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Schindler's List (film)

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Schindler's List (film)

This article is about the film. For the book that inspired this film (published in the US as Schindler's List), see Schindler's Ark. For the actual list, see List of Schindlerjuden.
Schindler's List
File:Schindler's List movie.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Steven Spielberg
Produced by Template:Plainlist
Screenplay by Steven Zaillian
Based on Schindler's Ark  
by Thomas Keneally
Starring Template:Plainlist
Music by John Williams
Cinematography Janusz Kamiński
Editing by Michael Kahn
Studio Amblin Entertainment
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release date(s)Template:Plainlist
Running time 197 minutes[1]
Country Template:Plainlist
Language Template:Plainlist
Budget $22 million[2]
Box office $321.2 million[3]

Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist. The film is based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as Schutzstaffel (SS) officer Amon Goeth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler's Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. John Williams composed the score.

Ideas for a film about the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) were proposed as early as 1963. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden, made it his life's mission to tell the story of Schindler. Spielberg became interested in the story when executive Sid Sheinberg sent him a book review of Schindler's Ark. Universal Studios bought the rights to the novel, but Spielberg, unsure if he was ready to make a film about the Holocaust, tried to pass the project to several other directors before finally deciding to direct the film himself.

Principal photography took place in Kraków, Poland, over the course of 72 days in 1993. Spielberg shot the film in black and white and approached it like a documentary. Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński wanted to give the film a sense of timelessness. John Williams composed the score, and violinist Itzhak Perlman performs the film's main theme.

Schindler's List premiered on November 30, 1993, in Washington, D.C. and it was released on December 15, 1993, in the United States. Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, it was also a box office success, earning $321.2 million worldwide on a $22 million budget. It was the recipient of seven Academy Awards (out of twelve nominations), including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards ( including seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globes). In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked the film 8th on its list of the 100 best American films of all time. The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.


In 1939, the Germans move Polish Jews into the Kraków Ghetto as World War II begins. Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German, arrives in the city hoping to make his fortune. A member of the Nazi Party, Schindler lavishes bribes on Wehrmacht (German armed forces) and SS officials and acquires a factory to produce enamelware. To help him run the business, Schindler enlists the aid of Itzhak Stern, a local Jewish official who has contacts with black marketeers and the Jewish business community. Stern helps Schindler arrange loans to finance the factory. Schindler maintains friendly relations with the Nazis and enjoys wealth and status as "Herr Direktor", and Stern handles administration. Schindler hires Jewish workers because they cost less, while Stern ensures that as many people as possible are deemed essential to the German war effort, which saves them from being transported to concentration camps or killed.

SS-Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) Amon Goeth arrives in Kraków to oversee construction of Płaszów concentration camp. When the camp is completed, he orders the ghetto liquidated. Many people are shot and killed in the process of emptying the ghetto. Schindler witnesses the massacre and is profoundly affected. He particularly notices a tiny girl in a red coat – one of the few splashes of color in the black-and-white film – as she hides from the Nazis. When he later sees the red coat on a wagon loaded with bodies being taken away to be burned, he knows the girl is dead. Schindler is careful to maintain his friendship with Goeth and, through bribery and lavish gifts, continues to enjoy SS support. Goeth brutally mistreats his maid and randomly shoots people from the balcony of his villa, and the prisoners are in constant daily fear for their lives. As time passes, Schindler's focus shifts from making money to trying to save as many lives as possible. He bribes Goeth into allowing him to build a sub-camp for his workers so that he can better protect them.

As the Germans begin to lose the war, Goeth is ordered to ship the remaining Jews at Płaszów to Auschwitz concentration camp. Schindler asks Goeth to allow him to move his workers to a new munitions factory he plans to build in his home town of Zwittau-Brinnlitz. Goeth agrees, but charges a huge bribe. Schindler and Stern create "Schindler's List" – a list of people to be transferred to Brinnlitz and thus saved from transport to Auschwitz.

