The English Patient is a 1996 American romantic war drama film directed by Anthony Minghella from his own script based on the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje and produced by Saul Zaentz. The film tells the story of Count László de Almásy, who is burned from a plane crash and tells his past story in flashbacks involving a romantic affair, while he is tended by a nurse.

The film was released to critical acclaim, and received 12 nominations at the 69th Academy Awards, eventually winning nine, including Best Picture, Best Director for Minghella, and Best Supporting Actress for Juliette Binoche. Ralph Fiennes, playing the titular character, and Kristin Scott Thomas were Oscar-nominated for their performances. The film also won five BAFTA Awards and two Golden Globes. The British Film Institute ranked The English Patient the 55th greatest British film of the 20th century.[6]


In the final days of the Italian Campaign of World War II, Hana, a French-Canadian nurse working and living in a bombed-out Italian monastery, looks after a critically burned man who speaks English but cannot remember his name. They are joined by Kip, a Sikh sapper in the British Army who defuses bombs and has a love affair with Hana before leaving for Florence, and David Caravaggio, a Canadian Intelligence Corps operative who was questioned by Germans and has had his thumbs cut off during a German interrogation. Caravaggio questions the patient, who gradually reveals his past.

The patient tells Hana and Caravaggio that, in the late 1930s, he was exploring the desert of Libya. He is revealed to be Hungarian cartographer Count László de Almásy, who was mapping the Sahara as part of a Royal Geographical Society archeological and surveying expedition in Egypt and Libya with Englishman Peter Madox and others. Their expedition is joined by a British couple, Geoffrey and Katharine Clifton. Almásy falls in love with Katharine and writes about her in his book which Katharine reads. The two thereafter begin an affair which eventually Katharine ends. Almásy declares that he has found the Cave of Swimmers. An archaeological survey is conducted on it and the surrounding area until they are stopped due to the onset of the war. Madox leaves his Tiger Moth plane at Kufra oasis before his intended return to Britain.

While Almásy is packing up their base camp, Geoffrey, in attempted murder-suicide after apparently deducing Almásy and Katharine were in an affair, deliberately crashes the plane, narrowly missing Almásy. Geoffrey is killed instantly and Katharine is seriously injured. Almásy carries her to the Cave of Swimmers, leaving her with provisions, and begins a three-day walk to get help. At British-held El Tag he attempts to explain the situation, but is detained as a possible German spy and transported on a train. He escapes from the train and trades the Geographical Society maps to the Germans for gasoline. He finds Madox's Tiger Moth and flies back to the cave, but Katharine has died. As he flies himself and Katharine's body away, they are shot down by German anti-aircraft guns. Almásy is badly burned and is rescued by the Bedouin.

After he has related the story, Almásy indicates to Hana that he wants a lethal dose of morphine; she complies and reads Katharine's final journal entries to him as he dies. She and Caravaggio leave the monastery for Florence.



Triumph 3HW 350cc motorcycle specified in the novel as Kip's choice of transport and used in the film

Saul Zaentz was interested in working with Anthony Minghella after he saw the director's film Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990); Minghella brought this project to the producer's attention. Michael Ondaatje, the Sri Lankan-born Canadian author of the novel, worked closely with the filmmakers.[7] During the development of the project with 20th Century Fox, according to Minghella, the "studio wanted the insurance policy of so-called bigger" actors.[8] Zaentz recalled, "they'd look at you and say, 'Could we cast Demi Moore in the role'?"[9] Not until Miramax Films took over was the director's preference for Scott Thomas accepted.[8]

The film was shot on location in Tunisia and Italy.[10] with a production budget of $31 million.[5]

The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002)[11] by Michael Ondaatje is based on the conversations between the author and film editor. Murch, with a career that already included complex works like the Godfather trilogy, The Conversation, and Apocalypse Now, dreaded the task of editing the film with multiple flashbacks and time frames. Once he began, the possibilities became apparent, some of which took him away from the order of the original script. A reel without sound was made so scene change visuals would be consistent with the quality of the aural aspect between the two. The final cut features over 40 temporal transitions. It was during this time that Murch met Ondaatje and they were able to exchange thoughts about editing the film.[12]

Two types of aircraft are used in the film,[13] a De Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth and a Boeing-Stearman Model 75. Both are biplanes.[14][15] The camp crash scene was made with a ​12-size scale model.

The Hungarian folk song, "Szerelem, Szerelem", performed by Muzsikas featuring Márta Sebestyén, featured in the film.


The film received widespread critical acclaim, was a box office success and a major award winner: victorious in 9 out of 12 nominated Academy Awards categories; 2 out of 7 nominated Golden Globe Awards categories; and 6 out of 13 nominated BAFTA Award categories.

