Cover Image from The Graduate
Prayer Focus
Movie Review

The Graduate

Reviewed by: Brett Willis

Very Offensive
Moviemaking Quality:

Primary Audience:
Romantic Drama
1 hr. 46 min.

Starring: Anne Bancroft, Dustin Hoffman, Katharine Ross, William Daniels, Murray Hamilton, Elizabeth Wilson | Director: Mike Nichols | Writing credits: Charles Webb (novel), Calder Willingham

I first saw “The Graduate” in theatrical release in 1968 as a non-Christian, counterculture teen, and remember connecting strongly with its rebellious, anti-establishment message. The following year, shortly after I’d given my life to Jesus, I saw it again with a carload of my old friends; but it wasn’t the same at all. I had too much overflowing love in my heart to be anti-anything (except anti-sin), and I was annoyed at the film’s attempt to dictate my worldview and make me identify with an anti-hero.

Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), just goofing off at home after graduating from college, is snared into an affair with next-door neighbor Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft). She’s not interested in a real relationship, just wants sex with a young man (perhaps several young men) to help combat her feelings of loneliness and unattractiveness. But when Ben’s parents and Mr. Robinson arrange a date for Ben with Elaine Robinson (Katharine Ross), Mrs. Robinson is incensed—Ben is good enough for her but not good enough for her daughter. Ben promises Mrs. Robinson that it’s just a formality, and at first he deliberately tries to sabotage the date by acting like a jerk. Somehow, he and Elaine not only salvage the date but begin to fall in love. To stop this, Mrs. Robinson threatens to tell Elaine everything. Actually she tells more than everything, falsely claiming that Ben raped her while she was drunk. Looks like it’s over; but both Ben and Elaine still care for each other, and eventually they reunite in very adverse circumstances.

Reviewers correctly identify this film (along with “Bonnie and Clyde”, which pioneered new special effects of violence and which manipulated its audience into sympathy with murderers and hatred of the Texas Rangers) as a turning point in American filmmaking. The use of French New Wave film techniques and anti-hero themes was exceptional when these two films were made, but by the early ’70s it became the norm rather than the exception and allowed Hollywood to start tapping deeply into the teenage market. These two films were also a major factor in forcing the creation of the MPAA rating system.

Content warnings: mild by today’s standards but offensive in its theme. No actual nudity (though the DVD version may have some, see viewer comments below). Implied sex between Ben and Mrs. Robinson. In their first hotel room meeting, Ben touches Mrs. Robinson’s breast for a few seconds, then turns away and beats his head on the wall, ready to back out of what he’s about to do; but by questioning his manhood, Mrs. Robinson goads him into going through with it. In the date scene with Elaine, Ben takes her to a strip joint just to annoy her (the dancer is wearing stick-ons). No “F*” words (they weren’t allowed at that time), but plenty of other profanity. The tone is anti-upper class and anti-parents, implying that the younger generation must follow its own course in order to avoid becoming hypocrites like their elders. The sarcastic theme song “Mrs. Robinson” by Simon and Garfunkel takes some potshots at Christianity itself.

Offensive content aside, this just isn’t a great story to begin with. The main “value” of this film is historical; it shows us the beginnings of a new cinematic style which has since been copied in untold numbers of other films, making studios rich while rotting the moral fabric of society.

Year of Release—1967

Viewer Comments
The reviewer is missing an ideological premise here. In criticizing “The Graduate” as counterculture, and as critical of a specific American class that is both weathy and secular, the reviewer misses the fact that, at its best, Christianity IS counterculture, that two thousand years ago the message of Christ was both radical and critical of the same kind of irresponsible wealth and smug hypocrisy that “The Graduate” criticizes. In this, the message is shared. Furthermore, corruption is explicitly shown as ugly and denigrated as such (as a feminist, I am not comfortable with the caricature of Mrs. Robinson as a voracious sexual predator and self-serving liar as she gets only the barest nod to sympathy as a woman trapped in an unfulfilling life in a misogynist culture; still, she is the film’s representation of seduction-as-evil, which should certainly resonate with Christians). This is neither a family movie (children would be bored silly) nor by any means an explicitly Christian movie, but it certainly offers a clear moral perspective which should not seem antithetical to that of Christianity. My Ratings: [3/4½]
—Shannon, age 34
I saw this movie again as part of a class that studied movies from the 1960s. Of all the other films shown, the Gen-Xers in the class said this was the one they could relate to the most. Ben is just like them, trying to figure out what life is about and just exactly how they’re going to live it. Film has to be commended because Ben’s character is not the usual rebellious young man type that was featured in many films from this time period. He’s just a normal guy who gets caught up in some bad circumstances due to not paying attention and making the wrong decisions. Older woman / younger man story not nearly as offensive as I’ve seen in some recent made-for-TV movies. My Ratings: [2½/3]
—Hillari Hunter, age 37
…I recently rented this movie and it was rated PG. Well, there’s nudity in it as plain as day. In the beginning there is a scene in which Mrs. Robinson runs into a room naked. That particular part doesn’t show any private parts, but there are scenes spliced in that certainly do. There are numerous close-up shots of her bare breasts. It shows everything, nipples and all. I didn’t watch any more of the movie after that, but I thought for certain it needed to be included in your review. In the review, on your Web page it specifically states “No Nudity.” In VHS versions it may not be seen, but in the DVD, it’s there as plain as day. I know that the film is rated PG for some strange reason, but it’s clearly not.
Comments from non-viewers
Negative— The movie, “The Graduate,” 1967, needs to be examined from the historical perspective. In 1966, the movie that won the Best Picture for the year was, “A Man For All Seasons.” Sir Thomas More, a Catholic Christian, would not agree with King Henry’s divorce on the grounds that the new marriage would be adultery. Sir Thomas More stood on the Word of God, that God says that adultery is a sin in the Ten Commandments, “You shall not commit adultery” Exodus 20:14. This stance cost Sir Thomas More his life. Satan’s answer to the movie in 1966, “A Man For All Seasons,” is the 1967 movie, “The Graduate.” The master of darkness, (“Hello, darkness my old friend”), packaged the movie up as a Comedy, and without a PG-13 rating in existence sold this move as a PG rating.

The one review states that the unedited version has full nudity, and this film should be clearly rated R. According to Wiki, many stars fought for the roles, but only Doris Day to her credit turned down her role for the right reasons. Hollywood stars wanted this movie. For them, adultery is common place, and there is really nothing wrong to them with practicing it. That is why divorce is so common among the Stars. This movie accurately portrays what is going on in the U.S. in society at that time. Adultery, Free Love, and Divorce were all starting to be accepted as normal in society.

Benjamin is concerned what Mr. Robinson or his parents would think about having an affair, but there is no mention of God. God sees our actions, and He has told us not to commit adultery. The Holy Spirit told me to turn the film off. I have seen many of the clips of this movie in my lifetime. The songs of Simon and Garfunkle, though beautiful sounding, contain references to drugs being fine (“Bridge Over Troubled Water”), adultery/darkness exalted (“The Sound of Silence,” and the song they wrote for this movie (“Mrs. Robinson”), clearly mocks our LORD and Savor Jesus Christ by name.

I agree with the reviews. A Christian should not see this movie. I even have a friend’s father that committed adultery, liking the song “The Sound of Silence” (played in the movie while Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson are having their affair), a “Christian”, and was divorced shortly after marrying the “Christian” woman he committed the adultery with.

A well acted movie, nice sounding songs, a wonderful job of Satan to get people to laugh at sin.
—Erich Aseltine, age 55 (USA)