As Schindler's workers begin to arrive at the new site, the train carrying the women is accidentally redirected to Auschwitz. Schindler bribes the commandant of Auschwitz with a bag of diamonds to win their release. At the new factory, Schindler forbids the SS guards to enter the production areas and encourages the Jews to observe the Sabbath. To keep his workers alive, he spends much of his fortune bribing Nazi officials and buying shell casings from other companies; his factory does not produce any usable armaments during its seven months of operation. Schindler runs out of money just as Germany surrenders, ending the war in Europe.

As a Nazi Party member and war profiteer, Schindler must flee the advancing Red Army to avoid capture. The SS guards have been ordered to kill the Jews, but Schindler persuades them to return to their families as men, not murderers. He bids farewell to his workers and prepares to head west, hoping to surrender to the Americans. The workers give Schindler a signed statement attesting to his role saving Jewish lives, together with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: "He who saves one life saves the world entire". Schindler is touched but is also deeply ashamed, as he feels he should have done even more. As the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) awaken the next morning, a Soviet soldier announces that they have been liberated. The Jews leave the factory and walk to a nearby town.

After some scenes depicting Goeth's execution and a summary of Schindler's later life, the black-and-white frame changes to a color shot of actual Schindlerjuden at Schindler's grave in Jerusalem. Accompanied by the actors who portrayed them, the Schindlerjuden place stones on the grave. In the final scene, Neeson places a pair of roses on the grave.



The film explores the theme of good versus evil, using as its main protagonist a "good German", a popular characterization in American cinema.[4][5] While Goeth is characterised as an almost completely dark and evil person, Schindler gradually evolves from Nazi supporter to rescuer and hero.[6] Thus a second theme of redemption is introduced as Schindler, a disreputable schemer on the edges of respectability, becomes a father figure responsible for saving the lives of over a thousand people.[7][8]



Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden, made it his life's mission to tell the story of his savior. Pfefferberg attempted to produce a biopic of Oskar Schindler with MGM in 1963, with Howard Koch writing, but the deal fell through.[9][10] In 1982, Thomas Keneally published his historical novel Schindler's Ark, which he wrote after a chance meeting with Pfefferberg in Los Angeles in 1980.[11] MCA president Sid Sheinberg sent director Steven Spielberg a New York Times review of the book. Spielberg, astounded by Schindler's story, jokingly asked if it was true. "I was drawn to it because of the paradoxical nature of the character," he said. "What would drive a man like this to suddenly take everything he had earned and put it all in the service of saving these lives?"[12] Spielberg expressed enough interest for Universal Pictures to buy the rights to the novel.[12] At their first meeting in spring 1983, he told Pfefferberg he would start filming in ten years.[13] In the end credits of the film, Pfefferberg is credited as a consultant under the name Leopold Page.[1]

Spielberg was unsure if he was mature enough to make a film about the Holocaust, and the project remained "on [his] guilty conscience". Spielberg tried to pass the project to director Roman Polanski, who turned it down. Polanski's mother was killed at Auschwitz, and he had lived in and survived the Kraków Ghetto.[13] Polanski eventually directed his own Holocaust drama, The Pianist, in 2002. Spielberg also offered the film to Sydney Pollack and Martin Scorsese, who was attached to direct Schindler's List in 1988. However, Spielberg was unsure of letting Scorsese direct the film, as "I'd given away a chance to do something for my children and family about the Holocaust."[14] Spielberg offered him the chance to direct the 1991 remake of Cape Fear instead.[15] Billy Wilder expressed an interest in directing the film as a memorial to his family, most of whom died in the Holocaust.[5]

Spielberg finally decided to take on the project when he noticed that Holocaust deniers were being given serious consideration by the media. With the rise of neo-Nazism after the fall of the Berlin Wall, he worried that people were too accepting of intolerance, as they were in the 1930s.[5] Sid Sheinberg greenlit the film on one condition: that Spielberg make Jurassic Park first. Spielberg later said, "He knew that once I had directed Schindler I wouldn't be able to do Jurassic Park."[2] The picture was assigned a small budget of $22 million, as Holocaust films are not usually profitable.[16][2] Spielberg forewent a salary for the film, calling it "blood money", and believed the film would flop.[2]

