153 user 107 critic

The Importance of Being Earnest (2002)

1:37 | Trailer
In 1890s London, two friends use the same pseudonym ("Ernest") for their on-the-sly activities. Hilarity ensues.


Oliver Parker


Oscar Wilde (play), Oliver Parker (screenplay)
2 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Rupert Everett ... Algy
Colin Firth ... Jack
Frances O'Connor ... Gwendolen
Reese Witherspoon ... Cecily
Judi Dench ... Lady Bracknell
Tom Wilkinson ... Dr. Chasuble
Anna Massey ... Miss Prism
Edward Fox ... Lane
Patrick Godfrey ... Merriman
Charles Kay ... Gribsby
Cyril Shaps ... Pew Opener
Marsha Fitzalan ... Dowager
Finty Williams ... Young Lady Bracknell
Guy Bensley Guy Bensley ... Young Lord Bracknell
Christina Robert Christina Robert ... Duchess of Devonshire


Two young gentlemen living in 1890's England use the same pseudonym ("Ernest") on the sly, which is fine until they both fall in love with women using that name, which leads to a comedy of mistaken identities... Written by arson83

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Everybody Loves Ernest... But Nobody's Quite Sure Who He Really Is.


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG for mild sensuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


During the song "Lady Come Down" Jack leans against a pillar at the foot of the stairs with one leg crossed in front of the other. The leg that is in front changes from left to right, and back to left again as the camera angle changes. See more »


Lady Bracknell: 35 is a very attractive age. London society is full of women of the very highest birth who have, of their own free choice, remained 35 for years.
See more »

Crazy Credits

After the funeral for Bunbury, Colin Firth's Earnest is seen getting a tattoo of "Gwendolyn" on his posterior See more »


Referenced in Dorian Gray (2009) See more »


Lady Come Down
Music written by Charlie Mole
Lyrics by Oscar Wilde
Performed by Colin Firth and Rupert Everett
Courtesy of Fragile Music Ltd.
See more »

User Reviews

3 stars (out of 4)
15 October 2002 | by mwestonSee all my reviews

This is the story of two men in England in the late 1800's. Algernon Moncrieff (Rupert Everett) lives primarily in the city, while his good friend Jack Worthing (Colin Firth) lives primarily in the country. Jack calls himself Earnest when he is in the city, so Algernon calls him that. Jack also uses the name Earnest to refer to an imaginary brother who lives in the city and always needs assistance, giving him an excuse to go to the city. Similarly, Algernon is always leaving the city to attend to an imaginary friend named Bunbury.

Jack is in love with Gwendolen Fairfax (Frances O'Connor from "Artificial Intelligence: AI"), who lives in the city and therefore knows him as Earnest. Gwendolen's mother is Lady Bracknell (Judi Dench), who is also Algernon's aunt. And the final main character is Cecily Cardew (Reese Witherspoon), who is Jack's ward, and who Algernon introduces himself to as Earnest. This of course makes sense to Cecily because she knows of Jack's brother (but obviously not that he is imaginary).

There is more to the story, but I don't want to give away too much, not that the story is really the important thing anyway. This is a comedy and not a serious period drama, and what makes it work is the dialog, which is based on the play of the same name by Oscar Wilde and adapted for the screen by the film's director, Oliver Parker. I enjoyed it more than I expected to, but I have not read the play or seen any other adaptations. My wife, who has, was disappointed, because apparently too little of Wilde's words remain in the finished product.

The acting talent is first rate, including, in addition to those mentioned above, Tom Wilkinson from "In the Bedroom." They do very well with the material, but it's so light you don't think about the skill required.

The bottom line is that this film is a good choice if you are looking for something frothy and entertaining, yet respectable, and you keep your expectations fairly low.

Seen on 7/15/2002.

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Official Sites:

Official Facebook | Official site | See more »




English | German

Release Date:

21 June 2002 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Importance of Being Earnest See more »


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$500,447, 27 May 2002

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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