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"To Kill a Mockingbird" is a time capsule, preserving hopes and sentiments from a kinder, gentler, more naive America. It was released in December 1962, the last month of the last year of the complacency of the postwar years. The following November, John F. Kennedy would be assassinated. Nothing would ever be the same again -- not after the deaths of Martin Luther King, Robert Kennedy, Malcolm X, Medgar Evers, not after the war in Vietnam, certainly not after September 11, 2001. The most hopeful development during that period for America was the civil rights movement, which dealt a series of legal and moral blows to racism. But "To Kill a Mockingbird," set in Maycomb, Alabama, in 1932, uses the realities of its time only as a backdrop for the portrait of a brave white liberal.

The movie has remained the favorite of many people. It is currently listed as the 29th best film of all time in a poll by the Internet Movie Database. Such polls are of questionable significance, but certainly the movie and the Harper Lee novel on which it is based have legions of admirers. It is being read by many Chicagoans as part of a city-wide initiative in book discussion. It is a beautifully-written book, but it should be used not as a record of how things are, or were, but of how we once liked to think of them.

The novel, which focuses on the coming of age of three young children, especially the tomboy Scout, gains strength from her point of view: It sees the good and evil of the world through the eyes of a six-year-old child. The movie shifts the emphasis to the character of her father, Atticus Finch, but from this new point of view doesn't see as much as an adult in that time and place should see.

Maycomb is evoked by director Robert Mulligan as a "tired old town" of dirt roads, picket fences, climbing vines, front porches held up by pillars of brick, rocking chairs, and Panama hats. Scout (Mary Badham) and her 10-year-old brother Jem (Philip Alford) live with their widowed father Atticus Finch ( Gregory Peck ) and their black housekeeper Calpurnia (Estelle Evans). They make friends with a new neighbor named "Dill" Harris (John Megna), who wears glasses, speaks with an expanded vocabulary, is small for his age, and is said to be inspired by Harper Lee's childhood friend Truman Capote . Atticus goes off every morning to his law office downtown, and the children play through lazy hot days.

Their imagination is much occupied by the Radley house, right down the street, which seems always dark, shaded and closed. Jem tells Dill that Mr. Radley keeps his son Boo chained to a bed in the house, and describes Boo breathlessly: "Judging from his tracks, he's about six and a half feet tall. He eats raw squirrels and all the cats he can catch. There's a long, jagged scar that runs all the way across his face. His teeth are yellow and rotten. His eyes are popped. And he drools most of the time." Of course the first detail reveals Jem has never seen Boo.

Into this peaceful calm drops a thunderbolt. Atticus is asked by the town judge to defend a black man named Tom Robinson ( Brock Peters ), who has been accused of raping a poor white girl named Mayella Violet Ewell (Collin Wilcox). White opinion is of course much against the black man, who is presumed guilty, and Mayelle's father Bob (James Anderson) pays an ominous call on Atticus, indirectly threatening his children. The children are also taunted at school, and get in fights; Atticus explains to them why he is defending a Negro, and warns them against using the word "nigger."

The courtroom scenes are the most celebrated in the movie; they make it perfectly clear that Tom Robinson is innocent, that no rape occurred, that Maybelle came on to Robinson, that he tried to flee, that Bob Ewell beat his own daughter, and she lied about it out of shame for feeling attracted to a black man. Atticus' summation to the jury is one of Gregory Peck's great scenes, but of course the all-white jury finds Tom Robinson guilty anyway. The verdict is greeted by an uncanny quiet: No whoops of triumph from Bob Ewell, no cries of protests by the blacks in the courtroom gallery. The whites file out quickly, but the blacks remain and stand silently in honor of Atticus as he walks out a little later. Scout and her brother sat up with the blacks throughout the trial, and now a minister tells her: "Miss Jean Louise, stand up, your father's passin'."

The problem here, for me, is that the conviction of Tom Robinson is not the point of the scene, which looks right past him to focus on the nobility of Atticus Finch. I also wonder at the general lack of emotion in the courtroom, and the movie only grows more puzzling by what happens next. Atticus is told by the sheriff that while Tom Robinson was being taken for safekeeping to nearby Abbottsville, he broke loose and tried to run away. As Atticus repeats the story: "The deputy called out to him to stop. Tom didn't stop. He shot at him to wound him and missed his aim. Killed him. The deputy says Tom just ran like a crazy man."

That Scout could believe it happened just like this is credible. That Atticus Finch, an adult liberal resident of the Deep South in 1932, has no questions about this version is incredible. In 1962 it is possible that some (white) audiences would believe that Tom Robinson was accidentally killed while trying to escape, but in 2001 such stories are met with a weary cynicism.

The construction of the following scene is highly implausible. Atticus drives out to Tom Robinson's house to break the sad news to his widow, Helen. She is played by Kim Hamilton (who is not credited, and indeed has no speaking lines in a film that finds time for dialog by two superfluous white neighbors of the Finches). On the porch are several male friends and relatives. Bob Ewell, the vile father who beat his girl into lying, lurches out of the shadows and says to one of them, "Boy, go in the house and bring out Atticus Finch." One of the men does so, Ewell spits in Atticus's face, Atticus stares him down and drives away. The black people in this scene are not treated as characters, but as props, and kept entirely in long shot. The close-ups are reserved for the white hero and villain.

It may be that in 1932 the situation was such in Alabama that this white man, who the people on that porch had seen lie to convict Tom Robinson, could walk up to them alone after they had just learned he had been killed, call one of them "boy," and not be touched. If black fear of whites was that deep in those days, then the rest of the movie exists in a dream world.

The upbeat payoff involves Ewell's cowardly attack on Scout and Jem, and the sudden appearance of the mysterious Boo Radley ( Robert Duvall , in his first screen performance), to save them. Ewell is found dead with a knife under his ribs. Boo materializes inside the Finch house, is identified by Scout as her savior, and they're soon sitting side by side on the front porch swing. The sheriff decides that no good would be served by accusing Boo of the death of Ewell. That would be like "killing a mockingbird," and we know from earlier in the film that you can shoot all the bluejays you want, but not mockingbirds -- because all they do is sing to bring music to the garden. Not exactly a description of the silent Boo Radley, but we get the point.

This is a tricky note to end on, because it brings Boo Radley in literally from the wings as a distraction from the facts: An innocent black man was framed for a crime that never took place, he was convicted by a white jury in the face of overwhelming evidence, and he was shot dead in problematic circumstances. Now we are expected to feel good because the events got Boo out of the house. That Boo Radley killed Bob Ewell may be justice, but it is not parity. The sheriff says, "There's a black man dead for no reason, and now the man responsible for it is dead. Let the dead bury the dead this time." But I doubt that either Tom Robinson or Bob Ewell would want to be buried by the other.

