It leaves me with the feeling that I would have liked to have met Lawrence but being born 37 years after his death regrettably this will never happen! I went to see the movie in the National Film Theatre, London in order to see the panorama on the big screen. Well worth the trip even if you have seen the movie on DVD. He was arguably one of the greatest englishmen to walk the earth. Why doesn't anyone make films like this anymore?! Thank God for David Lean's work. Looking forward to viewing this film again and again on DVD.
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The Very Best Scene of All Time
rsartisttouch-130 September 2005
Warning: Spoilers
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, released in 1962, is one of the best motion pictures ever made. Be that as it may, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA contains one particular scene that is my favorite out of all the thousands of movies I have viewed over the past 50 years. To my mind, this scene is the most beautiful, most joyous and wonderful cinematic experience.

So I would like for you to experience this scene from LAWRENCE OF ARABIA as well, but you must do the following. Watch it on the biggest and best screen available to you, turning up the sound to movie theater volume. Additionally, the scene won't be appreciated unless you watch LAWRENCE OF ARABIA from the very beginning, including "The Overture".

The scene begins at night, just before sunrise. Lawrence and his "army" have succeeded in crossing the "sun's anvil" portion of the Nefud desert. Lawrence then notices there is a camel with no rider. It is Gassim's camel; perhaps Gassim fell asleep and fell off the camel and could not catch the camel in time to remount? Lawrence decides to turn back and rescue Gassim if that is the case.

This is where the scene begins. It ends when Lawrence, completely exhausted, looks at the ground and falls onto a mat into a deep sleep. Everything that happens in between is the most enjoyable piece of cinematic art I've ever seen and is now there for you to discover and enjoy. This is all I will reveal.
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A Film of Epic Scale and Epic Proportion= One of the Greatest
nferlisi30 June 2019
Every once in a while there is a film that will blow you away from start to finish, in this case Lawrence of Arabia ins one of those very few films that will blow you away. For many years my grandfather enjoyed this film and suggested it to me for some time, finally being old enough to see it, I see why he and many others have enjoyed it. Epics are a kind of film that take an immense approach towards a story that needs a massive vision in order to tell such a story. David Lean took this massive vision in order to create something of epic scale and scope, which captured the extensiveness of an epic-genre film. Like most other epics, they take a great amount of time to tell their long stories, some ranging between three to five hours long which I will say may be too long for any kind of film. Lawrence of Arabia runs in at three hours and thirty-six minutes would seem like a rather long film, but this runtime feels appropriate when telling the progressional story of T.E. Lawrence building his character in great depth. Think of it like breaking the character of T.E. Lawrence into several parts such as a man, soldier, hero, leader, and advisor. In regards to the performances, Peter O'Toole brings T.E. Lawrence to life on multiple levels making us feel for his life journey and all other circumstances that he faces on that journey. All supporting and secondary performances adds a lot of good flare as well, especially from Omar Sharif's character. The direction by David Lean resonates every minute of this epic, Lean took such great care in creating a film of scale, meaning making this film both look and feel immense. Great utilization of wide lenses and shots allow the look of the film to larger than life, which in turn makes those particular shots more impactful.

I would recommend this film to anyone, even if it were just one time. This film has been on many "top films or greatest films of all times", after seeing it I feel that this film justifies its placement on those lists. Overall Star Rating: 8.4/10
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A Vision that Defines Itself
tedg4 October 2001
A man has an inner drive that makes him peculiar and intense. He goes to the desert and falls in love with it and its people. Gaining powerful sponsors, he has a grand vision that he accomplishes by inspiring and directing thousands. But in a very short time, that grand work is compromised and disassembled by fat cats in offices who are concerned with different values.

True of both Lawrence and Lean. The legacy of Lawrence is still in violent disarray (I write this a short time after the Sept 11 attacks on New York). But Lean's vision was saved, and what a vision! Of this picture, it can be said that it is perfect if only because it is so visionary that it defines its own rules.