In 1983, Keneally was hired to adapt his book, and he turned in a 220-page script. His adaptation focused on Schindler's numerous relationships, and Keneally admitted he did not compress the story enough. Spielberg hired Kurt Luedtke, who had adapted the screenplay of Out of Africa, to write the next draft. Luedtke gave up almost four years later, as he found Schindler's change of heart too unbelievable.[14] During his time as director, Scorsese hired Steven Zaillian to write a script. When he was handed back the project, Spielberg found Zaillian's 115-page draft too short, and asked him to extend it to 195 pages. Spielberg wanted more focus on the Jews in the story, and he wanted Schindler's transition to be gradual and ambiguous, not a sudden breakthrough or epiphany. He extended the ghetto liquidation sequence, as he "felt very strongly that the sequence had to be almost unwatchable."[14]


Liam Neeson auditioned as Oskar Schindler early on, and was cast in December 1992, after Spielberg saw him perform in Anna Christie on Broadway.[17] Warren Beatty participated in a script reading, but Spielberg was concerned that he could not disguise his accent and that he would bring "movie star baggage".[18] Kevin Costner and Mel Gibson expressed interest in portraying Schindler, but Spielberg preferred to cast the relatively unknown Neeson, so the actor's star quality would not overpower the character.[19] Neeson felt Schindler enjoyed outsmarting the Nazis, who regarded him as a bit of a buffoon. "They don't quite take him seriously, and he used that to full effect."[20] To help him prepare for the role, Spielberg showed Neeson film clips of Time Warner CEO Steve Ross, who had a charisma that Spielberg compared to Schindler's.[21] He also located a tape of Schindler speaking, which Neeson studied to learn the correct intonations and pitch.[22]

Ralph Fiennes was cast as Amon Goeth after Spielberg viewed his performances in A Dangerous Man: Lawrence After Arabia and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Spielberg said of Fiennes' audition that "I saw sexual evil. It is all about subtlety: there were moments of kindness that would move across his eyes and then instantly run cold."[23] Fiennes put on 28 pounds (13 kg) to play the role. He watched historic newsreels and talked to Holocaust survivors who knew Goeth. In portraying him, Fiennes said "I got close to his pain. Inside him is a fractured, miserable human being. I feel split about him, sorry for him. He's like some dirty, battered doll I was given and that I came to feel peculiarly attached to."[23] Fiennes looked so much like Goeth in costume that when Mila Pfefferberg (a survivor of the events) met him, she trembled with fear.[23]

The character of Itzhak Stern (played by Ben Kingsley) is a composite of accountant Stern, factory manager Abraham Bankier, and Goeth's personal secretary, Mietek Pemper.[24] The character serves as Schindler's alter ego and conscience.[25] Kingsley is well known for his Academy Award winning performance as Gandhi in the 1982 biographical film.[26]

Overall, there are 126 speaking parts in the film. Thousands of extras were hired during filming.[14] Spielberg cast Israeli and Polish actors specially chosen for their Eastern European appearance.[27] Many of the German actors found it repugnant to don the SS uniform, but some of them later thanked Spielberg for the cathartic experience of performing in the movie.[18] Halfway through the shoot, Spielberg conceived the epilogue, where 128 survivors pay their respects at Schindler's grave in Jerusalem. The producers scrambled to find the Schindlerjuden and fly them in to film the scene.[14]


Principal photography began on March 1, 1993 in Kraków, Poland, with a planned schedule of 75 days.[28] The crew shot at or near the actual locations, though the Płaszów camp had to be reconstructed in a nearby abandoned quarry, as modern high rise apartments were visible from the site of the original camp.[29][30] Interior shots of the enamelware factory in Kraków were filmed at a similar facility in Olkusz, while exterior shots and the scenes on the factory stairs were filmed at the actual factory.[31] The crew was forbidden to do extensive shooting or construct sets on the grounds at Auschwitz, so they shot at a replica constructed just outside the entrance.[32] There were some antisemitic incidents. A woman who encountered Fiennes in his Nazi uniform told him that "the Germans were charming people. They didn't kill anybody who didn't deserve it".[23] Antisemitic symbols were scrawled on billboards near shooting locations,[14] while Kingsley nearly entered a brawl with an elderly German-speaking businessman who insulted Israeli actor Michael Schneider.[33] Nonetheless, Spielberg stated that at Passover, "all the German actors showed up. They put on yarmulkes and opened up Haggadas, and the Israeli actors moved right next to them and began explaining it to them. And this family of actors sat around and race and culture were just left behind."[33]

"I was hit in the face with my personal life. My upbringing. My Jewishness. The stories my grandparents told me about the Shoah. And Jewish life came pouring back into my heart. I cried all the time."