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is, as I said, a time capsule. It expresses the liberal pieties of a more innocent time, the early 1960s, and it goes very easy on the realities of small-town Alabama in the 1930s. One of the most dramatic scenes shows a lynch mob facing Atticus, who is all by himself on the jailhouse steps the night before Tom Robinson's trial. The mob is armed and prepared to break in and hang Robinson, but Scout bursts onto the scene, recognizes a poor farmer who has been befriended by her father, and shames him (and all the other men) into leaving. Her speech is a calculated strategic exercise, masked as the innocent words of a child; one shot of her eyes shows she realizes exactly what she's doing. Could a child turn away a lynch mob at that time, in that place? Isn't it nice to think so.

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert

Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.

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Film credits.

To Kill a Mockingbird movie poster

To Kill a Mockingbird (2001)

Rated Not rated

129 minutes

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To kill a mockingbird, common sense media reviewers.

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Masterpiece with crucial lessons about prejudice.

To Kill a Mockingbird Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Promotes tolerance and empathy and speaks out agai

Atticus Finch is one of fiction's (and cinema's) m

Atticus advocates for Scout to be comfortable with

Scout gets into schoolyard brawls with classmates.

See "Violence."

The "N" word is used by the villain. It's also use

Cigarette smoking. The antagonist often appears dr

Parents need to know that To Kill a Mockingbird is the award-winning 1962 film adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel. Its powerful evocation of racism and bigotry in 1930s Alabama remains relevant today, as do the themes of empathy, compassion, and justice sought by Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck). The "N"…

Positive Messages

Promotes tolerance and empathy and speaks out against prejudice and racism. Conveys a deep, moving message about the dangers of fear and White supremacy. Other themes include compassion, integrity, and staying true to your beliefs.

Positive Role Models

Atticus Finch is one of fiction's (and cinema's) most admirable characters. His actions and intentions are always for the good; his true sense of right and wrong is clearly evident, and he never backs down from what he believes in. He's a talented lawyer and a great father to Scout and Jem, both challenging them and supporting them. They're upright kids with a strong internal compass. It should be noted, however, that he falls into the "White savior" archetype.

Diverse Representations

Atticus advocates for Scout to be comfortable with her ways of self-expression, such as wearing boys' clothing. Calpurnia, the Black domestic worker, is complex and provides the children with valuable lessons. Tom is a Black man who faces a wrongful accusation of rape. Atticus, the only lawyer willing to defend Tom in court, fits the archetype of "White savior."

Did we miss something on diversity? Suggest an update.

Violence & Scariness

Scout gets into schoolyard brawls with classmates. Jem is attacked, mostly off-screen, and his arm is broken by someone stalking him and Scout. The threat of violence is portrayed through menacing looks and nighttime shadows. A man is falsely accused of rape. In a courtroom, rape and attack are discussed in detail. A rabid dog is shot and killed. An angry mob shows up at the jailhouse seeking to take justice in their hands. Scout questions her brother about their deceased mother.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.

Sex, Romance & Nudity

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.

The "N" word is used by the villain. It's also used by a young girl when she tells her father, a lawyer defending a Black man, that kids at school say that her father is defending a ["N" word]; her father tells her never to use that word. Outdated words "Negro" and "colored" also are used.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Cigarette smoking. The antagonist often appears drunk.

Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that To Kill a Mockingbird is the award-winning 1962 film adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel . Its powerful evocation of racism and bigotry in 1930s Alabama remains relevant today, as do the themes of empathy, compassion, and justice sought by Atticus Finch ( Gregory Peck ). The "N" word is used as a weapon by the lead villain, and when young Scout Finch (Mary Badham) uses the word because kids at her school are using it, her father explains why she should never use it. In the movie's powerful courtroom scenes, the rape of an impoverished young White woman is discussed in detail, and over the course of the trial, abuse (and possibly incest) is implied at the hands of her father. The film should inspire family discussion of not only racism and injustice, but also how values such as empathy and compassion can be used to educate against bigotry and profound ignorance. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails .

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Community Reviews

  • Parents say (13)
  • Kids say (35)

Based on 13 parent reviews

Classic is thought-provoking but mature. 14+

What's the story.

Based on Harper Lee's classic novel , TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is set in a small, fictitious Alabama town in the 1930s. It follows the story of the Finch family: 6-year-old Scout (Mary Badham); her older brother, Jem (Philip Alford); and their widowed lawyer father, Atticus Finch ( Gregory Peck ). Parallel story lines follow Atticus' difficult decision to defend a Black man who's been accused of raping a White woman, and the two young Finches' fascination with their mysterious -- and rumored-to-be-dangerous -- recluse neighbor, Boo Radley ( Robert Duvall) . Atticus and his children face disapproval and potential violence from those who believe the accused is guilty, with or without a trial. Scout and Jem also discover that someone is leaving strange but beautiful little gifts for them in a tree near their home.

Is It Any Good?

This film offers crucial lessons about prejudice and the fears that motivate it and is a portrait of how racism was discussed in the years leading up to the civil rights movement. Kids will appreciate how To Kill a Mockingbird talks to them but not down at them and reaches for the heart without gimmicks or trite characters. Peck's Oscar-winning performance anchors the film, which is finely crafted, with a perfectly balanced script by Horton Foote. A paragon of decency who stands for tolerance and nonviolence at all costs, Atticus also is a loving, nurturing father who treats everyone around him, including his children, with respect.

Screenwriter Foote includes more than lynch mobs and courtroom fireworks; he also offers lower-key, intimate moments, such as when young Scout questions her older brother about their deceased mother. Or, on a lighter note, when Scout fidgets during her first day of school; she can't get comfortable in her new dress. Despite the ugly truths the film portrays, a gentle goodness pervades it, even during the darkest moments.

Talk to Your Kids About ...

Families can talk about the challenges of adapting a classic novel like To Kill a Mockingbird . How do you think filmmakers decide what to keep and what to skip or change?

How can misinformation affect the lives of others, including our neighbors?

How has the media's depiction of racism and people of varying races changed over the years? How has it not?

In what ways does To Kill a Mockingbird perpetuate the "White savior" myth?

How do the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird demonstrate compassion , empathy , and integrity ? Why are these important character strengths ?

Movie Details

  • In theaters : December 25, 1962
  • On DVD or streaming : January 2, 2001
  • Cast : Gregory Peck , Mary Badham , Robert Duvall
  • Director : Robert Mulligan
  • Studio : Universal Pictures
  • Genre : Classic
  • Topics : Book Characters , Brothers and Sisters , Friendship , Great Boy Role Models
  • Character Strengths : Compassion , Empathy , Integrity
  • Run time : 131 minutes
  • MPAA rating : NR
  • Last updated : May 23, 2024

Did we miss something on diversity?

Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ wrestles with the past while seeking its place in the present

If written today, the work couldn’t be produced. it’s actually only because of its deep-rooted place in american culture that it’s worth doing, as aaron sorkin’s new adaptation attempts to articulate..

Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas, center) ponders the next question for the plaintiff Mayella Ewell (Arianna Gayle Stucki, left) in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” now playing at the Nederlander Theatre.

Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas, center) ponders the next question for the plaintiff Mayella Ewell (Arianna Gayle Stucki, left) in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” now playing at the Nederlander Theatre.

Julieta Cervantes

Atticus Finch, a beloved character in Harper Lee’s novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” most famously played by Gregory Peck in the 1962 film of the same name, has for over half a century been considered a paragon of virtue.