Lean's vision is also lean, with vast zones of sonic and visual silence -- several meditations on the unperceived. Though there is a story (who are you?) this is really a film of TE's 'Seven Pillars,' which creates a romantic vision of sculpted natural forces. So powerful a depiction that Islam experienced a faddish attraction in the West, a place now enjoyed by Tibetan Buddhism. That was before.

See here the original Obiwan, every intonation, movement and dress. See here Peter O'Toole's personality become completely entwined with the character, who is as fictionalized by our eye as by Lowell's. See the most expressive, anthropomorphic train wreck in history.

Watch a particularly interesting brand of acting by the 'Arabs.' Macho men are acting anyway, so an actor can play an actor when he lands such a role.

The star of the film is the clever eye of God, not the clockmaker or judge of the west but the chess player of the mirage. Its face is clearest in my mind when the Turk holds TE down for torture and smiles. Its hand in the creaking of Feisal's tent -- who would ever imagine the wind acting? (Kurosawa's 'Ran' at the beginning is the only other example I know.)

I have a few films I admire for various. mostly intellectual qualities. But in the direct matter of visual storytelling, this one tops my list.
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Why this film is brilliant, and it's not because of 70mm
druss44121-122 January 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Note: I talk about scenes in the film so there are MILD spoilers.

Yes, Lawrence of Arabia is remembered for desert vistas and sweeping battle scenes. The cinematography is unforgettable, the scale vast. In many ways, it defines "epic," but at the center of Lawrence of Arabia there is a real historical person who was also a hero worthy of classical Greek tragedies: a man whose virtues are his downfall. A lot of people seem to miss this, and often I think fans of the movie even miss quite why there is nothing else out there like it. Every aspect of the film, from the narrative structure to the staging of shots, revolves around exploring not just what T.E. Lawrence did but why he did it, and what it cost him.

The desert is a recurring image, but it's not simply a stunning landscape. Shots linger on vast emptiness, and suggest a blank canvas on which Lawrence can paint whatever he wishes. Profoundly alienated from his family and home culture, Lawrence pulls on the robes and persona of the man he might have been, if he'd been born an Arab. The deeper his insecurities reach, the farther his ambitions must go. He conquers the desert, and the desert conquers him, demanding payment for every personal triumph.

The desert and the visuals of Lawrence of Arabia work in relation to the narrative, characters and themes in a way that would be impossible without 70mm film, without the long, lingering shots that make the desert itself a character. The desert shifts and changes, shimmers and conceals, as mysterious and indefinable as Lawrence himself. Peter O'Toole's performance is mirage-like, with emotions flickering and disappearing. Just as some shots linger on a vast and empty desert, others linger on his face, frozen in a moment of internal conflict.

Director David Lean cuts together close-ups and wide-angle shots to reflect the dual nature of his film as vast epic and intimate portrait, as when Lawrence journeys through the furnace heat of the desert to rescue a lost man. Consider the sequence. A speck in the distance; Lawrence's eyes, lit up in relief and vindication; the man, who has expected to die, almost literally rising from the dead; they move toward each other, two specks becoming one; and finally: the impersonal specks become human beings again.

Robert Bolt's screenplay is elegantly structured to show that the desert exacts a personal price for every public triumph, and that Lawrence's inner and outer identity are constantly in conflict. Lawrence captures a Turkish seaport by crossing the Nefud desert, but this success has required him to execute the very man whose life he just saved from the desert. Returning to Cairo to announce his military triumph, he helplessly watches a young friend drown in quicksand. Grieving and stunned, Lawrence approaches the Suez Canal and is seen by a British motorcyclist. To this man, Lawrence is a speck on the horizon, and when he calls, "Who are you?" we know this is the very question Lawrence is asking himself. The more Lawrence accomplishes, the more of a stranger he becomes to himself -- an unknown speck in the desert within.

