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The Professor and the Madman (2019)

Not Rated | | Biography, Drama | 10 May 2019 (USA)
2:22 | Trailer
Professor James Murray begins work compiling words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid-19th century, and receives over 10,000 entries from a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr. William Minor.


Farhad Safinia (as P.B. Shemran)
310 ( 171)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Mel Gibson ... James Murray
Sean Penn ... Dr. William Chester Minor
Eddie Marsan ... Mr. Muncie
Natalie Dormer ... Eliza Merrett
Jennifer Ehle ... Ada Murray
Steve Coogan ... Frederick James Furnivall
Stephen Dillane ... Dr. Richard Brayn
Ioan Gruffudd ... Henry Bradley
Jeremy Irvine ... Charles Hall
Laurence Fox ... Philip Lyttelton Gell
Anthony Andrews ... Benjamin Jowett
Lars Brygmann ... Max Mueller
Bryan Murray ... Henry Liddell
David O'Hara ... Church
Sean Duggan ... Tom Coleman


Professor James Murray begins work compiling words for the first edition of the Oxford English Dictionary in the mid-19th century, and receives over 10,000 entries from a patient at Broadmoor Criminal Lunatic Asylum, Dr. William Minor.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The Incredible True Story That Defined Our World.


Biography | Drama


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


In 2000, Luc Besson planned on producing this film. See more »


Minor has a flashback of the Civil War and we see a man who has lost his leg in battle screaming. But the man has obviously already had surgery on the leg and it is now a healed stump, not a fresh injury. See more »


[first lines]
Lord Chief Justice: Please identify the accused.
Defence Attorney Clarke: Dr. William Chester Minor, Captain Surgeon in the US Army, retired. Dr. Minor has come to our shores seeking sanctuary. In his home country on the United States, he was pursued relentlessly by a man pledged to torture and kill him.
See more »


Referenced in Evening Urgant: Artem Dzyaba/Zivert (2019) See more »

User Reviews

An endeavour of unanticipated heft
21 March 2019 | by linkogeckoSee all my reviews

Unforeseen: when a movie about people LITERALLY writing a dictionary turns out to be captivating, specially the further it strays from the actual dictionary-writing. "The Professor and the Madman" features Sean Penn and Mel Gibson both retaking characteristics from some of their better-known, pre-controversy roles, with Gibson going back to the "Braveheart" Scottish accent and Penn to the "Dead Man Walking" maybe-redeemable inmate murderer; resulting in a very strong on-screen chemistry.

By the time this movie is released in most markets, its fame will likely stem from its legal issues which lead to Mel Gibson basically disavowing it and director Farhad Safinia doing so in full (the movie is credited to "P.B. Shemran", an Alan Smithee-like alias if there's ever been one). I find this decision suprising as for most of the film I could have easily bought this as a Mel Gibson-directed work. As a filmmaker, he might not have the strongest of auteurial signatures, but said signature that can most easily be defined in the depiction of gore, a fascination with language and Christian faith elements (most obvious in "The Passion of the Christ" and "Hacksaw Ridge"), definitely makes an appearance here.

Not content with Gibson-like directorial decisions, the screenplay fortunately digs deeper into some topics than any Gibson script has. Penn's character's arc in particular is well-developed in creating empathy towards the mentally ill, which is still not common enough nowadays, nevermind in a time when phrenology was still a valid study. The word "redemption", so rare yet supposed to be the most Christian of virtues as well, gets a very strong definition with this character arc. Obsession is touched upon as well, not to Aronofsky-an levels, but still enough to be worthy of a mention.

Considering the unforeseen depth of the treatment of these topics, it's truly unfortunate that there are some cases where the movie relies of the most shallow of tropes to force tension. The worst case of this is the almost-mustache-twirling-villain characters, with no depth or motive beyond antagonizing and foiling our brave heroes. One case in particular is not as tragic when a (until then) well-developed and rounded character inexplicably takes that villanous turn, at least having given us a solid base before. Additionally, the visuals suffer with some establishing shots clearly having made with inferior digital video quality, creating a jarring effect that takes you out of the movie. All in all, despite these shortcomings, "The Professor and the Madman" is a worthy story that goes into unanticipated and fortuitous depths, intensities, profoundities.

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Release Date:

10 May 2019 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Professor and the Madman See more »


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
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