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Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Robert Harron, Miriam Cooper, Walter Long ... see more see more... , Tully Marshall , Alfred Paget , Mary Alden , Monte Blue , Lucille Brown , William Brown , Edmund Burns , Gino Corrado , Jack Cosgrove , Donald Crisp , Ruth Darling , Max Davidson , Edward Dillon , Ted Duncan , Pearl Elmore , Eagle Eye Cherry , George Fawcett , Ruth Handforth , Joseph Henaberry , Clyde Hopkins , Roben Lawlor , William E. Lawrence , Alberta Lee , Jennifer Lee , Mrs. Arthur Mackley , Marguerite Marsh , Felix Modjeska , Loyola O'Connor , Wallace Reid , Alma Rubens , Ruth St. Denis , Howard Scott , A.D. Sears , Fred Turner , W.S. Van Dyke , Gunther von Ritzau , George Walsh , Eleanor Washington , Winifred Westover , Howard Gaye , Olga Grey , Mildred Harris , Lloyd Ingraham , Lillian Langdon , Ralph Lewis , Vera Lewis , Elmo Lincoln , Bessie Love , Seena Owen , Eugene Pallette , George Siegmann , Maxfield Stanley , Pauline Starke , Carl Stockdale , Constance Talmadge , Erich von Stroheim , Margery Wilson , Tom Wilson , Wilfred Lucas , Spottiswood Aitken , Frank Bennett , Barney Bernard , Tod Browning , Kate Bruce , Josephine Crowell , Sam De Grasse , Elmer Clifton

Sometime during the shooting of the landmark The Birth of a Nation, filmmaker D.W. Griffith probably wondered how he could top himself. In 1916, he showed how, with the awesome Intolerance. The film b... read more read more...egan humbly enough as a medium-budget feature entitled The Mother and the Law, wherein the lives of a poor but happily married couple are disrupted by the misguided interference of a "social reform" group. A series of unfortunate circumstances culminates in the husband's being sentenced to the gallows, a fate averted by a nick-of-time rescue engineered by his wife. In the wake of the protests attending the racist content of The Birth of a Nation, Griffith wanted to demonstrate the dangers of intolerance. The Mother and the Law filled the bill to some extent, but it just wasn't "big" enough to suit his purposes. Thus, using The Mother and the Law as merely the base of the film, Griffith added three more plotlines and expanded his cinematic thesis to epic proportions. The four separate stories of Intolerance are symbolically linked by Lillian Gish as the Woman Who Rocks the Cradle ("uniter of the here and hereafter"). The "Modern Story" is essentially The Mother and the Law; the "French Story" details the persecution of the Huguenots by Catherine de Medici (Josephine Crowell); the "Biblical Story" relates the last days of Jesus Christ (Howard Gaye); and the "Babylonian Story" concerns the defeat of King Belshazzar (Alfred Paget) by the hordes of Cyrus the Persian (George Siegmann). Rather than being related chronologically, the four stories are told in parallel fashion, slowly at first, and then with increasing rapidity. The action in the film's final two reels leaps back and forth in time between Babylon, Calvary, 15th century France, and contemporary California. Described by one historian as "the only film fugue," Intolerance baffled many filmgoers of 1916 -- and, indeed, it is still an exhausting, overwhelming experience, even for audiences accustomed to the split-second cutting and multilayered montage sequences popularized by Sergei Eisenstein, Orson Welles, Jean-Luc Godard, Joel Schumacher, and MTV. On a pure entertainment level, the Babylonian sequences are the most effective, played out against one of the largest, most elaborate exterior sets ever built for a single film. The most memorable character in this sequence is "The Mountain Girl," played by star on the rise Constance Talmadge; when the Babylonian scenes were re-released as a separate feature in 1919, Talmadge's tragic death scene was altered to accommodate a happily-ever-after denouement. Other superb performances are delivered by Mae Marsh and Robert Harron in the Modern Story, and by Eugene Pallette and Margery Wilson in the French Story. Remarkably sophisticated in some scenes, appallingly na´ve in others, Intolerance is a mixed bag dramatically, but one cannot deny that it is also a work of cinematic genius. The film did poorly upon its first release, not so much because its continuity was difficult to follow as because it preached a gospel of tolerance and pacifism to a nation preparing to enter World War I. Currently available prints of Intolerance run anywhere from 178 to 208 minutes; while it may be rough sledding at times, it remains essential viewing for any serious student of film technique. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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78% liked it

4,649 ratings


97% liked it

31 critics

PG, 2 hr. 55 min.

