Universal acclaim - based on 20 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 19 out of 20
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 20
  3. Negative: 1 out of 20
  1. 100
    It is one of those rare movies that is not just about a story, or some characters, but about a whole universe of feeling.
  2. In Jan Campion's The Piano, the emotions are deep, fierce, primordial. Sexuality overwhelms the film's characters like ocean waves blasting against a cliffside. [19 Nov 1993]
  3. Magical and haunting, The Piano has the power and delicate mystery of a gothic fairy tale. [19 Nov 1993]
  4. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    Campion's script is very well received, but the film finally makes it on cinematics: bleakly beautiful photography, haunting score, and good acting. [12 Nov 1993]
  5. Great art is both immediately accessible and eternally elusive, having at its centre a powerful simplicity that speaks to anyone who cares to listen, that rewards every interpretation while embracing none. The Piano is great art.
  6. By the end, Campion views all her characters with a compassion bordering on grace, a humanity-like her heroine's-as dark, quiet, and enveloping as the ocean.
  7. Prepare yourself for something very special...Here's a severely beautiful, mysterious movie that, as if by magic, liberates the romantic imagination. [16 Oct 1993]
  8. With its breathtaking visual style and careful attention to sound and movement, the movie provokes contemplation about the ways people communicate – through words, through music, through sex, and, most significantly, through touch. [14 Dec 1993, p.A14(E)]
  9. 100
    The Piano plays itself with such contrapuntal richness, it resonates in you forever.
  10. Reviewed by: Hal Hinson
    The Piano is dark, sublime music, and after it's over, you won't be able to get it out of your head.
  11. 100
    The story worms further into the guts of Victorian experience than most historical dramas, because it aims at the most neglected aspect of that age, and the most alarmingly modern: its surrealism. [29 Nov 1993, p.148]
  12. It takes exceptional acting to enable a story like this to take hold, and Campion has gotten it here. [19 Nov 1993]
  13. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    Campion has spun a fable as potently romantic as a Bronte tale. But The Piano is also deeply cinematic. [22 Nov 1993]
  14. Reviewed by: David Stratton
    The Piano confirms Campion as a major talent, an uncompromising filmmaker with a very personal and specific vision.
  15. The wonder of The Piano is that such an outwardly simple story could emerge into such a complex swirl of lingering memories.
  16. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    Campion's eye is extraordinary. She searches out the detail that makes the image, and the image that tells the story more eloquently than words ever could.
  17. "Sweetie" and "An Angel at My Table" have taught us to expect startling as well as beautiful things from Jane Campion, and this assured and provocative third feature offers yet another lush parable--albeit a bit more calculated and commercially minded--about the perils and paradoxes of female self-expression.
  18. Although the action tends to become melodramatic and even overwrought at times, the imaginative power of Campion's images and emotional insights (especially with regard to the heroin) rarely allow the story to seem artificial or exaggerated. [12 Nov 1993]
  19. 75
    A solid motion picture with a universal message and occasional splashes of genius, but it is remarkable only as Holly Hunter's performance is concerned.
  20. An overwrought, hollowly symbolic glob of glutinous nonsense... I haven't seen a sillier film about a woman and a piano since John Huston's "The Unforgiven" (1960), a Western in which Lillian Gish had her piano carried out into the front yard so she could play Mozart to pacify attacking Indians. [13 Dec 1993]
User Score

Generally favorable reviews- based on 85 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 22 out of 32
  2. Negative: 7 out of 32
  1. Jan 30, 2012
    Beautiful, moving, original, visually poignant, excellent music, fantastic acting performances. One of my favourite movies. I am puzzled by the negative reviews, perhaps it might not suit someone with very conservative tastes, expecting a tame story of a piano student, etc. Full Review »
  2. Feb 24, 2011
    Innovating and influential masterpiece - Jane Campion's third feature film after her feature film debut "Sweetie" (1989) and "An Angel at my Table" (1990) tells the story of Ada McGrath and her daughter Flora who once upon a time in the 1850s moves from Nelson, Australia to New Zealand where they are to start a new life with Ada's predetermined husband, a landowner called Alistair Stewart. Jane Campion's Palme d'Or winner from 1993 is a versatile character study seen from the main characters point of view and told through her wordless though definite expressions. With acute and subtle camera movements, long takes and picturesque close ups, New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion compassionately examines the complexities in the relationship between man and woman and creates a mysterious, erotic and imaginative period drama about a woman's affectionate relation to her piano and her contradicting strive for independence while being captured in an arranged marriage.

    This international co-production between New Zealand, Australia and France which was exclusively shoot in New Zealand and produced by Australian Jan Chapman is an innovating and influential masterpiece formed by the mythical milieu depictions, the weighty and various moods, the linear narrative, Jane Campion's emphatic screenplay, Stuart Dryburgh's majestic photography, Janet Patterson's noticeable costume design, Andrew McAlpine's production design and Michael Nyman's sterling score, which acutely conveys the main characters passionate inner life. Sam Neill, Harvey Keitel and Anna Paquin delivers memorable performances in this poetic and romantic fairytale lead by Holly Hunter who's internal and gesticulating interpretation of a mute character is one of the most outstanding performances in modern cinema.
    Full Review »
  3. MattG
    Aug 15, 2009
    Haunting, beautiful, poetic, unforgettable. Holly Hunter gives one of the greatest performances of all time, and this is my personal favorite movie of all time. Full Review »