Mixed or average reviews - based on 43 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 17 out of 43
  2. Negative: 7 out of 43
  1. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Oct 26, 2011
    Because of the ingenious screenplay by John Orloff, precise direction by Roland Emmerich and the casting of memorable British actors, you can walk into the theater as a blank slate, follow and enjoy the story, and leave convinced - if of nothing else - that Shakespeare was a figure of compelling interest.
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 55 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 8 out of 15
  2. Negative: 5 out of 15
  1. Nov 6, 2011
    This is an abysmal mess. This movie ignores chronology to make its immensely convoluted idea seem even the remotest sense possible. It makes the same implausible and classist argument we've heard against Shakespeare's authorship for several decades, but not without insulting several prominent historical figures maliciously, for no real reason. All together this is another movie that demonstrates Roland Emmerich's contempt for sense, historical fact and competent story telling. Full Review »
  2. Jan 20, 2012
    Long ago, I had the privilege of hearing Jorge Luis Borges address the question of why people are so eager to claim that someone other than Shakespeare wrote Shakespeare's plays. Though he touched on the issue of class, Borges finally concluded that, by being an ordinary man who created a near-miraculous body of work, Shakespeare made the rest of us feel small. We don't want to feel small, so we seek to make Shakespeare's achievement less by proposing an author with a dazzling pedigree, along with singular access to power and the insight it brings. Borges could not have described Emmerich more exactly. The director, who boasts of having "never enjoyed Shakespeare," takes the playwright down a peg or two (thousand) by making him a greedy, illiterate buffoon who couldn't write the "e" in "Hamlet," much less 118,406 lines of verse and prose. The "real" playwright is perennial favorite Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford, though, by the end of the film, Emmerich ennobles him so much beyond mere earldom that only God or Queen Elizabeth constitutes a more splendid candidate. Don't we all feel a bit less small? But "Anonymous" is a movie, not an article in "Shakespeare Quarterly," so we can forgive the hash it makes of politics, theatrical history, and the biographies of everyone from Ben Jonson to the Earl of Essex. We can forgive its perversity in skewing historical facts for no real dramatic purpose but seemingly just to slap the faces of Shakespeare-lovers. I can almost hear Emmerich saying, "I know it was Richard the Second that Essex's supporters commissioned in support of his rebellion, but I'll say it was Richard the THIRD. Ha ha ha! Take that, you pedants!" So, after we forgive all of these slights to the historical record, what are we left with? A slightly confusing story about the multi-generational political machinations of Elizabeth's Calvinist counsellors, the Cecils, and the deception, heartbreak, and misery they caused. Why does Oxford hire Shakespeare in the first place? Less because aristos shouldn't write plays than because he married a Cecil, and Calvinists abhor the theater. So, if not-entirely-clear Machiavellian deviousness on behalf of nascent English Puritanism floats your boat, then "Anonymous" is for you. Ditto if you're one of those folks who loves the so-called "authorship controversy" because you no longer have to sit quietly chewing your peas when someone brings up "Hamlet" (or the other 36 plays you haven't seen and/or read) at a dinner party. But if you're interested in Elizabethan theater, you might want to give "Anonymous" a a wide berth, despite its stellar cast and outstanding costume and set design. Something is deeply wrong when a film strives to produce authentic mud then grinds the greatest artists of an age into it.â Full Review »
  3. Oct 30, 2011
    The writings by William Shakespeare are celebrated all over the world. He has been called a genius of his craft and considered by many to be the best playwright in history. However, there are theories out there that insists Shakespeare did not write one single thing. The thought of Shakespeare never creating Romeo & Juliet, Hamlet, or Julius Caesar seems preposterous. Yet there are conspiracy theorists out there who believe just that and I would assume director Roland Emmerich may be one of them. He uses Anonymous to present a scenario that explores the idea of who the â Full Review »