The film has a "Certified Fresh" rating of 84% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 79 reviews, with an average rating of 7.7 out of 10. The website's critical consensus states, "Though it suffers from excessive length and ambition, director Minghella's adaptation of the Michael Ondaatje novel is complex, powerful, and moving."[16] The film also has a rating of 87/100 on Metacritic, based on 31 critical reviews, indicating "universal acclaim".[17] Chicago Sun Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film a 4/4 rating, saying "it's the kind of movie you can see twice – first for the questions, the second time for the answers".[18] In his movie guide, Leonard Maltin rated the film ​3 12 out of 4, calling it "a mesmerizing adaptation" of Ondaatje's novel, saying "Fiennes and Scott Thomas are perfectly matched", and he concluded by calling the film "an exceptional achievement all around".[19]


Organization/Association Award Actor/Crew Outcome Remarks
69th Academy Awards[20][21] Best Picture Saul Zaentz Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Juliette Binoche Won In her acceptance speech, Binoche said she had expected Lauren Bacall to win for The Mirror Has Two Faces, which would have been her first Oscar.
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Stuart Craig; Set Decoration: Stephanie McMillan Won
Best Cinematography John Seale Won
Best Costume Design Ann Roth Won
Best Director Anthony Minghella Won
Best Film Editing Walter Murch Won
Best Original Dramatic Score Gabriel Yared Won See The English Patient (soundtrack). As he accepted the Academy Award for Best Song, for "You Must Love Me" in Evita, Andrew Lloyd Webber joked, "Thank heavens there wasn't a song in The English Patient is all I can say." since it had such a strong presence.
Best Sound Walter Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker, and Christopher Newman Won
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Kristin Scott Thomas Nominated
Best Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published Anthony Minghella Nominated
54th Golden Globe Awards[20][21] Best Motion Picture – Drama Saul Zaentz Won
Best Original Score Gabriel Yared Won
Best Director Anthony Minghella Nominated
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Kristin Scott Thomas Nominated
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Juliette Binoche Nominated
Best Screenplay Anthony Minghella Nominated
50th British Academy Film Awards Best Film Saul Zaentz Won
Best Cinematography John Seale Won
Best Editing Walter Murch Won
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role Juliette Binoche Won
Best Screenplay – Adapted Anthony Minghella Won
Best Music Gabriel Yared Won
Best Direction Anthony Minghella Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Kristin Scott Thomas Nominated
Best Costume Design Ann Roth Nominated
Best Production Design Stuart Craig Nominated
Best Sound Nominated
Best Makeup/Hair Nigel Booth Nominated
47th Berlin International Film Festival (1997)[22] Silver Bear for Best Actress Juliette Binoche Won
Golden Bear Anthony Minghella Nominated

Year Category Distinction Date Checked Remarks
2002 AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions #56
1999 BFI Top 100 British films #55[23]


  1. ^ "The English Patient (15)". British Board of Film Classification. 4 December 1996. Retrieved 4 March 2013. 
  2. ^ "The English Patient". American Film Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2017. 
  3. ^ "The English Patient". British Film Institute. Retrieved December 1, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b The English Patient at Box Office Mojo
  5. ^ a b Shulgasser, Barbara (22 November 1996). "Masterful 'English Patient'". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  6. ^ British Film Institute - Top 100 British Films (1999). Retrieved August 27, 2016
  7. ^ Ondaatje, Michael (24 March 2008). "Remembering my friend Anthony Minghella". The Guardian. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  8. ^ a b Blades, John (24 November 1996). "'The English Patient': Minghella's Film Fitting Treatment of Ondaatje Novel". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  9. ^ "Saul Zaentz producer of Oscar winning movies dies at 92". The New York Times. 5 January 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2015. (Subscription required (help)). 
  10. ^ "Film locations for The English Patient (1996)". movie-locations.com. 2014. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  11. ^ Random House Inc.
  12. ^ Bolton, Chris (August 31, 2002). "The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film by Michael Ondaatje". Powell's Books. Archived from the original on May 30, 2015. Retrieved May 30, 2015. 
  13. ^ "The English Patient". The Internet Movie Plane Database. 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  14. ^ "De Havilland D.H.82 Tiger Moth". Aviastar.org. 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  15. ^ "Stearman Model 75: History, performance and specifications". pilotfriend.com. 2006. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  16. ^ The English Patient at Rotten Tomatoes
  17. ^ The English Patient at Metacritic
  18. ^ Ebert, Roger (22 November 1996). "The English Patient Movie Review (1996)". rogerebert.com. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 
  19. ^ Maltin, Leonard (2013). 2013 Movie Guide. Penguin Books. p. 416. ISBN 978-0-451-23774-3. 
  20. ^ a b Van Gelder, Lawrence (25 March 1997). "'English Patient' Dominates Oscars With Nine, Including Best Picture". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved 18 June 2008. 
  21. ^ a b "The 69th Academy Awards (1997) Nominees and Winners". oscars.org. Archived from the original on February 1, 2012. Retrieved 23 November 2011. 
  22. ^ "Berlinale: 1997 Prize Winners". berlinale.de. Retrieved 8 January 2012. 
  23. ^ "BFI's Top 100 British Films of the 20th Century". listal.com. 2015. Retrieved 30 May 2015. 

Further reading

  • Blakesley, David (2007). "Mapping the other: The English Patient, colonial rhetoric, and cinematic representation". The Terministic Screen: Rhetorical Perspectives on Film. Southern Illinois University Press. ISBN 0-8093-2488-1. 
  • Deer, Patrick (2005). "Defusing The English Patient". In Stam, Robert; Raengo, Alessandra. Literature and Film: A Guide to the Theory and Practice of Film Adaptation. Blackwell. ISBN 0-631-23054-8. 
  • Minghella, Anthony (1997). The English Patient: A Screenplay by Anthony Minghella. Methuen Publishing. ISBN 0-413-71500-0. 
  • Thomas, Bronwen (2000). "Piecing together a mirage: Adapting The English patient for the screen". In Giddings, Robert; Sheen, Erica. The Classic Novel from Page to Screen. Manchester University Press. ISBN 0-7190-5230-0. 
  • Yared, Gabriel (2007). Gabriel Yared's The English Patient: A Film Score Guide. The Scarecrow Press. ISBN 0-8108-5910-6. 

External links