Eventually Lawrence must come in from the desert, and rejoin his own race-and-class divided culture. This time, Bolt hides the theme of identity in a way that can only be noticed when the film is seen more than once. At the end of the war, and the movie, a British officer shouts racist insults and slaps Lawrence down to the ground because he is dressed in Arab garb. A few days later, when Lawrence is wearing a British uniform, this same officer is proud to shake Lawrence's hand.

Still later -- but seen at the opening of the film, at Lawrence's funeral -- this very British officer professes his great respect for Lawrence and berates a reporter, who really did spend time with Lawrence, for daring to be cynical about him. And the theme of identity comes full circle. Much as Lawrence fought for ideals his own people did not understand and against personal conflicts few would see, Lawrence of Arabia remains a film of many secrets, offering something new to discover on each viewing. It is the dual nature of Lawrence of Arabia, as an epic and as a personal exploration of the mind, that lifts it to a level of poetry made from images and dreams.

Ironic that the film is like its hero: often celebrated but rarely understood.
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Why this classic is THE classic.
chunga955 January 2009
Warning: Spoilers
On the IMDb discussion boards a few years ago, someone asked what made "Lawrence of Arabia" (LofA) such an important movie. The poster had watched the film but was left scratching his head as to why this was such a significant and revered movie. If you have seen the movie and are asking yourself the same questions, hopefully this will help.

You might have wondered why this movie lasts almost four hours with an intermission. When LofA was made, going to the cinema to watch a movie was a bigger deal than it is now. It was commonplace for movies to last this long, and lengthy epics with a cast-of-a-thousand were the flavor. This is the only significant quality this movie shares with other contemporary movies of the time.

Obviously, this movie takes place in the Middle East. As far as western audiences were concerned, LofA might as well have taken place on the moon for all that was understood of Arabian culture and history in 1962. LofA transports us to an alien land with strange characters and values. To help tell this story, the movie is anchored by established actors like Sir Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jack Hawkins, and Claude Rains. While Hawkins and Rains perform familiar characters, Guinness and Quinn paint credible portraits as Arabic royalty and tribal leader. That their characterizations still ring true today is a testament to their portrayals. Only in the last 10 years or so has western cinema begun to maturely portray Middle Eastern culture. Omar Sharif, one of the few actual Middle Easterners with a prominent role, demonstrates the complex beauty and brutality of this culture.

Of course the real star was newcomer Peter O'Toole. His was a risky casting and proved to be one of the best of all time. The real genius of LofA is its simplicity. Here is the man Lawrence, here is what happened, here's how he felt about it all. This is made possible by O'Toole. At the time, campy presentational acting was still the prominent style of movie acting. O'Toole was part of the new blood of method acting, made en vogue famously by Brando and "On the Waterfront", that was showing the audience, not telling, the emotional fabric of a character. Watch O'Toole's eyes on his close-ups. He communicates more depth and presence than any dialog could provide. He draws the audience in, includes them in his triumphs and despairs, all the while impressing the hope and ambition of Lawrence.

Steering the ship is David Lean. He makes nearly every minute of the movie matter. An important part of the story is the environment of LofA, the desert. It's such an integral part that Lean treats the desert as a character. Lean takes the audience to another world to show how the desert is a huge factor to the method of madness Lawrence finds there; why a man is killed simply for drinking from a water well, why Lawrence is the Giver of Life, why crossing the desert for gold is honorable, why it is important that Arabia be ruled by Arabians, not the British or Turks. There's a scene where Lawrence is crossing the Devil's Anvil. In that sequence Lean includes a shot of a dust devil (the tornado-looking thing) spinning fiercely on the baked ground. If this movie were made today, a CGI-artist would make this. Of course CGI didn't exist in '62, but nonetheless Lean patiently set up in the desert to capture this phenomenon and include it. It's a small color, but important the vast and vibrant world he communicates.