Directed by: D.W. Griffith

Release Date: September 5, 1916

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DVD Release Date: December 10, 2002

Stats: 319 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (319)

  • February 14, 2011
    Did D W Griffith make Intolerance to exonerate himself of being a racist? No, that is a stupid notion. This was a huge production, made under a year after Birth of a Nation and the wheels were set in motion before the criticism started. Did it help exonerate him? Yes, maybe but y... read moreet still to this day I read stupid reviews on flixster and imbd of people jabbering on about how he is a racist. It's boring, stupid and wrong. Again, these comments generally come from those who tend to believe everything they read and over the years this myth has almost become fact in many peoples minds.

    Intolerance is big - especially for it's day. It's not just the budget and set that was big though, the story is one of the most important ever told through the medium of cinema. To shrug this film off is to shrug off what makes you who you are, our history, what makes us what we are - granted, it's not always a pretty sight but one that we should not turn away from. One of the most important films ever made and still breathtakingly impressive nearly 100 years later.
  • January 18, 2011
    Project 2 (Epic films)

    Directed by D. W. Griffith and staring Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh and Robert Harron.

    Unlike D. W. Griffith Racists town for his blockbuster the Birth of a Nation and the charging that it had overt racist content, characterizing racism as people's intoler... read moreance of other people's views. So he takes us throw 4 Eras were peoples intolerance to each other has lead to the failure of them and the people in general that are affected.

    Intolerance was a colossal undertaking filled with monumental sets, lavish period costumes, and more than 3,000 extras. The film consisted of four distinct but parallel stories that demonstrated mankind's intolerance during four different ages in world history.
    The timeline covered approximately 2,500 years of our intolerances and ages.

    The story themselves are together not just straight forward chronological order...No, Each scene is like it affects somewhere else in a different Era starting with the cruserfiction of Jesus Christ and how religion is affecting us in the modern Era.

    The Babylonian period tells the story of the fall of there nation witch resulted in nothing but intolerances between them and the gods. And the massive War machines they plan to build to destroy there Enemies.

    The Judean Era is only a short one but it is the Era that will affect most people with the cruserfiction of Jesus Christ, which the intolerance of Romans and Jews lead to that.
    The French Renaissance Era in tells the story of Edict of Tolerances' which will lead to the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
    The modern Era tells that of the intolerances between Man and his brother and the way life is being affected by Crime and corporal punishment in where an innocent man will be hang at the gallows.

    The story themselves will really speak to you throughout the movie not just focusing on massive sets. I admit this is very old but just the story telling is what I love about the movie it's better then what I wrote. It's the editing and the way scenes are put in place to move you as a viewer. And the films' ending is like the 4 different Eras are still alive even though it's past that.

    The reason for all this mountains of amazing footage and sets and costumes and locations is that intolerances cost just over $2 million American dollars. Now that is a stunning amount for its time this only happened because of the Birth of a Nation in which that made millions for its investors and associates. But by all accounts this movie was a massive failure at the box office only making 2 hundred thousand back of its 2 million budget. I am stunned that more people didn't see this movie it's like the avatar of the 1910s.


    Such fantastic sets for the Babylon era just left me stunned, that camera that moves in from the top to the bottom was just amazing and for it's time of course. Not just that but the massive wall during the invasion scene were they fire arrows down onto the massive war machines just left me thinking how he did it? I mean did he build those walls? Or are they moving miniatures? I don't know the special effects are just that believable. That whole invasion scene in general will go in my favorite film scenes list.

    The editing well...It's very hard to do by Griffith it's not the one near liner but more of the Close ups and Long tracking shot's for more of that Era feel to it so you see everything. And the camera moving down into the city was just amazing. The only thing I didn't like about this movie was its assonating length of 3 hours or even over. It's not that the move is boring No I just felt that certain things could have been shortened during the French and Modern American Eras came around in scenes.

    The acting is extremely good just the emotions they put into scenes to capture that real silent feel to it. And with a cast of thousands you will see things that will impresses you a lot. I think the music and costume designs were extremely good I just loved how they captured that staggering aspect to the film.

    But overall it's nothing short of an assonating masterpiece of the silent Era. With some of the best story telling and special effects I have seen. With such a blend of different editing techniques and even the story themselves.

