515 user 169 critic

The Wicker Man (1973)

1:30 | Trailer
A puritan Police Sergeant is sent to a Scottish island village in search of a missing girl who the townsfolk claim never existed; stranger still are the pagan rites that take place there.


Robin Hardy


Anthony Shaffer (screenplay)
2,128 ( 387)
2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Edward Woodward ... Sergeant Howie
Christopher Lee ... Lord Summerisle
Diane Cilento ... Miss Rose
Britt Ekland ... Willow
Ingrid Pitt ... Librarian
Lindsay Kemp ... Alder MacGreagor
Russell Waters Russell Waters ... Harbour Master
Aubrey Morris ... Old Gardener / Gravedigger
Irene Sunters Irene Sunters ... May Morrison (as Irene Sunter)
Walter Carr ... School Master
Ian Campbell Ian Campbell ... Oak
Leslie Blackater Leslie Blackater ... Hairdresser
Roy Boyd Roy Boyd ... Broome
Peter Brewis Peter Brewis ... Musician
Barbara Rafferty Barbara Rafferty ... Woman with Baby (as Barbara Ann Brown)
Learn more

More Like This 

Drama | Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A married couple grieving the recent death of their young daughter are in Venice when they encounter two elderly sisters, one of whom is psychic and brings a warning from beyond.

Director: Nicolas Roeg
Stars: Julie Christie, Donald Sutherland, Hilary Mason
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 3.7/10 X  

A sheriff investigating the disappearance of a young girl from a small island discovers there's a larger mystery to solve among the island's secretive, neo-pagan community.

Director: Neil LaBute
Stars: Nicolas Cage, Ellen Burstyn, Leelee Sobieski
Suspiria (1977)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

An American newcomer to a prestigious German ballet academy comes to realize that the school is a front for something sinister amid a series of grisly murders.

Director: Dario Argento
Stars: Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Two siblings and three of their friends en route to visit their grandfather's grave in Texas end up falling victim to a family of cannibalistic psychopaths and must survive the terrors of Leatherface and his family.

Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal, Allen Danziger
Drama | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

A young couple trying for a baby move into a fancy apartment surrounded by peculiar neighbors.

Director: Roman Polanski
Stars: Mia Farrow, John Cassavetes, Ruth Gordon
The Omen (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Mysterious deaths surround an American ambassador. Could the child that he is raising actually be the Antichrist? The Devil's own son?

Director: Richard Donner
Stars: Gregory Peck, Lee Remick, Harvey Stephens
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A ragtag group of Pennsylvanians barricade themselves in an old farmhouse to remain safe from a bloodthirsty, flesh-eating breed of monsters who are ravaging the East Coast of the United States.

Director: George A. Romero
Stars: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman
The Evil Dead (1981)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Five friends travel to a cabin in the woods, where they unknowingly release flesh-possessing demons.

Director: Sam Raimi
Stars: Bruce Campbell, Ellen Sandweiss, Richard DeManincor
The Exorcist (1973)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

When a 12 year-old girl is possessed by a mysterious entity, her mother seeks the help of two priests to save her.

Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Ellen Burstyn, Max von Sydow, Linda Blair
The Fly (1986)
Drama | Horror | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A brilliant but eccentric scientist begins to transform into a giant man/fly hybrid after one of his experiments goes horribly wrong.

Director: David Cronenberg
Stars: Jeff Goldblum, Geena Davis, John Getz
Carrie (1976)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Carrie White, a shy, friendless teenage girl who is sheltered by her domineering, religious mother, unleashes her telekinetic powers after being humiliated by her classmates at her senior prom.

Director: Brian De Palma
Stars: Sissy Spacek, Piper Laurie, Amy Irving
Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Following an ever-growing epidemic of zombies that have risen from the dead, two Philadelphia S.W.A.T. team members, a traffic reporter, and his television executive girlfriend seek refuge in a secluded shopping mall.

Director: George A. Romero
Stars: David Emge, Ken Foree, Scott H. Reiniger


On Sunday, April 29, 1973, Sergeant Neil Howie with the West Highland Constabulary flies solo to Summerisle off the coast of Scotland. He is there to follow up on a letter addressed specifically to him from an anonymous source on Summerisle reporting that a twelve year old girl who lives on the island, Rowan Morrison, the daughter of May Morrison, has long been missing. The correspondence includes a photograph of Rowan. Upon his arrival on Summerisle, Howie finds that the locals are a seemingly simple minded lot who provide little information beyond the fact that they know of no Rowan Morrison and do not know the girl in the photo. Mrs. Morrison admits to having a daughter, seven year old Myrtle, but no Rowan. As Howie speaks to more and more people, he begins to believe that Rowan does or did live on the island, but that the locals are hiding their knowledge of her. He also begins to see that the locals all have pagan beliefs, their "religion" which centers on procreation as the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


"You'll simply never understand the true nature of sacrifice." See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The music for this movie was recorded before filming took place. See more »


When Howie listens to Willow singing while nude, he grabs a picture on the wall and leaves it hanging crooked. As he steps away, it is straight again. When Willow comes into his room the next morning, the picture is crooked again and she straightens it. See more »