If this movie were made today, it would be filled with snappy dialog and probably focus on big action sequences. Lean makes every minute of the movie matter because everything that happens serves the characters. The movie lasts nearly four hours, not because that was the style of movies in that era, but because it takes that long to diligently explore the characters of Lawrence, Feisal, Sheriff Ali, and abu Tayi. Lean's direction and crafting was revolutionary. The movie stills holds currency in our modern culture because the movie's direction, acting, and characterizations ARE timeless and of no particular era.

There are a thousand variables that make a great movie, but if you're looking for the important qualities to latch on to, it's how this movie is timeless. This movie was a radical departure from the hammy "epics" of the time and set a nearly unreachable standard for every movie that follows. It was great in 1962, great today, and will be great in 50 years.
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A Movie For All Time.
msfried31531 December 2005
I have seen this movie many times. It is a movie to be seen in a large movie theater on a very wide screen. One of the persons responsible for the restoration of this great film is my cousin Robert Harris.

Bob did a masterpiece in restoration. He invited me to the opening of the restoration in Los Angeles, and I was introduced to Omar Shariff. Unfortunately, the Cineplex Odean in Centuty City has been demolished to make way for a modern office complex. The demolition of this movie house coincides with the demolition of movie making in this town.

The scene of Ali coming into view on the desert is the best piece of cinematography I have ever seen. This movie prompted my wife and I to travel through Syria, Jordan and Israel, where this movie takes place. I brought with me on this trip Lawrence's autobiography, "Seven Pillars of Wisdom". I used this book to instruct my car and guide to take me to all of the places that Lawrence visited in Syria and Jordan. I even hired a 4 wheel drive vehicle to take me into Wadi Rum, the canyon that Lawrence sung Tum Te tum Te tum. The place really echoed. My Bedu driver took me to a cave at the end of the Wadi where I was introduced to a very old Bedouin who fought with Lawrence during the "Arab Revolt". There was even graffiti on the wall of the cave written by Lawrence's followers.

Before Lawrence involved himself in the "Arab Revolt" he lived among the Arabs in the land once called "The Ottoman Empire", which was administered out of Constantinople. His book discussed his visit to the most preserved Crusader Castle still in existence today in Syria, north of Damascus, Craque DE Chevalier, where the Crusaders held off Saladin during a great siege.

That movie and my visit will never be erased from my memory. Thank you Bob for that wonderful restoration.
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A sweeping epic with many layers of complexity
AlsExGal21 November 2009
Warning: Spoilers
It's hard for the small screen to do justice to such a sweeping cinematographic epic, but there is much more to this film than its visual majesty. The film has one of the most beautiful and recognized scores in the history of cinema, a fascinating subject in the person of T.E. Lawrence himself, one of the most literate screenplays ever written, and a wonderful supporting cast nearing perfection. It is a shame that unless you take the time to buy the DVD and invest the almost four hours it takes to watch it, you are likely to miss out on one of the best films ever made. It is precisely because of its length that it is seldom seen on TV anymore. The backdrop of the film is that the British, in the midst of fighting World War I, are aiding the Arab struggle for independence from the Turks since anything that ties up the Turks accomplishes the British goal of destroying the Ottoman Empire and thus aids in the war effort. T. E. Lawrence is first enlisted to help advise the Arabs in their military goals, but goes on to lead them in a series of stunning military victories that goes way beyond what the British expected of the Arabs, and quite frankly, way beyond what the British wanted. You see, the British had designs on claiming Arabia for themselves after the war ends, years before it was discovered that Arabia was sitting on the world's richest oil supply.