But should he, in today’s parlance, be canceled?

Playwright Aaron Sorkin’s new adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” — now playing in an impeccably produced national tour replete with an extraordinary ensemble cast led by Richard Thomas as Atticus — toys with that question.

The answer: Yes and no.

In the bigger picture, we should also wonder if that is really the right question to ask.

In Sorkin’s take on the story of a white lawyer who agrees to defend a Black man accused of raping a white woman in the Jim Crow South, Atticus remains the embodiment of civility, working hard to see the very best in everyone.

But that kindness also seems a willful, almost absurd blindness to the depth of racial hatred his “friends and neighbors” harbor. Even his own kids sometimes have doubts about his gradualist, even accommodationist, views. He’s a good man, and a naïve one. He may well be part of the problem, even though he is so effective at articulating it: “We can’t go on like this,” he pleads in his closing argument. “We have to heal this wound or we will never stop bleeding.”

That double-sided quality to Atticus is not the only challenge involved with producing this play in contemporary times. Sorkin, to keep even within the core universe of the original (and the Lee estate sued him over relatively small liberties before resolving the matter), can’t write his way out of the fundamental issue that will forever make it problematic.

A Southern white lawyer Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) defends Tom Robinson (Yaegel T. Welch), a Black man accused of raping a white girl in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” | Julieta Cervantes

A Southern white lawyer Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) defends Tom Robinson (Yaegel T. Welch), a Black man accused of raping a white girl in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”|

It’s not just the very frequent use of the “n” word — that’s a whole other dispute that is fully essayable. In the end, this was and is a story centering on a trial of an unjustly accused Black man, and the hero is the white savior lawyer, all told through the innocent view of his daughter’s coming of age and discovering prejudice and injustice. The entire conceit is a giant pat on the back for waking up to evil in the world.

In the meantime, the Black characters, the victims of the evil, are both aesthetically as well as socially subservient. Sorkin does significantly up the involvement of Atticus’s housekeeper Calpurnia to give some voice, in this case a sardonic one, but wow is it a liberal fantasy view of domestic servant relations.

To be clear. I love this show. Simultaneously, I wonder if perhaps I shouldn’t.

If written today, the work couldn’t be produced. It’s actually only because of its deep-rooted place in American culture that it’s worth doing, but requires some form of critical distance to avoid both irrelevance and offense.

Exactly “some” form of critical distance is definitely here, in both the writing and direction. But it remains an authorized distance, with a commercially savvy sheen.

With that limitation in mind, it should also be said that if you are looking for pure theatrical craft, you can’t do better than what’s on stage.

Sorkin, always so skillful with a courtroom drama (where he started with “A Few Good Men”), begins directly with the trial and flashes back, emphasizing the memory aspect of the work but from a closer distance in time. He also spreads the narration out among the young characters to avoid too monotonous a voice.

The production, directed by Bartlett Sher, is beautiful visually and inventively graceful in how characters move through and around the wall-less scenery designed by Miriam Beuther. Adam Guettel provides a winsome score that perfectly expresses the sad — but not TOO sad! — tone.

Atticus (Richard Thomas) has a heart-to-heart with his daughter Scout (Melanie Moore) on the front porch of their home in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Atticus (Richard Thomas) has a heart-to-heart with his daughter Scout (Melanie Moore) on the front porch of their home in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”|

And then there’s the acting, which is so compelling and moving that it pulls you deeply into the tale no matter how much careful resistance you want to maintain. Thomas, who has been American wholesomeness personified since his days as TV’s John-Boy Walton, doesn’t hesitate to let us see the negative dimension of that very quality. The kid characters Scout (Melanie Moore), Jem (Justin Mark) and Dill (Steven Lee Johnson) are all played by adults who use wonderfully specific physicality to indicate youthfulness but recognize that their language is too knowing to be age-appropriate and don’t force it. It all comes across with complete authenticity.

As Calpurnia, Jacqueline Williams, a familiar face to Chicago audiences, rolls her eyes and controls her words in a way that comes off as both comic and complex. As the defendant Tom Robinson — the victim of what is in the end a tragic story — Yaegel T. Welch is the essence of human nobility and ultimately far more aware than Atticus himself.

As the unabashed racist Bob Ewell, Joey Collins expertly connects humiliation and vitriol. And as his daughter Mayella, Arianna Gayle Stucki explodes from a whisper into a racist rant so explosively that it generates (uncomfortable) applause for its performative excellence.

The sad part about all this is of course what it says about America today, because a decade ago it might have been different. Today, The Ewells of the country are ascendant in power.

Maybe the best we can wish for is that the flawed Atticus Finches will once again drive the national narrative.

That would be problematic and wrong. And an improvement.


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To Kill a Mockingbird Reviews

to kill a mockingbird movie review

A moving, mature and socially responsible production which emphatically reveals the power and promise latent in Hollywood and made visible only when its unique resources are properly used.

Full Review | Jan 17, 2024

to kill a mockingbird movie review

It’s a multifaceted story that’s told with a great visual and technical style and that isn’t ashamed to address the deep-rooted problems of that day.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.5/5 | Aug 27, 2022

to kill a mockingbird movie review

After the film's pivotal court case is over, a coda takes place on one long October night, in which all the film's themes of crime, prejudice and scapegoating come together in a moment of autumnal horror.

Full Review | Oct 21, 2021

Atticus is certainly an idealistic character, but he is also a struggling father and lawyer. Gregory Peck's performance in the film is perfect for the character.

Full Review | Apr 1, 2021

The movie takes on a new significance, however, in light of the toxic arguments of contemporary identity politics advocates.

Full Review | Feb 17, 2021

It's so very dramatic and dynamic; it's homey without being corny, it's excellent entertainment on any level.

Full Review | Jan 13, 2021

to kill a mockingbird movie review

As it stands, the film is one of the most significant examples of historical horror in the American classic film canon.

Full Review | Nov 19, 2020

to kill a mockingbird movie review

One of the greatest films of all-time.

Full Review | Original Score: 4.0/4.0 | Sep 26, 2020

Atticus Finch is a film hero in a way we don't often think about - resilient, caring, empathetic, loving, dignified, and keen to make a better world.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Sep 15, 2020

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Most of the film's distinction can be attributed to the story itself, which is so masterfully orchestrated that it's difficult not to be affected by the potency of its themes.

Full Review | Original Score: 9/10 | Aug 27, 2020

to kill a mockingbird movie review

The result is a rare movie, a bit too slow in spots but deeply persuasive, decent-minded but never sanctimonious.

Full Review | Oct 7, 2019

to kill a mockingbird movie review

I think it is one of the best book to movie adaptations that has ever been done.

Full Review | Original Score: A+ | May 9, 2019

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Solid social conscience drama.

Full Review | Original Score: A- | Nov 4, 2016

A fine, moving, informative period piece for all ages, To Kill a Mockingbird is as much an abiding favourite as the book.

Full Review | Original Score: 4/5 | Feb 28, 2016

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Peck's performance, in tortoiseshell glasses and a cream linen suit, is mesmerizing and serious.

