To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Perfect adaptation of a perfect book


Movie Info

Movie Name:  To Kill a Mockingbird

Studio:  Pakula-Mulligan Brentwood Productions

Genre(s):  Drama/Mystery/Suspense

Release Date(s):  December 25, 1962

MPAA Rating:  Not Rated


It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird

Growing up in the small, sleepy town Alabama town of Maycomb in the 1930s, Scout (Mary Badham) and her brother Jem (Philip Alford) spend their days reading, dreaming, and making up stories about the mysterious Radley family that lives on their street.  With their friend Dill (John Megna), Jem and Scout find that their father Atticus Finch (Gregory Peck) has taken on the case of a lifetime.  Against popular opinion of the town, Atticus has set out to defend a black man named Tom Robinson (Brock Peters) accused of assaulting a white woman named Mayella Ewell (Collin Wilcox)…and Jem and Scout are about to experience a period in their lives could change them forever.


YOU felt sorry for HER?

Directed by Robert Mulligan, To Kill a Mockingbird adapts Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize classic 1960 novel.  The film was praised by critics upon its release and now is considered a classic of cinema (frequently making “Best of” lists).  It won Academy Awards for Best Actor (Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Art Direction-Set Decoration—Black and White with nominations for Best Picture (Alan J. Pakula), Best Actress (Badham), Best Director, Best Cinematography—Black and White, and Best Music Score.  It was selected by the Library of Congress for film preservation in the National Film Registry in 1995.

To Kill a Mockingbird had a tough road.  It was an adaptation of a perfect book…and surprisingly became a perfect movie.  The movie takes some shortcuts with the novel, but still maintains the feel, message, and story narrative which made the novel a success.  To Kill a Mockingbird is the perfect example of how to adapt a novel, and why it is so tricky.


HAM! Still one of the best costumes!

The movie is told as a flashback with Scout as the narrator.  A child’s perspective of events in the film is much, much different than an adults and it allows for more commentary (especially since it is an adult reflecting upon memories of events).  The film drops some of the subplots but keeps a tight narrative which doesn’t lose any of the heart of the story.  It is able to weed out things that enrich the plot but don’t contribute to it 100%.

The cast is also great behind the lead of Gregory Peck.  Peck’s Atticus Finch is the perfect father.  He’s fair, brave, and kind at the same time.  He is a voice of reason but also fallible.  The film introduced both Mary Badham and Philip Alford who are forced to carry the bulk of the movie.  This is tricky for child actors but they do it well.  The movie is the film debut for character actors William Windom and Alice Ghostley, and at the end of the movie, you meet the elusive Boo Radley played by Robert Duvall in his first role.  He’s just what you’d picture Boo to look like, and Duvall plays up the short but important scene.


Hey, Boo

The movie could have easily been a lavish color production, but instead, it was shot in black and white.  This really aids the movie because it makes it feel older which allowed for more discussion about race and relations.  It was a changing time in America and the black and white not only made it feel like it was an older movie, it now gives the movie a sense of timelessness.

To Kill a Mockingbird has everything you could want from a story.  It has mystery, drama, and one of the clearest presentations of that moment in childhood that you realize the world isn’t always fair.  The movie reminds me a lot in feel and style of Night of the Hunter which also carries the Southern Gothic style.  With Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, I’m sure we’ll be subjected to a “sequel” film as well.  I can’t imagine that it will reach anywhere near the high mark set by this film.

Related Links:

Go Set a Watchman

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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