Amadeus (1984)

amadeus poster 1984 movie
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great movie with lots of layers


Movie Info

Movie Name: Amadeus

Studio:  The Saul Zaentz Company

Genre(s): Drama/Musical

Release Date(s): September 6, 1984 (Premiere)/September 19, 1984 (US)

MPAA Rating: PG

amadeus antonio salieri suicide attempt f murray abraham

I did a bad thing…let me tell you about it for a few hours

Greatness and talent don’t always choose their wielder.  Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) dreamed of being God’s voice on Earth and through his compositions bring immortality.  Unfortunately, greatness chose Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) and unlike Salieri, Mozart lets his vices rule his actions.  While Salieri chooses the safe and methodical path, Amadeus chooses passion and love to guide his compositions…no matter who it hurts or angers.  With rage and indignation in his soul, Antonio Salieri has decided to ruin Mozart, but some things cannot be killed.

Directed by Miloš Forman, Amadeus is a musical historic biopic loosely based on the lives of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756-December 5, 1791) and Antonio Salieri (August 18, 1750-May 7, 1825).  The film is an adaptation of the 1979 play by Peter Shaffer (who adapted the film version), and it received Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Actor (Abraham), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration, Best Costumes, Best Sound, and Best Makeup with nominations for Best Actor (Hulce), Best Cinematography, and Best Film Editing.  The film was selected by the Library of Congress for preservation in National Film Registry in 2019.  Originally released as a PG film, Forman’s Director’s Cut added over twenty minutes and received an R-Rating.

amadeus tom hulce elizabeth berridge

A great character introduction

Amadeus was one of those crossover films.  While it was rather artsy, long, and about a long-dead acclaimed composer, mass audiences saw it, and even as a kid, I can remember seeing parts of it when it was relatively new and my parents must have rented it.  I watched it again in history class in high school (probably a way for the teacher to burn away two and a half periods), and multiple times later…and it is a film that continues to remain one of the greatest of all times.

The story isn’t history.  It does borrow a lot from the lives of Mozart and Salieri, but it is largely fictionalized for entertainment purposes.  While this sometimes is bothersome, it doesn’t feel as bad in this case since it is an adaptation of a play which acknowledges the fiction incorporated and not just created as a faithful biography of the performers involved.  What you get is a compelling story similar to something like The Fountainhead where you have a character who follows the rules and expects greatness (receiving some in the process), but being outclassed and outlived by the person who takes risks…it is a classic story that always has legs.

amadeus tom hulce laughing

The laugh that shattered glass

The cast is also fantastic.  Tom Hulce has the “easy” role as the living loud, rather obnoxious Mozart who has such a gift…and unfortunately, he knows this.  His character is a character who has been told his whole life he is special which he is, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to positive traits as an adult.  F. Murray Abraham has the meat role as the rival composer who cannot help but admire the talent that Amadeus has, but instead of embracing it, he feels he must destroy it.  It has a ton of nuance, doubt, and rage which boils in the character.  Elizabeth Berridge gives a good performance as Mozart’s wife Constanze and you also have appearances by Kenny Baker, Kenneth McMillan, Jeffrey Jones, Christine Ebersole, Cynthia Nixon, and Simon Callow (who portrayed Mozart in the original stage production).

amadeus mozart conducting tom hulce wig

Mozart scores a win!

The movie looks fantastic with all the glory, pomp, and circumstance of high society at the time.  The cast is often adorned in elaborate costumes on and off the stage and Hulce’s Mozart wigs themselves help create the memorable character.  Also notable is the solid “old man” make-up for Abraham who was in his forties at the time.

Amadeus is a great film that is worth viewing ever few years or so.  It is a smart film, and a film that reaches large audiences.  In the film, that is also an issue with the characters debating “who is opera, theater, ballet, etc. for?” with no real clear answer given.  While The Marriage of Figaro might be a great opera, something like The Magic Flute is much more accessible…which is better?  If you’ve seen Amadeus, see it again (the director’s cut does add a lot of context) and if you haven’t seen Amadeus, it is one of those “must see movies” of the 1980s…despite not having explosions and space battles.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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