The Manchurian Candidate

User Score
6.9

Generally favorable reviews- based on 134 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 82 out of 134
  2. Negative: 23 out of 134

Where To Watch

Stream On
Stream On

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

User Reviews

  1. JonathanS.
    Aug 1, 2004
    6
    Technologically taunt and well-paced, but the ending just was a definite case of "Jumping the Shark" and ruined what would have been an otherwise great psychollogical thriller. Many holes in the script; many characters introduced and then no payoff.
  2. JeffL.
    Aug 11, 2004
    6
    It's a risky enough proposition to remake a bona fide movie masterpiece, and downright foolhardy to remake one as distinctive and original as John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic tale of brainwashing, assassination, and Cold War paranoia. (The Ladykillers from earlier this year was equally problematic.) It does help, though, to have a first-rate cast and a world-class director like It's a risky enough proposition to remake a bona fide movie masterpiece, and downright foolhardy to remake one as distinctive and original as John Frankenheimer's 1962 classic tale of brainwashing, assassination, and Cold War paranoia. (The Ladykillers from earlier this year was equally problematic.) It does help, though, to have a first-rate cast and a world-class director like Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs, Melvin and Howard) who are determined to bring some relevance to the story and not simply do another summertime hack action movie. Denzel Washington is superb as a shattered veteran haunted by fragmented dreams and memories of a traumatic experience he had during the first Gulf War (which, interestingly enough, has spawned it's own costly but pointless remake.) Meryl Streep is riveting as a power-mad congresswoman who is determined to see war "hero" son (Liev Schreiber) ascend to the top of the political ladder. And Kimberly Elise (Washington's co-star in John Q) is sweet and likeable as a "grocery clerk" who helps Washington out. The film is generally engrossing and at times even haunting, but somehow Demme manages to miss the dark urgency of the original's Cold War satire. Halliburton, Fox News, and the "war" on terrorism are all subjects lurking on the edges, but how in the world can you make a film that casts Al Franken as a reporter for a Fox-like network and not really do anything funny or interesting with him? Still, don't miss out on Streep's mighty performance - I wouldn't exactly bet against her for the Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Expand
  3. PatC.
    Apr 6, 2006
    6
    Tries to replicate the tension of the original, which expressed the paranoia of communist ideology run amuck. Imputing such ideological drive to a corporation is a push. The quest for money by people who lack the motivation created from missing a lot of meals is neither compelling nor accurate. Some good acting, though.
  4. MarcK.
    Aug 7, 2004
    6
    This is an example where the "Metacritic Average User" rating is a better indice than the what the critics have said. I had no desire to see this, but the reviews were so good that I decided to go. Ridiculous and unrealistic in countless ways, with an oh-so-predictable ending. Another user on this board predicted Oscar nominations. For what? Wyclef Jean's ridiculous butchering of This is an example where the "Metacritic Average User" rating is a better indice than the what the critics have said. I had no desire to see this, but the reviews were so good that I decided to go. Ridiculous and unrealistic in countless ways, with an oh-so-predictable ending. Another user on this board predicted Oscar nominations. For what? Wyclef Jean's ridiculous butchering of CCR's "Fortunate Son"? Expand
  5. JoeA.
    Nov 13, 2004
    6
    While a decent movie, the plot was probably much more intriguing during the time the original came out. It doesn't work as well, or maybe isn't as original, nowadays.
  6. AMovieCritic
    Jan 17, 2005
    6
    I didn't really like the movie much. The trailers and TV commercials made it look like a suspense thriller, but it really wasn't. It got off to an interesting enough start, but for the whole movie, I was waiting for something to actually happen, and it really doesn't. Just when things start picking up, the movie ends. Plus, I was lost at some parts near the ending. More I didn't really like the movie much. The trailers and TV commercials made it look like a suspense thriller, but it really wasn't. It got off to an interesting enough start, but for the whole movie, I was waiting for something to actually happen, and it really doesn't. Just when things start picking up, the movie ends. Plus, I was lost at some parts near the ending. More explanation was definately needed. I was just scratching my head. When I re-watched the climax again on DVD, I got it, but....if I saw this in the theatre, I would have been completely lost. It just needed some more explanation at times. It was a cool premise, and the movie was interesting, but there just wasn't enough suspense, and not nearly enough explanation of why things happened the way they did. Collapse
  7. JudyT.
    Aug 4, 2004
    5
    Painfully boring. No suspense, no thrills. Poorly written.
  8. rays
    Jan 17, 2005
    5
    Unfortunately, i did not find the premise all that believable-Denzel Washington did as well as he could with the character he portrayed- Meryl Streep was a parody of an evil politician-it was hard to care about these characters-the original movie was better.
  9. KyleA.
    Dec 22, 2004
    5
    This remake was neither wanted nor necessary--Hollywood's lust for box-office sales drove the project. I give it a 5 for Meryl Streep, everyone else, including Washington (god, pick a different genre), are mediocre. It's better than most summer movies, however--but that doesn't really say much.
  10. JuliusW.
    Jul 31, 2004
    5
    Great performances by Streep and Schreiber almost make up for the Dr. Stangelovian gimmicks of brain-injections and implants. Brainwashing would have been plenty. Sometimes more really is less. Denzel Washington has made such a career of frantically running around, asking questions that it was hard to see him for what he was supposed to be. Which was - what?
  11. MarkB.
    Aug 11, 2004
    5
    Jonathan Demme's remake/rethink of John Frankenheimer's suspense classic displays great wisdom in remolding and deemphasizing the earlier film's romantic interest, a rather creepy woman played by Janet Leigh whose come-on to Frank Sinatra's troubled vet falls just short of Glenn Close's pursuit of Michael Douglas in the early scenes of Fatal Attraction. Jonathan Demme's remake/rethink of John Frankenheimer's suspense classic displays great wisdom in remolding and deemphasizing the earlier film's romantic interest, a rather creepy woman played by Janet Leigh whose come-on to Frank Sinatra's troubled vet falls just short of Glenn Close's pursuit of Michael Douglas in the early scenes of Fatal Attraction. (Leigh's long speech about how she dumped her nice-guy fiance for Ol' Blue Eyes is perhaps the most unwatchable scene I've ever sat through in an otherwise great movie.) Reimagining her role and casting it with Kimberly Elise, who is charm personified, is the best move Demme makes. In fact, it's Demme's only really good move; otherwise, this version illustrates one more reason why the term "unnecessary remake" is just as much a redundancy as "homeless transient" or "baby puppy". You can't blame the rest of the casting; Denzel Washington, here as well as in his other Gulf War movie Courage Under Fire and last year's underrated Out of Time, is at his best playing troubled or vulnerable people. And Meryl Streep, as a Political Mom-From-Hell, again trumps her critics who accuse her of being skillful but soulless. She follows up two of her warmest and most loose-limbed performances ever (in The Hours and Adaptation) with one that's a scene-chewing delight; her not-frequent-enough appearances are a welcome break from the rest of the film's general torpor. (Can't wait to see her, with wig and accent, in The Theresa Heinz Kerry Story!) Demme stages scenes of murder committed by brainwashed military men far more graphically than Frankenheimer did but without the punchiness; most disappointing is that despite tantalizing tidbits here and there dealing with Halliburton and Fox news, Demme doesn't so much update the material as flatten it out. of the reasons the original worked so well was that Frankenheimer's nailbiter suspense techniques played brilliantly off a satiric script by George Axelrod, a writer best known not for thrillers but for sex comedies such as The Seven Year Itch; Demme just turns the material into a flashy but generic thriller. In fact, Demme's careeris just one more example of the dreaded "post-Oscar jinx"; his movies up to and including The Silence of the Lambs had a component of playfulness that his subsequent projects (Philadelphia, Beloved) have completely lost. (One exception: Demme's fondness for casting his old boss, schlockmeister producer Roger Corman, in cameo roles; here, he's a senator with whom Streep shakes hands with twice. Ms. Highbrow meets Mr. Lowbrow: now THAT's a film-buff treat!) All in all, if you want to see a sharply written political thriller that successfully comes close to replicating Axelrod and Frankenheimer's inimitable blend of complexity, suspense, believable paranoia and abundant wit, you have only one real choice: head to your local multiplex and buy another ticket for Fahrenheit 9/11! Expand
  12. Mar 23, 2016
    5
    The Manchurian Candidate is a weak 'remake' of the classic early 60's Cold War paranoia masterpiece.

