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Meryl Streep, Kevin Kline, Peter MacNicol, Rita Karin, Stephen D. Newman ... see more see more... , Greta Turken , Josh Mostel , GŁnther Maria Halmer , Katharina Thalbach , Karlheinz Hackl , Ulli Fessl , Melanie Pianka , Josef Sommer , Joseph Tobin , Moishe Rosenfeld , John Rothman , Marcell Rosenblatt , David Wohl , Alixe Gordin , Vida Jerman , Armand Dahan , Robin Bartlett , Eugeniusz Priwieziencew , Eugene Lipinski , Adrian Kalitka , Joseph Leon , Jennifer Lawn

The year is 1947. Aspiring southern author Stingo (Peter MacNichol) heads to New York to seek his fortune. Moving into a dingy Brooklyn boarding house, Stingo strikes up a friendship with research che... read more read more...mist Nathan Landau (Kevin Kline) and Nathan's girlfriend, Polish refugee Sophie Zawistowska (Oscar-winner Meryl Streep). There is something unsettling about the relationship; Nathan is subject to violent mood swings, while Sophie seems to be harboring a horrible secret. Stingo soons learns that both Nathan and Sophie are strangers to truth; the audience is likewise led down several garden paths by a series of sepia-toned flashbacks, depicting Sophie's ordeal in a wartime concentration camp. The scene in which we discover the facts behind Sophie's "choice" is a gut-wrenching one; it might have been even more powerful had not the film taken so long to get there. It is betraying nothing to reveal that the character of Stingo is the alter ego of William Styron, upon whose best-selling novel the film was based. The film is rated R, due in great part to a disposable scene wherein Stingo tries to put the make on a "liberated" female intellectual. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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85% liked it

20,655 ratings


79% liked it

28 critics

R, 2 hr. 31 min.

Directed by: Alan J. Pakula

Release Date: December 8, 1982

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DVD Release Date: August 17, 1999

Stats: 1,372 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,372)

  • August 3, 2014
    Review coming to
  • July 29, 2014
    Though this film is ultimately just an exercise in melodrama, the character of Sophie Zawistowska is very complex and interesting to watch, and by no means hampered by the brilliant performance from Meryl Streep. Essentially this film is pegged as a story about the Holocaust, but... read more it's much more than that. Though there are undoubted horrors seen onscreen, and this film deals with true facts about the inhuman exploits of the Nazis, the story is more about guilt. Everyone hides something horrible in their past, Sophie included, and that shame and repugnance shape whatever decisions we make in the future. Sophie has a very dire choice to make, and because of it she feels she doesn't deserve happiness in the future. Atrocities loom in her periphery, but she's trying to be friendly with Stingo (MacNichol) and romantic with Nathan (Kline), cheery and forgotten to her past, untied to her family. Using the Holocaust as a backdrop helps permeate the grandiosity of her guilt, and shows the terrors inflicted upon her, though any number of other historical atrocities would have served the same major purpose of influencing Sophie's guilt. It's not until the very last minutes of the film that we realize the true gravity of that guilt, and we understand the outcome for Sophie, Stingo, and Nathan. While it may not have aged especially well, there's still such vibrancy, and the illuminating performance from Streep will hold weight even decades in the future.
  • August 31, 2011
    In Brooklyn in the years following WWll and a young Southern writer falls for a refugee of Auschwitz who is herself embroiled with a charismatic American Jew, only all is not rosy. Everyone is carrying baggage and the film opines that the choices we make (especially with relatio... read morenships) are directly related to the baggage we carry. Its a mouthful to relay in the space of a film but the actors make it easier, lead by Streep who is at her most luminous.
  • July 14, 2011
    Hmm, let's see here: this hasn't aged well, but it's still a decent film filled with excellent performances. Hoenstly, that's really the highlight here. Essentially this film is just high melodrama with a Holocaust stroy thrown in as a way to make a love triangle seem more intere... read moresting. That is, of course, a simplification, but not too far from the truth.

    I did like this film though, even if I don't see it as beign a real cinematic masterpiece or anything. Maybe had the film focused more on the Holocaust stuff and less on the post war stuff, or maybe had they taken the titular moment and made it the real centerpiece or something I could find this film to be more brilliant, or at least as brilliant as the performances.

    That's all anyone seems ot talk about here are the performances, well, mostly Streep's. It's true, this is her greatest achievement as an actress, and this is a beuatiful turn she gives as a Holocaust survivor with a really dark past. The others are good too though. I used to think that peter MacNicol was only good at playing the creep in Ghostbusters II; I'm happy to report that he does a really good job here as well. Kevin Kline gives a remarkable performance as a really unbalanced man with whom you can never predict what he will say or do next. They both get overshadowed by Streep, but that's kinda understandable.

    I liked the music, and the look was decent, but the stroy just didn't quite have me like maybe it should have. I'm no ogre. The scene where the film gets it's title is a very heartbreaking and emotional scene-I just wish the rest of the film could have been as focused and stirring. Maybe they could have trimmed some of the running time in the process.

