The Graduate
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMike Nichols
Screenplay by
Based onThe Graduate
by Charles Webb
Produced byLawrence Turman
CinematographyRobert Surtees
Edited bySam O'Steen
Music by
Color processTechnicolor
Lawrence Turman Productions
Distributed by
Release dates
  • December 20, 1967 (1967-12-20) (premiere)
  • December 21, 1967 (1967-12-21) (United States)[3]
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3 million
Box office
  • $104.9 million (North America)[4]
  • $85 million (worldwide rentals)[5]

The Graduate is a 1967 American independent[6] romantic comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols[7] and written by Buck Henry and Calder Willingham,[8] based on the 1963 novel of the same name by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. The film tells the story of 21-year-old Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life who is seduced by an older married woman, Mrs. Robinson, but then falls for her daughter, Elaine.

The Graduate was released December 21, 1967, to critical and commercial success, grossing $104.9 million in the United States and Canada, making it the highest-grossing film of 1967. Adjusted for inflation (as of 2021), the film's gross is $857 million, making it the 22nd highest-grossing film in the United States and Canada, with inflation taken into account.[9]

It received seven nominations at the 40th Academy Awards, including for Best Picture and Best Director, the latter being the film's sole win.[10] In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".[11][12] It is currently (as of the 2007 rankings) ranked by the American Film Institute as the 17th greatest American film of all time, having been ranked 7th in 1997.



After earning his bachelor's degree from an East Coast college, Benjamin Braddock returns to his parents' Pasadena, California, home. During his graduation party, hosted by his parents, Benjamin cringes as they and their guests praise him, and he retreats to his bedroom, where Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's law partner, insists that he drive her home. Once there, she tries to seduce him. He initially resists her advances, but later changes his mind and soon invites Mrs. Robinson to the Taft Hotel, where he registers under the surname, "Gladstone".

Benjamin spends the summer floating in his parents' swimming pool by day and meeting Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. During one of their trysts, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she and her husband married after she accidentally became pregnant with their daughter, Elaine. When Benjamin jokingly suggests that he date Elaine, Mrs. Robinson angrily forbids it. However, Benjamin's parents and Mr. Robinson, unaware of the affair, are eager for Benjamin to date Elaine, and relentlessly pester him to ask her out.

Benjamin gives in to his parents' wishes, and he reluctantly takes Elaine on a date, to Mrs. Robinson's displeasure. Ben attempts to sabotage the date by ignoring Elaine, driving recklessly and taking her to a strip club. She flees the club in tears, but Benjamin, feeling remorseful, goes after her, apologizes, and kisses her. They eat at a drive-in restaurant, where they bond over their shared uncertainty about their future plans. After they visit the Taft Hotel for a late-night drink and the staff greet Benjamin as "Mr. Gladstone", Elaine deduces that Benjamin is having an affair. Benjamin admits his affair was with a married woman he does not name. He tells Elaine the affair is over, and asks to see her again.

To prevent Benjamin from dating Elaine, Mrs. Robinson threatens to tell Elaine about their affair. To thwart this, Benjamin reveals to Elaine that the married woman is her mother. Elaine is so upset that she throws Benjamin out of the house. Soon, she returns to school at Berkeley. Benjamin follows her there, hoping to regain her affections. Elaine initially rejects him and briefly dates medical student Carl Smith, but then learns that her mother lied to her when she claimed Benjamin raped her, and the pair reconcile. Benjamin pushes for an early marriage, but Elaine is uncertain despite her feelings for him. Later, an angry Mr. Robinson arrives at Berkeley and confronts Benjamin in his boardinghouse room, where he informs him that he and his wife will be divorcing soon and threatens to have Benjamin jailed if he continues to see Elaine. He then forces Elaine to leave college to marry Carl.