    Keiko's score 97-100
  • January 2, 2011
    Whatever you think of D.W. Griffith's opinions on race -- I think they're despicable -- you cannot deny that he was a brilliant and innovative filmmaker. I had been wanting to see this film for ages, and I was not disappointed...well, not much, anyway,

    This film --partially a... read mores apology for Birth of a Nation I'm sure -- attempts to demonstrate the evils of intolerance through four interwoven stories set throughout history. In reality only two of the stories are really covered in full, while the other two are just sketched over. As the film progresses, the stories get more and more intertwined as their plots begin to meld and mime each other, until their climaxes (climaces?) where the same things appear to be happening in each storyline. Therein lies a bit of a problem, in that the film begins to get confusing. I had heard that was the issue when the film was first released, so I was prepared, but it didn't help much.

    While the story wasn't as clear as I would have liked, the technical aspects of the film and the details Griffith put in were unbelievable. Anyone else would have built the massive city of Babylon as a miniature. Griffith built it full-scale, and it is stupendous. To film in this city, he even developed new ways of mounting and moving the camera so as to get shots no one had gotten until that time.

    Griffith's racist attitudes are disgusting. His talents as a filmmaker are breathtaking. Do the ends justify the means?
  • September 27, 2010
    D.W. Griffith's "Intolerance" is my pick for the most influential film ever made. Try looking at any film that came after it and you will find direct connections. Lofty, gaudy and epic.
  • March 1, 2010
    Before 'Pulp Fiction' and 'The Lord of the Rings', at a time when films were just at an age of adolescence, D. W. Griffith produced 'Intolerance', a pure cinematic treat of grand proportions. Involved in practically every aspect of the craft, from direction to makeup, Griffith la... read morevishly proved his artistic talent.

    'Intolerance' is unarguably a work of ambition. The daring script structure that took almost eighty years to grow to its full potential, the jaw-dropping sets, disgustingly expensive for contemporary studios, a cast of thousands, and top class performances from the entire cast, particularly the female leads ? radiate with freshness in the third millennium. The achievements make it irresistible to disconsider any flaw. But 'Intolerance' is flawed. Its dogmatic, utopic, and often historically inaccurate, plot makes room for wide criticism. And yet, the paced finale, with nail-biting suspense, redeem Griffith's attempt of delivering a mature product.

    Often misunderstood, and characterised as Hollywood trite, the film is devoured by its own complexity. The four stories intertwine sporadically, disconnected, only to allude in the end at the similarity of human kind since the beginning of time. 'Intolerance', ultimately, is an epic on humanity, and its tenacity is a testament of its greatness.
  • September 22, 2009
    griffiths lengthy film is often cited as one of the great films in history, and because of its innovation in technique and massive budget it deserves most of its reputation. i did however find the film to be too slowly paced, resulting in an unnecessary length, and the film lack... read moreed needed clarity in proving its main point. in some ways the film is griffiths justification for his own racist themes in his previous film, which made the film labor too hard to be enthralling on its own without a back story. a must watch for die hard film fans, but not memorable.
  • February 18, 2007
    Griffith, against all the odds manages to top 'Birth of a Nation'. Here he weaves four different stories, from four different time periods. Each story is fantastic in it's own right, and Griffith creates a brilliantly paced film. The ending is one of the most action packed/intens... read moree in cinema history. All at once their is a car vs. train chase. The crucifixtion of christ, and the fall of babylon. Amazingly the battle scenes are not that far from 'Lord of the Rings' despite coming about 90 years previous.
  • July 15, 2013
    An over three hour epic. D.W. Griffith showed in some of his other works that he was himself intolerant and racist. Somehow he managed to compose films that demonstrated he understood certain parts of humanity's struggle. His cast, on the whole, gives superb performances. The fil... read morem looks quite beautiful with extensive use of the camera's iris to focus our attention where Griffith wants it to be. Four stories in four time periods are interwoven to explore parallel instances of intolerance. The thread that takes place in 1570's Paris is the least developed or clear story. The thread that takes place in Judea during Jesus' life is also not given as much time, but is mainly to provide what the majority would consider a moral compass. There is a story thread that takes place in even more ancient times; Griffith lingers on the setting of Babylon for a good amount of time. Finally, contemporary America in the 1910's is the setting for the bulk of the film. A Whitman poem and Lillian Gish bridge the gaps. In sixteenth century Paris we deal with King Charles IX (Bennett), Catharine de Medicis (Crowell), Prosper (Pallette) and his young bride-to-be Brown Eyes (Margery Wilson). We are really looking at the conflict between the ruling Catholics and their intolerance of the political/religious party the Huguenots, who are Protestants. In New Testament times we see Jesus (Howard Gaye), who loved the downtrodden and turned water into wine. We are really looking at how the Pharisees (feel free to look up the actually definition of who they were) are like the temperance leagues of the early 20th century, and how Jesus is supposed to be the essence of love. In ancient Babylon we deal with Prince Belshazzar (Paget), The Princess Beloved (Owen), The Mountain Girl (Constance Talmadge), and the High Priest of Bel (Marshall). We are really looking at competing pagan loyalties and battling political powers. The Prince, who we are told allows religious tolerance in the great city joins with the high priestess of Ishtar and makes her his Princess. Ishtar is the goddess of love, fertility, and festivities. The High Priest of Bel, the patriarchal Sun god, is jealous of the Priestess turning the population from his "right" way of living. He makes a political alliance with a neighboring leader who wants to overthrow Belshazzar. The Mountain Girl is a somewhat comic character, who happens to find herself involved in the power struggle. Talmadge's wildcat tomboy performance was the most histrionic of the whole movie and a little hard to believe. Way before the current trend of strong bow-and-arrow wielding female characters, The Mountain Girl disguises herself as a soldier and goes to fight for Belshazzar though. Most importantly, in the early decades of the 20th century we deal with The Dear One (Mae Marsh), The Boy (Robert Harron), The Friendless One (Miriam Cooper), The Musketeer of the Slums (Walter Long), the the Jenkins and several lady "Uplifters." We are really looking at labor unrest, crowding cities, urban crime, single mothers facing adverse circumstances, and the social workers who claim to know the way to clean up society. This part of the story has a touch of satire, though The Dear One's love story with The Boy is incredibly dramatic. This story could have held the movie all on its own.
  • January 11, 2011
    I was bored to death. I realize this comment coupled with a movie from the 1910's automatically renders me a 'noob', but it is. There was one storyline which was somewhat interesting, though I have now forgotten which. Overall though, it was long and boring.
  • March 31, 2009
    Redemption for Griffith came with an astonishing work of art.The Birth of an Empire it should be alternatively nicknamed,the second title of Love's persistence is the dark sheet of pessimism,4 eras of desperation and at the same time,visionary trembling.Directorial zeal or a capi... read moretalist engrossment?You decide...

