John Schlesinger was a British film director and producer who had a career spanning over four decades.
He was known for his ability to create complex characters and explore controversial themes, and his work often focused on the social and cultural issues of his time. Here are some of the best John Schlesinger films:
“Midnight Cowboy” (1969) – This film won the Academy Award for Best Picture and established Schlesinger as a major force in the film industry.
It tells the story of a naive Texan who travels to New York City to become a male prostitute, and his unlikely friendship with a small-time con man.
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971) – This drama explores the complicated relationships between a bisexual artist, a divorced doctor, and the woman they both love. The film was ahead of its time in its portrayal of non-traditional relationships and was praised for its honest and realistic depiction of human emotion.
“Marathon Man” (1976) – This thriller stars Dustin Hoffman as a graduate student who becomes embroiled in a Nazi conspiracy to uncover a valuable cache of diamonds. The film is known for its intense suspense and Hoffman’s iconic performance.
“Billy Liar” (1963) – This comedy-drama is about a young man named Billy Fisher who dreams of escaping his small town life and becoming a comedy writer. The film is a coming-of-age story that explores the struggle between conformity and individuality.
“Darling” (1965) – This drama follows the rise and fall of a beautiful and ambitious model in London’s swinging sixties. The film is known for its innovative editing and for capturing the spirit of the era.
Overall, John Schlesinger was a talented filmmaker who was not afraid to tackle controversial subjects and create complex characters. His films are still celebrated today for their emotional depth, social commentary, and stunning visuals.
Best John Schlesinger Movies
Let’s take a look at the best John Schlesinger films.
1. A Kind of Loving (1962)
“A Kind of Loving” is a 1962 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger, based on the novel of the same name by Stan Barstow.
The film stars Alan Bates as Vic Brown, a young draftsman in Manchester who falls in love with Ingrid Rothwell (played by June Ritchie), a typist at his workplace.
The film explores Vic and Ingrid’s relationship as they navigate the challenges of working-class life in 1960s Britain, including issues of class, sex, and unwanted pregnancy.
The film was praised for its realistic portrayal of the time and place, and for the strong performances by Bates and Ritchie.
“A Kind of Loving” was a critical and commercial success upon its release and is now considered a classic of British New Wave cinema.
The film was nominated for four BAFTA Awards, including Best British Film, and won the Best Screenplay award. It also helped launch the careers of both Schlesinger and Bates.
2. Billy Liar (1963)
“Billy Liar” is a British comedy-drama film released in 1963, directed by John Schlesinger and based on the 1959 novel by Keith Waterhouse.
The film stars Tom Courtenay as Billy Fisher, a young man who dreams of escaping his dull life in a small Yorkshire town and becoming a comedy writer in London.
However, his constant daydreaming and lying cause him to alienate those around him, including his family, his friends, and his two fiancées.
The film explores themes of class, identity, and the struggle between conforming to societal expectations and pursuing personal aspirations.
“Billy Liar” was a critical and commercial success, winning several awards and establishing Courtenay as a rising star in British cinema.
3. Darling (1965)
“Darling” is a 1965 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Julie Christie, Laurence Harvey, and Dirk Bogarde.
The film follows the story of Diana Scott (Julie Christie), a beautiful and ambitious young woman who rises to fame and fortune in the London fashion world.
As she navigates the world of high society, Diana enters into a series of relationships with wealthy and influential men, including a playwright (Dirk Bogarde) and a wealthy Italian businessman (Jose Luis de Vilallonga).
However, as she becomes more successful and popular, Diana’s personal life begins to unravel, leading to a tragic and dramatic climax.
“Darling” was a critical and commercial success upon its release, winning three Academy Awards, including Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress for Julie Christie.
The film is known for its portrayal of the Swinging Sixties era in London, its satirical take on the fashion industry, and its exploration of themes such as fame, success, and the price of ambition.
4. Far from the Madding Crowd (1967)
“Far from the Madding Crowd” is a 1967 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger and based on the classic novel by Thomas Hardy.
The film stars Julie Christie as Bathsheba Everdene, a strong-willed and independent woman who inherits a farm in rural England and attracts the attention of three very different suitors.
The film explores themes of love, loyalty, and social status as Bathsheba must navigate the complexities of relationships and societal expectations in a time and place where women were expected to be submissive and obedient.
Christie’s performance as Bathsheba was widely praised and earned her an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress.