Benjamin drives back to Pasadena, breaks into the Robinson home searching for Elaine; but, confronts Mrs. Robinson, who calls the police claiming her house is being burglarized. She tells Benjamin that he cannot prevent Elaine's marriage to Carl. Benjamin flees and drives back to Berkeley. There, he discovers the wedding is in Santa Barbara that day. He speeds to Santa Barbara but his car runs out of gas a short distance from the church. Benjamin runs to the church, arriving just as the ceremony is ending. His desperate appearance in the glass church gallery stirs Elaine into defying her mother and fleeing the sanctuary. Benjamin fights off Mr. Robinson and repels the wedding guests by swinging a large cross, which he uses to barricade the church doors, trapping everyone inside. Benjamin and Elaine, in her wedding gown, escape aboard a bus and sit among the startled and staring passengers. As the bus drives on, their ecstatic smiles slowly morph into neutral expressions as they begin to ponder their uncertain future.



Richard Dreyfuss makes a brief, uncredited appearance in his second film role as one of the tenants in Mr. McCleery's building. Ben Murphy also has an uncredited appearance, as the shaving fraternity brother who comes out with a double entendre. Mike Farrell was uncredited as a hotel bellhop.



Getting the film made was difficult for Nichols, who, while noted for being a successful Broadway director, was still an unknown in Hollywood. Producer Lawrence Turman, who wanted only Nichols to direct it, was continually turned down for financing. Turman also said that every studio turned down the project, saying "they read the book and hated it, and no one thought it was funny".[13] He then contacted producer Joseph E. Levine, who said he would finance the film because he had associated with Nichols on the play The Knack,[14] and because he heard Elizabeth Taylor specifically wanted Nichols to direct her and Richard Burton in Virginia Woolf.[15]

With financing assured, Nichols suggested Buck Henry for screenwriter, although Henry's experience had also been mostly in improvised comedy, and he had no writing background. Nichols said to Henry, "I think you could do it; I think you should do it."[15] Nichols was paid $150,000, and was to receive one-sixth of the profits.[14]



Nichols' first choice for Mrs. Robinson was French actress Jeanne Moreau.[16] The motivation for this was the cliché that in French culture, "older" women tended to "train" the younger men in sexual matters. Casting for the project was challenging.[17] Doris Day turned down an offer because the nudity required by the role offended her.[18][19][20] Shelley Winters, Ingrid Bergman, Eva Marie Saint, Ava Gardner, Patricia Neal, Susan Hayward, Deborah Kerr, Rita Hayworth, Lana Turner and Geraldine Page were also considered for the role of Mrs. Robinson.[21][15]

Dustin Hoffman was cast as Liebkind in the Mel Brooks film The Producers (1967), but before filming began Hoffman begged Brooks to let him go to audition for The Graduate.[22] When Dustin Hoffman auditioned for the role of Benjamin, he was just short of his 30th birthday at the time of filming. He was asked to perform a love scene with Ross, having previously never done one, and believed that, as he said later, "a girl like [Ross] would never go for a guy like me in a million years". Ross agreed, believing that Hoffman "looked about 3 feet tall ... so unkempt. This is going to be a disaster." Producer Joseph E. Levine later admitted that he at first believed Hoffman "was one of the messenger boys". Despite – or perhaps because of – Hoffman's awkwardness, Nichols chose him for the film.[23]

"As far as I'm concerned, Mike Nichols did a very courageous thing casting me in a part that I was not right for, meaning I was Jewish," said Hoffman. "In fact, many of the reviews were very negative. It was kind of veiled anti-Semitism.... I was called 'big-nosed' in the reviews; 'a nasal voice'."[24] Hoffman was paid $20,000 for his role in the film, but netted just $4,000 after taxes and living expenses. After spending that money, Hoffman filed for New York State unemployment benefits, receiving $55 per week while living in a two-room apartment in the West Village of Manhattan.[25]

Before Hoffman was cast, Robert Redford and Charles Grodin were among the top choices. Redford tested for the part of Benjamin (with Candice Bergen as Elaine), but Nichols thought Redford did not possess the underdog quality Benjamin needed.[15] Grodin turned down the part at first because of the low $500/week salary offered by producer Lawrence Turman. Grodin was offered more money, but declined again because he did not believe he could prepare for a screen test for the film overnight. "If they had given me three days to prepare, I think I would have gotten the role," he said.[21]

Harrison Ford also auditioned for the role of Benjamin Braddock but was turned down.[26]

