(1,091)6.92 h 19 min1970G
Richard Harris and Alec Guinness star in a dazzling epic about the ambitious commoner who overthrewKing Charles I.
Ken Hughes
Richard HarrisAlec GuinnessRobert Morley
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Supporting actors
Dorothy TutinFrank FinlayTimothy DaltonPatrick WymarkPatrick MageeNigel StockCharles GrayMichael Jayston
Irving Allen
Columbia Pictures
G (General Audience)
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4.4 out of 5 stars

1091 global ratings

  1. 66% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 18% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 5% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Phyllis A. KarrReviewed in the United States on May 16, 2016
4.0 out of 5 stars
King Charles I, Stammer and All
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Cromwell has King Charles's head chopped off because Charles dissolved Parliament and ruled England without. Cromwell's first act on coming into power is to dissolve Parliament and rule England without. I have often wondered how often during his half-decade as Lord Protector Ollie lay awake in bed thinking along these lines: "You know, old Charlie was right about that bunch, after all."

I first saw this film (it takes itself a little too seriously for me to call it a "movie") in London, where I was visiting at the time of its 1970 premiere. It was heralded as so totally historically accurate that one scene had to be re-shot because one of Cromwell's famous warts fell off the first time. The souvenir booklet featured a specially-written article by a respected historian on the battles. I fear that all this ultimately did it less than no service. In 1970, I was utterly steeped in that period of English history, and almost fell out of my seat laughing at the inaccuracies. It should have been heralded as "based on, rather loosely," rather than "depicting with absolute historical fidelity."

For starters, what is the Earl of Manchester doing sitting in the House of Commons? What is Cromwell's name doing on that infamous list of five members whom the king comes in person to arrest? Worry about accuracy with Cromwell's warts and not about accuracy as to his never actually having been on that list?

Now that both the film and myself are nearly half a century older, and my interest in the Martyr King and his world reawakened, I watch "Cromwell" again with appreciation for what it is, rather than what it was falsely advertised to be. Yes, Mancester belongs in the House of Lords: but putting him there prominently visible in the House of Commons scenes helped pad out a rich part for Robert Morley as the kind of corrupt and cowardly bully we love to hate. No, Cromwell's name was not one of the five: but pretending it was allowed the filmmakers to point up the conflicts of their drama with a little added tense dialog that makes for a rather powerful scene. And while they give Cromwell a famous short pre-battle prayer that was in fact prayed by a Royalist, at least it is authentic to the English Civil War. In short, provided you no more expect a history lesson than you can get from one of Shakespeare's "historical" plays, you may find this worth watching. And where it does look researched, as with the scenes of the king's execution, it looks both convincing and visually luxurious.

I have long been a fan of England's Charles I, who tried so hard to be at once a good man and a good king, failing rather notoriously in the "king" part, but quite possibly succeeding pretty well in the "man" part. As both man and king, he appears never to have forgiven himself for signing Strafford's death warrant -- the filmmakers may have suggested this, but so lightly I'm not sure I would have guessed it had I not read the EIKON BASILIKA and various biographical studies. And as king, Charles certainly appears to play falsely. But I could not see that Cromwell as depicted here really does much better in that department, seeming as he does to shape his strict sense of personal and public honor very much to his own interpretations and impressions of the immediate moment -- though no doubt he considers this as struggling with his conscience and his God.

The film I think makes Cromwell a bit too prominent throughout the whole Civil War period from the Parliament of 1640 on. And I couldn't helpt but be amused when he brings back a new Puritan army whom he must have spent as much time training to sing as to fight, their marching-to-battle chorale sounding -- at least to my poor and unreliable ears -- so much better than that of the earlier sorry ragtag of Parliamentary forces. I'm not sure whether their singing was a practical necessity to make them better soldiers, or a dramatic device to let the audience know at once that this time they were going to win.

But Charles I, especially as portrayed to absolute perfection by the great Alec Guinness, slight stammer and all, is such an engaging figure, that for dramatic balance they almost had to focus strongly on Cromwell from the outset. And since our own world has been shaped much more by Cromwell's ideas of government than by those of Charles, it was only natural to make him the eponymous "hero." Although watching it again (twice so far), I cannot feel that it in any way shows a struggle between "good guys" and "bad guys," but rather between two sides struggling equally to meet its notion that "God fights for US."

For myself, I regard this DVD as a keeper, if only for Sir Alec Guinness as King Charles.
51 people found this helpful
joel wingReviewed in the United States on May 16, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
Cromwell led English Civil War that ended up going against all its ideals
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Richard Harris is Oliver Cromwell. He is a Puritan with strict religious ideas. He feels that the King of England Charles I (Alec Guinness) is abusing his powers. Together his faith and sense of injustice leads him to join a rebellion against the monarchy, which becomes the English Civil War. That’s what this historical war-drama is about. It also full of irony because while Cromwell and the rebels talked about creating a democracy they consistently went against that political idea.

The movie pits the Puritans in parliament against the king. The lawmakers claim to be speaking for the common people and want the legislature to be free of the monarchy’s control. The monarchists argue for absolute power for King Charles such as arresting the lawmakers who want more power for parliament. This conflict would eventually lead to the civil war.

The first irony is that Cromwell and his allies were large landowners and when they spoke of representing the people it was the elite they were talking about not the peasants and workers who were the majority. Basically it was the rich rising up against the monarch because they wanted power rather than having it rest in the hands of one person. They weren’t arguing for democracy, although they used that term, as much as an oligarchy.

Second, when parliament failed to meet Cromwell’s standards he got rid of it showing that he was just as autocratic as the king.

