72 user 38 critic

The French Lieutenant's Woman (1981)

1:59 | Trailer
A movie is being made of a story, set in nineteenth century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes... See full summary »


Karel Reisz


John Fowles (novel), Harold Pinter (screenplay)
Nominated for 5 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 15 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Meryl Streep ... Sarah and Anna
Jeremy Irons ... Charles and Mike
Hilton McRae Hilton McRae ... Sam
Emily Morgan Emily Morgan ... Mary
Charlotte Mitchell Charlotte Mitchell ... Mrs. Tranter
Lynsey Baxter ... Ernestina
Jean Faulds Jean Faulds ... Cook
Peter Vaughan ... Mr. Freeman
Colin Jeavons ... Vicar
Liz Smith ... Mrs. Fairley
Patience Collier ... Mrs. Poulteney
John Barrett ... Dairyman
Leo McKern ... Dr. Grogan
Arabella Weir ... Girl on Undercliff
Ben Forster ... Boy on Undercliff


A movie is being made of a story, set in nineteenth century England, about Charles, a biologist who's engaged to be married, but who falls in love with outcast Sarah, whose melancholy makes her leave him after a short, but passionate affair. Anna (Meryl Streep) and Mike (Jeremy Irons), who play the characters of Sarah and Charles, go, during the shooting of the movie, through a relationship that runs parallel to that of their characters. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


She was lost from the moment she saw him.


Drama | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


Numerous directors were attached to the production prior to Karel Reisz. These directors included Mike Nichols, Milos Forman, Robert Bolt, Sidney Lumet, Richard Lester, Fred Zinnemann, Lindsay Anderson, Franklin J. Schaffner, and Michael Cacoyannis. None of these directors were able to come up with a workable screenplay nor a workable perspective for a movie. See more »


Early in the film when Charles takes a horse-drawn carriage to visit Ernestine the horse changes between shots (confirmed by the number of "stocking" feet it has). See more »


Charles Henry Smithson: You are a remarkable person, Miss Woodruff.
Sarah: Yes, I am a remarkable person.
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Referenced in Windrider (1986) See more »


Prelude in C minor
Written by Johann Sebastian Bach
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User Reviews

With hindsight, a good film
20 May 2004 | by octomancerSee all my reviews

I have only seen this film once, about 20 years ago, when I was in my mid teens. It intrigued me then, but went completely over my head. I could dimly perceive grand themes in it, but couldn't bring them into focus. A few years ago a friend gave me a John Fowles book to read, "The Magus" and this caused me to re-evaluate this film entirely. For me, the story's strength does not lie in anything definite. It's main themes are suggestion and allegory. The creative role of the mind in human perception is very clearly depicted in "The Magus" and this is central to TFLW too. The 2 central characters, in their modern guises are caught up in this, as the audience is expected to be. Perhaps there is no central message to be understood ... maybe a viewer should just be delighted by the parallels which are revealed by telling these 2 stories in this way ...

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

16 October 1981 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The French Lieutenant's Woman See more »


Box Office

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

Production Co:

Juniper Films See more »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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