The Crucible (1996) Movie Review

By: Alex Phuong (A Toast) –

The Salem Witch Trials were one of the darkest times in American history. The chaos and confusion of that era has inspired some of the greatest films and literary classics that attempt to capture of complexity of that historical event. The playwright, Arthur Miller, lived during the McCarthy Trials that included the Red Scare, and he cleverly uses both of the notorious historical trials to create a seminal play that is essentially an allegory about the nature of hysteria. The final result is a play that haunted the minds of audiences since 1953, and its film adaptation in 1996 introduced Miller’s ideas to a new generation that included anyone willing to endure the severe test appropriately titled The Crucible.

A Toast

The acting in this film adaptation is absolutely phenomenal. Daniel Day-Lewis does some of his best work here in his performance as John Proctor even though he failed to acquire any major nominations for his work here. Oscar-winner Paul Scofield received a Golden Globe nomination for playing Judge Thomas Danforth, a man who dealt with the secrets and lies prevalent in this historical drama. This film also contains what is perhaps Joan Allen’s greatest performance as Elizabeth Proctor, a role that earned her nominations at both the Golden Globes and the Oscars. Arthur Miller definitely deserved an Academy Award nomination for adapting his chilling play for the silver screen. This film is a great example about how history has a tendency to repeat itself given the allegorical nature of this frightfully astounding motion picture.


By definition, a “crucible” is a container used to heat elements at extreme temperatures (which are oftentimes used in chemistry classes). A second definition of this term, though, is “a severe test or trial.” Since the original play and this acclaimed film version dealt with historical trials, it is no surprise that Arthur Miller would use that specific word to describe the horrors of “severe tests and trials.” The Salem Witch Trials might have happened in the 17th century, and the McCarthy Trials might have happened in the mid-Twentieth Century, but this timeless play and film will always remind viewers to not neglect the past. Otherwise, society itself would have to endure its own metaphorical “crucible.”

The Crucible (1996) Drinking Game

Take a Drink: during every religious reference, including to God, Heaven, and Hell

Take a Drink: every time there is an accusation of being a witch

Do a Shot: during every hysterical moment (including screaming, finger-pointing, and anything else that characterizes such a bleak time in American history)

About Alex Phuong

Alex Andy Phuong earned his Bachelor of Arts in English from California State University-Los Angeles in 2015. His love affair with cinema began after discovering Turner Classic Movies in the summer of 2004. His favorite film director is Woody Allen, and his favorite movie star is Kate Winslet.

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