—Steven Spielberg on his emotional state during the shoot[34]

Shooting Schindler's List was deeply emotional for Spielberg, the subject matter forcing him to confront elements of his childhood, such as the antisemitism he faced. He was surprised that he did not cry while visiting Auschwitz; instead he found himself angry and filled with outrage. He was one of many crew members who could not force themselves to watch during shooting of the scene where aging Jews are forced to run naked while being selected by Nazi doctors to go to Auschwitz.[35] Spielberg commented that he felt more like a reporter than a film maker – he would set up scenes and then watch events unfold, almost as though he were witnessing them rather than creating a movie.[29] Several actresses broke down when filming the shower scene, including one who was born in a concentration camp.[18] Spielberg, his wife Kate Capshaw, and their five children rented a house in suburban Kraków for the duration of filming.[36] He later thanked his wife "for rescuing me ninety-two days in a row ... when things just got too unbearable."[37] Robin Williams called Spielberg to cheer him up, because there was very little humor on the set.[37] Spielberg spent several hours each evening editing Jurassic Park, which was scheduled to premiere in June 1993.[38]

Spielberg occasionally used German and Polish language in scenes to recreate the feeling of being present in the past. He initially considered making the film entirely in those languages, but decided "there's too much safety in reading. It would have been an excuse to take their eyes off the screen and watch something else."[18]


Influenced by the 1985 documentary film Shoah, Spielberg decided not to plan the film with storyboards, and to shoot it like a documentary. Forty percent of the film was shot with handheld cameras, and the modest budget meant the film was shot quickly over seventy-two days.[39] Spielberg felt that this gave the film "a spontaneity, an edge, and it also serves the subject."[40] He "got rid of the crane, got rid of the Steadicam, got rid of the zoom lenses, got rid of everything that for me might be considered a safety net."[40] This matured Spielberg, who felt that in the past he had always been paying tribute to directors such as Cecil B. DeMille or David Lean.[33]

The decision to shoot the film mainly in black and white lent to the documentary style of cinematography, which cinematographer Janusz Kamiński compared to German Expressionism and Italian neorealism.[40] Kamiński said that he wanted to give the impression of timelessness to the film, so the audience would "not have a sense of when it was made."[29] Spielberg decided use black and white to match the feel of actual documentary footage of the era.[40] Universal chairman Tom Pollock asked him to shoot the film on a color negative, to allow color VHS copies of the film to later be sold, but Spielberg did not want to accidentally "beautify events."[40]


John Williams composed the score for Schindler's List. The composer was amazed by the film, and felt it would be too challenging. He said to Spielberg, "You need a better composer than I am for this film." Spielberg responded, "I know. But they're all dead!"[41] Itzhak Perlman performs the theme on the violin.[1]

Regarding Schindler's List, Perlman said:

Perlman: "I couldn't believe how authentic he [John Williams] got everything to sound, and I said, 'John, where did it come from?' and he said, 'Well I had some practice with Fiddler on the Roof and so on, and everything just came very naturally' and that's the way it sounds."

Interviewer: "When you were first approached to play for Schindler's List, did you give it a second thought, did you agree at once, or did you say 'I'm not sure I want to play for movie music'?

