The Nun's Story (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Nun's Story1959

The Nun's Story (1959)




Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Nun's Story Photos

Movie Info

Audrey Hepburn stars in The Nun's Story as Sister Luke, postulant of a Belgian order of nuns. Though frequently disillusioned in her efforts to spread good will -- at one point she is nearly killed by a mental patient (Colleen Dewhurst) -- Sister Luke perseveres. Sent as a nurse to the Belgian Congo, an assignment she'd been hoping for, Sister Luke is disappointed to learn that she will not be ministering to the natives but to European patients. Through the example of no-nonsense chief surgeon Peter Finch, the nun sheds her idealism and becomes a diligent worker -- so much so that she contracts tuberculosis. Upon the outbreak of World War II, Sister Luke tries to honor the edicts of her order and not take sides, but this becomes impossible when her father (Dean Jagger) is killed by the Nazis. Realizing that she cannot remain true to her vows, Sister Luke leaves the order and returns to "civilian" life. The Nun's Story ends with a long, silent sequence in which Sister Luke divests herself of her religious robes, dons street garb, and walks out to an uncertain future. There is no background music: director Fred Zinnemann decided that "triumphant" music would indicate that Sister Luke's decision was the right one, while "tragic" music would suggest that she is doing wrong. Rather than make an editorial comment, the director decided against music, allowing the audience members to fill in the blanks themselves. The Nun's Story is based on the book by Kathryn Hulme, whose depiction of convent life was a lot harsher and more judgmental than anything seen in the film. ~ Hal Erickson, Rovi

Watch it now


Audrey Hepburn
as Gabrielle Van Der Mal
Peter Finch
as Dr. Fortunati
Edith Evans
as Mother Emmanuel
Peggy Ashcroft
as Mother Mathilde
Dean Jagger
as Dr. Van Der Mal
Mildred Dunnock
as Sr. Margharita
Beatrice Straight
as Mother Christophe
Patricia Collinge
as Sr. William
Rosalie Crutchley
as Sr. Eleanor
Ruth White
as Mother Marcella
Eva Kotthaus
as Sister Marie
Niall MacGinnis
as Father Vermeuhlen
Barbara O'Neil
as Mother Katherine
Lionel Jeffries
as Dr. Goovaerts
Margaret Phillips
as Sister Pauline
Errol John
as Illunga
Jeannette Sterke
as Louise Van Der Mal
Richard O'Sullivan
as Pierre Van Der Mal
Marina Wolkonsky
as Marie Van Der Mal
Penelope Horner
as Jeannette Milonet
Ave Ninchi
as Sister Bernard
Dara Gavin
as Sister Ellen
Elfrida Simbari
as Sister Timothy
Dorothy Alison
as Sister Aurelie
Molly Urquhart
as Sister Augustine
Frank Singuineau
as Murderer of Sister Aurelie
View All

Critic Reviews for The Nun's Story

All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4)

Fred Zinnemann's production is a soaring and luminous film.

November 1, 2007 | Full Review…

It's still a long haul (made no lighter by Franz Waxman's abominably insistent score) for anyone not committed to theological problems of faith, conscience and obedience.

June 24, 2006
Top Critic

Certainly doesn't offer the positive depiction of religious life common in 1950s Hollywood, but it's not an anti-religious or anti-Catholic depiction either.

April 12, 2006 | Rating: B | Full Review…

In the role of the nun, Miss Hepburn is fluent and luminous.

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

When the plot turns up, Zinnemann reduces each heroism to kernel size and then resumes his tasteful but rather insipid documentation.

September 14, 2021 | Full Review…

Although it is a drama that interrogates the moral dilemmas and contradictions of religious faith with an organic performance from Hepburn, the portrayal of a nun's crisis of conscience seems futile and a bit redundant. [Full review in Spanish]

February 24, 2021 | Rating: 5/10 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Nun's Story

Audrey Hepburn is superb as the nun who undergoes a number of personal changes as a sister in an order of nuns. The ending is blunt in a positive way.

John Ballantine
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

Having been raised in a Catholic School, this paints a pretty accurate pic of nuns -- I'm sorry she left, because she had more common sense than all the others

Tom Ericksen
Tom Ericksen

Super Reviewer

So very long, but it was alright besides.

Leigh Ryan
Leigh Ryan

Super Reviewer

The Nun's Story Quotes

News & Features