Critic Reviews

Michael Atkinson
May 9, 2014
Michael Atkinson, Village Voice

All at once the Moloch of cineastical good intentions, the first great juggernaut of auteur ambition, and the largest experimental film ever made. Full Review

Richard Brody
May 5, 2014
Richard Brody, New Yorker

Griffith's trademark closeups lend a quivering lip or a trembling hand the tragic grandeur of historical cataclysm. Full Review

Aaron Cutler
July 30, 2013
Aaron Cutler, Village Voice

Intolerance looks both backward and forward. The strong exploit the weak, it cries, and all governments throughout history are evil. Full Review

Variety Staff
February 6, 2008
Variety Staff, Variety

Intolerance reflects much credit to the wizard director, for it required no small amount of genuine art to consistently blend actors, horses, monkeys, geese, doves, acrobats and ballets into a composi... Full Review

April 8, 2006
New York Times

The verdict Intolerance renders in the controversy concerning its maker is that he is a real wizard of lens and screen. Full Review

Dave Kehr
January 1, 2000
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

One of the great breakthroughs -- the Ulysses of the cinema -- and a powerful, moving experience in its own right. Full Review

Tim Brayton
March 31, 2014
Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

This was clearly not conceived as a sleek, effective narrative or even an exploration of character psychology, but as a tremendous, overwhelming experience. Full Review

Bill Weber
November 30, 2013
Bill Weber, Slant Magazine

D.W. Griffith's masterpiece, likely the most influential film ever made, has been given new life with a gold-standard digital cleanup. Full Review

James Plath
November 16, 2013
James Plath, Movie Metropolis

Griffith's 'Intolerance' was way ahead of its time in terms of its camera angles, sophisticated storytelling, and elaborate set construction. And the restoration and HD treatment makes it shine. Full Review

Scott Tobias
November 5, 2013
Scott Tobias, The Dissolve

Intolerance is thrilling and vital, a collision of historical periods that feels as earth-shaking as the movement of tectonic plates. Full Review

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Intolerance Trivia

  • In a subtle satire on prejudice and intolerance, Tobey Maguire shows a small town how to live life to the full.   Answer »
  • *** DW Griffith Was Criticised For The Racism In The Birth Of A Nation. Which Film Did He Make Afterwards In Self-Defence***  Answer »
  • Who says they are famous for their intolerance in Vicky, Cristina , Barcelona ?  Answer »

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