Full Review | Feb 23, 2016

to kill a mockingbird movie review

"To Kill a Mockingbird" relates the Cult of Childhood to the Negro Problem with disastrous results.

Full Review | Feb 22, 2016

Gregory Peck stays beautifully within the character of the bespectacled, widowed man, but with its episodes unevenly joined, the script is too repetitive and long.

Full Review | Aug 19, 2015

As Mulligan so deftly demonstrates, the story is in the characters, their failings and fragility, their heroism and nobility of spirit.

Full Review | Original Score: 5/5 | Feb 3, 2015

to kill a mockingbird movie review

I got so much more from this story as an adult, and it's a shame that my adolescent stubbornness kept me from the movie for so many years.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/5 | Feb 27, 2012

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Because the story is related through young Scout and Jem, that childhood wonder and fear is never close behind.

Full Review | Original Score: 3.5/4 | Feb 11, 2012

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Review: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ (1962)

By Larry Tubelle

Larry Tubelle

  • Film Review: ‘Breakfast At Tiffany’s’ 63 years ago

To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee’s highly regarded and eminently successful first novel has been artfully and delicately translated to the screen. Universal’s “ To Kill a Mockingbird ” is a major film achievement, a significant, captivating and memorable picture that ranks with the best of recent years. Its success in the literary world seems certain to be replicated in the theatrical sphere.

All hands involved are to be congratulated for a job well done. Obviously loving care went into the process by which it was converted from the comprehensive prose of the printed page to the visual and dramatic storytelling essence of the screen. Horton Foote’s trenchant screenplay, Robert Mulligan’s sensitive and instinctively observant direction and a host of exceptional performances are all essential threads in the rich, provocative fabric and skillfully synthesized workmanship of Alan J. Pakula’s production.

As it unfolds on the screen, “To Kill a Mockingbird” bears with it, oddly enough, alternating overtones of Faulkner, Twain, Steinbeck, Hitchcock and an Our Gang comedy. The power and fascination of the story lies in the disarming and enthralling contrast of its two basic plot components. A telling indictment of racial prejudice in the deep South, it is also a charming tale of the emergence of two youngsters from the realm of wild childhood fantasy to the horizon of maturity, responsibility, compassion and social insight. It is the story of a wise, gentle, soft-spoken Alabama lawyer ( Gregory Peck ) entrusted with the formidable dual chore of defending a Negro falsely accused of rape while raising his own impressionable, imaginative, motherless children in a hostile, terrifying environment of bigotry and economic depression.

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For Peck, it is an especially challenging role, requiring him to conceal his natural physical attractiveness yet project through a veneer of civilized restraint and resigned, rational compromise the fires of social indignation and humanitarian concern that burn within the character. He not only succeeds, but makes it appear effortless, etching a portrayal of strength, dignity, intelligence. Another distinguished achievement for an actor whose taste and high standards of role selectivity is attested to by the caliber of his films and performances throughout his career.

But by no means is this entirely, or even substantially, Peck’s film. Two youngsters just about steal it away, although the picture marks their screen bows. Both nine-year-old Mary Badham and 13-year-old Phillip Alford, each of whom hails from the South, make striking debuts as Peck’s two irrepressible, mischievous, ubiquitous, irresistibly childish children. More than one filmgoer will be haunted by sweet, misty recollections of his own childhood while observing their capers and curiosities. Both are handsome, talented, expressive youngsters who seem destined to enjoy rewarding careers. They are joined in their activities by little John Megna, an unusual-looking tyke who also makes a vivid and infectious impression.

The merit and restraint of these three junior performances reflects great credit on the direction of Mulligan. But, paradoxically, the value of the spontaneous combustion that he has achieved with his young threesome has produced the picture’s main flaw. For half the time the children, in their verbal zeal, cannot be heard clearly. This ragged articulation of youth is a definite irritant. But it is overshadowed by the overall excellence of their enactments.

Mulligan’s ability to coax such fine portrayals out of pint-sized tyros is only one facet of his superlative contribution to the film. Most noteworthy is the manner in which he instills and heightens tension and terror where they are absolutely essential. Recognizing that menace cannot be expressed with more shock or impact than is seen in the eyes of the beholder, especially when the beholder is a child, he has done a masterful job of determining points-of-view from which Russell Harlan’s camera witnesses the story’s more frightening incidents. And again, in the long courtroom scene, Mulligan and Harlan have teamed to create a significant moment by inventive employment of the camera. When Peck, in defending his client and making his impassioned plea for justice, addresses his remarks to the bigoted jury, he is actually leaning over and speaking not to 12 people, but directly to the entire audience in the theatre.

(This is a film that should play well in the American South. The artful, intimate manner in which the scene is thus mounted and executed will be hitting home where it counts the most.)

There are some top-notch supporting performances. Especially sharp and effective are Frank Overton, Estelle Evans, James Anderson and Robert Duvall. Brock Peters has an outstanding scene as the innocent, ill-fated Negro on trial for his life.

Likewise Collin Wilcox as his Tobacco Roadish “victim.” Others of value are Rosemary Murphy, Ruth White, Paul Fix, Alice Ghostley, William Windom, Crahan Denton and Richard Hale. Pakula rates credit for his careful-unorthodox casting measures. It is a pleasure to see so many fresh faces on the screen.

The physical appearance and other production facets of the film merit high praise. Harlan’s photographic textures and compositions create a number of indelible images. Aaron Stell’s editing is stable and snug, in spite of the long running time and the fact that the story virtually cuts its main continuity in half with the central courtroom passage. Art directors Alexander Golitzen and Henry Bumstead have created sets in Hollywood that authentically convey the physique and characteristic of 1932 Alabama. Last, but not least, there is Elmer Bernstein’s haunting score–fundamentally wistful, sweet and childlike in the nature of its themes, but behind which there seems to lurk something morbidly chilling, something imminently eerie.

1962: Best Actor (Gregory Peck), Adapted Screenplay, B&W Art Direction.

Nominations: Best Picture, Director, Supp. Actress (Mary Badham), B&W Cinematography, Original Music Score

  • Production: Universal. Director Robert Mulligan; Producer Alan J. Pakula; Screenplay Horton Foote; Camera Russell Harlan; Editor Aaron Stell; Music Elmer Bernstein; Art Director Henry Bumstead. Reviewed at Westwood Village Theatre, Dec. 4, '62.
  • Crew: (B&W) Available on VHS, DVD. Original review text from 1962. Running time: 129 MIN.
  • With: Atticus - Gregory Peck Scout - Mary Badham Jem - Phillip Alford Dill - John Megna Sheriff Heck Tate - Frank Overton Miss Maudie - Rosemary Murphy Mrs. Dubose - Ruth White Tom Robinson - Brock Peters Calpurnia - Estelle Evans Judge Taylor - Paul Fix Mayella - Collin Wilcox Ewell - James Anderson Aunt Stephanie - Alice Ghostley Boo Radley - Robert Duvall Gomer - William Windom Walter Cunningham - Crahan Denton Mr. Radley - Richard Hale

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to kill a mockingbird movie review

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To Kill a Mockingbird

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In Theaters

  • Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Philip Alford, Brock Peters, Robert Duvall

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  • Robert Mulligan


Movie review.

