Posted by: ckckred | November 13, 2012

The Crucible: Criminally Underrated

John Proctor (Daniel Day Lewis) and Abigail Williams (Wiona Ryder) confront

The Crucible is one movie I feel that was unfairly maligned.  In its debut back in 2006 the movie tanked at the box office and received mixed reviews from critics, despite earning an Oscar nomination for Best Screenplay.

Yet despite this, The Crucible is, at least in my eyes, a very good movie, one that I feel is overlooked by many.  It isn’t by any means a perfect movie, but it is a effective adaptation of Arthur Miller’s classic play, though not quite as powerful.

The Crucible takes place back in 17th century Salem, Massachusetts.  Some village girls meet in the woods one night with a Barbadian slave named Tituba (Charlayne Woodard), who leads them in a ritual.  One of the girls named Abigail (Wiona Ryder) cuts off the head of a chicken and drinks it’s blood while the others dance around a cauldron.  They are spotted by Abigal’s uncle Reverend Samuel Parris (Bruce Davison), who believes the girls are practicing witchcraft.  Afraid of being hung, the girls tell the reverend that they did practice witchcraft and ask for forgiveness, and then they give out false names of fellow witches, creating mass hysteria.

One of these people accused is Elizabeth Proctor (Joan Allen).  Her husband John Proctor (Daniel Day Lewis) had an affair with Abigail, leading to his wife resenting him. John sets out to prove his wife’s innocence and that Abigail and the others did not actually practice witchcraft.  He’s helped by Reverend John Hale (Rob Campbell), a man who does believe in witches but also thinks the girls are lying.

Miller’s play was an allegory to McCarthyism.  The girls are meant to represent Joe McCarthy and the accused are meant to represent the people McCarthy declared communists.  I read The Crucible back when I was in middle school and also learned about the parallels between the play and reality.

Though Miller also wrote the screenplay for the film, one problem I had with the film was that it doesn’t convey the play’s original message well.  Maybe it’s because it came out forty years too late, but I think the filmmakers could have made the parallels to McCarthy stronger.  It was pretty disconnected and really did hurt the film.

But really, other than that, the movie is actually very strong.  Daniel Day Lewis is great in his role as John Proctor.  While it’s not as good as some of his other performances like Daniel Plainview in There Will Be Blood, it’s easily the highlight of the movie.  Joan Allen and Wiona Ryder are also very good as well.  The production of the movie is also good and really teleports the audience into 17th century Salem.

So while it isn’t a great piece of cinema, The Crucible is a enjoyable and underrated movie.  With great performances and some steady art direction, it rises over typical historical films and should not be missed.



  1. I read the play years ago and now I’m interested in seeing this. Excellent review.

    • I wouldn’t say it’s as great as the play, but it’s a good movie. Thanks for commenting.

  2. Dredging up some memories here! I remember reading the play and watching this way back when in high school. I remember really liking the play but wasn’t overly fussed about the film. Still, nice write up!

    • Thanks! I read the play way back when I was in 8th grade and saw the movie later with my class. Though I do think the play is better, the movie is pretty good.

  3. I have never seen this, but I will now.

    • It’s a good movie. I liked the play more, but it’s worth watching. Thanks for commenting.

  4. Yep, you’re right. pretty underrated. Insomuch that I never even bothered to see it, but you give me reason to reconsider that. Nice article here. There should be more articles on bloggers’ pages about “overrated” films.

    • It’s a very good film though I did like the play more. It never seems to get the attention it so richly deserves. I’m currently planning to write an article on over and underrated films that should come out soon. Thanks for commenting.

  5. Good review. I had to review this movie for my English class, and found it very conventional at points, but very compelling at others. They definitely handle the text very well and the performances are all what makes it so damn tense half-of-the-time. Other times, it didn’t feel legitimate but it didn’t get to me too much.

    • Thanks! Parts of it were kind of weak, but the movie is pretty good, plus it has some strong performances from Lewis and Ryder.

  6. Fantastic review man. I was an admirer of this myself. The performances were superb and I love the history behind it and it’s relation to Elia Kazan’s On The Waterfront.

    • Thanks! This film never got the attention I feel it deserved. Daniel Day Lewis and Wiona Ryder are superb in the movie.

  7. I love movies and pretty much anything revolving around witch trials – there really is not enough of films dealing with that subject. I liked The Crucible but I thought the script could have been a bit stronger, that said the acting, especially by Ryder was amazing.

    • The script’s the weakest part of the film but the acting was great, especially on Ryder’s part.

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