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Lawrence of Arabia

  PG Closed Captioning

David Lean

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About the Movie

This sweeping, highly literate historical epic covers the Allies' mideastern campaign during World War I as seen through the eyes of the enigmatic T. E. Lawrence (Peter O'Toole, in the role that made him a star). After a prologue showing us Lawrence's ultimate fate, we flash back to Cairo in 1917. A bored general staffer, Lawrence talks his way into a transfer to Arabia. Once in the desert, he befriends Sherif Ali Ben El Kharish (Omar Sharif, making one of the most spectacular entrances in movie history) and draws up plans to aid the Arabs in their rebellion against the Turks. No one is ever able to discern Lawrence's motives in this matter: Prince Feisal (Alec Guinness) dismisses him as yet another "desert-loving Englishman," and his British superiors assume that he's either arrogant or mad. Using a combination of diplomacy and bribery, Lawrence unites the rival Arab factions of Feisal and Auda Abu Tayi (Anthony Quinn). After successfully completing his mission, Lawrence becomes an unwitting pawn of the Allies, as represented by Gen. Allenby (Jack Hawkins) and Dryden (Claude Rains), who decide to keep using Lawrence to secure Arab cooperation against the Imperial Powers. While on a spying mission to Deraa, Lawrence is captured and tortured by a sadistic Turkish Bey (Jose Ferrer). In the heat of the next battle, a wild-eyed Lawrence screams "No prisoners!" and fights more ruthlessly than ever. Screenwriters Robert Bolt and Michael Wilson used T. E. Lawrence's own self-published memoir The Seven Pillars of Wisdom as their principal source, although some of the characters are composites, and many of the "historical" incidents are of unconfirmed origin. Two years in the making (you can see O'Toole's weight fluctuate from scene to scene), the movie, lensed in Spain and Jordan, ended up costing a then-staggering $13 million and won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director. The 1962 Royal Premiere in London was virtually the last time that David Lean's director's cut was seen: 20 minutes were edited from the film's general release, and 15 more from the 1971 reissue. This abbreviated version was all that was available for public exhibition until a massive 1989 restoration, at 216 minutes that returned several of Lean's favorite scenes while removing others with which he had never been satisfied.

Rotten Tomatoes Movie Reviews


  • Reviews Counted: 77
  • Fresh: 75
  • Rotten: 2
  • Average Rating: 9.1/10

Top Critics' Reviews

Fresh: It is O'Toole who continually dominates the screen, and he dominates it with professional skill, Irish charm and smashing good looks. – TIME Magazine, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: It was a big bold project and has turned out a big bold film. – Variety Staff, Variety, Jul 7, 2010

Fresh: Even the flies in the opening Cairo scene jump out at you. – Douglas Pratt, Hollywood Reporter, Jun 24, 2010

Fresh: It's an astonishing, unrepeatable epic. – Michael Wilmington, Chicago Tribune, Feb 26, 2014

Read More About This Movie On Rotten Tomatoes

Customer Reviews

No Kidding - More than "Dumb"

To the reviewer who calls himself "dumb" and gave Lawrence of Arabia one star: You aren't dumb, you are a moron. When it originally judged the greatest movies of all time, the American Film Institute ranked Lawrence #5. No less than Steven Spielberg has said that Lawrence of Arabia inspired him to become a movie maker. No movie before or since has featured such spectacular cinematography; its script is spare as the desert, and extraordinarily literate, like Lawrence himself. The cast is composed of masters, even the young O'Toole and Sharif. This is not a movie for viewers looking for a cheap thrill or easy subject material -- it is a movie for adults.

Perhaps the greatest film of all time

To the man who gave this film one star: How can you call this film unrealistic? For God's sakes, it's a true story! One of the best films ever made with amazing cinematography, editing, score, and above all, a groundbreaking performance by Peter O'Toole. Do not pass up on this film. It is a must-see and is a film that one can't easily forget.

One of the Greats! Finally, iTunes, Some Taste!!!

It's rare that cinema makes epics, such as Lawrence of Arabia, The Lord of the Rings, Ben-Hur, and Gone With the Wind. Lawrence of Arabia matches the entertainment, the danger, the heroism, and overall inspiration of those films listed above. Peter O'Toole gives one of cinema's greatest performances as T.E. Lawrence, and does a magnificent job -- and a great casting job as well. Omar Shariff and Alec Guiness are superb in their roles and equal to legendary status. David Lean has done a wonderful job at directing Lawrence of Arabia, and the writing is great as well. There's really no flaws one can point out, not even the running time, because in my eyes, in order for a film to be an epic, it must be long! Look at those films listed above, all are 3 hours or more and are considered to be the greatest of all time. I love them, and I love epics, and Lawrence of Arabia is the most modern of them, so in a way, this is the modern epic. Overall, Lawrence of Arabia isn't my favorite film of all time, but one cannot deny the story, the characters, and the overall triumph it portrays. For anyone who loves epics such as me, or terrific films nonetheless, then this is the film for you. Rent and buy.