Box art for Orlando


drama, foreign

1994 OscarĀ® Nominee. Tilda Swinton and Billy Zane star in this hip, sexy and wickedly funny look at an English nobleman who defies the laws of nature and comes back to life as an English noblewoman.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

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movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

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    reviews counted: 13
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Top Critic Reviews


- Cole Smithey,, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Fresh: A silly and serious work of art that isn't afraid to entertain.

- Dan Kois, Slate, Tuesday, July 27, 2010


- David Stratton, Variety, Thursday, March 26, 2009

Audience Reviews

2 stars

A young nobleman in the seventeenth century makes a promise to his Queen to never grow old, living on through to the twentieth after undergoing the transformation to womanhood. Based on a story by Virginian Woolf, Orlando is an ambitious attempt to portray gender issues spanning the centuries. Tilda Swinton shares the limelight with some wonderful costumes and locations, appearing just at home in doublet and hoes as a corset and bustle and her central performance is arresting. It's a pity that the rest of the cast don't really get a look in, as the story is represented as a series of all-too-short vignettes where some initially intriguing supporting characters appear briefly but are gone again before there is any chance to explore them or relationship with Orlando. This is a real shame because some of the scenes, especially concerning her receiving the kind of attitudes that she was herself guilty of having when she was a man, had real potential. This is doubly true of Zane's character who is the other side of the coin of Orlando's transformation. It is sometimes guilty of being too "arty" for its own good, the gimmicky casting of Quentin Crisp as Elizabeth I (although it could be argued that he is the perfect choice to play an old queen...) and the appearance of Jimmy Somerville as a golden angel overstep the boundary to campness. It's certainly an interesting and beautifully realised film visually, but Benjamin Button did something similar with a lot more heart.

- garyX, Friday, January 21, 2011

4 stars

A true forgotten classic. Watching Orlando is heartbreaking because you know they're never going to make another film as bizarre or beautiful as this ever again. Modern Hollywood just wouldn't allow something involving an androgynous immortal, inexplicable gender changes, the breaking of the fourth wall, and a bizarrely evangelical ending to be distributed, let alone created for 5 million dollars. This is art. It doesn't always make sense, but trying to parse it and giving it personal meaning makes the experience completely worthwhile. Kudos to Sally Potter for creating such an uncompromising adaptation of a Virginia Woolf novel. Kudos to Tilda Swinton, who I fall more in love with every day and who has one of the most exciting and diverse filmographies of any living performer today. Kudos to all involved with this striking, unique, powerful innovation.

- ceWEBrity, Saturday, May 23, 2009

4 stars

This is Sally Potter's beautiful, otherworldly adaptation of Virginia Woolf's story. Orlando reaches a tone, a temperature, a state of dream-like ambiguity that many other art films often thrive to possess. It's immediately enchanting on the surface: fantastic set design, photography, make-up, costumes and music, but there's a fascinating substance underneath it all. Orlando is born into a noble English family in the 17th Century. Ever since he's a youth he is enamored with poetry and love, and little else. His mother, mortified by her old age and by death, leaves him her palace as inheritance, with the condition that he remain young forever. Orlando's life extends itself through centuries, during which time he also gets disillusioned with his virility after a romantic frustration and decides to try his luck at love from a woman's perspective. The spirit of this film is Tilda Swinton's epic performance. This is a role cut out for her. She makes perfect use of her androgynous looks and her characteristic refinement to play Orlando. She's not particularly my favorite actress, but here she's wonderful, as is all the supporting cast. Billy Zane has a brief but relevant appearance and delivers a lovely performance. So... Orlando attracted me for the intriguing storyline, how Sally Potter would manage to bring it to life, and for Swinton's demanding role. I think it shouldn't be missed precisely for its success in all those areas. It's quite different from many other films, especially because of its very original source material.

- ebs90, Friday, April 17, 2009