The Duellists (1977) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Duellists1977

The Duellists (1977)



Critic Consensus: Rich, stylized visuals work with effective performances in Ridley Scott's take on Joseph Conrad's Napoleonic story, resulting in an impressive feature film debut for the director.

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Movie Info

The Duellists is based on a story by Joseph Conrad, variously titled The Duel and The Point of Honour. Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel play officers in Napoleon's army -- D'Hubert and Feraud, respectively -- who spend their off-hours challenging each other to bloody duels. This goes on for nearly 16 years, with neither man showing any inclination of calling a truce. The final clash finds the gentlemanly D'Hubert getting the upper hand of the obsessed Feraud -- but that's not quite the end of the story. The Duellists was the debut feature for director Ridley Scott; it won the Cannes Film Festival prize for Best First Film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

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Edward Fox
as Colonel
Robert Stephens
as Gen. Treillard
Tom Conti
as Jacquin
John McEnery
as 2nd Major
Maurice Colbourne
as Tall Second
Jenny Runacre
as Mme. de Lionne
Alan Webb
as Chevalier
Matthew Guinness
as Feraud's Combatant
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Critic Reviews for The Duellists

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (6)

The richness of Scott's visuals, the excellence of the performances and the depth of the themes combine to make a minor masterpiece.

June 3, 2012 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

Scott gets strong performances from his supporting cast (Quick is sensual and effective) and is able to salvage the movie through the alchemy of the striking visuals.

June 3, 2012 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Keitel is jaunty and menancing and Carradine more determined and a bit troubled but also caught up in this strange need of one to prove honor and the other slaking a twisted nature.

October 18, 2008 | Full Review…

Keitel struggles gamely against a wooden Carradine, but the American influences further dislocate a script that delivers little observation, psychological or social, on their running feud.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

It is precise, intelligent, civilized, and because it never for a moment mistakes its narrative purpose.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 3.5/5

The film comes closer to working than it has any right to, given the curious casting (Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel) and director Ridley Scott's inability to sustain dramatic tension or build a coherent scene.

January 1, 2000 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Duellists


At the beginning I was growing a little bored with this film, a lot of talk and nothing much interesting at that. Slowly you do get a sense of the two main characters and who they are, what they want, and there is the plot. Two soldiers at each others throats through the Napoleonic era from a simple silly cross of words. It sounds almost stupid but the story shows great human emotion as you follow Carradine's character, watching him grow weary and tired of the feud. Whilst at the same time Keitel is perfect as the egotistical and virtually combat obsessed Feraud who loves a good duel. Feraud's quick temper and short fuse causing the main quibble and many others throughout the story. As time passes we see both characters change and grow in terms of attitudes and maturity as well as looks and styles throughout the age. This is where we see Ridley Scott's attention to detail and his master of visual art. The film looks stunning all the way through from start to finish, the costumes are lavish and accurate right down to the buttons on the men's tunic's (certainly looks that way anyway). The sets are small but look highly authentic whilst the landscapes of Europe are sensational! How Scott got the shots as he wanted is beyond me because it looks as though he made a deal with God for some, he must have waited some time for just the right weather to arrive. Whats more amazing is this was all achieved with no CGI assistance of course. Its all very real which makes it even more impressive and shows just what you can do if you put in some hard graft and really really care about what your doing without simply relying on the lazy digital way out. You would never guess this was made 34 years ago now, the stunning visuals and story play out just as well as any modern historical epic. The sword fights may be few and far between but look perfectly realistic, it really does look as though the men are really having to think about their next move, what they're gonna do next to try and survive. No fancy over the top movements, stunts or showboating for the camera here, its all very strategic looking. I loved the way D'Hubert pauses just before the start of one duel to simply sneeze. Intended? I don't know but its a nice little touch that just makes the moment that little bit more realistic...and aristocratic. Seeing as this was Ridley Scott's first film its a hell of start and really shows his potential. The only thing I would say is the film makes you wanna see more of the history going on around the main characters, alas you don't really see much. Its tantalising and hints at it making you want more but the story feels a tad restricted at times. Watching these two chaps bicker like children over nothing in a very polite way can get a tiny bit stale, but overall you still can't help but adore what you're seeing.

Phil Hubbs
Phil Hubbs

Super Reviewer

Ridley Scott's The Duellists is an impressive period piece and a stunning first full length feature of a director who would carve himself a unique style and become one of the best directors in cinema. The film shows the early stages of what would make Ridley Scott a stunning director. The Duellists is a compelling picture that mixes drama and action in the Napoleonic era. The cast do a fine in their performances and Keith Carradine and Harvey Keitel are wonderful to watch on-screen. I really love period dramas as they reflect the most interesting aspects of history. The film looks great, is well acted and the plot is sure to appeal to cinema buffs that enjoy history based movies. The look of the film was heavily influenced by Stanley Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, and the result is a movie that looks absolutely wonderful. The sets and costumes are authentic to the time period and the result is a film that definitely belongs on the list of the best looking and best told historical dramas. Ridley Scott's direction is wonderful as well, and the film has effective pacing that you involved in the action and drama and above all, the well layered story. If you enjoy Ridley Scott's body of work, give his debut a look, it is well worth watching due to its cast, story and look. The film's obvious strong points are the sword fights, which make up the core of the story. This is a highly engaging film that is among the very best of period pieces. The Duellists is only rivaled by Kubrick's Barry Lyndon, also worth seeing. Both are fine pieces of cinema, but this one has a bit more action, which may appeal more viewers that enjoy a better paced movie rather than a massive epic.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer


it's wonderfully photographed but the story is a bit lacking and the american actors aren't helping with suspension of disbelief. i love harvey keitel but he just can't do everything

Stella Dallas
Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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