The film was also noted for its stunning cinematography and beautiful location shots of the English countryside.
“Far from the Madding Crowd” was a critical and commercial success, and has since become a classic of British cinema.
It has been adapted for the screen several times, including a 2015 version directed by Thomas Vinterberg and starring Carey Mulligan as Bathsheba.
5. Midnight Cowboy (1969)
“Midnight Cowboy” is a 1969 American drama film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman.
The film follows the story of Joe Buck (Voight), a naive Texan who moves to New York City to become a male prostitute and his unlikely friendship with Ratso Rizzo (Hoffman), a small-time con man.
The movie explores themes of isolation, loneliness, and the American Dream. It depicts the harsh realities of life in New York City during the late 1960s, including poverty, drug addiction, and sexual exploitation.
The film’s frank portrayal of sexuality and adult themes was groundbreaking for its time and earned it an X-rating.
“Midnight Cowboy” was a critical and commercial success and won three Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director for Schlesinger, and Best Adapted Screenplay. It is widely regarded as a classic of American cinema and is known for its memorable performances by Voight and Hoffman.
The film’s iconic score, featuring the song “Everybody’s Talkin'” by Harry Nilsson, also became a hit and remains a beloved part of American popular culture.
6. Sunday Bloody Sunday (1971)
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” is a 1971 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger and written by Penelope Gilliatt.
The film stars Glenda Jackson, Peter Finch, and Murray Head in a story that explores the complex relationship between three people involved in a love triangle.
The film takes place in London and follows the lives of Alex Greville (Jackson), a successful divorcee and employment counselor, and Bob Elkin (Head), a young bisexual artist who is in a romantic relationship with both Alex and a middle-aged Jewish doctor named Daniel Hirsh (Finch).
The film depicts the three characters’ struggles with their desires, emotions, and societal expectations.
The film was well-received upon its release and is now considered a classic of British cinema. It was praised for its mature and honest portrayal of sexuality and relationships, as well as the strong performances by its cast.
The film was nominated for four Academy Awards, including Best Director and Best Actress for Jackson, and won the award for Best Screenplay.
7. The Day of the Locust (1975)
“The Day of the Locust” is a film adaptation of the 1939 novel of the same name by Nathanael West. The movie was directed by John Schlesinger and released in 1975.
The story is set in Hollywood during the Great Depression and follows a young artist named Tod Hackett, played by William Atherton, who is working as a set designer in the film industry.
Tod becomes fascinated by the people and culture of Hollywood, including aspiring actress Faye Greener, played by Karen Black, and her father Harry, played by Burgess Meredith.
As Tod becomes more involved in the lives of Faye and Harry, he begins to see the darker side of Hollywood and its inhabitants. The film explores themes of disillusionment, obsession, and the destructive nature of fame and success.
“The Day of the Locust” was praised for its performances, particularly Karen Black’s portrayal of Faye Greener, and its depiction of the seedy side of Hollywood.
However, it was not a commercial success at the time of its release. Over the years, the film has gained a cult following and is now considered a classic of 1970s American cinema.
8. Marathon Man (1976)
“Marathon Man” is a 1976 thriller film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Dustin Hoffman, Laurence Olivier, and Roy Scheider.
The movie is based on the novel of the same name by William Goldman.
The story follows a graduate student and runner named Babe Levy, played by Dustin Hoffman, who gets caught up in a dangerous conspiracy involving his brother, played by Roy Scheider, and a former Nazi war criminal, Dr. Christian Szell, played by Laurence Olivier.
As Babe delves deeper into the mystery surrounding his brother’s involvement with Dr. Szell, he finds himself in grave danger and must use all his wits and physical prowess to survive.
“Marathon Man” is known for its tense and suspenseful plot, as well as its iconic scenes, such as the dental torture scene in which Dr. Szell extracts information from Babe. The film was also praised for its performances, particularly Olivier’s chilling portrayal of Dr. Szell.
Overall, “Marathon Man” was a critical and commercial success, and is now considered a classic of 1970s cinema. It remains a popular choice for fans of the thriller genre.
9. Yanks (1979)
“Yanks” is a romantic war drama film released in 1979, directed by John Schlesinger and starring Richard Gere, Vanessa Redgrave, and Lisa Eichhorn.
The story takes place in World War II-era Britain and follows the relationships between American soldiers stationed in the UK and the local women they meet. The film explores themes of love, loss, and the impact of war on both soldiers and civilians.
