Skip to main content
The Manchurian Candidate Movie Poster
Plot, Details & Awards

The Manchurian Candidate

(1962)
PG-13 In Theaters 10/24/1962 , 126min.
Share this movie on

Plot & Details

An unusually tense and intelligent political thriller, The Manchurian Candidate was a film far ahead of its time. Its themes of thought control, political assassination, and multinational conspiracy were hardly common currency in 1962, and while its outlook is sometimes informed by Cold War paranoia, the film seemed nearly as timely when it was reissued in 1987 as it did on its original release. It opens with a group of soldiers whooping it up in a bar in Korea as their commander, Sgt. Raymond Shaw (Laurence Harvey), arrives to inform them that they're back on duty. These men obviously have no fondness for Shaw, and he feels no empathy for them. While on patrol, Shaw and his platoon are ambushed by Korean troops. Months later, Shaw is receiving a hero's welcome as he returns to the United States to accept the Congressional Medal of Honor, and several of the soldiers who served under Shaw repeatedly refer to him as "the bravest, finest, most lovable man I ever met." It soon becomes evident that after their capture by the Koreans, Shaw and his men were subjected to an intense program of brainwashing prior to their release. While several are troubled by bad dreams and inexplicable behavior, it's Capt. Bennett Marco (Frank Sinatra) who seems the most haunted by the experience. In time, Marco is able to piece together what happened; it seems Raymond Shaw was programmed by a shadowy cadre of Russian and Chinese agents into a killing machine who will assassinate anyone, even a close friend, when given the proper commands. On the other side of the coin, Shaw is also used for political gain by his harridan mother (Angela Lansbury), who guides the career of her second husband, John Iselin (James Gregory), a bone-headed congressman hoping to win the vice-presidential nomination through a campaign of anti-Communist hysteria. The Manchurian Candidate features a host of remarkable performances, several from actors cast cleverly against type. Frank Sinatra's edgy, aggressive turn as Marco may be the finest dramatic work of his career; Laurence Harvey's chilly onscreen demeanor was rarely used to s better advantage than as Raymond Shaw; James Gregory is great as the oft-befuddled Senator Iselin; and Angela Lansbury's ultimate bad mom will be a shock to those who know her as the lovable mystery writer from Murder, She Wrote. George Axelrod's screenplay (based on Richard Condon's novel) is by turns compelling, witty, and horrifying in its implications, and John Frankenheimer's direction milks it for all the tension it can muster. While Frankenheimer's career has had its ups and downs, The Manchurian Candidate and Seconds (1966) suggest that he deserves to be recognized as one of the most brilliantly paranoid American filmmakers of the '60s. Entertaining yet unsettling, both films indicate that things in the '60s were not what they seemed, with a resonance that still echoes uncomfortably in the present.

Awards

Academy Awards

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury Nominated
1962 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Editing Ferris Webster Nominated

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Film - Any Source John Frankenheimer Nominated

Golden Globes

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Angela Lansbury Won
1962 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Director John Frankenheimer Nominated

American Film Institute

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1998 American Film Institute 100 Greatest American Movies Won

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Film - Any Source John Frankenheimer Nominated

Directors Guild of America

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 Directors Guild of America Best Director John Frankenheimer Nominated

Library of Congress

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1993 Library of Congress U.S. National Film Registry Won

National Board of Review

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1962 National Board of Review Best Supporting Actress Angela Lansbury Won

Stay Connected with Moviefone

My Settings

You are currently subscribed as: {email}


Subscriptions

Get the latest reviews, movie news, photos, and trailers sent straight to your inbox.

Weekly Newsletter

Daily alerts

Movies

You're not following any movies.

These are the movies you’re currently following.


    Update settings
    X