    It in itself isn't a bad film, but it removes so many of the layers of the original it feels more like a TV movie, than a relatively big budget Hollywood produced film. Like the original the narrative is borne out of a conspiracy to place a sleeper agent in the White House, except
    The Manchurian Candidate is a weak 'remake' of the classic early 60's Cold War paranoia masterpiece.

    It in itself isn't a bad film, but it removes so many of the layers of the original it feels more like a TV movie, than a relatively big budget Hollywood produced film.

    Like the original the narrative is borne out of a conspiracy to place a sleeper agent in the White House, except this time it's not the Communist Chinese government at work, but a large multi-national company seeking to have someone in power who can increase their influence and profit potential.

    So, the stakes are massively reduced for a start, and that hurts the movie greatly. We sit and watch events unfold, but the reality is that even if the 'bad guys' succeed, it's not going to be pushing the Government towards a pro-Communist stance etc.!

    The acting in the film is good enough, the main leads are doing their best with a weak script. The action scenes are more interesting, as this movie goes more into detail about the 'brainwashing' than the original, and is quite harrowing. The score is by the numbers stuff, which is about all you can say about the direction too.... It's adequately done, but you can't sit there watching and wonder how much better it could have been, because there's nothing in the film that stands out.

    Bad points just revolve around the lazy narrative. Updating such a classic to a 'modern' setting wasn't going to be easy, and this film proves that to be the case. However, it's not a lamentable attempt, it's just lazy.

    It's a film to watch, if you've never seen it. Not a film to actively avoid. However, if you've never seen the original..... Then watch that, instead of this!
    Expand
  13. AndrewS.
    Sep 4, 2004
    4
    At times this movie was very difficult to follow and understand. It lacked focus. It seems as if the director was purposely adding or leaving out parts of the story to confuse and perplex viewers.
Metascore
76

Generally favorable reviews - based on 41 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 36 out of 41
  2. Negative: 0 out of 41
  1. The updated classic is a chiller of a political thriller in its own right.
  2. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    90
    Structurally and thematically similar to John Frankenheimer's original but entirely different in style, feel and nuance, this political thriller about a brainwashed soldier being positioned for the White House provides a delectable network of dramatic tripwires that teases the mind and quickens the pulse. This is brainy popcorn fare.
  3. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    100
    A hugely entertaining thriller shot through with dark shards of agony and paranoia. It takes nothing away from the original while delivering pleasures all its own.