“Yanks” was praised for its strong performances and attention to detail in depicting the wartime setting, as well as its nuanced exploration of the complexities of human relationships in difficult circumstances.
The film received several award nominations and is considered a notable entry in the genre of romantic war dramas.
10. Honky Tonk Freeway (1981)
“Honky Tonk Freeway” is a 1981 American comedy film directed by John Schlesinger and starring William Devane, Beverly D’Angelo, and Beau Bridges.
The film follows the quirky and eccentric residents of Ticlaw, Florida, a small town that is hoping to become a popular tourist destination.
When a highway bypass threatens to ruin their plans, the townspeople come up with a scheme to create their own off-ramp and attract tourists to their unique attractions, including a safari park and a singing sheriff.
Chaos ensues as the plan goes awry and the townspeople are faced with a variety of comedic challenges.
Despite a star-studded cast and a promising premise, “Honky Tonk Freeway” was a critical and commercial failure upon its release.
The film is known for its over-the-top and absurd humor, as well as its commentary on American consumerism and the commercialization of small-town America.
11. The Falcon and the Snowman (1985)
“The Falcon and the Snowman” is a 1985 biographical spy thriller directed by John Schlesinger and based on the true story of Christopher Boyce and Andrew Daulton Lee.
The film stars Timothy Hutton as Boyce and Sean Penn as Lee, two childhood friends from wealthy families who become disillusioned with the US government and decide to sell classified information to the Soviet Union.
The film explores themes of loyalty, betrayal, and the consequences of one’s actions, as Boyce and Lee become embroiled in a dangerous game of espionage and are eventually caught and convicted.
The performances of Hutton and Penn were widely praised, as was Schlesinger’s direction and the film’s suspenseful tone. The film was also noted for its exploration of the political and social climate of the 1970s, when many young Americans were questioning their government’s actions and motives.
“The Falcon and the Snowman” was a critical and commercial success, and has since become a classic of the spy thriller genre.
It remains a powerful and thought-provoking exploration of the moral dilemmas faced by those who choose to challenge the status quo and fight for what they believe in.
12. The Believers (1987)
“The Believers” is a 1987 supernatural thriller film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Martin Sheen, Helen Shaver, and Jimmy Smits.
The film follows the story of a police psychologist named Cal Jamison (Sheen) who investigates a series of mysterious deaths that seem to be linked to a cult that practices Santeria, a religion that originated in Cuba.
As Jamison delves deeper into the case, he discovers a dark conspiracy involving powerful figures in the city and a plot to bring about the birth of a new god.
The film explores themes of faith, superstition, and the corrupting influence of power.
“The Believers” received mixed reviews from critics upon its release, with some praising its suspenseful atmosphere and strong performances, while others criticized its convoluted plot and depiction of Santeria.
However, the film has gained a cult following over the years and is notable for its exploration of lesser-known religious practices and its commentary on the dangers of blind faith.
13. Madame Sousatzka (1988)
“Madame Sousatzka” is a 1988 British drama film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Shirley MacLaine in the title role. The film is based on the novel of the same name by Bernice Rubens.
The film follows the story of Madame Sousatzka, a strict and eccentric piano teacher in London, who takes on a young prodigy named Manek Sen (played by Navin Chowdhry).
Madame Sousatzka becomes deeply involved in Manek’s life, both as his teacher and as a mentor, and tries to help him navigate his troubled family relationships.
The film was praised for its strong performances, particularly by MacLaine and Chowdhry, as well as its beautiful score by composer George Fenton. However, some critics found the film to be overly sentimental and melodramatic.
Despite mixed reviews, “Madame Sousatzka” was a modest box office success and received two Academy Award nominations, including Best Supporting Actress for MacLaine. The film has since gained a cult following among fans of Schlesinger’s work.
14. Pacific Heights (1990)
“Pacific Heights” is a 1990 thriller film directed by John Schlesinger and starring Melanie Griffith, Matthew Modine, and Michael Keaton.
The movie follows a young couple, Patty and Drake, played by Griffith and Modine, who buy and renovate a Victorian home in the affluent Pacific Heights neighborhood of San Francisco.
They decide to rent out the first floor apartment to a seemingly harmless and charming tenant, Carter Hayes, played by Keaton.
However, things take a dark turn as Carter turns out to be a con artist and begins to terrorize the couple and their property.
The film explores themes of deception, greed, and obsession, as Patty and Drake struggle to protect themselves and their home from Carter’s relentless harassment.
