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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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27 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: 1,363 reviews

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Flixster Reviews (1,363)


  • 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.
  • October 10, 2006
    It was okay.
  • June 29, 2014
    We're looking at quite the musical festivities, folks, and fellas, it's Sophie's choice tonight! That was lame, I know, but it was a little better than referencing the "Hairspray" song, because that would be way too perky for a film of this type. First it was an actual miniseries... read more titled "Holocaust", and then this, so it would appear as though the Holocaust was popular subject matter for Meryl Streep, up until they figured out that she's not actually Jewish, and is just from New Jersey. Well, she leaves the Holocaust film industry with a bang here, not necessarily because the movie is so good, but because she's playing a Polish immigrant with the last of name of Zawistowski, and she's Jewish enough by associating herself with Alan J. Pakula. Needless to say, Pakula's directing, production and writing this, because this is a serious passion project for his Polish-Jewish self, which would get me mighty pumped up if this film's runtime wasn't two-and-half hours, on the dot. Hey, I dig a good, long drama and all, but I've seen about half of Pakula's 138-minute-long "All the President's Men", and by that, I mean that I slept through the other half. Well, as luck would have it, this film is mighty rewarding to the patient, although, make no mistake, it does have a tendency to try your patience, and not just with its pacing.

    This is a very heavy drama which touches upon a lot of weighty dramatics and worthy themes, and does so typically with a powerful realism, thus, when the film does slip into melodramatics, it's really hard to get past the momentary lapses in genuineness, no matter how mild. Inconsistencies go well beyond the level of genuineness in the drama, because much more than it gets carried away with certain dramatics, the film gets carried away with layering its narrative, which alternates between a young stranger befriending strange folks in a strange land from which he hopes to emerge as a successful novelist, and a biting study on the trauma of a Holocaust survivor who can't seem to ever escape some form of anguish, both of which are so distinguished in tone and theme that their juxtaposition shakes a sense of evenness. If nothing else, the layers leave the heavier subject matter to call your attention towards the banality of the relatively light subject matter, which in turn defused much dramatic momentum, thus resulting in natural shortcomings that probably shouldn't even be in the concept, limiting value with a certain blandness which is not helped by slow spells. Really, with all of my joking about fearing that this film would be dull, I was rarely bored, and when I was, then just barely, yet the fact of the matter is that there are dull spells hit every now and then when Alan Pakula's thoughtfulness loses material to draw upon, in the midst of all of the dragging. Yes, if nothing else is problematic here, it's the film's simply being too blasted long, for although I certainly appreciate a drama which has the guts to get extensive with its storytelling, there's something almost monotonous about the film's meandering along its uneven and sometimes limp path, whose other shortcomings might have been forgotten if the final product didn't take its time to be intimate with all of its blemishes. There are occasions in this film that I really dig, but considering that the film is so long, those occasions are relatively rare, and no matter how much the film compels consistently, it could have been more in certain places, and could have settled down in others. Of course, perhaps it is simply momentum's being subdued by questionable structuring that holds the final product back a bit, as the mistakes are limited, at least in comparison with the strengths.

    A touch unevenly used, Marvin Hamlisch's score, upon coming into play, is anything from sweeping to piercingly subtle, as surely as Nestor Almendros' cinematography, despite often being rather subdued, has some subtle dynamicity which is near-captivating enough without highlights in a distinguished palette that sometimes haunts when it falls upon memorable visuals. Aesthetic value is subtle, but it is very much there when you find it, being so tasteful that it actually reflects an artistic ambition which is nothing short of worthy, because even though one can go on and on debating the unevenness in the weight of the story layers, most every branch in this narrative intrigues, whether it be focusing on the charming tale of an aspiring writer making new friends with disturbing secrets, or focusing on the aspiring tale of a woman facing terrible struggles during and followed one of the great travesties of the modern world, there's plenty of potential, as Alan J. Pakula realize. This means that the storytelling is characterized by a sense of ambition that leads to some questionably overblown aspects, until met with true inspiration within Pakula's efforts, both as a writer of razor-sharp dialogue and thoroughly extensive characterization, and as a director whose thoughtfulness is rarely all that dulling when its bite lapses, with heights in realization which, during the lighter moments, entertain, and, during the heavier moments, devastates. This drama is emotionally challenging, and I mean that in a very good way, for although the film doesn't hold up enough to momentum to stand out on the whole, its highlights are penetrating in their doing great justice to great and valuable subject matter, which thrives on a human heart that in turn thrives on hearty performances. This is a big cast, but only so many members receive a fare share of attention, and when they do, they carry the soul of this character drama, with Peter MacNicol being sharp enough in his charm and convincing enough in his portrayal of a caring man of sophistication and ambition helps in making the Sting character's relatively light story so endearing, even again subject matter so hefty, while Kevin Kline steals the show at time in his even more convincing portrayal of a thoroughly charismatic and often flamboyant man whose emotional instabilities make shifts into intense and violent fury disturbingly unpredictable. Of course, at the end of the day, the true show-stealer here is the lovely Meryl Streep, whose excellence, plain and simple, cannot be overstated, as she is astonishingly impeccable, not simply with an accent as challenging as that of a pole, but with her vulnerable and emotionally intense portrayal of a woman seeking excitement, joy and love in a free world that go challenged by yet more sorrow and isolation which remind her of struggles no human should have suffer through, resulting in a performance so nuanced, so transformative, and so piercing that it simply would have to be seen in order to be believed, were it not beyond believe, let alone words. Streep is amazing, and although I won't go so far as to say that I wish the film itself was nearly of that quality, Streep is one of many highlights that could have made an excellent film, or at least a strong one, and yet, the final product is never less than engrossing as a thoroughly rewarding drama.

    In conclusion, there is a hint of bloating to the dramatics, and a great deal of bloating a structure which has a tendency to fall into inconsistencies in a sense of consequence that dilutes dramatic magnitude about as much as dry spells and meanderings, thus, the final product falls way shy of a potential that is still juicy enough for beautiful scoring and cinematography, inspired and often emotionally impacting writing and direction, and powerful performances - the most powerful of which being by the amazing Meryl Streep - to prove to be enough to secure Alan J. Pakula's "Sophie's Choice" as a rewarding and often enthralling portrait on human instabilities and great secrets.

    3/5 - Good

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

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, Video-Reviewmaster.com

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

June 26, 2007
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Competently directed by Pakula and [features] gorgeous cinematography by Almendros. 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 »
  • Who starred as Sophie in the movie Sophie's Choice?  Answer »

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