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The English Patient (1996)

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At the close of WWII, a young nurse tends to a badly-burned plane crash victim. His past is shown in flashbacks, revealing an involvement in a fateful love affair.


Anthony Minghella


Michael Ondaatje (novel), Anthony Minghella (screenplay)
1,439 ( 19)
Won 9 Oscars. Another 54 wins & 75 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ralph Fiennes ... Almásy
Juliette Binoche ... Hana
Willem Dafoe ... Caravaggio
Kristin Scott Thomas ... Katharine Clifton
Naveen Andrews ... Kip
Colin Firth ... Geoffrey Clifton
Julian Wadham ... Madox
Jürgen Prochnow ... Major Muller
Kevin Whately ... Hardy
Clive Merrison ... Fenelon-Barnes
Nino Castelnuovo ... D'Agostino
Hichem Rostom Hichem Rostom ... Fouad
Peter Rühring Peter Rühring ... Bermann
Geordie Johnson Geordie Johnson ... Oliver
Torri Higginson ... Mary


October 1944 in war torn Italy. Hana, a French-Canadian nurse working in a mobile army medical unit, feels like everything she loves in life dies on her. Because of the difficulty traveling and the dangers, especially as the landscape is still heavily booby-trapped with mines, Hana volunteers to stay behind at a church to care solely for a dying semi-amnesiac patient, who is badly burned and disfigured. She agrees to catch up to the rest of the unit after he dies. All the patient remembers is that he is English and that he is married. Their solitude is disrupted with the arrival at the church of fellow Canadian David Caravaggio, part of the Intelligence Service, who is certain that he knows the patient as a man who cooperated with the Germans. Caravaggio believes that the patient's memory is largely in tact and that he is running away from his past, in part or in its entirety. The patient does open up about his past, all surrounding his work as a cartographer in North Africa, which ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In memory, love lives forever. See more »


Drama | Romance | War

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality, some violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | German | Italian | Arabic

Release Date:

6 December 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

El paciente inglés See more »

Filming Locations:

Degache, Tunisia See more »


Box Office


$27,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$278,439, 17 November 1996, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$78,651,430, 7 September 1997

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (rough cut)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital | SDDS (8 channels)| DTS-Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


Editor Walter Murch made over 40 time transitions in the film. See more »


The intervals of lightening seen as Kip, Caravaggio and Hardy carry Almásy around the well are too quick for a thunderstorm. See more »


Katharine Clifton: I'm impressed you can sew.
Almásy: Good.
Katharine Clifton: You sew very badly.
Almásy: Well, you don't sew at all.
Katharine Clifton: A woman should never learn to sew, and if she can she shouldn't admit to it.
See more »

Crazy Credits

Disclaimer in end credits: "While a number of the characters who appear in this film are based on historical figures, and while many of the areas described - such as the Cave of Swimmers and its surrounding desert - exist and were explored in the 1930s, it is important to stress that this story is a fiction and that the portraits of the characters who appear in it are fictional, as are some of the events and journeys." See more »


Referenced in About a Boy: About a Duck (2014) See more »


One O'Clock Jump
Music by Count Basie (as William "Count" Basie)
Published by EMI Feist Catalog Inc.
Performed by Benny Goodman
Courtesy of RCA Records Label of BMG Entertainment
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again"
2 July 2007 | by ackstasisSee all my reviews

Anthony Minghella's 'The English Patient' is a film that takes us back to the golden years of Hollywood. It is grand and impressive in scale, and yet so heartbreakingly intimate in its portrayal of human love and suffering. At the 1997 Academy Awards, the film owned the night, taking home nine awards from twelve nominations, the most decisive cleansweep since Bernardo Bertolucci's 'The Last Emperor' in 1988. Based on Canadian author Michael Ondaatje's 1992 Booker Prize-winning novel of the same name, 'The English Patient' is a touching meditation on life, love and loss, tracing the history of a critically-burnt man in the aftermath of World War Two.

During the war, a man (Ralph Fiennes) is discovered in the burning remnants of a crashed plane. With his face scarred beyond recognition, and with the man seemingly suffering from amnesia, he is assumed to be an Allied soldier, and is simply referred to as "the English patient." After the war, in the mine-ridden hills of Italy, a kind nurse, Hana (Juliette Binoche), who has apparently lost everybody close to her, remains in a ruined monastery to look after the dying man. Over time, she comes to learn more and more about her "English patient," who is actually revealed to be a Hungarian geographer, Count Laszlo de Almásy. Rather than losing his memory in the plane crash, we learn that this scar-ridden man has perhaps chosen to forget his past, both to protect himself from persecution and to cure himself of the tragic memories of his past love. Via numerous flashbacks, we learn of Almásy's former exploits in the Sahara desert, and his romantic liaison with a married woman, Katharine Clifton (Kristin Scott Thomas).

It's certainly easy to see why 'The English Patient' was so successful at the Oscars. It is such a beautiful film, blending the quiet beauty of the Italian countryside with the endless golden sands of the desert. Cinematographer John Seale captures the landscape to perfection; not since David Lean's magnificent 'Lawrence of Arabia' has a film shown the desert with such beauty and grandeur, making particularly good use of sweeping aerial shots from Almásy's plane. Even in the film's more intimate moments, excellent use of close-ups and lighting capture the emotion of the scene, coupled, of course, with the brilliant performances from all the cast members.

A long-time favourite actor of mine, 'The English Patient' might just contain Ralph Fiennes' finest performance, and, considering his history includes such films as 'Schindler's List' and 'The Constant Gardener,' this is not a complement that is to be taken lightly. His Count Laszlo de Almásy is initially a very sympathetic character, but, as we slowly learn more about his past, his likable qualities are eroded by his less-admirable tendencies towards others. "Ownership" is a major theme of the film. When asked by Katherine what he hates most, Almásy replies with "Ownership. Being owned. When you leave you should forget me." However, as the relationship progresses, and Katherine perhaps tries to distance herself from him, Almásy reveals a hint of arrogance, insisting that his love for her somehow entitles him to have her whenever he likes: "I want to touch you. I want the things which are mine, which belong to me."

Juliette Binoche, who received an Oscar for her performance here, is excellent as Hana, the lonesome nurse who fears to love because of the tragedies that have always harmed those close to her. After some time of caring for Almásy alone, she is joined by a dubious Canadian thief, David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), who lost his thumbs during the war, and who suspects that it was Almásy who betrayed him to the Germans. Hana also strikes up a tentative romantic relationship with Kip (Naveen Andrews), an Indian bomb-diffuser in the British Army. However, due to her past history, Hana is afraid that becoming involved with Kip will doom him to death, particularly considering his very dangerous line of work.

At 160 minutes in length, 'The English Patient' wonderfully evokes memories of the classic romantic epics of old, successfully finding a balance of mystery, love, joy and tragedy. The ending of the film is heartbreaking and sorrowful, but also uplifting in its own way. Whilst some romantic relationships are doomed from the very beginning, others have a very good chance of bringing happiness. Nevertheless, in every case, it is always better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all.

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