Burt Ward was informally offered Hoffman's role, but was already committed to the role of Robin in the Batman television series.[27]

Jack Nicholson, Steve McQueen, Anthony Perkins, Warren Beatty, George Peppard, George Hamilton, Keir Dullea, Brandon deWilde and Michael Parks were also considered for the role of Benjamin Braddock.[21][15][28]

Ronald Reagan was considered for the part of Benjamin's father Mr. Braddock, which eventually went to William Daniels.[29] Nichols cast Gene Hackman as Mr. Robinson, but he was later fired after a few days of rehearsals; he was replaced by Murray Hamilton.[30] Hackman would later say being fired from the film still hurts him.[31]

Despite playing mother and daughter, Anne Bancroft and Katharine Ross were only eight years apart in age. Bancroft and Hoffman differed less than six.



The quality of the cinematography was influenced by Nichols, who chose Oscar winner Robert Surtees to do the photography. Surtees, who had photographed major films since the 1920s, including Ben-Hur, said later, "It took everything I had learned over 30 years to be able to do the job. I knew that Mike Nichols was a young director who went in for a lot of camera. We did more things in this picture than I ever did in one film."[15]

Many of the exterior university campus shots of Berkeley were actually filmed on the brick campus of USC in Los Angeles.[32]

The church used for the wedding scene is actually the United Methodist Church in La Verne. In a commentary audio released with the 40th anniversary DVD, Hoffman revealed he was uneasy about the scene in which he pounds on the church window, as the minister of the church had been watching the filming disapprovingly. The wedding scene was highly influenced by the ending of the 1924 comedy film Girl Shy starring Harold Lloyd, who also served as an advisor for the scene in The Graduate.[33][34]



The film boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Originally, Nichols and O'Steen used their existing songs like "The Sound of Silence" merely as a pacing device for the editing, until Nichols decided that substituting original music would not be effective, and decided to include them on the soundtrack, an unusual move at that time.[35]

According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005, issue, Lawrence Turman, his producer, then made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they had nearly finished editing the film, Simon had written only one new song. Nichols begged him for more, but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he did not have the time. He did play a few notes of a new song he had been working on: "It's not for the movie... It's a song about times past — about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff." Nichols advised Simon, "It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt."[36]



The Graduate had a dual world premiere in New York City December 20, 1967, at the Coronet Theatre, and at the Lincoln Art Theatre on 57th Street.[3] Its general release began on December 21, 1967.[3]

Home media


The Graduate was released on Blu-ray by 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment.[37] It was released on DVD by MGM Home Entertainment.[38] In 2016, the film was released by The Criterion Collection with a new 4K digital restoration.[39]

Reception and legacy


Critical response

Anne Bancroft received widespread critical acclaim and numerous accolades for her performance, which earned her a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Actress

The Graduate was met with generally positive reviews from critics upon its release. A.D. Murphy of Variety and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, with Murphy describing it as a "delightful satirical comedy drama",[40] and Ebert claiming it was the "funniest American comedy of the year".[41]

However, Life critic Richard Schickel felt the film "starts out to satirize the alienated spirit of modern youth, does so with uncommon brilliance for its first half, but ends up selling out to the very spirit its creators intended to make fun of... It's a shame – they were halfway to something wonderful when they skidded on a patch of greasy kid stuff."[42]

Pauline Kael wondered, "How could you convince them [younger viewers] that a movie that sells innocence is a very commercial piece of work when they're so clearly in the market to buy innocence?"[43]

Critics continue to praise the film, if not always with the same ardor. For the film's thirtieth anniversary reissue, Ebert retracted some of his previous praise for it, noting that he felt its time had passed, and that he now had more sympathy for Mrs. Robinson than for Benjamin (who he considered "an insufferable creep"), viewing one's sympathy for Mrs. Robinson and disdainful attitude toward Ben as a function of aging and wisdom.[44]

He, along with Gene Siskel, gave the film a positive, if unenthusiastic review on the television program Siskel & Ebert.[45] Furthermore, the film's rating in the American Film Institute list of the greatest American films fell from seventh in 1997 to 17th in the 2007 update. Lang Thompson, however, argued that "it really hasn't dated much".[46]

Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 86% based on 87 reviews, with an average rating of 8.90/10. The site's consensus reads: "The music, the performances, the precision in capturing the post-college malaise – The Graduate's coming-of-age story is indeed one for the ages."[47] On the similar website, Metacritic, the film holds a score of 83 out of 100, based on 19 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[48]


Numerous films, TV shows, music videos, and commercials have referenced The Graduate. The climactic sequence in which Benjamin crashes the wedding and leaves with Elaine is frequently parodied and referenced. TV show episodes that reference the scene include the Family Guy episode "When You Wish Upon a Weinstein",[49] The Simpsons episode "Lady Bouvier's Lover",[50] the Archer episode "Skin Game",[51] the New Girl episode "Elaine's Big Day",[52] and The Office episode "Two Weeks".[53]

The scene was referenced in the music video for "If You Go" by Jon Secada,[54] as well as the song "Crashed the Wedding" by Busted.[55] The scene was also referenced in the 1998 finale of the Papa and Nicole advertising campaign in the United Kingdom for the MK1 Renault Clio, featuring Reeves and Mortimer and tying in with the release of the MK2 Renault Clio.[56] The 1999 film The Other Sister contained a reference.[57]

The leg-framing scene where Mrs. Robinson seduces Benjamin has been parodied in the Roseanne episode "David and Goliath", which includes a fantasy scene in which Jackie assumes the Bancroft role and attempts to seduce David.[58] This scene is also parodied in The Simpsons episode, "Lisa's Substitute", when Mrs. Krabappel tries to seduce Mr. Bergstrom, who was voiced by Dustin Hoffman.[59]

The car Benjamin drives in the movie is an Alfa Romeo Spider. Based on its iconic role, Alfa Romeo sold a version of the Spider in the United States from 1985 to 1990 under the name "Spider Graduate".[60]

In the 1992 film The Player, Robert Altman's satire of Hollywood, Buck Henry pitches a sequel to The Graduate to producer Griffin Mill (played by Tim Robbins) during the film's opening sequence. A parody of Hollywood high concept films, Henry describes the plot as Ben and Elaine living in a haunted house in Northern California, with an invalid Mrs. Robinson living in the attic.[61]

George Michael's 1992 song, "Too Funky," features a clip of the Anne Bancroft lines, "I am not trying to seduce you... Would you like me to seduce you? Is that what you're trying to tell me?", as an intro of the song, and is repeated during the final crescendo.[62]

In conjunction with the film's 25th anniversary home video release, alternative rock band The Lemonheads recorded a punk-style cover of Simon & Garfunkel's "Mrs. Robinson".[63] The music video includes scenes from the film.

The film Kingpin parodied the leg-framed shot, showing Woody Harrelson framed by his landlady's leg,[64] and features an excerpt of "The Sound of Silence" after Harrelson's character has sex with the landlady to make up for back rent.

Hoffman recreated the church wedding scene for a 2004 Audi commercial, in which he stops his daughter (played by Lake Bell) from getting married, and tells her "you're just like your mother" as they drive off, implying he is an older Benjamin who has a daughter with Elaine.[65]

The plot of the 2005 romantic comedy film Rumor Has It, directed by Rob Reiner and starring Jennifer Aniston, Kevin Costner, Shirley MacLaine and Mark Ruffalo, revolves around a story in which a woman learns that her mother and grandmother may be the inspiration for The Graduate, and the 1963 novel of the same name it was based on.[66]

(500) Days of Summer features a scene in which the protagonist, Tom, watches The Graduate with his then girlfriend Summer. He is said to misinterpret the ending, a fact that serves to characterize his naivety concerning relationships.[67] This moment can be considered a turning point in the film, as it reveals to her the issues with their relationship.


