The Candidate (1972) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Candidate1972

The Candidate (1972)



Critic Consensus: The Candidate may not get all the details right when it comes to modern campaigning, but it captures political absurdity perfectly -- and boasts typically stellar work from Robert Redford to boot.

The Candidate Photos

Movie Info

Robert Redford stars in this gritty, documentary-like tale of an idealistic, good-natured attorney whose high standards are soiled by his run for political office. Having seen all the dirt in politics as a young man -- his father (Melvyn Douglas) was once governor of California -- Redford's Bill McKay has no interest in getting into the game himself. But a political operative named Luck (Peter Boyle) taps McKay to run against the seemingly undefeatable Senator Crocker Jarmon (Don Porter), a classic gasbag. McKay reluctantly agrees, but only if his father is not involved and he is allowed to say exactly what he wants, free of political or party constraints. As his candor causes his popularity to rise, the stakes become greater for McKay and the pressure to sell out grows. Jeremy Larner's adapted screenplay won an Academy Award and Redford delivers one of his best performances in a movie that, when viewed in the age of soundbite-and-poll-driven politicians, seems more timely than ever.

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Robert Redford
as Bill McKay
Peter Boyle
as Marvin Lucas
Melvyn Douglas
as John J. McKay
Allen Garfield
as Howard Klein
Don Porter
as Sen. Crocker Jarmon
Michael Lerner
as Paul Corliss
Karen Carlson
as Nancy McKay
Broderick Crawford
as Jarmon Narrator
Morgan Upton
as Henderson
Joseph Miksak
as Neil Atkinson
Gerald Hiken
as Stationmaster
Susan Demott
as Groupie
Jason Goodrow
as Boy in Commercial
Robert Goldsby
as Fleischer
Barry Sullivan
as McKay Narrator
Lois Fraker
as Large Girl
David Moody
as Watts Heckler
George Meyer
as Man in Urinal
Dudley Knight
as Magazine Editor
Natalie Wood
as Herself
Quinn K. Redeker
as Rich Jenkin
Sam Yorty
as Himself
Van Amberg
as Himself
Maury Green
as Himself
Lu Hurley
as Himself
Rollin Post
as Himself
Bill Stout
as Himself
Ken Cory
as Himself
Judy Hayward
as Herself
Fred Harris
as Himself
Ken Jones
as Himself
Grover Lewis
as Himself
Harvey Orkin
as Himself
Jerry Waldie
as Himself
Pat Harrington Jr.
as Dinner M.C.
View All

Critic Reviews for The Candidate

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (8)

If this candidate doesn't prove to be a winner, I'll demand a recount.

June 29, 2018 | Full Review…

Neither the authentic political atmosphere nor canny performances by Redford, Boyle and Porter go far to cut through the basic glibness of the film.

February 12, 2018 | Full Review…

With Redford giving one of his best comedic performances, helped by a Oscar winning script, The Candidate is witty and charming, while looking good and proving quite memorable.

February 12, 2018 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Much of it has a pleasing air of accuracy. But Redford's inability to suggest any irony about himself finally sinks it -- it's the only sanctimonious satire you'll ever see.

February 12, 2018 | Full Review…

Redford fancies himself so superior to the electoral process that he ends up with a completely fatuous characterization of a politician.

January 14, 2013 | Full Review…

Redford's superior acting talents, which not-often-enough are tapped by the scripts he decides to do, are nearly all on display herein in a virtuoso peformance.

June 3, 2008 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Candidate


A left-wing lawyer runs for the Senate, but the campaign forces him to make concessions in his values. Robert Redford, with his natural sense of integrity and propriety, is at his best in this film because we get to see that integrity slowly crumble. The change is subtle -- sometimes too subtle, to the point that the film's plot isn't fully realized -- but it's there. The film's plot follows McKay's campaign, and as the process of getting elected strips McKay of his principles, the political process is appropriately satirized. The best part of the film is the famous last line: "What do we do now?" which is a quote echoed by many a modern politician. Overall, while I think the film's subtlety worked against it at points, the overall message is ahead of its time.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer


A satirical and modern political chronicle.

Lucas Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer


A lot of fun. Reminds me of Bulworth, but not quite as good.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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