The story of the 1819 Peterloo Massacre where British forces attacked a peaceful pro-democracy rally in Manchester.


Mike Leigh


Mike Leigh
2 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Rory Kinnear ... Henry Hunt
Maxine Peake ... Nellie
Pearce Quigley ... Joshua
David Moorst ... Joseph
Rachel Finnegan ... Mary
Tom Meredith ... Robert
Simona Bitmate ... Esther
Robert Wilfort Robert Wilfort ... Lord Liverpool, the Prime Minister
Karl Johnson ... Lord Sidmouth, the Home Secretary
Sam Troughton ... Mr. Hobhouse
Roger Sloman ... Mr. Grout
Kenneth Hadley ... Mr. Golightly
Tom Edward-Kane Tom Edward-Kane ... Mr. Cobb
Lizzy McInnerny ... Mrs. Moss
Alastair Mackenzie ... General Sir John Byng


An epic portrayal of the events surrounding the infamous 1819 Peterloo Massacre, where a peaceful pro-democracy rally at St Peter's Field in Manchester turned into one of the bloodiest and most notorious episodes in British history. The massacre saw British government forces charge into a crowd of over 60,000 that had gathered to demand political reform and protest against rising levels of poverty. Many protesters were killed and hundreds more injured, sparking a nationwide outcry but also further government suppression. The Peterloo Massacre was a defining moment in British democracy which also played a significant role in the founding of The Guardian newspaper.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Drama | History

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for a sequence of violence and chaos | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Production used the Tarred Yarn Store and the exterior of the Ropery to double as a Cotton Mill in Manchester at the Chatham Historic Dockyard in Kent. St Mary's Marshes on the Isle of Grain also appears in a short scene at the beginning of the film, when a lonely figure is seen walking along the marshes. See more »


The Mail Coach is not a font - it is hand painted with lettering to match the early 1800s one in the London Science Museum. See more »


Prince Regent: I know what is good for my people better than they know themselves!
See more »


Featured in Granada Reports: 19 August 2018: Evening Bulletin (2018) See more »

User Reviews

Moving Historical Drama
11 November 2018 | by PairicSee all my reviews

Peterloo: In some way this historical drama feels over long yet paradoxically also too short as it devotes little time to the aftermath of the Peterloo Massacre.Too long perhaps because of the vast cast of characters with speaking parts; director Mike Leigh might have better served his viewers if he had combined characters to ease the unfolding of the narrative. Four main magistrates in Manchester, later joined by a score more is perhaps a tad too many; especially seeing as one of them seems to be channeling Rowan Atkinson. But the cruelty of the magistrates, many of whom were clergymen is revealed in how they deal with ordinary people accused of petty crimes.

The film opens in the aftermath of Waterloo as demobbed soldiers make their way home on foot across Britain. one of them is Joseph (David Moorst) who returns to Manchester. Joseph is not well, suffering from what we would now call PTSD, still wearing his old uniform, he staggers around Manchester, fruitlessly seeking work. Through Joseph and his family we see the suffering of ordinary people in those times. The Corn Laws kept the price of bread high, wages were low, unions were suppressed. Another device used to fill in the background is the singing weaver (Dorothy Atkinson) who in two songs gives a potted history of the woes of the common people. But it wasn't just the immediate economic issues which concerned them, there was also a realisation that their lack of a vote prevented them from advancing their interests. Indeed in that era of rotten parliamentary boroughs, Manchester had no representation in the House of Commons. The build up to the Massacre takes up much of the film we see the clerks at the Home Office reading intercepted mail and reports from Manchester magistrates. Informers tell of what is happening at Reform Society meetings; agent provocateurs are sent in to encourage the wilder elements to resort to violence rather than to campaign for reform and the vote.

There are also those merchants and minor industrialists of Manchester who are at the helm of the Reform Movement, they publish the Manchester Observer (forerunner of The Guardian). They bring the reformer Henry Hunt (Rory Kinnear) to speak at the planned Peterloo meeting. Banned by magistrates it has to be put off for a week. The magistrates haven't finished though, they plan attacks on the new meeting and the Yeomanry prepare their weapons, the regular Army is also readied. On the day of the meeting (16 August 1819) which is called to demand Representation of the People and Democracy, 100,000 gather in the Peterloo fields. As Henry Hunt rises to speak a magistrate reads the Riot Act out the window of a building on the other side of the square, unheard by anyone other than his fellow magistrates. The Yeomanry and Hussars ride into the crowd, slashing at people with their sabres, joined by infantry with fixed bayonets. It is impossible for many to escape and eighteen people are killed with hundreds injured. The Government saw this as as a victory, even inking Peterloo to Waterloo. But from this terrible scene the green shoots of democracy grew.

The Yeomanry, Government and local magistrates felt they were crushing, Anarchy,an English version of the French Revolution, the reality was that they were attacking mor a peaceful version of the American Revolution: a protest against taxation without representation. People also maddened by hunger, low wages and repression of their attempts to organise unions. The Massacre is filmed in a choreographed manner without taking away from the slaughter which occurred. Meetings in dark halls and taverns are contrasted with gatherings and marching practice on the bright green and sunny Saddleworth Moor. The talk and debate is also central to the film but at times !9th Century Mancunian dialect may be difficult to follow.

Leigh delivers a vivid historical drama which falls short of being a classic due to being overstuffed with characters. This might better have been related in a six hour TV series. 7.5/10.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 94 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

5 April 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Peterloo See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$26,002, 7 April 2019

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs



Color | Color (ACES)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed