The biographical story of Michelangelo's troubles while painting the Sistine Chapel at the urging of Pope Julius II.


Carol Reed


Irving Stone (based on the novel: "The Agony and the Ecstasy" by), Philip Dunne (screen story and screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Charlton Heston ... Michelangelo
Rex Harrison ... Pope Julius II
Diane Cilento ... Contessina de'Medici
Harry Andrews ... Bramante
Alberto Lupo ... Francesco Maria della Rovere, duke of Urbino
Adolfo Celi ... Cardinal Giovanni de' Medici (pope Leo X)
Venantino Venantini ... Paris De Grassis
John Stacy ... Sangallo
Fausto Tozzi ... Foreman
Maxine Audley ... Woman
Tomas Milian ... Raphael


Pope Julius II (Sir Rex Harrison) is eager to leave behind works by which he will be remembered. To this end he cajoles Michelangelo (Charlton Heston) into painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. When not on the battlefield uniting Italy, the Pope nags Michelangelo to speed up his painful work on the frescoes. Written by Ed Stephan <>

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From the age of magnificence comes a new magnificence in motion pictures See more »


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Did You Know?


The movie was originally supposed to have been filmed in 1961, starring Burt Lancaster, but production was delayed for three years. Richard Burton and Marlon Brando were also considered for the lead. See more »


On the eastern wall of the Sistine Chapel, we can see two frescoes that have been painted by Arrigo Paludano in 1571 and Matteo da Lecce, thirty years after Michelangelo completed the Last Judgement (1541). They replaced the first paintings by Signorelli and Ghirlandaio destroyed by a partial collapsing of the wall. Obviously, they couldn't be shown if the action takes place between 1508 and 1512. See more »


[repeated exchange]
Pope Julius II: When will you make an end?
Michelangelo: When I am finished!
See more »


Referenced in Changing Habits (1997) See more »

User Reviews

The two parts of love
19 August 2006 | by blanche-2See all my reviews

"The Agony and the Ecstasy" is the story of Michaelangelo and his painting of the Sistine Chapel at the behest of Pope Julius II, a warrior and Patron of the Arts.

But it's really about so much more - the connection between art and the artist, faith, will, and the quest for perfection. Most of all, it's about the complicated relationship of two determined men, Michaelangelo and Pope Julius, which is adversarial and even violent.

The color and scenery in this film are truly beautiful, but I'd love to see a restored print, as I imagine the colors would even be richer.

Charlton Heston is a convincing and strong Michelangelo in what may be his best performance. It's buoyed by the magnificent work of Rex Harrison as Julius II. The two spark one another, and the result is an exciting screen teaming. There is hatred, resentment, a battle of wills, love and admiration between them, the agony and ecstasy of connecting with another, as Diane Cilento says in the film. She plays a woman in love with Michaelangelo. He explains that he cannot love her because of the commitment he has made to his true love, his art. The book hints at Michaelangelo's homosexuality, and it's covered with one line. After Michaelangelo says that he cannot match her feelings, he looks at a sketch of a nude man. "And it's not that either," he says.

Many scenes stick out. The somewhat hokey one in the mountains, when Michaelangelo looks at the heavens and receives his inspiration is nevertheless a gorgeous scene; the incredible scene when Michaelangelo discovers the Pope alone at night with a candle studying the ceiling is perhaps the best, as Michaelangelo explains his concept of God and faith. And the last scene between the two men is unforgettable.

There is a documentary about Michaelangelo and his work before the movie begins. A magnificent film. Don't miss it.

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English | Latin

Release Date:

16 September 1965 (West Germany) See more »

Also Known As:

The Agony and the Ecstasy See more »


Box Office


$10,000,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

International Classics See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track (Westrex Recording System) (70 mm prints)| Mono (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

2.20 : 1
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