Award Category Nominee(s) Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Lawrence Turman Nominated [68]
Best Director Mike Nichols Won
Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Nominated
Best Actress Anne Bancroft Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Katharine Ross Nominated
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Buck Henry and Calder Willingham Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert L. Surtees Nominated
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Mike Nichols Won [69]
Best Direction Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Anne Bancroft Nominated
Best Screenplay Buck Henry and Calder Willingham Won
Best Editing Sam O'Steen Won
Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles Dustin Hoffman Won
Katharine Ross Nominated
Directors Guild of America Awards Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Mike Nichols Won [70]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Won [71]
Best Actor in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Dustin Hoffman Nominated
Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Anne Bancroft Won
Best Director – Motion Picture Mike Nichols Won
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Buck Henry and Calder Willingham Nominated
Most Promising Newcomer – Male Dustin Hoffman Won
Most Promising Newcomer – Female Katharine Ross Won
Grammy Awards Best Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Dave Grusin and Paul Simon Won [72]
Laurel Awards Top Comedy Nominated
Top Male Comedy Performance Dustin Hoffman Nominated
Top Female Dramatic Performance Anne Bancroft Nominated
Top Female Supporting Performance Katharine Ross Won
National Board of Review Awards Top Ten Films 8th Place [73]
National Film Preservation Board National Film Registry Inducted
New York Film Critics Circle Awards Best Film Nominated [74]
Best Director Mike Nichols Won
Best Screenplay Buck Henry and Calder Willingham Nominated
Online Film & Television Association Awards Hall of Fame – Motion Picture Honored [75]
Producers Guild of America Awards PGA Hall of Fame – Motion Pictures Lawrence Turman – The Graduate Won [76]
Satellite Awards Best Classic DVD The Graduate: 40th Anniversary Edition Won [77]
Best DVD Extras Nominated
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Written American Comedy Buck Henry and Calder Willingham Won [78]

In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and placed #22 on the list of highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada, adjusted for inflation.[9][12]

The film is listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.[79]

The film appears on the following American Film Institute lists:

Stage adaptation


Terry Johnson's adaptation of the original novel and the film ran on both London's West End and Broadway, and has toured the United States. There is a Brazilian version adapted by Miguel Falabella. Several actresses have starred as Mrs. Robinson, including Kathleen Turner, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Hall, Amanda Donohoe, Morgan Fairchild, Anne Archer, Vera Fischer, Patricia Richardson and Linda Gray.

The stage production adds several scenes not in the novel nor the film, as well as using material from both film and novel.[86]

The soundtrack uses songs by Simon & Garfunkel also not used in the film, such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water", as well as music from other popular musicians from the era, such as The Byrds and The Beach Boys.[87] The West End production opened at the Gielgud Theatre on April 5, 2000, after previews from March 24, with Kathleen Turner starring as Mrs. Robinson.[88][89] Jerry Hall replaced Turner from July 31, 2000, followed by Amanda Donohoe from February 2001, Anne Archer from June 2001, and Linda Gray from October 2001.[90][91] The production closed in January 2002. The 2003 U.K. touring production starred Glynis Barber as Mrs. Robinson.[92]

The Broadway production opened at the Plymouth Theatre April 4, 2002, and closed March 2, 2003, after 380 performances. Directed by Terry Johnson, the play featured the cast of Jason Biggs as Benjamin Braddock, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine Robinson, and Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson. The play received no award nominations.[93] Linda Gray briefly filled in for Turner in September 2002. Lorraine Bracco replaced Turner from November 19, 2002.[94]

The Graduate ran at the Cape Playhouse (Dennis, Massachusetts) in July 2011, and starred Patricia Richardson.[95]

Possible sequel


Charles Webb wrote a sequel to his original novel, titled Home School, but initially refused to publish it in its entirety because of a contract he signed in the 1960s. When he sold the film rights to The Graduate, he surrendered the rights to any sequels. If he were to publish Home School, the French media company that owns the rights to The Graduate, Canal+, would be able to adapt it for the screen without his permission.[96] Extracts of Home School were printed in The Times on May 2, 2006.[97] Webb told the newspaper there was a possibility he would find a publisher for the full text, provided he could retrieve the film rights using French copyright law.[98] On May 30, 2006, The Times reported Webb had signed a publishing deal for Home School with Random House, which he hoped would enable him to instruct French lawyers to attempt to retrieve his rights. The novel was published in Britain in 2007.[99]

See also



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