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The Canterbury Tales (1972)

I racconti di Canterbury (original title)
NC-17 | | Comedy, Drama, History | 30 May 1980 (USA)
Pasolini's artistic, sometimes violent, always vividly cinematic retelling of some of Chaucer's most erotic tales.


Pier Paolo Pasolini (screenplay), Geoffrey Chaucer (book) (as G. Chaucer)
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Hugh Griffith ... Sir January
Laura Betti ... The Wife from Bath
Ninetto Davoli ... Perkin
Franco Citti ... The Devil
Josephine Chaplin ... May
Alan Webb ... Old Man
Pier Paolo Pasolini ... Geoffrey Chaucer
J.P. Van Dyne J.P. Van Dyne ... The Cook
Vernon Dobtcheff ... The Franklin
Adrian Street Adrian Street ... Fighter
Orla Pederson ... Pilgrim (as OT)
Derek Deadman Derek Deadman ... The Pardoner (as Derek Deadmin)
Nicholas Smith ... Friar
George Bethell Datch George Bethell Datch ... Host of the Tabard (as George B. Datch)
Dan Thomas ... Nicholas


Pasolini's artistic, sometimes violent, always vividly cinematic retelling of some of Chaucer's most erotic tales.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Comedy | Drama | History


NC-17 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The second film in director Pier Paolo Pasolini's "Trilogy of Life", following The Decameron (1971) and concluding with Arabian Nights (1974). See more »


Some of the women have tan-lines from bikinis. See more »


Perkin's mother: [singing] Oh, there was a little beggar man that goes from town to town, and wherever he get a job and work he's willing to sit down.
See more »

Alternate Versions

The original UK cinema version was cut by the BBFC with edits to anal sex shots, a man being whipped, and Rufus urinating on the crowd during the 'Pardoner's Tale' segment for an 'X' certificate. The cuts were fully restored in 2001 and the certificate downgraded to a '15'. See more »


References The Decameron (1971) See more »

User Reviews

dull decadence
26 April 2001 | by JMannSee all my reviews

As far as where this one sits on the film map, it's somewhere between Belle de Jour and Tinto Brass's Caligula.

The most important credit Pasolini's setting of the Canterbury Tales deserves is for its dismissal of the usual on-screen morality. Such candor seems essential to the nature of such a narrative (being much more appreciated than the stifled decadence of Keir Dullea's Marquis de Sade or the early Warhol/Morrissey efforts). This is most effective because the film also depicts the baseness and depravity of the late Middle Ages. Everyone's fornicating or trying to fornicate everyone else, with lots of potty humor thrown in just to make sure that it wouldn't be taken too seriously as a foray into art-house pretensions.

On all other counts, it's overblown and a bit sluggish, with an especially disappointing outcome au montage son. And non-professional actors are much less effective in adding a dimension of realism than they are in inducing a sense of self-mockery. The imagery is shamelessly ribald although not extreme, and the storyline is far from seamless. Far from Pasolini's best, although perhaps a good preparation for the far more intense Salo.

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Italian | English

Release Date:

30 May 1980 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Canterbury Tales See more »


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| (premiere)

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Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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