The Sea Hawk (1940) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Sea Hawk (1940)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Sea Hawk Photos

Movie Info

In the 1580s, the Sea Hawks -- the name given to the bold privateers who prowl the oceans taking ships and treasure on behalf the British crown -- are the most dedicated defenders of British interests in the face of the expanding power of Philip of Spain. And Captain Geoffrey Thorpe (Errol Flynn) is the boldest of the Sea Hawks, responsible for capturing and destroying more than 50 Spanish ships and ten Spanish cities. His capture of a Spanish galleon, however, leads to more than he bargained for, in a romance with the ambassador's niece (Brenda Marshall) and the first whiff of a plan to put Spanish spies into the court of Elizabeth I (Flora Robson). Thorpe's boldness leads him to a daring raid on a treasure caravan in Panama which, thanks to treachery within Elizabeth's court, gets him captured and, with his crew, sentenced to the life of a slave aboard a Spanish ship. Meanwhile, Philip of Spain decides to wipe the threat posed by Elizabeth's independence from the sea by conquering the island nation with his armada. Thorpe, though chained to an oar, knows who the traitor at court is and plans to expose him and Philip's plans, but can he and his men break their bonds and get back to England alive in time to thwart the plans for conquest? The Sea Hawk was the last and most mature of Flynn's swashbuckling adventure films, played with brilliant stylistic flourishes by the star at his most charismatic, and most serious and studied when working with Flora Robson, whom he apparently genuinely respected. Boasting the handsomest, most opulent production values of a Warner Bros. period film to date, The Sea Hawk was made possible in part by a huge new floodable soundstage. Another highlight was the best adventure film score ever written by Erich Wolfgang Korngold; and the script's seriousness was nailed down by various not-so-veiled references not to 16th century Spain but 20th century Nazi Germany. The movie was cut by over 20 minutes for a reissue with The Sea Wolf, and the complete version was lost until a preservation-quality source was found at the British Film Institute. Since then, that 128-minute version -- which actually contains a one-minute patriotic speech by Robson as Elizabeth that was originally left out of U.S. prints, as well as amber tinting in all of the Panamanian sequences -- has become standard.

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Errol Flynn
as Capt. Geoffrey Thorpe
Flora Robson
as Queen Elizabeth
Claude Rains
as Don Jose Alvarez de Cordoba
Alan Hale
as Carl Pitt
Brenda Marshall
as Dona Maria Alvarez de Cordoba
Gilbert Roland
as Capt. Lopez
Una O'Connor
as Miss Latham
Henry Daniell
as Lord Wolfingham
Clyde Cook
as Walter Boggs
Montagu Love
as Phillip
Donald Crisp
as Sir John Burleson
David Bruce
as Martin Burke
Frank Wilcox
as Martin Barrett, a Galley Slave
Herbert Anderson
as Eph Winters
Clifford Brooke
as William Tuttle
Charles Irwin
as Arnold Cross
Edgar Buchanan
as Ben Rollins
Ellis Irving
as Monty Preston
Francis McDonald
as Samuel Kroner
Pedro de Cordoba
as Capt. Mendoza
Ian Keith
as Peralta
Jack LaRue
as Lt. Ortega
Fritz Leiber
as Inquisitor
Halliwell Hobbes
as Astronomer
Alec Craig
as Chartmaker
Frank Lackteen
as Capt. Ortiz
Guy Bellis
as John Hawkins
Victor Varconi
as Gen. Aguirre
Lester Matthews
as Lieutenant
Robert Warwick
as Capt. Frobisher
Harry Cording
as Slavemaster
Nestor Paiva
as Slavemaster
Gerald Mohr
as Spanish Officer
Colin Kenny
as Officer
Crauford Kent
as Lieutenant
Elizabeth Sifton
as Maid of Honor
Mary Anderson
as Maid of Honor
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Critic Reviews for The Sea Hawk

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (2)

When The Sea Hawk is purely cinematic, it's at the top of its class.

April 21, 2005 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…

Swashbuckler heaven

December 13, 2002 | Rating: 5/5
Top Critic

Checks all the boxes for a seafaring adventure epic.

August 14, 2020 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

I don't feel so much emotion with this adventure film by Curtiz, in his tenth collaboration with the mythical Errol Flynn, but I can instantly recognize, despite the lack of dynamism, that it has some interesting characters. [Full review in Spanish]

July 20, 2020 | Rating: 6/10 | Full Review… much as Flynn himself, what pulls together the grand action set-pieces of swordplay ... and gushing romance is the music by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. It's Hollywood's greatest swashbuckling symphony and one of the all-time favorite movie scores.

April 5, 2006 | Full Review…

...romance, adventure, and intrigue; lavish costumes and sets; heroes and scoundrels aplenty; and Errol Flynn swinging from ship to ship. What more could you ask for?

April 18, 2005 | Rating: 8/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Sea Hawk

Big time adventure, bigtime fun as we return to Europe in the 1500's. Spain is set to take over the world by dint of her incredible navy ... only Britain stands in her way with a group of seagoing patriots called the Sea Hawks. This rousing Hollywood call-to-arms prepared Yanks for the real war already happening in Europe at the time. The villains are despicable (if well dressed) and numerous, the Queen is brave but broke, and the hero ... the epitome of dashing derring-do.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Errol is dashing as always and Flora Robson is wonderful as Good Queen Bess, but the absence of Olivia de Havilland, substituted with the vapid Brenda Marshall is sorely apparent. Not bad but should have been a little shorter, tighter and it just cries out for color.

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer


the greatest of all swashbuckling adventures! pirates of the carribbean, bite me!

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

The Sea Hawk Quotes

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