Perlman: "No, that never occurred to me, because in that particular case the subject of the movie was so important to me, and I felt that I could contribute simply by just knowing the history, and feeling the history, and indirectly actually being a victim of that history."[42]

In the scene where the ghetto is being liquidated by the Nazis, the folk song "Oyfn Pripetshik" ("On the Cooking Stove") (Yiddish: אויפֿן פּריפּעטשיק) is sung by a children's choir. The song was often sung by Spielberg's grandmother, Becky, to her grandchildren.[43] The clarinet solos heard in the film were recorded by Klezmer virtuoso Giora Feidman.[44] Williams won an Academy Award for Best Original Score for Schindler's List, his fifth win.[45]


The girl in red

While the film is shot primarily in black and white, a red coat is used to distinguish a little girl in the scene depicting the liquidation of the Kraków ghetto. Later in the film, Schindler sees her dead body, recognizable only by the red coat she is still wearing. Spielberg said the scene was intended to symbolise how members of the highest levels of government in the United States knew the Holocaust was occurring, yet did nothing to stop it. "It was as obvious as a little girl wearing a red coat, walking down the street, and yet nothing was done to bomb the German rail lines. Nothing was being done to slow down ... the annihilation of European Jewry," he said. "So that was my message in letting that scene be in color."[46] Andy Patrizio of IGN notes that the point at which Schindler sees the girl's dead body is the point at which he changes, no longer seeing "the ash and soot of burning corpses piling up on his car as just an annoyance."[47] Professor André H. Caron of the Université de Montréal wonders if the red symbolises "innocence, hope or the red blood of the Jewish people being sacrificed in the horror of the Holocaust."[48]

The girl was portrayed by Oliwia Dabrowska, three years old at the time of filming. Spielberg asked Dabrowska not to watch the film until she was eighteen, but she watched it when she was eleven, and was "horrified."[49] Upon seeing the film again as an adult, she was proud of the role she played.[49] Although it was unintentional, the character is similar to Roma Ligocka, who was known in the Kraków Ghetto for her red coat. Ligocka, unlike her fictional counterpart, survived the Holocaust. After the film was released, she wrote and published her own story, The Girl in the Red Coat: A Memoir (2002, in translation).[50]


The opening scene features a family observing the Shabbat. Spielberg said that "to start the film with the candles being lit ... would be a rich bookend, to start the film with a normal Shabbat service before the juggernaut against the Jews begins."[14] When the color fades out in the film's opening moments, it gives way to a world in which smoke comes to symbolize bodies being burnt at Auschwitz. Only at the end, when Schindler allows his workers to hold Shabbat services, do the images of candle fire regain their warmth. For Spielberg, they represent "just a glint of color, and a glimmer of hope."[14] Sara Horowitz, director of the Koschitzky Centre for Jewish Studies at York University, sees the candles as a symbol for the Jews of Europe, killed and then burned in the crematoria. The two scenes bracket the Nazi era, marking its beginning and end.[51] She points out that normally the woman of the house lights the Sabbath candles and intones the Kiddush. In the film it is men who perform these rituals, demonstrating not only the subservient role of women, but also the subservient position of Jewish men in relation to Aryan men, especially Goeth and Schindler.[52]

Other symbolism

To Spielberg, the black and white presentation of the film came to represent the Holocaust itself: "The Holocaust was life without light. For me the symbol of life is color. That's why a film about the Holocaust has to be in black-and-white."[53] Robert Gellately notes the film in its entirety can be seen as a metaphor for the Holocaust, with early sporadic violence increasing into a crescendo of death and destruction. He also notes a parallel between the situation of the Jews in the film and the debate in Nazi Germany between making use of the Jews for slave labor or exterminating them outright.[54] Water is seen as giving deliverance by Alan Mintz, Holocaust Studies professor at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York. He notes its presence in the scene where Schindler arranges for some cattle cars loaded with victims awaiting transport to be hosed down, and the scene in Auschwitz, where the women are given an actual shower instead of receiving the expected gassing.[55]


The film opened on December 15, 1993. By the time it closed in theaters on September 29, 1994, it had grossed $96.1 million in the United States and over $321.2 million worldwide.[56] In Germany, where it was shown in 500 theaters, the film was viewed by over 100,000 people in its first week alone[57] and was eventually seen by six million people.[58] It remained number one in box office receipts in Germany for some time and was a success worldwide.[59]