“Pacific Heights” was praised for its suspenseful plot and strong performances, particularly Keaton’s portrayal of the villainous Carter Hayes. The film was also notable for its depiction of the gentrification and class tensions in San Francisco during the 1990s.
While “Pacific Heights” received mixed reviews upon its release, it has since become a cult classic and remains a popular choice for fans of the thriller genre.
15. The Innocent (1993)
“The Innocent” is a thriller film released in 1993, directed by John Schlesinger and based on the novel of the same name by Ian McEwan.
The film stars Anthony Hopkins, Isabella Rossellini, and Campbell Scott. The story follows a British engineer named Leonard Markham (played by Campbell Scott) who is working on a secret military project in Cold War-era Berlin.
When he becomes involved with a mysterious German woman named Maria (played by Isabella Rossellini), he is drawn into a dangerous world of espionage and betrayal.
The film explores themes of trust, loyalty, and the destructive power of secrets. “The Innocent” received mixed reviews from critics, with some praising the performances of the cast and Schlesinger’s direction, and others criticizing the slow pace and convoluted plot.
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3 Characteristics of John Schlesinger Films
Social Commentary: John Schlesinger’s films often explore social and political issues, ranging from the British class system in “Billy Liar” to the sexual revolution in “Midnight Cowboy.” Schlesinger’s films are known for their nuanced and thought-provoking commentary on society and culture.
Strong Characterization: Schlesinger’s films are known for their strong and well-developed characters.
Whether it’s the complex relationship between Joe Buck and Ratso Rizzo in “Midnight Cowboy,” or the eccentric townspeople of Ticlaw in “Honky Tonk Freeway,” Schlesinger’s characters are often flawed but deeply human.
Realism and Authenticity: Schlesinger was known for his attention to detail and his commitment to realism in his films.
He often shot on location, using real people and places to add authenticity to his stories. For example, “Darling” was filmed on location in London, and “Sunday Bloody Sunday” used real hospitals and medical professionals to add authenticity to the film’s medical scenes.
Overall, John Schlesinger’s films are characterized by their social commentary, strong characterization, and commitment to realism and authenticity.
These qualities have made his films enduring classics and have cemented his place as one of the most important directors of the 20th century.
3 Reasons Why You Should Watch John Schlesinger Films
John Schlesinger was a talented British film director who made several notable films during his career. Here are three reasons why you should watch his films:
Unique storytelling: Schlesinger had a unique talent for telling stories that were both entertaining and thought-provoking.
He was known for exploring complex characters and their motivations, often challenging societal norms and conventions in the process. His films were also notable for their strong sense of place, with many of them set in distinct locations that became integral parts of the story.
Diverse range of films: Schlesinger directed a wide range of films across various genres, from spy thrillers like “The Falcon and the Snowman” to romantic dramas like “Darling” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday,” and even musicals like “Yanks.”
This diversity of films allowed him to showcase his versatility as a director and tackle a variety of themes and subject matter.
Iconic performances: Schlesinger worked with many talented actors over the course of his career, and his films featured some of the most memorable performances of their time.
Julie Christie’s performance in “Darling” earned her an Academy Award, while Dustin Hoffman’s role in “Midnight Cowboy” helped establish him as one of the most talented actors of his generation. Schlesinger’s ability to draw out nuanced performances from his actors is a testament to his skill as a director.
Overall, John Schlesinger’s films are worth watching for their unique storytelling, diverse range of subject matter, and iconic performances.
Whether you’re interested in spy thrillers, romantic dramas, or musicals, there’s something for everyone in his filmography.
Best John Schlesinger Films – Wrapping Up
John Schlesinger was a visionary filmmaker whose work explored complex characters and controversial themes. His films often examined the social and cultural issues of his time and were known for their emotional depth, stunning visuals, and powerful performances. Here is a quick summary of some of his best films:
“Midnight Cowboy” (1969)
“Sunday Bloody Sunday” (1971)
“Marathon Man” (1976)
“Billy Liar” (1963)
“Far from the Madding Crowd” (1967)
“The Falcon and the Snowman” (1985)
“Cold Comfort Farm” (1995)
“Madame Sousatzka” (1988)
Schlesinger’s films were widely praised for their honesty, realism, and emotional depth. He was a master of exploring the complexities of human relationships and bringing them to life on the screen. His legacy in cinema continues to be felt today, and his films remain beloved by audiences and critics alike.