[first lines]
Sergeant Howie: [yelling] Will you send a dinghy, please?
See more »

Crazy Credits

[Short Version only] A message from the producers thanks "The Lord Summerisle and the people of his island" for co-operating in the making of the film. This is despite both the lord and the island being totally fictitious. See more »

Alternate Versions

The 1978 Magnum Entertainment VHS version released in the USA is uncut. See more »


The Landlord's Daughter
Written by Paul Giovanni
Performed by Roy Boyd, John McGregor, Ian Campbell, Walter Carr, John Young, Donald Eccles, Lindsay Kemp, Russell Waters and chorus
See more »

User Reviews

Proof that the British horror genre was once great?
3 June 2008 | by johnnyboyzSee all my reviews

There is a distinct air of menace flowing throughout The Wicker Man, a distinct feeling of unwelcome and unkind put across in the most brilliant of manners because everyone acts so nicely. Then there is the awful feeling you get at certain points when you realise the character of Sergeant Howie (Woodward) is in actual fact a policeman and what might happen if he hadn't been. The Wicker Man is really a mere exercise in suspense on the surface but I think it toys with other, more political ideas during the core of the film before substituting everything and just focussing very briefly on the religious aspects it raises.

For Sergeant Howie, he is bordering on the ultimate fish-out-of-water. Howie may be British and may well still be in Britain but that does not exclude him from the fish-out-of-water treatment that other film characters get when they are in that respective situation (see Doyle in 'French Connection II' and Neo in 'The Matrix' among many other examples). Howie is a man of pride; a man with ideas, discipline and rules and regulations he likes to stand by. He is a thorough man and this is partly his downfall since it is this case that is so difficult, it sees him assigned to it. Howie is on a remote Scottish isle investigating a disappearance of a young girl but while remaining within the boundaries of his own world; his own language and even his own country, Howie will find the going difficult and complicated due to several unsuspecting and eerie things.

Firstly, the location of the island is important because it obviously resembles a sort of detachment from the mainland or indeed the rest of the world. There is special care taken to tell the audience as well as Howie that the mainland is a good week or so away by boat. So within this isolated utopia for the locals develops a sub-culture, a world in which people are people but methods of teaching, governing and religion are very different. This can be read into as some sort of political statement by the writer of the film – perhaps he is bringing to attention the level of policing in Britain for the time? There is no suspicion from Howie at all in the film but I noticed very quickly there was no police station nor was there any feeling that rules were apparent. The whole island was governed by a mysterious, never seen man and look at what situation the island locals were in, in terms of mentality.

So if this island is a society without law and order; without a stone wall ruling on the most basic humane regulations, is the writer trying to bring to our attention the dangers of lack of authority in our own country? But The Wicker Man is not entirely an ambiguous text revolving around statements on our own world and society. It is a chilling and haunting horror film that predominantly falls into the 'Gothic' typecast due to its minute details on screen. There is a distinct ritualistic tone to the film and it is one that is fetishised. Several years earlier, Christopher Lee himself starred in the highly fetishised 'Dracula'. Here, shots of naked people sitting on grave stones and people having sex in graveyards, maybe to merely gross the 1973 audience out or to just make us aware that this is indeed going to be different, are included and add an ever present layer of disturbance but also one of ambiguity – why is it that people here do these things? To combine sex with a place of death can be linked with the film's overall theme. The man in the scene around the maypole sings a song about evolution and reproduction and generally about a certain circle of life. From here, it is only obvious that the act of reproduction (sex) to produce new life would take place in a location in which you bury the dead. Life goes on, it seems.

Then there is that extra evidence to suggest this is one of the great Gothic horrors. How may of the cast are actually playing themselves? There are the people in the public house and the elderly folk by the harbour. This gives off its own air of disturbance in the sense they might be playing themselves and what with the commentary on society as a whole, the two seem to bind together all the too nicely. Then there is the attention to faces early on. The chocolates in the baker's window have faces on them and the close up of the pub sign has a face on it. There is also the excessive wearing of masks later on as identity is toyed and revealed but generally kept ambiguous. Is this the future of the society circa 1973? Do we know what we believe in terms of religion? And where we are going in the future? What about the schools and the policing? Will this be the sad reality of a nation gone mad if these things are cut back on? I think these are the sorts of questions the writers are raising by making a film like this and it must've been all the more disturbing in 1973.

So if The Wicker Man succeeds as a statement then it certainly succeeds as a piece of Gothic horror. It mixes in the uncanny with the surreal and it carries a distinct atmosphere of dread all throughout. There is ambiguity all over the place but I especially liked the attention to the film's music: is it diegetic or not? Sometimes it is and others it isn't but it's such a head-trip of a soundtrack that it's difficult to notice most of the time. This surely one of the better British films ever made.

11 of 14 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 515 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »






Release Date:

7 August 1974 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Wicker Man See more »


Box Office


$810,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,493, 29 September 2013

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (extended) | (final cut)

Sound Mix:



Color (Eastmancolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed