Box art for The Scarlet Letter

The Scarlet Letter

  • Rated R

drama


Hester Prynne is involved in a risky and scandalous affair.

Rotten Tomatoes® scores

  • Critic Score
    14%
  • Audience Score
    42%

common sense

PAUSE for kids age 15
Consumerism
0 out of 5
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
0 out of 5
Language
1 out of 5
Positive messages
0 out of 5
Positive role models
0 out of 5
Sex
4 out of 5
Violence
4 out of 5

Slaughter, sin, and sex in classic-turned-movie misfire.

what parents need to know

Parents need to know that this historical melodrama has bloody violence -- throat slashings, scalpings, shootings -- plus attempted rape. Brief male and female nudity are shown in a non-sexual context and several sex scenes are non-explicit. Students who watch this movie as a shortcut for reading the Nathaniel Hawthorne novel should wear the scarlet "S" (for slacker), and know that it deviates from the the book a lot.

what families can talk about

  • Families can talk about Hester Prynne's choices. Are she and Dimmesdale truly "sinners"? How do the movie characters compare to those in the Hawthorne book?
  • What do you know about the actual Puritans of New England, their relations with Indians, and their opinions on women, love, and marriage? How does this movie portray history -- accurately or innaccurately? Do you think the media has a responsibility to portray history a certain way?
  • Talk about the violence in the movie. How did you react to it? Did it matter who was perpetrating it?

movie reviews from Rotten Tomatoes®

Top Critic Reviews

Rotten: If you've read the book you won't know the ending. Let's just say that Indians with flaming arrows come to the rescue. They manage to keep a straight face, which is more than anyone in the audience will be able to do.

- Caryn James, New York Times, Monday, August 30, 2004

Rotten: Oh, Roland Joff, thy free adaptation of the Hawthorne classic didst produce abudant derisive laughter. Didst thou once direct 'The Killing Fields?'

- Dan Lybarger, Nitrate Online, Thursday, June 24, 2010

Rotten: Not only does the film bear little resemblance to the source novel, but it's cluttered with ridiculous symbolism.

- Derek Adams, Time Out, Saturday, June 24, 2006

Audience Reviews

3 stars

I have not read the book and that is a good thing. I have been told that this movie has the same characters, the same plotline, but severe differences- including in who lives and who dies. Thanks to my obsession with Gary Oldman in long hair, I enjoyed this. Demi I could take or leave behind- she's always playing the strong/tortured woman. Duvall is just plain crazy (he does that well) and in a movie centering around puritan America and what they consider 'sin', it's frustrating to see so many hypocrites on their high horses (as the characters keep pointing out). It seemed to me the only reason the Algonquin were put in there was a plot device- for Mr. Prynne to go crazy and the near end massacre that provided a convenient escape from the gallows. This is best taken for what it is- a period romance. I would liken it to Sommersby.

- bastet05, Saturday, December 27, 2008

3 stars

I have not read the book and that is a good thing. I have been told that this movie has the same characters, the same plotline, but severe differences- including in who lives and who dies. Thanks to my obsession with Gary Oldman in long hair, I enjoyed this. Demi I could take or leave behind- she's always playing the strong/tortured woman. Duvall is just plain crazy (he does that well) and in a movie centering around puritan America and what they consider 'sin', it's frustrating to see so many hypocrites on their high horses (as the characters keep pointing out). It seemed to me the only reason the Algonquin were put in there was a plot device- for Mr. Prynne to go crazy and the near end massacre that provided a convenient escape from the gallows. This is best taken for what it is- a period romance. I would liken it to Sommersby.

- bastet05, Saturday, December 27, 2008

1 star

A ridiculously loose adaptation that squanders the depth of its source material in favor of a generic overlong soap opera with laughably ham-fisted symbolism. English teachers may get a good laugh but otherwise stay far away from this star-studded turkey.

- fb100002384654145, Sunday, June 2, 2013