After spending decades in a Siberian Gulag labor camp, Roman Catholic priest Kiril Lakota is set free by Russian leader Piotr Ilyich Kamenev at the height of the Cold War


Michael Anderson


John Patrick (screenplay), James Kennaway (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 4 wins & 3 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Quinn ... Archbishop Kiril Pavlovich Lakota
Laurence Olivier ... Premier Piotr Ilyich Kamenev (as Sir Laurence Olivier)
Oskar Werner ... Fr. David Telemond
David Janssen ... George Faber
Vittorio De Sica ... Cardinal Rinaldi
Leo McKern ... Cardinal Leone
John Gielgud ... The Elder Pope (as Sir John Gielgud)
Barbara Jefford ... Dr. Ruth Faber
Rosemary Dexter ... Chiara (as Rosemarie Dexter)
Frank Finlay ... Igor Bounin
Burt Kwouk ... Chairman Peng
Arnoldo Foà ... Gelasio (as Arnoldo Foa')
Paul Rogers ... Augustinian
George Pravda ... Gorshenin (credit only)
Clive Revill ... Tovarich Vucovich


Ukrainian Archbishop Kiril Lakota is set free after twenty years as a political prisoner in Siberia. He is brought to Rome by Father David Telemond, a troubled young priest who befriends him. Once at the Vatican, he is immediately given an audience with the Pope, who elevates him to Cardinal Priest. The world is on the brink of war due to a Chinese-Soviet feud made worse by a famine caused by trade restrictions brought against China by the U.S. When the Pontiff suddenly dies, Lakota's genuine character and unique life experience move the College of Cardinals to elect him as the new Pope. But Pope Kiril I must now deal with his own self-doubt, the struggle of his friend Father Telemond, who is under scrutiny for his beliefs, and find a solution to the crisis in China.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In a last desperate effort to prevent World War III, one man is chosen to succeed where all the world's leaders have failed. That man was once a prisoner in a Russian labor camp. He is now the Pope. See more »




G | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Anthony Quinn had campaigned for Sir Laurence Olivier to appear in the movie, although Olivier was upset that Quinn had to leave the Broadway production of "Becket" to appear in 'Barabbas' and they hadn't spoken in years. See more »


TV reporter George Faber (David Janssen) reacts with surprise when Lakota appears on the balcony after his election and declares, "It's Lakota. They've elected a Russian pope." But the identity of a new pope is always announced from the balcony before his first appearance as pontiff. See more »


Kiril Lakota: My brothers, if this is the last sound made by the last living man, it must be shouted loud and clear. Life is a gift of God.
See more »


Featured in Movie-Mixer Featurettes (1984) See more »

User Reviews

I love the film!
2 June 2005 | by joe-852See all my reviews

Rome and Papal Rome, the ceremonies associated with both, chant including the Gregorian type are lavishly displayed in this beautiful film. However, all of that would just be decorative were it not for the interesting personages: Father David Telemond's poetically flawed theology pitted against Lakota's "simple" faith that saved him from despair in Siberia. The extraordinary character (played with great beauty and humanity by Leo McKern) of Cardinal Leone whose encyclopedic catechism finally gives way to utter humanity and forgiveness in his final encounter with Quinn now Pope. The scattered negative comments form mostly laudatory reviews, I think, stem from people who can't "get into" the less than obvious moments of dialog which require some patience but also a modicum of background into Rome and its history. Sometimes I fear that Americans (and I'm one) can't sit still for anything that isn't an action picture. For me, and I've seen the film countless times, its beauty both in the evocation of Rome and the extraordinary exchanges between the characters makes it a unique cinematic experience.

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English | Latin | Hebrew

Release Date:

14 November 1968 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Shoes of the Fisherman See more »

Filming Locations:

Lapland, Finland See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

70 mm 6-Track


Color (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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