User Score
6.2

Generally favorable reviews- based on 52 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 33 out of 52
  2. Negative: 7 out of 52

Review this movie

  1. Your Score
    0 out of 10
    Rate this:
    • 10
    • 9
    • 8
    • 7
    • 6
    • 5
    • 4
    • 3
    • 2
    • 1
    • 0
    • 0
  1. Submit
  2. Check Spelling
  1. Nov 6, 2011
    0
    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. Collapse
  2. Jan 20, 2012
    2
    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 Expand
  3. Oct 30, 2011
    8
    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 Expand
  4. Jan 26, 2012
    9
    Such venom, such wailing and gnashing of teeth, the cheek of the director spinning a yarn about the Bard. You might have thought he suggested Jesus was an alien. Good grief, it's entertainment folks. It's actually a wonderful film, pulsing with Elizabethan life. Great acting, funny, wild, compelling and gripping. So it's not exactly true. It's NOT a documentary. One of my favorites of 2011. I'm appalled so many critics slammed it. Expand
  5. Nov 12, 2011
    7
    A wonderful watch for those who have read, heard, or seen any of Shakespeare's works. But for those who have not, please be wary, this may not be for you.
  6. Nov 11, 2011
    5
    The basic premise: Shakespeare did not write his plays and poems, but this movie is anything but basic. The plot may be the most convoluted and confusing I've ever seen. Perhaps if you have a thorough understanding of Tudor history, it might make more sense. The story jumps around in time and involves all manner of intrigue in Queen Elizabeth's court. On the positive side, it never drags and looks good. Expand
  7. Nov 11, 2011
    5
    This was, perhaps, the most frustratingly confusing movie I've ever watched. Good luck trying to keep track of who's who as the screenplay constantly bounces around through time. Some of the actors even look alike which added to the confusion. The acting, costumes, and cinematography is sublime. This could have been up there with the great "Amedeus" if the storytelling was improved. There is a scene towards the end that attempts to sum up everything you watched to that point, but it is too late and still doesn't explain everything. After the movie my friend and I were both confused. The cast of characters is large and the constant time travel ruins it. I may attempt to watch the film again on blu-ray when it is released so I can watch at my own pace and try to figure it all out. Movies aren't very fun when you still don't know who all the characters are halfway through the film. Expand
  8. Mar 10, 2012
    6
    Intrigue, deception and a supposed truth, make this movie surprise, that's the word. Fascinated with spectacular art direction, makeup and wardrobe...
  9. Oct 31, 2011
    7
    Audiences may sometimes divide themselves when it comes to historical fiction. There is the faction who appreciates a fictional story assigned to a true historical figure to create an engrossing book or movie. Conversely, there arises a vocal minority who deride the story as an affront to what actually happened in history; they worry the uninformed masses will be swayed by the fiction and falsely believe the fiction to be true. Such is the case with Anonymous.

    In this story, which furthers the case of a scholarly minority who do not believe William Shakespeare (Rafe Spall) authored all of those plays, Edward de Vere, the Earl of Oxford (Rhys Ifans), was the true genius behind the words. As an Earl, his station was superior to writing and associating with the rabble in a place such as the Globe Theatre. However, his gift required an outlet. He heard the voices of his characters and felt the physical need to commit those voices to paper. Left at this level, the film would have been more scholarly and actually about the canon itself, but director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, 2012) appears to have desired a more suspenseful thriller. In this era, Queen Elizabeth 1 (Vanessa Redgrave) is at the end of her Golden Age and the issue of royal succession is on the English courtâ
    Expand
  10. May 29, 2012
    2
    This is one of the dumbest, ignorant, confusing messes I have ever witnessed. The idea that Shakespeare didn't write his plays in the first place is idiotic, false and insulting, and the misuse of historical characters is a slap in the face to anyone who has studied the smallest fraction of it. The characters are wrong, the events never happened, and the placement of the Globe and Tower are nowhere near where they would have been circa 1600. The only saving grace in this film is Rhys Ifans performance and the neat cinematography, but that is far outweighed by this work of fiction. Expand
  11. Nov 10, 2011
    8
    You can't go in to this movie expecting historical fact it must be taken a simply a story and a good exciting story it is. the movie has an exceptional screenplay and stylistic and appropriate direction from Roland Emmerich.
  12. Feb 11, 2012
    7
    Anonymous a good drama thriller . The Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson and those play in the theater part was freaking amazing and awesome . I myself don't believe that concept of Shakespeare being a fraud but the story was good . Now come the other side of the movie that Queen , Edward and all those royal drama was nothing but a crap . without those time jumping parts and Queen parts this movie could be A Great film but Roland Emmerich & John Orloff just ruined it . Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson's acting was amazing and others were just as dull as their character . I gave it 7 out of ten 10 all because of those parts in theater and Shakespeare , Edward , Ben Jonson's part was so amazing and I loved it so freaking much. Expand
  13. Dec 24, 2012
    8
    This is a film that has stayed within my personal top ten since its release. Watching again tonight for what is likely the fifth time... I lost count. Still love it as if it were the first time. NOTE: this is tale of a theory for an alternate history of Shakespeare himself. If your not willing to consider the theory as possible then you will not enjoy it as much. Keep an open mind and you will lose yourself in this wonderful tale. Oh and see how many Shakespearean references you can find in the protagonists life! Expand
  14. Nov 8, 2011
    0
    The premise itself is a disgrace but at least the movie could have been shot and made competently. I don't think they did the premise justice, stressing again that I find the premise classist and inaccurate.
  15. Nov 11, 2011
    3
    A wonderful looking film with a wonderful cast. But the screenplay--which attempts to jump about in space and time in a Tarantinoesque fashion--never works. And I mean that in almost every possible way. I don't remember a movie in recent memory so devoid of authentic dramatic tension. At points you can almost see Orloff and Emmerich checking off bullet points from their lists of points that the film is trying to demonstrate. Ignoring the Hick versus the Literate Earl debate for the moment, the writer the film really slanders and does a disservice to is Ben Jonson. According to the film Ben Jonson (and Kit Marlowe, Dekker, and Nash--all of Shakespeare's brilliant contemporaries) can't write a syllable that compares to Shakespeare. Certainly untrue as anyone who's read any Elizabethan and Jacobean poetry or drama knows. In fact, there are so many good dramatists and poets during Shakespeare's day the question shouldn't be Why is Shakespeare so great? Rather, it should be how did such an age produce and nurture so many good poets and playwrights?

    Finally, the figure of Oxford is meant to be somewhat tragic but the film's silly conceits and stereotypes run roughshod over our sympathy for him The films trots out the same hackneyed ideas about writers that have been around since the beginning of drama: the great writer suffers in isolation, is unappreciated by all around him, and must be willing to sacrifice all to his art. Uh-huh. And Mozart wrote his symphonies on a billiard table in the midst of a billiard match. But a fine film from a technical angle...
    Expand
  16. Mar 6, 2012
    6
    My only complaint is that I found myself getting lost in the plot sometimes. But have no fear, all questions will be answered. In the end, it was quite enjoyable.
Metascore
50

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: Judith Newmark
    Nov 6, 2011
    25
    The movie inspired theater critic Judith Newmark to write a sonnet in response.
  2. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Nov 3, 2011
    75
    Anonymous is fun – if you take the anti-Shakespearean tale as events set in an unreal, alternate universe.
  3. Reviewed by: James Berardinelli
    Oct 31, 2011
    75
    Anonymous is well-paced and never threatens to bore or become too scholarly.