King Lear (1987) - Rotten Tomatoes

King Lear (1987)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

King Lear Photos

Movie Info

Two highly talented and innovative directors-filmdom's Jean-Luc Godard and the theatre world's Peter Sellars - join forces in this unusual (to say the least) slant on Shakespeare's King Lear. The Bard's tale of an aging monarch destroyed by false flattery and foolish pride is conveyed with offbeat lighting and sound effects, rendering the text virtually expendable. Even Godard's most fervent followers were at a loss to explain some of their idol's creative choices in this 91-minute absurdist exercise. Chances are, however, that you'll stick through it, rough going though it is in spots. After all, how many other Shakespearean adaptations can boast a cast that includes Burgess Meredith, Molly Ringwald, Woody Allen and Norman Mailer?


Peter Sellars
as William Shakespeare Jr., the Fifth
Jean-Luc Godard
as Professor
Woody Allen
as Mr. Alien
Kate Mailer
as Herself
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Critic Reviews for King Lear

All Critics (10) | Top Critics (4)

Godard's dullest and least accomplished for some time.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

Behind this is Godard's inability to resolve an essential contradiction in his work -- his reverence for ideas and theories and all sorts of philosophical speculation, and his utter disregard for a sustained, coherent presentation of them.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Cinematographer Sophie Mantigneux creates crisp, memorable images and Godard masterfully edits them together (whether the final result is worth the effort is subject to question).

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

It is not for the fainthearted. King Lear could never be the starting point for those keen to learn of Godard's work, but it's innovative.

November 26, 2019 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Shakespeare through the Godard meat-grinder.

November 30, 2012 | Rating: 1/5

A challenge, as with all Godard, but not quite his most rewarding one.

August 29, 2006 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for King Lear

I originally gave this 4 stars. Um, really? Admittedly it was well over 10 years ago I last saw this. I wonder if I actually understood it back then, because I sure don't now... I see this as more art piece than movie. It is virtually incomprehensible, and just so much happening. Choppy. There's a blethering old guy with such an irritating voice you just want him to shut up, let alone take in any of his ramblings. There are some nice shots and eerie music. And seagull sounds. There's some lovely outdoor shots and some 80's fashions. I'm not sure what's up with the models running around the countryside. There is Molly Ringwald - let's face it, the reason I bought this. (Don't buy it for Molly Ringwald. She's great and I could feel the depression of her character, but she's great in better movies than this one). I can't totally pan this, because it's interesting. There's parts that make me want to like it. But I'm not at all sure that's actually what the director wants here.

Nicki Marie
Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


[font=Century Gothic][color=darkslategray]My love-hate relationship with Jean-Luc Godard continues here with his 1987 film "King Lear." It starts off with Norman Mailer and ends with Woody Allen. What it's about is much less clear: one of William Shakespeare's descendants is hunting around for the old master's material while meanwhile running into various people including Burgess Meredith and Molly Ringwald, playing respectively, a writer obsessed with Jewish gangsters and his daughter, Cordelia. When he's done with Shakespeare's corpse, Godard goes to work on Virginia Woolf's corpse...[/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=#2f4f4f][/color][/font] [font=Century Gothic][color=#2f4f4f]What does any of this have to do with King Lear? Very little, I think. But then I think that's the idea.[/color][/font]

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

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