The scourge of racial hatred. In To Kill a Mockingbird, a small southern town ravaged by the Depression is unknowingly riddled with this even more devastating disease. And one lone soul is prepared to make the diagnosis. This 1962 classic based on Harper Lee’s novel is one of the most powerful arguments against racism ever put on screen.

At the center of the story is one man. A model citizen. A dedicated lawyer of impeccable integrity. A widower committed to loving and building character in his two children. A master of patience, diplomacy, loyalty, compassion, humility and self-control. His name is Atticus Finch. Gregory Peck earned an Oscar for his portrayal of Atticus, a gentle man whose sense of justice is superceded only by his role as a father. He cares less about popularity than about doing what’s right and earning the respect of his adoring offspring.

Atticus possesses a servant’s heart. When a black man named Tom Robinson finds himself accused of raping a white woman, Atticus accepts the case despite the “ugly talk” he knows will follow him around town. He firmly believes Tom’s innocence and crafts a brilliant defense. But will the all-white jury be able to set aside racial prejudice and rule on the evidence? The trial—and its cast of characters—will inspire deep and meaningful family discussion.

This leisurely paced character study also focuses on Atticus’ son, Jem, and tomboy daughter, Scout. In fact, much of the action is seen through their innocent eyes. The children learn valuable lessons about respecting others, obedience, the importance of an education, finding the good in folks, looking out for each other— and why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird. The result is an entertaining, deeply moving drama with warmth, passion and a sense of humor. Though a racial slur surfaces occasionally, its use is clearly condemned.

This timeless tool for imparting values to young viewers is a prime example of what cinema, at its best, can achieve. And few screen heroes provide as good a role model as Atticus Finch.

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Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a powerful production of an American classic

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The struggle to hold on to one’s moral compass and integrity while navigating the cruel waters of bigotry, violence, racial injustice is at the heart of Aaron Sorkin’s new adaptation of Harper Lee’s beloved novel “To Kill a Mockingbird,” now on stage through Sunday at Kravis Center.

More: Actress who was Scout in 'To Kill a Mockingbird' film returns for new stage role

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” the only book Lee published during her lifetime, is a literary classic. It won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, who won an Oscar for his performance as Atticus Finch, and made 10-year-old Mary Badham the youngest person at that time to be nominated for an Academy Award for best supporting actress for her performance as Scout Finch. Badham is part of the touring cast of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and is effective in a memorable scene as bigoted, racist neighbor Mrs. Henry Dubose.

The story, set in 1934, details one tumultuous summer in the life of the Finch family — widower Atticus Finch (Richard Thomas) a well-mannered, respected lawyer, and his young children, daughter Scout (Scout Backus) and son Jem (Justin Mark) who live in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Judge Taylor (Jeff Still) appoints Atticus to defend a Black man, Tom Robinson (Yaegel T. Welch) against charges that he raped a white woman, Mayella Ewell (Mariah Lee). The subsequent trial and events relating to the trial bring out the bigotry among the townspeople and a create a moral struggle for Atticus regarding his belief in both people and the law.

To bring “To Kill a Mockingbird” to the stage, Sorkin plays with time, beginning at the end of the story, giving us a taste of the trial, and then circling back to the beginning of that fateful summer. This nonlinear approach works, given that the story is told primarily by the adult Scout. Sorkin also makes Jem and their friend Dill (Steven Lee Johnson) narrators, and the three are omnipresent throughout the play.

More: Kravis Center to kick off 2024 with packed lineup of live performances

Thomas, as Atticus Finch, is stunning. His performance illustrates the steady rise in Atticus’s emotions and actions as the stakes in the story get higher. Much of the first act focuses on Atticus’s folksy charm, integrity, and morality, which Thomas plays to perfection. But it’s the second act in which Thomas really gets to shine, in his delivery of Atticus’s powerful, impassioned closing argument at trial, and in the personal turmoil he faces as he questions his belief in the justness of his fellow citizens. It’s a masterful performance.

Thomas leads a uniformly strong cast, and standouts include Welch, who delivers a stellar, heartbreaking performance as Tom; Still as compassionate Judge Taylor; Jacqueline Williams, who portrays the Finch housekeeper Calpurnia with strength, spunk, and humor; and Ted Koch, who embodies the loathsome, bigoted Bob Ewell. Backus, as Scout, walks the fine line of playing a child from an adult perspective, and succeeds. Mark, as Jem, brings to life a boy on the cusp of manhood. And Johnson is a delight as Dill, the character Lee based on her childhood friend, Truman Capote.

It’s rare for a play to be part of the Broadway series at Kravis Center, but “To Kill a Mockingbird” is a powerful production of an American classic, full of themes that are, unfortunately, still relatable today. It is one of the must-see shows of the season and of the year.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” runs through January 7, at Kravis Center, 701 Okeechobee Blvd., West Palm Beach. For tickets and more information, call 561-832-7469 or visit

This article originally appeared on Palm Beach Daily News: Review: 'To Kill a Mockingbird' is a must-see show of the season

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Summary Atticus Finch, a lawyer in the Depression-era South, defends a black man against an undeserved rape charge, and his kids against prejudice.

Directed By : Robert Mulligan

Written By : Harper Lee, Horton Foote

To Kill a Mockingbird

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to kill a mockingbird movie review

Gregory Peck

Atticus finch, dill harris, frank overton, sheriff heck tate, rosemary murphy, maudie atkinson, mrs. dubose, brock peters, tom robinson, estelle evans, judge taylor, collin wilcox paxton, mayella violet ewell, james anderson, alice ghostley, aunt stephanie crawford, robert duvall, william windom, crahan denton, walter cunningham sr., richard hale, nathan radley, mary badham, scout finch, phillip alford, r.l. armstrong, walter bacon, courtroom spectator, eddie baker, critic reviews.

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To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

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To Kill A Mockingbird Review

To Kill A Mockingbird

25 Dec 1962

130 minutes

To Kill A Mockingbird

Harper Lee's legendary novel was carefully, and unfussily translated to screen by Robert Mulligan who intelligently shares the emphasis between the children (debutants Mary Badham and Philip Alford) - the core of the novel - with their lawyer father, played gracefully by Gregory Peck.

As the million readers are well aware, the crux of Lee's story surrounds Peck defending Negro Brock Peters on a charge of rape, but alongside the examination of racism the film also manages to encompass the themes of childhood, poverty, love and an unsentimental look at the Deep South of the past that make the book so rich a tale. Overriding it all is the heart-warming mystery of local bogey man Boo Radley. Peck gives a career-best turn, but true to the source, is understated enough to let the kids shine. And shine they do, lighting up a wise, thoroughbred movie with an irresistible streak of youth. Harper Lee could ask no more.

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Review: A Broadway ‘Mockingbird,’ Elegiac and Effective

to kill a mockingbird movie review

By Jesse Green

  • Dec. 13, 2018

As this is a trial, let’s have a verdict: “ To Kill a Mockingbird ,” which opened at the Shubert Theater on Thursday, is not guilty.