Schindler's List made its US network television premiere on NBC on February 23, 1997. Shown without commercials, it gained the highest Nielsen rating for any film since NBC's broadcast of Jurassic Park in May 1995. The broadcast was viewed by an estimated 65 million people.[60] The film aired on public television in Israel on Holocaust Memorial Day in 1998.[61]

The DVD was released on March 9, 2004 in widescreen and fullscreen editions, on a double-sided disc with the feature film beginning on side A and continuing on side B. Special features include a documentary introduced by Spielberg.[62] Also released for both formats was a limited edition gift set, which included the widescreen version of the film, Keneally's novel, the film's soundtrack on CD, a senitype, and a photo booklet titled Schindler's List: Images of the Steven Spielberg Film, all housed in a plexiglass case.[63] The laserdisc gift set was a limited edition, with only 10,000 copies manufactured. The set included the soundtrack, the original novel, and an exclusive photo booklet.[64] As part of its 20th anniversary, the movie was released on Blu-ray Disc on March 5, 2013.[65]

Following the success of the film, Spielberg founded the Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, a nonprofit organization with the goal of providing an archive for the filmed testimony of as many survivors of the Holocaust as possible, to save their stories. He continues to finance that work.[66] Spielberg used proceeds from the film to finance several related documentaries, includingAnne Frank Remembered (1995), The Lost Children of Berlin (1996), and The Last Days (1998).[67]


Critical response

Schindler's List is widely acclaimed as a remarkable achievement by film critics and audiences.[68] Notable Americans such as talk show host Oprah Winfrey and President Bill Clinton urged their countrymen to see it.[69][3] World leaders in many countries saw the film, and some met personally with Spielberg.[3] Stephen Schiff of The New Yorker called it the best fiction feature about the Holocaust, a movie that "will take its place in cultural history and remain there."[70] Roger Ebert described it as Spielberg's best, "brilliantly acted, written, directed, and seen."[71] Terrence Rafferty, also with The New Yorker, admired the film's "narrative boldness, visual audacity, and emotional directness." He noted the performances of Neeson, Fiennes, Kingsley, and Davidtz as warranting special praise,[72] and calls the scene in the shower at Auschwitz "the most terrifying sequence ever filmed."[73] James Verniere of the Boston Herald noted the film's restraint and lack of sensationalism, and called it a "major addition to the body of work about the Holocaust."[74] In his review for the New York Review of Books, British critic John Gross said his misgivings that the story would be overly sentimentalized "were altogether misplaced. Spielberg shows a firm moral and emotional grasp of his material. The film is an outstanding achievement."[75] Mintz notes that even the film's harshest critics admire the "visual brilliance" of the fifteen-minute segment depicting the liquidation of the Kraków ghetto. He describes the sequence as "realistic" and "stunning".[76] He points out that the film has done much to increase Holocaust remembrance and awareness as the remaining survivors pass away, severing the last living links with the catastrophe.[77] The film's release in Germany led to widespread discussion about why most Germans didn't do more to help.[78]

Criticism of the film also appeared, mostly from academia rather than the popular press.[79] Horowitz points out that much of the Jewish activity seen in the ghetto consists of financial transactions such as lending money, trading on the black market, or hiding wealth, thus perpetuating a stereotypical view of Jewish life.[80] Horowitz notes that while the depiction of women in the film accurately reflects Nazi ideology, the low status of women and the link between violence and sexuality is depicted unremarked.[81] History professor Omer Bartov of Brown University notes that the physically large and strongly drawn characters of Schindler and Goeth overshadow the Jewish victims, who are depicted as small, scurrying, and frightened – a mere backdrop to the struggle of good versus evil.[82] Horowitz points out that the film's dichotomy of absolute good versus absolute evil glosses over the fact that the vast majority of Holocaust perpetrators were ordinary people; the movie does not explore how the average German rationalized their knowledge of or participation in the Holocaust.[83] Author Jason Epstein commented that the movie gives the impression that if people were smart enough or lucky enough, they could survive the Holocaust; this was not actually the case.[84] Spielberg responded to criticism that Schindler's breakdown as he says farewell is too maudlin and even out of character by pointing out that the scene is needed to drive home the sense of loss and to allow the viewer an opportunity to mourn alongside the characters on the screen.[85]