The beginning and end of the movie is political drama with plenty of speeches about what form of government England should have. The middle is the war. Despite Cromwell not living up to his ideals the movie is still an enjoyable one.
12 people found this helpful
Mark D. BurghReviewed in the United States on December 28, 2018
3.0 out of 5 stars
Not As Good As It Could Have Been
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From the early sixties to the early seventies the era of Epic Historical films took place. Lawrence of Arabia was one, and a great one. Spartacus another winner. Khartoum not so much. A Man For All Seasons. So we come to Cromwell. Directed with bare competence by Hughes, who was not a visual artist of note, the film limps along with good intention, but ultimately Cromwell comes off as less sympathetic than Charles II, who was far worse that portrayed here. Hughes could not get a more frantic performance from Alec Guinness, who dare I say, was miscast in this role. Timothy Dalton, while not miscast, is misdirected, and his performance is a wisp of smoke, especially up against Guinness. This is film I wanted very much to love, but in the then I could only sort of like.
10 people found this helpful
Dave R.Reviewed in the United States on May 23, 2020
2.0 out of 5 stars
Two Stars just for Production, Not Accuracy
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Cromwell's behavior revealed signs of the European 'enlightenment' political philosphy by thinkers like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. These were Liberal Leftists who pushed the ideas in the movie that Richard Harris and those with him were given to perform. The mere suggestion to a change in government to a democracy in front of a Monarch in his/her kingdom is indeed a crime of treason. Cromwell and those with him rightly should have been executed for high treason.

Early in Israel's history, God was their King. But the children of Israel saw the flesh kings of the countries around them, so they wanted a human king they could see. God warned them that a human king would be harsh and not always just, and would burden them, and so it has been. Yet God set them in place, so the people got exactly what they asked for.

A Monarchy style government is the only true and righteous style of government, but the problem is no human king can ever be perfectly righteous. King David came the closest. But just as there has been only One who was born and had no sin, only He is qualified for the office of King of Righteousness. Until He comes to reign, human kings will fail. Still not the fault of the idea of a Monarchy, because political democracies have failed, and republics have failed too.
4 people found this helpful
Fiddle manReviewed in the United States on December 16, 2019
5.0 out of 5 stars
If only films like this were still made.
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What an excellent presentation of the English Civil War, starring Richard Harris and Sir Alec Guinness. If you are at all a fan of historical films, you need to do yourself the favor of purchasing "Cromwell". As someone who is extremely particular about which movies I am willing to spend multiple hours of my time viewing, I can say without hesitation that "Cromwell" was worth every minute. Harris and Guinness absolutely "nailed" their respective roles. Both sides of the conflict (the Royalists and Puritans) were represented fairly, and I felt myself sympathizing with both. That is how well this film's script was written.
I bemoan the sad reality that interest both in Hollywood and the general public in such films as this is no longer present. If only we could still have actors and movies like "Cromwell".
7 people found this helpful
Argyll SockReviewed in the United States on October 5, 2016
5.0 out of 5 stars
Brilliant evocation of English Civil War through the eyes of Oliver Cromwell (Richard Harris) & King Charles I (Alec Guinness)
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"Cromwell" is a beautifully crafted epic film, with all of the steel and cannon required for a blockbuster about the English Civil War.

Thanks to Alec Guinness's subtle and beguiling performance as King Charles I, we have divided loyalties as to which actor is the 'hero' of this film. Richard Harris's Cromwell is outstanding (and ironic: an Irishman portraying the great enemy of Ireland). But Guinness *embodies* the spirit of this mercurial monarch: he is an aesthete, an absolute monarch and a devoted family man encased in the armour of his High Anglican faith.

Spoiler Alert: It has been said of the Stuarts (especially of Mary, Queen of Scots & her grandson, Charles I) that they could not *reign* well; but they knew how to *die* well. Watch Charles's execution scene to understand why the original audience to his death emitted a giant groan when the King's head fell. Even Cromwell's Roundheads felt that they had murdered the 'father of their country.'
9 people found this helpful
Gary W. PhelpsReviewed in the United States on June 18, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
The Magna Charta Revisited!
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The lead actors - Richard Harris and Sir Alec Guinness were the superb stars to portray the true life epic drama about the British monarchy with its privileged constituency versus the commoner. This is recounted in actual battle over the very soul of Great Britain. King Charles I ruled as though the Magna Charta - the rights of Englishmen signed by Prince John never existed?! Oliver Cromwell was only a country gentleman who dared to challenge political oppression and corruption that King Charles I besieged his kingdom. As a consequence, King Charles I was executed for usurpations of the Magna Charta, and the authority of the House of Parliament was re-affirmed. I watched this production several times about the battle sequences, costume designs and cinematography that gives this outstanding historical drama a 5-star-gold rating!
One person found this helpful
Me2Reviewed in the United States on February 11, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Strong performances.....
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I thought Richard Harris was phenomenal as Cromwell; he had the gravitas to carry the role. Some have criticized the accuracy of this film compared to history. What I like was seeing how England was introduced to the idea of having a monarch but with a ruling Parliament. Of course that didn't fully happened until later when the son of the deposed treasonous king was crowned king. Oliver Cromwell was ahead of his time with his We the People notion that his fellow men had difficulty totally comprehending that.
Today, as we all know his legacy lives in the system England lives by with Queen Elizabeth and Parliament and Prime Minister.
Would that have happened if Oliver Cromwell had never left his farm & family to sacrifice for an idea and and ideal?
One person found this helpful
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