Evidence shows that it does not deface the Harper Lee novel on which it is based, as the Lee estate at one point contended . And far from devaluing the property as a moneymaking machine, it has created an honorable stream of income that should pour into the estate’s coffers for years to come.

But as any reader of the novel knows, to say something is not guilty is not the same as saying it’s innocent. And this adaptation of “To Kill a Mockingbird” — written by Aaron Sorkin, directed by Bartlett Sher and starring Jeff Daniels — is hardly innocent.

How could it be? Every ounce of glossy know-how available at the highest echelons of the commercial theater has been applied to ensure its success, both on Lee’s terms and on what it supposes are ours.

It is, for one thing, gorgeously atmospheric, from the weathered barn-red siding that serves as the show curtain (the set design is by Miriam Buether) to Adam Guettel’s mournful guitar and pump organ music, which sounds like hymns decomposing before your ear. Mr. Sher has made sure that every movement, every perfectly cast face, every stage picture and costume tells the story so precisely that it would do so even without words.

Ah, but the words. As Mr. Sorkin has explained pre-emptively , he faced a dilemma in approaching the material. He could not alter the plot significantly lest he alienate audiences who grew up treasuring the 1960 novel or the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck . “To Kill a Mockingbird” still had to be the story of the widower lawyer Atticus Finch (Mr. Daniels) bravely standing up to racism in small-town Alabama in the mid-1930s. Defending Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, he could not suddenly introduce DNA evidence to win the case.

[ What’s new onstage and off: Sign up for our Theater Update newsletter ]

On the other hand, if Mr. Sorkin did not make major changes, the play would be both structurally and politically insupportable in 2018. The leisurely pace of Lee’s narrative wouldn’t work onstage, as the previously authorized adaptation proved in its dull fidelity. That’s because Lee took her time getting to the trial, which doesn’t even begin until halfway through the book. For 150 pages she immerses readers in the charming, perplexing, ominous daily life of Maycomb as seen and narrated by Atticus’s daughter, Scout.

Mr. Sorkin does away with that structure, introducing the trial almost immediately and returning to it at regular intervals. In between, he backfills the information and characters the novel frontloaded, but just on a need-to-know basis. The narration — now split among Scout (Celia Keenan-Bolger); her brother, Jem (Will Pullen); and their friend Dill (Gideon Glick) — no longer suggests long hazy childhood summers spent squashing redbugs and pondering why the world is evil so much as a Junior League police procedural.

This is very effective; Mr. Sorkin apparently trusted that the actors, working with Mr. Sher, would fill in the blanks, and they do. (Having adults play the kids is especially helpful, and Ms. Keenan-Bolger is terrific.) Also effective, exhilarating even, are the interventions by which Mr. Sorkin set out to correct — or, let’s say, extrapolate — the novel’s politics for our time.

He had to do something. In a novel, we accept the worldview of the narrator, however limited or objectionable. Scout, who is barely 6 at the start of the story, can use words in print that would make her instantly unsympathetic onstage. We also accept that a first-person portrait of a white child’s moral awakening to racism will primarily focus on how it affects the white people around her.

But onstage, a work about racial injustice in which its principal black characters have no agency would be intolerable, so Mr. Sorkin makes a series of adjustments. With Scout’s point of view subordinated, we see Atticus through our own eyes instead of hers, making him the firm center of the story.

This gives Mr. Sorkin room to expand the roles of the two main black characters Atticus deals with: his client Tom (Gbenga Akinnagbe) and his housekeeper, Calpurnia. In Tom’s case, the expansion is subtle, largely a matter of giving him the dignity of voicing his own predicament. “I was guilty as soon as I was accused,” he says — adapting a line that was Scout’s in the book.

Calpurnia (LaTanya Richardson Jackson) gets a bigger remake. Bossy toward the children but deferential toward white adults in Lee’s account, she serves in the play as Atticus’s foil and needling conscience. Mocking his argument that Maycomb needs more time to overcome racism, she says, “How much time would Maycomb like?” Their tart but loving squabbles remind Scout of hers with Jem: They behave, she realizes, like brother and sister.

That’s a startling and somewhat sentimentalized notion, but Ms. Jackson and Mr. Daniels, inerrant in their dryness, pull it off. Mr. Daniels’s unfussy mastery is useful throughout, especially in toning down some of Mr. Sorkin’s showier attempts to punch up the story. Only by underplaying Atticus’s “West Wing”-style summation in court — “We have to heal this wound or we will never stop bleeding!” — does Mr. Daniels avoid the appearance of speaking to television cameras from the future.

But Mr. Sorkin wants a total hero and gets one. When Bob Ewell, the father of the woman supposedly raped, shows up on the Finches’ porch to make threats, Atticus does some kind of flip-and-fold maneuver on him, leaving him groaning in pain. We accept this not only because it’s satisfying but because Mr. Sorkin’s Ewell (Frederick Weller at his most feral) is not merely a violent drunk and a racist but a foaming-at-the-mouth monstrosity. For good measure, he’s now an anti-Semite, too, which on Broadway feels like pandering.

Still, most of these adjustments succeed in themselves. And the material taken largely unchanged from Lee is, naturally, successful as well. The trial, presided over by the hilarious Dakin Matthews as Judge Taylor, is riveting, especially when Tom’s accuser, Mayella Ewell, takes the stand. As played by Erin Wilhelmi, holding herself like a bent pipe cleaner in a print dress, she is a living illustration of pathos transmuted into rage.

It’s what happens in the gap between the old and new storytelling styles, as Mr. Sorkin tries to kill two mockingbirds with one stone, that gives me pause. His play, with its emphasis on the trial, is about justice, and is thus a bright-line tragedy.

The novel is about something much murkier: accommodation. Atticus — who was based to some extent on Lee’s father — despises racism as a form of incivility but insists that any man, even Bob Ewell, can be understood if you walk in his shoes or crawl around in his skin. It’s hardly a comedy but is nevertheless hopeful to the extent that it clears some space for a future.

These are two worthy ideas, if contradictory. In light of racial injustice, accommodation seems to be a white luxury; in light of accommodation, justice seems hopelessly naïve. Perhaps what this beautiful, elegiac version of “To Kill a Mockingbird” most movingly asks is: Can we ever have both?

Follow Jesse Green on Twitter: @JesseKGreen.

  • Read TIME’s Original Review of <i>To Kill a Mockingbird</i>

Read TIME’s Original Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

to kill a mockingbird movie review

M ore than half a century has passed since TIME reviewed Harper Lee’s first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird — but this summer TIME may have a second opportunity to review this celebrated and reclusive author’s work, when the publishing house Harper releases her recently discovered second novel, Go Set a Watchman . The publisher announced on Tuesday that the novel — which was actually written before Mockingbird — will be available on July 14.

TIME’s first review of To Kill a Mockingbird appeared in an Aug. 1, 1960 edition of the magazine, under the headline, “About Life & Little Girls.” While the reviewer doesn’t hold back on the praise, perhaps no one at the time could have anticipated the sensation the book would become.