    All in all, a decent film, but nothing extremely remarkable, although that goes for the film as a whole, and not the individual parts that make it up. You should see this if only for the acting. One may think that such a statement is overrated, but I disagree. The work here (mostly Streep's) will forever be one of the greatest examples of successful acting ever committed to film.
  • October 18, 2010
    Sophie's Choice takes you on quite a memorable rollercoaster ride of emotion. It's a film that has great characters and great actors to back them up. You really feel for these individuals and go through all their pains as well as their happy times.

    It's not a 'feel good' mov... read moreie if that is what you are looking for, but it is an interesting perspective on what many people have gone through from a war-torn era.

    It's almost like 2 films in one, or at least two storylines in one film, therefore it makes it quite a long one, but it is necessary and leads to an entertaining film.
  • September 9, 2010
    What high drama! Sure: the eponymous "choice" is intense, but what makes this film so finely balanced is the subplots with Nathan and Stingo. There is enough light-hearted action to prevent this from becoming a two-and-a-half-hour downer, and the contrasting elements - the ligh... read moret frivolity of Nathan, Sophie's enraptured, co-dependent love for him, and Stingo's gentle, Southern demeanor - make the heavy moments of the film - Nathan's eventual break down and mood swings and the now-famous choice - all the more effective. All of the performances are excellent, but what probably gets lost in the shuffle of Kline's energy and Streep's effortless, bilingual portrayal is MacNicol's steady, heartfelt nature. His performance is so natural and he listens with such a relaxed demeanor that I daresay his is the finest work in this film.
    That said, there are moments when the film wanders. There are occasions - albeit few - when I wondered about the film's heavy concentration on the flashbacks, which were not leveraged to the degree they could have been.
    Overall, though, it's not the depressing, maudlin tear-jerker I expected and avoided for so long, and the film is better for it.
  • May 8, 2010
    An enjoyable film throughout, whether it be the relationships between the main characters, the flashbacks or the actual theme of the film.

    Streep is fantastic and whilst I can't assume her accent to be perfect , it came across authentic. Kevin Kline was the was the biggest sr... read moreuprise for me, (having only seen him in Comedy Roles before) who gave a truly good performance.

    An intriguing tale with many tangents.
  • August 7, 2009
    Not only Meryl Streep's greatest role, but quite possibly the greatest female lead role ever performed. An absolutely devastating film.
  • December 16, 2007
    This is one of my all time favs of Meryl Streep's. What a wonderful film that discusses the harsh reality of a woman trying to move on after being part of a concentration camp in WWII. This is a MUST SEE!
  • September 23, 2007
    Brilliantly acted, throughly depressing.

Critic Reviews

Variety Staff
June 26, 2007
Variety Staff, Variety

Astoundingly tedious. Full Review

Dave Kehr
June 26, 2007
Dave Kehr, Chicago Reader

The picture is completely devoid of cinematic interest, adopting instead a tiresome theatrical aesthetic in which showy monologues are filmed in interminable, usually ill-chosen long takes. Full Review

Derek Adams
June 24, 2006
Derek Adams, Time Out

By the end, the accumulated weight and lethargy of the production fails to invest Sophie's fate with the significance Styron achieves. Full Review

Roger Ebert
October 23, 2004
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times

So perfectly cast and well-imagined that it just takes over and happens to you. It's quite an experience. Full Review

Janet Maslin
August 30, 2004
Janet Maslin, New York Times

Though it's far from a flawless movie, Sophie's Choice is a unified and deeply affecting one. Thanks in large part to Miss Streep's bravura performance, it's a film that casts a powerful, uninterrupte... Full Review

Glenn Dunks
August 15, 2014
Glenn Dunks, Quickflix

And while Meryl Streep's performance is largely worthy of its laurels ... the film around it is much harder to forgive. Beyond Streep, Sophie's Choice is little more than a tediously assembled WWII dr... Full Review

Keith Phipps
April 29, 2014
Keith Phipps, The Dissolve

The way Streep inhabits Sophie, and brings her history to life whether she's explicitly talking about the past or carrying herself across the room with wounded grace, can't help but make parts of the ... Full Review

Tim Brayton
November 5, 2009
Tim Brayton, Antagony & Ecstasy

A suffocating 151 minutes long, with a healthy portion of that running time devoted to a hunk of Holocausploitation of the most crass and cynical variety. And that's the good part. Full Review

Steve Crum
March 2, 2008
Steve Crum,

Stunning to the max, and Streep is memorable as Sophie.

Emanuel Levy
December 10, 2007
Emanuel Levy, EmanuelLevy.Com

The movie is too Hollywood in look and feel, and the flashback and narration are too conventional, and yet the image of the sickly and pale Meryl Streep recollecting her ordeal lingers in memory long ... Full Review

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Sophie's Choice Trivia

  • In the movie "Sophie's Choice" starring Meryl Streep, who does Sophie (Streep) finally reveal her secret to?  Answer »
  • Which movie was Bette Midler NOT in?  Answer »
  • What was "Sophie's Choice"?  Answer »
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