FilmMovie ReviewsMovie Review – Legends of the Fall (1994)

JulieGNovember 28, 2020613 min

IMDb Rating: 7.5/10

R | 2h 13min | Drama, Romance | 13 Jan 1995 (Canada) | Movie

Metacritic: 45/100

Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 57% Rotten (Critic reviews) | 87% Fresh (Audience reviews)

Director: Edward Zwick

Writer: Susan Shilliday, William D. Wittliff, Jim Harrison

Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Aidan Quinn

Movie Tagline:He was a rock they broke themselves against however much he tried to protect them

IMDb summary: In the early 1900s, three brothers and their father living in the remote wilderness of Montana are affected by betrayal, history, love, nature, and war.


Is an actor not allowed to be “swoon-worthy” without taking a negative hit for their portrayal in a film? I think the critics were way off on this one and I’m siding with the audience review ratings because they’re a better representation of the larger community as a whole. Sometimes critics are wrong. This is why it’s important not to take too much stock into anything any one critic is saying about a film. Legends of the Fall is one of those films where you need to judge on your own merit.

While Brad Pitt may not have been the actor in 1994 that he is now (an Academy Award Winning Actor), saying his turn in this film is merely “swoon-worthy” is objectifying him big time as something nice to look at and nothing more. Considering this film revolves around his character and his character’s progression, I find this critique a little off. Brad Pitt as Tristan Ludlow is the “rock they broke themselves against” as the tag line suggests and that’s quite telling of who and what his character represents; chaos, turmoil and tragedy. Tell me that isn’t a character worth watching?

Legends of the Fall is a period drama set in the early 1900s in the untamed and beautiful wilds of Montana. Brad Pitt is one of three bothers – the Ludlow boys and their heroic father portrayed wonderfully by Anthony Hopkins. One of the brothers, Samuel finds love while he is away and becomes engaged to Julia Ormond’s beautiful and fragile Susannah. Nobody could predict what would happen upon her introduction into the Ludlow family. And that’s what is so beautifully tragic about this story.

So while Samuel has his heart captured by Susannah, the other Ludlow brothers are equally as enthralled by her intoxicating manner. Both brothers fall for her in their own way. But it’s Tristan who captures Susannah’s heart and Tristan who eventually breaks hers and everyone else’s without really knowing or understanding why. It’s just how life sometimes turns out for some people; broken and marked by pain, suffering and grief.

Tristan is a troubled man, even his Native American friend “One Stab” (the main narrator of the film) believes his heart is linked to the wilderness and in particular, to a Grizzly that almost killed him when he was a teenager. It is apparent early on that Tristan is nothing like his brothers who are prim and proper and true gentlemen. Tristan is a wanderer and someone who’s heart can never be truly tamed as much as Susannah tries.

The brothers have their struggles with each other and with the loss of Samuel which only fuels Tristan’s wild and restless nature. He eventually leaves the family home not once but twice in an attempt to find himself, leaving behind his father and a woman who could never let go, no matter how much he tries to hurt her. That is sad in many ways and it is Susannah who continues to hurt all the way through the film.

If the story isn’t enough to convince you that this character-driven film is worthy of the praise we’re giving it, just take a look at the trailer – the cinematography is unreal! Sweeping landscapes of blue skies and endless, snow-capped mountain ranges surrounded by seas of green grass – it’s truly breathtaking.

Legends of the Fall has a brilliant cast, several memorable performances and cinematic beauty for days. What’s not to like? Oh, and yes, I guess it helps that Brad Pitt is pretty and “swoon-worthy” but we like to look at movies with a less narrow-minded point of view.

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  • Tina Williams

    November 30, 2020 at 5:13 pm

    I ADORED this movie back in the day. Just loved it. And it wasn’t because Brad’s beautiful, though he is (I was actually an Aiden Quinn fan). This movie just had big, sweeping themes and emotions, as big as the gorgeous landscape. Or maybe I just have a thing for tragedy, lol. Great movie.


    • JulieG

      November 30, 2020 at 5:20 pm

      I have a serious thing for tragedy lol and romance and romantic tragedy! We watched Pride and Prejudice last night (2005) with Keira Knightley and oh my god that movie is still amazing even after all this time 🙂


      • Tina Williams

        November 30, 2020 at 5:22 pm

        I loved that movie! The BBC miniseries will always be the standard, I think, for P&P, but I loved the 2005 version as well.

      • JulieG

        November 30, 2020 at 5:55 pm

        I am trying to look for Wuthering Heights with Ralph Fiennes and Juliet Binoche lol Have you seen that one?

      • Tina Williams

        December 1, 2020 at 8:55 am

        Yes, I did, a long time ago. It was good, from what I can remember. lol. I love Austen and all the Brontes.

      • JulieG

        December 1, 2020 at 12:10 pm

        Me too, I could watch those movies for hours lol my partner on the other hand… he would roll his eyes at some of the things because it’s a little cliche but I love that lol

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