However, this is really an oversimplification of a very complex film. This movie is so multi-faceted that you could tackle reviewing it from several angles. To me one of the most fascinating aspects of the film is the complex relationship and contrast between Sheriff Ali (Omar Sharif), fellow tribesman and counsel to Prince Feisal, and T.E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole). When the two first meet Ali shoots down Lawrence's Arab companion who is taking him to first meet Feisel because the man is drinking from Ali's well and does not have permission to do so. An outraged Lawrence chastises Ali citing that Arabia will never be great as long as they war amongst themselves and that he is "barborous and cruel". Towards the end of the film, though, there is a reversal of roles as Ali tries to stop a massacre that Lawrence is not only allowing his troops to participate in, but seems to be genuinely enjoying. Ali is a man who has a good bead on who he is and what he believes. Not having this quality is Lawrence's greatest shortcoming. Lawrence either believes he is much less than he is or much more, depending on his latest exploits and who has talked to him last. Ali clearly sees this problem, and by the end of the film Ali is Lawrence's fast friend - in fact his only true friend. You see, Lawrence is being used by both the Arabs and the British. This becomes immensely clear when at the end of the film Prince Feisel, who has always seemed to be genuine towards Lawrence, says during negotiations with the British "Lawrence is a double-edged sword - We are equally glad to be rid of him, are we not?". By the way, the role of Ali has to be Sharif's finest hour as an actor. I always thought Dr. Zhivago was that finest role, and it is still a great performance, but this one is even better.

There are so many other themes going on in this film - the thin line between madness and heroism, the worth of a single human life versus the welfare of an entire army or a nation, the sometimes less than honorable motives behind those fighting for the honorable goal independence, the contrast between western and Arab values - that you could go on forever. That is why I strongly recommend this film. You'll probably come away with something a little different on each viewing.
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Am I one of the few who didn't like it?
mickdl8 January 2002
Just saw this for the first time. Although the movie has a great cast, there is very little in the way of drama to keep you interested for 230 minutes. It's not a very good biography in that I didn't come away from the film knowing any more about Lawrence than I did when I sat down to watch. The movie is watchable just for the cinematography, but if you're looking for a good story, forget it.
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If you can find it on the big screen - that's the way to see it!
dendodd3 November 2004
This film should be viewed in a big cinema on a big screen. That really is the only way to truly "feel" the desert scenes in this film beautifully photographed by Fred A. Young.

This film has influenced so many - Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, James Cameron, etc., etc., but most of all film restorer Robert A. Harris. Mr. Harris along with Jim Painten, brought the film back to life with the magnificent 1989 restoration and director's cut watched over by Sir David Lean and Anne V. Coates, the film's original editor. It is a MUST for all film buffs.

Although the film is over 40 years old, being a period piece it doesn't date. The film re-creates the stiff formality of the British Military of the First World War very nicely bringing to life the pompousness of General Murray, a type not likely to be encountered by today's generation. The odd quirkiness of Lawrence and his many hang-ups are depicted as only O'Toole could have created the character.

The DVD is pretty crisp and clear infrequently revealing the age of the celluloid. It is very exciting but no television can match the awesome landscape created in a large format cinema equipped with real 70 mm projectors. If you have the chance, see it there first (and often, if possible).
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A mixed but pretty unique experience.
DrunkenDeGroot29 September 2019
A perfect 100 on Metascore would indicate that this is indeed a perfect movie, and while I'd call a few aspects perfect, it has undeniable issues.

The georgeous cinematography makes the 4 hour runtime much less unbearable, compared with the well used music compositions. All the performances are amazing, especially the main 4.

All the action sequences are really well done along with the practical effects.

The 4k remaster added a lot of depth. The sunburn scene was really powerful with the image of the sun and that irritating music, and the dialogue generally was witty, and playful, and mostly cleverly written.

The runtime itself is a choice that I feel like was really intentional and purposeful, this movie had to be big and monumental so that it could really make you understand the psychology of Lawrence, and I don't have a problem with that, but some scenes could've cut down. Some sequences are too long, while others are too short. And the intentions of the director aren't always clear, and sometimes it can feel like a mess. And while I think it's a completely unique, and masterful movie that I won't forget anytime soon, but the enormous runtime, sometimes unclear intentions, and cheap and really boringly done death scenes kind of bring it down for me. If you are going to do something that's 4 hours long, every single scene in it should be perfect, to keep me completely interested, but it's really not perfect.

I'll watch it again 20 years from now.
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