Here is TIME’s original review, in full:

Clearly, Scout Finch is no ordinary five-year-old girl—and not only because she amuses herself by reading the financial columns of the Mobile Register , but because her nine-year-old brother Jem allows her to tag along when he and Dill Harris try to make Boo Radley come out. Boo is the Radley son who has not shown his face outside the creaky old family house for 30 years and more, probably because he has “shy ways,” but possibly —an explanation the children much prefer—because his relatives have chained him to his bed. Dill has the notion that Boo might be lured out if a trail of lemon drops were made to lead away from his doorstep. Scout and Jem try a midnight invasion instead, and this stirs up so much commotion that Jem loses his pants skittering back under the fence. Scout and her brother live in Maycomb, Alabama, where every family that amounts to anything has a streak—a peculiar streak, or a morbid streak, or one involving a little ladylike tippling at Lydia Pinkham bottles filled with gin. The Finch family streak is a good deal more serious —it is an overpowering disposition toward sanity. This is the flaw that makes Jem interrupt the boasting of a lineage-proud dowager to ask “Is this the Cousin Joshua who was locked up for so long?” And it is what compels Lawyer Atticus Finch, the children’s father, to defend a Negro who is charged with raping a white woman. The rape trial, Jem’s helling, and even Boo Radley are deeply involved in the irregular and very effective education of Scout Finch. By the time she ends her first-person account at the age of nine, she has learned that people must be judged, but only slowly and thoughtfully. Author Lee, 34, an Alabaman, has written her first novel with all of the tactile brilliance and none of the preciosity generally supposed to be standard swamp-warfare issue for Southern writers. The novel is an account of an awakening to good and evil, and a faint catechistic flavor may have been inevitable. But it is faint indeed; Novelist Lee‘s prose has an edge that cuts through cant, and she teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life. (A notable one: “Naming people after Confederate generals makes slow steady drinkers.”) All in all, Scout Finch is fiction’s most appealing child since Carson McCullers’ Frankie got left behind at the wedding.

See the page as it originally appeared, here in the TIME Vault

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on Broadway: Jeff Daniels Embodies a More Human Atticus Finch

By Peter Travers

Peter Travers

All rise for the miracle that is To Kill a Mockingbird on Broadway . Aaron Sorkin has adapted Harper’s Lee’s benchmark 1960 novel of growing up in a racially segregated, hate-charged, Depression-era Alabama so that it adheres to the granular specificity of the past while speaking to the harsh realities of a turbulent present. It’s a tricky, balancing act and Sorkin — in tandem with dynamic director Bartlett Sher and a flawless acting ensemble — never loses sight of making Lee’s tale thrillingly alive on stage. Brimming with humor, generous heart and gritty provocation, To Kill a Mockingbird is as timely as it is timeless.

Two things to get straight: The play isn’t the book. And neither is it the beloved 1962 film version that won Gregory Peck an Oscar as Atticus Finch, the gentleman lawyer from small-town Maycomb who damn near started a riot by defending Tom Robinson (Gbenga Akinnagbe), a black handyman falsely accused of raping a white woman. This Mockingbird stands on its own. And it sparks theatrical fireworks that light up the stage.

Months before opening night, To Kill a Mockingbird suffered contentious legal wrangling between producer Scott Rudin and the estate of Lee, who died in 2016, over depicting Atticus as someone less perfect and more human than “the most honest and decent person in Maycomb.” When the dust cleared, Atticus was no longer a gun owner with a penchant for drinking and cussing. But he wasn’t a paragon either. In a towering performance from a never-better Jeff Daniels, Atticus is a good man besieged by doubts, fears and flashes of righteous anger.

There’s genuine daring in this production, with Sorkin deepening the roles of Tom and Finch housekeeper Calpurnia (a brilliant, bracing LaTanya Richardson Jackson) who finally get to speak for themselves as persons of color spoiling to be heard. Another bold stroke is casting the Finch children with adult actors. Celia Keenan-Bolger is sensational as Jean-Louise, aka Scout, the tomboy daughter who never tires of asking her widower father to explain the roots of prejudice. Scout, based on Lee’s memories of her own 10-year-old self, narrates the play with her older brother Jem (Will Pullen) and their friend Dill (Gideon Glick), a character modeled on Lee’s childhood chum Truman Capote. There’s a powerful sense of these children, now grown, still negotiating a world of festering social injustice.

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While Lee took her time getting to the courthouse drama, Sorkin lunges headlong into the fray. And, under Sher’s urgent direction, the experience is electrifying. Racism is on trial here, and so is white accommodation, of which Atticus is not entirely blameless. Finch asks his children to walk in the shoes of another person before condemning him. But does that excuse Bob Ewell (Frederick Weller), the abusive father who forces his daughter Mayella (Erin Wilhelmi, superb) to frame Tom Robinson for a rape he never committed?

The Finch children can hardly grapple with the moral tangle of intolerance, except in their father’s lesson that it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird, a symbol of innocence. Playing Atticus like a gathering storm, Daniels is magnificent at showing the growing passion of a lawyer feeling the boot of bigotry on his neck. Atticus is hardly a white savior since his arguments for Tom fall on deaf ears.

There is no scene, like the one in the movie, where a black pastor in the gallery watches Atticus leave court in defeat and instructs Scout: “Stand up, Miss Jean Louise, your father is passing.” But the appeal to our better natures permeates this landmark production of an American classic. No dusty memorial to a distant past, the emotionally shattering To Kill a Mockingbird reminds us that the fight against racism is blisteringly relevant. Sorkin sets a new gold standard for adapting one generation’s cry from the heart to another’s. The result is unmissable and unforgettable.

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TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD National Tour Sets New Records

For the engagement at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, the play grossed $2,286,768.75, the highest grossing week of a play on tour across North America.


The First National Tour of the history-making production of To Kill a Mockingbird continues to set new records. Academy Award winner Aaron Sorkin 's new play, directed by Tony winner Bartlett Sher and based on Harper Lee 's classic novel, just completed a record-breaking week at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA and will next play the Tanger Center in Greensboro, NC (May 14-29, 2024), starring Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch.

For tickets and upcoming cities, please visit .

For the one-week, eight performance engagement at the Fox Theatre in Atlanta, GA (May 7-12, 2024), the play grossed $2,286,768.75, setting a record for highest grossing week of a play on tour across North America. The production played to 34,423 theatergoers, which sets a record for the highest one-week audience for a play on tour. The Saturday matinee performance, May 11 at 2:00pm, set the record for a single performance, as 4,414 patrons experienced the show at the same time. The Atlanta engagement was presented locally by Regions Bank Broadway In Atlanta, part of the Broadway Across America network.

Since its tour launch in March 2022, the First National Tour of To Kill a Mockingbird has set a record as the highest-grossing play ever to tour North America. It has played more than 775 performances in 78 cities, and has been seen by more than 1.5 million theatergoers (1,620,304 as of May 13, 2024).

