Chronicling the lifelong sexual development of two men who meet and befriend one another in college.


Mike Nichols


Jules Feiffer
3,264 ( 557)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Jack Nicholson ... Jonathan
Candice Bergen ... Susan
Art Garfunkel ... Sandy (as Arthur Garfunkel)
Ann-Margret ... Bobbie
Rita Moreno ... Louise
Cynthia O'Neal ... Cindy
Carol Kane ... Jennifer


The concurrent sexual lives of best friends Jonathan and Sandy are presented, those lives which are affected by the sexual mores of the time and their own temperament, especially in relation to the respective women who end up in their lives. Their story begins in the late 1940s when they are roommates attending Amherst College together. Both virgins, they discuss the type of woman they would each like to end up with. Sandy, the more sensitive of the two, meets Susan at a mixer, she who he believes is going to be the one to who he will lose his virginity. Sandy goes through the process methodically, taking into account what he thinks Susan wants, but without much true passion or romance. Jonathan, the more sexually aggressive of the two, ends up losing his virginity first to "Myrtle", who ends up being a steady but hidden girlfriend. Based on what each knows of the other's relationship, both Jonathan and Sandy strive for a little more of what the other has. These relationships also set... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The United States Supreme Court Has Ruled That "Carnal Knowledge" Is Not Obscene. See It Now!




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


One of Jack Nicholson's lines in the film is believed to be the first occurrence of the word "cunt" in dialogue in cinema. It appeared in writing in Bronco Bullfrog (1970). See more »


On their first night together, Jonathan and Bobbie ride down Broadway in the back of a taxi. Four of the films showing on marquees on a rear projection screen are "West Side Story," "El Cid," "Satan in High Heels," and "Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse." WSS and El Cid were released in late 1961, the other two were released in early 1962 (Satan in March, '62).

During the fight scene. which takes place at least a year after they started living together, Bobbie says that Jonathan didn't let her campaign for Kennedy. According to the films playing on Broadway, they met more than a year after Kennedy had been inaugurated. See more »


[first lines]
Jonathan: If you had a choice...
Sandy: Yeah?
Jonathan: Would you rather love a girl, or have her love you?
Sandy: I want it mutual.
Jonathan: I mean if you couldn't have it mutual.
Sandy: You mean would I rather be the one who loves, or is loved?
Jonathan: Yeah.
Sandy: It's not that easy a question. But, I think I'd rather be in love.
Jonathan: Me too. I wouldn't want to get hurt, though.
See more »


Referenced in Heat (1972) See more »


Moonlight Serenade
Written by Glenn Miller
Performed by Glenn Miller and His Orchestra
See more »

User Reviews

"Sandy, do you wanna get laid?"
16 April 2007 | by Galina_movie_fanSee all my reviews

"Carnal Knowledge" (1971) directed by Mike Nichols with Jack Nicholson, Art Garfunkel, Candice Bergen, Ann-Margret in an Oscar nominated performance as a sex kitten who wants to marry Nicholson's Jonathan, and Carol Kane and Rita Moreno in the small roles is one of the movies that made 70s so memorable. It is also the movie that keeps reminding me why I love Jack Nicholson of his early years and how grand he was without his "Jackness" which he has developed during all these years. Sandy (Garfunkel) and Jonathan are two college friends and like every straight young (and not too young) man in the world they are obsessed by girls and move from one relationship to another in the course of almost thirty years. Nichols and Jules Feiffer who wrote the play and later adapted it for the screen let us look inside the minds and souls of two educated upper-middle class white males and to learn their very intimate thoughts and secrets concerning their plentiful dysfunctional and joyless affairs and it is not a pretty picture - "Boys begin life not liking girls, later they don't change, they just get horny." The film is honest, uncomfortable, "very slick, very clever".

25 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 81 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

30 June 1971 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Carnal Knowledge See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Embassy Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed