D: Peter Glenville

Paramount (Hal B. Wallis)

UK/USA 🇬🇧 🇺🇸 1964

148 mins


W: Edward Anhalt [based on the play "Becket or The Honour Of God" by Jean Anouilh 

DP: Geoffrey Unsworth

Ed: Anne V. Coates

Mus: Laurence Rosenthal

PD: John Bryan & Maurice Carter

Cos: Margaret Furse

Richard Burton (Thomas Becket), Peter O'Toole (King Henry II), John Gielgud (King Louis VII), Paolo Stoppa (Pope Alexander III), Donald Wolfit (Gilbert Foliot), Martita Hunt (Empress Matilda), Pamela Brown (Eleanor of Aquitaine)

A biopic of 12th Century figure Thomas Becket, focusing on his (almost homoerotic) friendship with King Henry II until his death and martyrdom.

The film begins with the two men as inseparable friends, as the King whores his way through life, treating the peasants as he wishes and generally doing whatever he wants as Becket stands by as his Lord Chancellor and trusted aide. As a token of jest, the King encourages Thomas Becket to be the next Archbishop of Canterbury, assuming he can have control of both the country and the church, but their friendship deteriorates when Becket takes the position seriously and won't allow himself to be corrupted by his king, leading to his subsequent death and sainthood.

Though the plot would be better suited for the stage, the acting performances on display in this film make for a fine watch, especially the two leads who were both rewarded with Oscar nominations for their work. Peter O'Toole did such a fine job as King Henry II, he would go on to play the same character just four years later in The Lion In Winter.

One minor drawback is how dated the production design and sets look, not once convincing that the film is taking place in the 1100's England, although this is quite forgivable considering the film's age.


Peter O'Toole & Richard Burton in Becket
Peter O'Toole & Richard Burton in Becket
Did You Know:
The play, and this movie, are riddled with factual inaccuracies. Jean Anouilh had based his original play on an 1890 history that presumed Becket was a Saxon. Anouilh only learned the truth after he'd completed the play. He decided to leave it as is, because he said it made for a better story with Becket as a Saxon.