The company is led by Richard Thomas as Atticus Finch, Maeve Moynihan as Scout Finch, Jacqueline Williams as Calpurnia, Justin Mark as Jem Finch, Yaegel T. Welch as Tom Robinson, Steven Lee Johnson as Dill Harris and Mary Badham (Oscar-nominated for the role of “Scout” in the feature film) as Mrs. Dubose. They are joined by Ted Koch as Bob Ewell, Jeff Still as Judge Taylor, Christopher R Ellis as Horace Gilmer, Mariah Lee as Mayella Ewell, Travis Johns as Sheriff Heck Tate, Greg Wood as Link Deas, Anne-Marie Cusson as Miss Stephanie, Ian Bedford as Boo Radley and ensemble members Lance Baker , Stephen Cefalu , Jr., Denise Cormier , Rae Gray , Greg Jackson , Joey Labrasca , David Andrew Morton , Andre Ozim , and Dorcas Sowunmi .

To Kill a Mockingbird holds the record as the highest-grossing American play in Broadway history. It began performances on November 1, 2018, at the Shubert Theatre and played to sold-out houses until the Broadway shutdown in March 2020. On February 26, 2020, To Kill a Mockingbird became the first-ever Broadway play to perform at New York's Madison Square Garden, in front of approximately 18,000 New York City public school students, also marking the largest attendance at a single performance of a play ever in world theater. The production resumed performances on October 5, 2021 and concluded its run at the Shubert Theatre on January 16, 2022. On May 20, 2023, To Kill a Mockingbird concluded its run on London's West End, playing for more than a year to packed houses at the Gielgud Theatre. 

Set in Alabama in 1934, Harper Lee 's enduring story of racial injustice and childhood innocence centers on one of the most venerated characters in American literature, small-town lawyer Atticus Finch. The cast of characters includes Atticus's daughter Scout, her brother Jem, their housekeeper and caretaker, Calpurnia, their visiting friend Dill, and a mysterious neighbor, the reclusive Arthur “Boo” Radley. The other indelible residents of Maycomb, Alabama, are Bob Ewell, Tom Robinson, prosecutor Horace Gilmer, Judge Taylor and Mayella Ewell. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is designed by Miriam Buether , with costumes by Ann Roth , lighting by Jennifer Tipton , sound by Scott Lehrer and an original score by Adam Guettel . Musical direction is by Kimberly Grigsby , hair & wig design by Campbell Young Associates, casting by The Telsey Office, and design adaptation and supervision by Edward Pierce . The national tour is produced by Barry Diller .

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‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ play is not quite so much black and white

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Credit: Photo: Julieta Cervantes

Of course you know “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Everyone knows “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

And yet, there are surprises in store for audiences at the Broadway in Atlanta production national tour opening at the Fox on May 7. Harper Lee’s oh-so-familiar tale of the Jim Crow South in the 1930s has been refigured and rejiggered by playwright Aaron Sorkin, best known for TV’s “The West Wing” on his 30-year resume.

“Aaron was aware of how we view these things through different lenses in different periods,” says Richard Thomas, now a youthful 72 and playing Atticus, but forever John-Boy Walton to TV viewers of a certain age.

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Credit: Julieta Cervantes

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“The first thing he did was to take Atticus Finch off the pedestal. He’s also given Atticus a sense of humor,” he adds. “The darkness of the drama is leavened by the lightness of the humor.”

In Lee’s novel, the trial of Tom Robinson, the Black man falsely accused of rape by a white woman, is a mere two chapters. In the play, it is the main dramatic engine, with beefed-up, more nuanced roles for Black characters Robinson and the Finch family housekeeper Calpurnia.

“He’s given the Black characters a little more agency and a little more voice,” says Yaegel T. Welch, the Morehouse College grad who plays Tom. “Calpurnia gives more perspective from the Black community, and that elevates the heart of the story,” he adds.

The result updates some of the dated perspectives of Lee’s novel (and the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck that many consider one of the best movie adaptations of a novel ever made), and crushed Broadway when it opened in 2018. It is the highest-grossing American play (non-musical) in Broadway history, and the national tour is the highest-grossing non-musical tour. (It’s only the second non-musical show from Broadway in Atlanta in the last 10 years.)

Both Thomas and Welch first read the novel, as do nearly all Americans, as youngsters. “It’s interesting as an example of a book that is clearly not a YA novel, not a kids’ book,” says Thomas, “but it’s a book that’s great for young people at that age cause that’s the age where we’re developing a social consciousness and a sense of social fairness.”

Adds Welch, “The story is not perfect, but it was perfect for its time. A lot of Black people say that was their favorite book as a kid. It’s a very generous and bold thing that Harper Lee did to be the vessel for this story. In 1960 this was a very, very bold story.”

to kill a mockingbird movie review

Credit: Courtesy photo / Julieta Cervantes

The book and movie have been criticized in recent years as being part of, if not the greatest example of, the “white savior” approach to writing fiction about civil rights. Part of Sorkin’s adaptation, which was done with permission of Lee’s estate, is an attempt to address that.

“The book is our story but told through the lens of how it affects a white guy,” says Welch, “But that’s a useful tool because racism does affect white people too. The book has created so many civil rights lawyers and people who want to fight social injustice. They’re inspired by Atticus Finch.”

Both actors have Atlanta connections. Thomas lived in Atlanta several years ago when filming a supporting role in the Netflix drama “Ozark.” Welch grew up in the Los Angeles area and when it came time to apply to college had never heard the acronym HBCU until a friend told him what they were. He wanted to study theater and found out Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson had attended Morehouse, and that his favorite sitcom “A Different World” had been taped nearby at Spelman College. So he became a Morehouse Man.

“Southern audiences are particularly warm and friendly” toward the play,” says Thomas. “They get the material in a way. They feel a sense of ownership. You go to the Northeast and they have an idea about the South rather than it being their story.”

Ultimately, Welch says, he hopes what people realize from this play is that “you don’t have to be an immigrant to care about the rights of immigrants; you don’t have to be queer to care about the rights of queer people; you don’t have to be Black to care about the rights of Black people.

“You just have to be an empathetic person.”


“To Kill a Mockingbird”

May 7-12 at the Fox Theatre. Tickets, $39-$179. 660 Peachtree St NE, Atlanta. 855-285-8499,

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  1. To Kill a Mockingbird movie review (2001)

    Ebert praises the movie's portrayal of Atticus Finch, a brave white liberal lawyer, but criticizes its naive and implausible treatment of racism and justice in 1930s Alabama. He also questions the movie's focus on the children's perspective and the courtroom scenes.

  2. To Kill a Mockingbird Movie Review

    Parents need to know that To Kill a Mockingbird is the award-winning 1962 film adaptation of the classic Harper Lee novel.Its powerful evocation of racism and bigotry in 1930s Alabama remains relevant today, as do the themes of empathy, compassion, and justice sought by Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck).The "N" word is used as a weapon by the lead villain, and when young Scout Finch (Mary Badham ...

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  17. To Kill a Mockingbird

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  18. To Kill A Mockingbird Review

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  19. Review: A Broadway 'Mockingbird,' Elegiac and Effective

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  24. TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD National Tour Sets New Records

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