Assessment by other film makers

Schindler's List was very well received by many of Spielberg's peers. Filmmaker Billy Wilder wrote a long letter of appreciation to Spielberg in which he proclaimed, "They couldn't have gotten a better man. This movie is absolutely perfection."[5] Polanski, who turned down the chance to direct the film, later commented, "I certainly wouldn't have done as good a job as Spielberg because I couldn't have been as objective as he was."[86] He cited Schindler's List as an influence on his 1995 film Death and the Maiden.[87] The success of Schindler's List led filmmaker Stanley Kubrick to abandon his own Holocaust project, Aryan Papers, which would have been about a Jewish boy and his aunt who survive the war by sneaking through Poland while pretending to be Catholic.[88] When scriptwriter Frederic Raphael suggested that Schindler's List was a good representation of the Holocaust, Kubrick commented, "Think that's about the Holocaust? That was about success, wasn't it? The Holocaust is about 6 million people who get killed. Schindler's List is about 600 who don't."[88]

Filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard accused Spielberg of using the film to make a profit of tragedy while Schindler's wife, Emilie Schindler, lived in poverty in Argentina.[89] Keneally disputed claims that she was never paid for her contributions, "not least because I had recently sent Emilie a check myself."[90] He also confirmed with Spielberg's office that payment had been sent from there.[90] Filmmaker Michael Haneke criticized the sequence in which Schindler's women are accidentally sent off to Auschwitz and herded into showers: "There's a scene in that film when we don't know if there's gas or water coming out in the showers in the camp. You can only do something like that with a naive audience like in the United States. It's not an appropriate use of the form. Spielberg meant well – but it was dumb."[91]

The film was attacked by filmmaker and professor Claude Lanzmann, director of the nine-hour Holocaust documentary Shoah, who called Schindler's List a "kitschy melodrama" and a "deformation" of historical truth. Lanzmann was especially critical of Spielberg for viewing the Holocaust through the eyes of a German. Believing his own film to be the definitive account of the Holocaust, Lanzmann complained, "I sincerely thought that there was a time before Shoah, and a time after Shoah, and that after Shoah certain things could no longer be done. Spielberg did them anyway."[92] Spielberg accused him of wanting to be "the only voice in the definitive account of the Holocaust. It amazed me that there could be any hurt feelings in an effort to reflect the truth."[93]

Reaction of the Jewish community

At a 1994 Village Voice symposium about the film, historian Annette Insdorf described how her mother, a survivor of three concentration camps, felt gratitude that the Holocaust story was finally being told in a major film that would be widely viewed.[94] Hungarian Jewish author Imre Kertész, a Holocaust survivor, feels it is impossible for life in a Nazi concentration camp to be accurately portrayed by anyone who did not experience it first-hand. While commending Spielberg for bringing the story to a wide audience, he found the film's final scene at the graveyard neglected the terrible after-effects of the experience on the survivors and implied that they came through emotionally unscathed.[95] Rabbi Uri D. Herscher found the film an "appealing" and "uplifting" demonstration of humanitarianism.[96] Norbert Friedman noted that, like many Holocaust survivors, he reacted with a feeling of solidarity towards Spielberg of a sort normally reserved for other survivors.[97] Albert L. Lewis, Spielberg's childhood rabbi and teacher, described the movie as "Steven's gift to his mother, to his people, and in a sense to himself. Now he is a full human being."[96]


Schindler's List featured on a number of "best of" lists, including the Time magazine's Top Hundred as selected by critics Richard Corliss and Richard Schickel,[98] Time Out magazine's 100 Greatest Films Centenary Poll conducted in 1995,[99] and Leonard Maltin's "100 Must See Movies of the Century".[100] The Vatican named Schindler's List among the most important 45 films ever made.[101] A Channel 4 poll named Schindler's List the ninth greatest film of all time,[102] and it ranked fourth in their 2005 war films poll.[103] Deeming the film "culturally significant", the Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.[104]

Major awards
Category Subject Result
Academy Awards[45]
Best Actor Liam Neeson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Steven Zaillian Won
Best Film Editing Michael Kahn Won
Best Sound Template:Plainlist Nominated
Best Art Direction Template:Plainlist Won
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Won
Best Original Score John Williams WonTemplate:Efn
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Template:Plainlist Nominated
Best Costume Design Anna B. Sheppard Nominated
Best Director Steven Spielberg Won
Best Picture Template:Plainlist Won
BAFTA Awards[105]
Best Actor Liam Neeson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ralph Fiennes Won
Best Editing Michael Kahn Won
Best Makeup and Hair Template:Plainlist Nominated
Best Cinematography Janusz Kamiński Won
Best Music John Williams Won
Best Production Design Allan Starski Nominated
Best Costume Design Anna B. Sheppard Nominated
Best Sound Template:Plainlist Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay Steven Zaillian Won
Best Direction Steven Spielberg Won
Best Film Template:Plainlist Won
Golden Globe Awards[106]
Best Motion Picture – Drama Template:Plainlist Won
Best Director Steven Spielberg Won
Best Original Score John Williams Nominated
Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama Liam Neeson Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Ralph Fiennes Nominated
Best Screenplay Steven Zaillian Won
American Film Institute recognition
Year List Result
1998 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies #9[107]
2003 AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains Oskar Schindler – #13 hero; Amon Goeth – #15 villain[108]
2005 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes "The list is an absolute good. The list is life." – nominated[109]
2006 AFI's 100 Years...100 Cheers #3[110]
2007 AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) #8[111]
2008 AFI's 10 Top 10 #3 epic film[112]


For the 1997 American television showing, the film was broadcast virtually unedited. The telecast was the first to receive a TV-M (now TV-MA) rating under the TV Parental Guidelines that had been established earlier that year.[60] Senator Tom Coburn, then an Oklahoma congressman, said that in airing the film, NBC had brought television "to an all-time low, with full-frontal nudity, violence and profanity", adding that it was an insult to "decent-minded individuals everywhere".[113] Under fire from both Republicans and Democrats, Coburn apologized, saying: "My intentions were good, but I've obviously made an error in judgment in how I've gone about saying what I wanted to say." He clarified his opinion, stating that the film ought to have been aired later at night when there wouldn't be "large numbers of children watching without parental supervision".[114]

Controversy arose in Germany for the film's television premiere on ProSieben. Heavy protests ensued when the station intended to televise it with two commercial breaks. As a compromise, the broadcast included one break, consisting of a short news update and several commercials.[58]

In the Philippines, chief censor Henrietta Mendez ordered cuts of three scenes of sexual intercourse and female nudity before the movie could be shown in theaters. Spielberg refused, and pulled the film from screening in that country. As a result of Mendez's actions, Philippine senators demanded the abolition of the censors board. President Fidel V. Ramos intervened, ruling that the movie could be shown uncut to anyone over the age of 15.[115]

According to Slovak filmmaker Juraj Herz, the scene in which a group of women confuse an actual shower with a gas chamber is taken directly, shot by shot, from his film Zastihla mě noc (Night Caught Up with Me, 1986). Herz wanted to sue, but was unable to come up with the money to fund the effort.[116]

The song "Yerushalayim Shel Zahav" ("Jerusalem of Gold") is featured in the film's soundtrack and plays near the end of the film. This caused some controversy in Israel, as the song, written in 1967, is widely considered an informal anthem of the Israeli victory in the Six-Day War. Prints of the film shown in Israel instead featured "Halikha LeKesariya" ("A Walk to Caesarea") by Hannah Szenes, a World War II resistance fighter.[117]

See also





External links

  • Internet Movie Database
  • TCM Movie Database
  • Box Office Mojo
  • Rotten Tomatoes
  • Metacritic
  • The Shoah Foundation, founded by Steven Spielberg, preserves the testimonies of Holocaust survivors and witnesses
  • Yad Vashem
  • bibliography at UC Berkeley
  • U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum
  • United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Template:Gerald R. Molen Template:AcademyAwardBestPicture 1981-2000 Template:GoldenGlobeBestMotionPictureDrama 1981-2000 Template:BAFTA Best Film 1981-2000

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