Should I Watch..? 'To Kill a Mockingbird'

Updated on May 19, 2020
Benjamin Cox profile image

Benjamin is a former volunteer DJ at his local hospital radio station. He has been reviewing films online for over fifteen years.

Film's poster
Film's poster | Source

What's the big deal?

To Kill A Mockingbird is a coming-of-age drama film released in 1962 and was based on the 1960 novel of the same name by American author Harper Lee. Directed by Robert Mulligan, the film stars Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch - a white lawyer in the Deep South who must defend an African-American man against a racist jury as well as his children Jem and Scout from the prejudices in their community in post-Depression America. The film received near-universal acclaim from critics with many contemporaries citing it as one of the best films ever made. It grossed more than ten times its budget and won a total of three Oscars including Best Actor for Peck. The film also featured John Megna, Frank Overton, Brock Peters and Robert Duvall as well as child actors Mary Badham and Phillip Alford.


5 stars for To Kill A Mockingbird

What's it about?

The film concerns the memories of Jean Louise Finch, who was known as Scout as a child when she was growing up in the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama in the early 1930s. Together with her brother Jeremy (known as Jem), the two of them grew up in the care of their father - a widowed lawyer called Atticus Finch - and their home-help Calpurnia. Their care-free summers consisted mainly of getting into mischief with the visiting boy next door Dill and spying on the reclusive and enigmatic "Boo" Radley who is kept out of society and remains confined to the Radley House.

One summer, Atticus is asked to defend Tom Robinson - an African American accused of rape by Mayella Ewell, daughter of the bigoted Robert "Bob" Ewell. With Atticus aware of the town's prejudice against black people, he not only takes it upon himself to prove Tom's innocence but also protect Jem and Scout from the evil attitudes and influences of Maycomb...

Trailer for Blu-ray release

Main Cast

Gregory Peck
Atticus Finch
Mary Badham
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch
Phillip Alford
Jeremy Atticus "Jem" Finch
John Megna
Charles Baker "Dill" Harris
Frank Overton
Sheriff Heck Tate
Brock Peters
Tom Robinson
Collin Wilcox
Mayella Ewell
James Anderson
Robert E. Lee "Bob" Ewell

Technical Info

Robert Mulligan
Horton Foote *
Running Time
129 minutes
Release Date (UK)
9th May, 1963
Crime, Drama
Academy Awards
Best Actor (Peck), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Set Decoration
Academy Award Nominations
Best Film, Best Supporting Actress (Badham), Best Director, Best Cinematography, Best Original Score
* based on the novel by Harper Lee
The movie was the pinnacle of Peck's career, cited by many as his greatest performance and winning him an Oscar
The movie was the pinnacle of Peck's career, cited by many as his greatest performance and winning him an Oscar | Source

What's to like?

It's impossible to start anywhere other than with Peck's imperious performance as the quiet, noble hero Atticus. His performance is simply sublime - even Harper Lee herself claimed that he looked like her father, the inspiration for the character. Many may suggest that the role and the actor aren't too dissimilar but even so, it is a performance of genuine class. And he isn't alone - both Badham and Alford are fantastic as the two siblings losing their innocence at the injustices around them. The script, which actually does a fine job of keeping the story intact, is also a winner. Evocative and emotive, it manages to dispense with a lot of the first half of the book which mainly deals in the various misadventures of Jem and Scout anyway.

But the film is about so much more than a great performance and racist-shaming. The sets and the perfect recreation of 1930s rural Alabama reinforce the film's plausibility while the monochrome lighting is used to great effect throughout, from the inherent mystery surrounding the Radley house to Bob Ewell's drunken sneering. It's an easy film to watch, possibly because the story is somewhat whimsical and possibly because the film feels like much care and attention was paid during its production. You get the sense that this is the result of much love from cast and crew and the resulting film still stands the test of time.

Fun Facts

  • Peck and Badham became firm friends during filming and remained in touch for the rest of Peck's life. Peck even called her Scout while she usually called him Atticus.
  • As well as being the film debuts for Badham and Alford (both of whom later left show business), the film was also the debuts for William Windom, Alice Ghostley and Robert Duvall as Boo Radley. Duvall doesn't have a single line of dialogue in the entire film.
  • Badham was the youngest ever actress to receive an Academy Award nomination at the age of 9 during filming. Ironically, she lost to another child actress - the fourteen-year-old Patty Duke for The Miracle Worker.

What's not to like?

Whimsical, I hear you say? Granted, the story of a noble white man defending the rights of the oppressed sounds great but I rather suspect that the reality would have been rather different at the time. Cynical critic comments aside, the film doesn't do much to lose marks. The opening scenes that mainly feature the children playing in the streets and gardens of Maycomb feel at odds with the rather threatening atmosphere that comes through the screen around the court case. The scenes featuring the lynch mob, in particular, are genuinely frightening and especially to someone like myself who grew up in a part of the world where such deep-rooted resentment never manifested itself so openly - at least, not in my lifetime.

If anything, the movie's appeal and message seems to have strengthened in the intervening years. It's a tragic state of affairs that racial differences still plague the US as the recent spate of police shootings and the worrying rise of Donald Trump as a potential Presidential candidate suggest. Would an adaptation be as warmly received today as it was back then? Regardless, the film's legacy is as solid as it ever was. Like the novel, it is both an intelligent and heart-breaking tale where good doesn't always overcome evil.

The performances by Alford (left) and Badham (right) feel natural and captivate throughout
The performances by Alford (left) and Badham (right) feel natural and captivate throughout | Source

Should I watch it?

Catching up with it today on Netflix was a genuine joy, reaffirming my conviction that this much-respected movie is well worth spending time with. But I have a better idea - I first encountered this film during school and that is probably the best place to play it. The film's message of tolerance and equality is as important now as it has ever been while traditional film fans can admire the incredible performances from cast young and old. To Kill A Mockingbird is the sort of subtly daring movie they simply don't make any more and for me, that's a real shame.

Great For: cinema lovers, teachers, fans of the book, Americans

Not So Great For: UKIP supporters, Donald Trump, lynch mobs

What else should I watch?

To say that the film is still beloved by millions is an understatement - the American Film Institute ranks To Kill A Mockingbird as the best courtroom drama ever made, beating the equally enjoyable 12 Angry Men into second place. I'm not a big fan of courtroom dramas personally but other options include Kramer Vs. Kramer, A Time To Kill and Presumed Innocent. Though as I say, I'd rather have half an hour with Judge Judy - at least it's over after 30 minutes.

America's relationship with its troubled past continues to provide plenty of movies with material to draw from. From the much-heralded Crash (the 2004 release, not the creepy David Cronenberg effort from 1996) and the widely acclaimed 12 Years A Slave to violent Westerns like Django Unchained, it's interesting to note that while Hollywood may be slowly striving for equality (very slowly indeed), the problems and issues such films raise are still those affecting many viewers in the United States on a daily basis, especially those in power. Isn't that a worrying thought?

© 2016 Benjamin Cox

Soap Box

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      4 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      The books are nearly always better!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 

      4 years ago from Australia

      A great review of an excellent movie - although I feel the book is better, the movie does do it justice. As you point out, the cinematography adds much to the movie.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      4 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      It's going to take more time than anyone wants to undo more than three centuries of unequal treatment. It would be unfortunate if people need three more centuries to stop being so tentative and skeptical and even worse and reach out to one another.

    • Benjamin Cox profile imageAUTHOR

      Benjamin Cox 

      4 years ago from Norfolk, UK

      Well said. Maybe my distance from the US makes me more of a pragmatist but for such matters to still be an issue after all this time is just a little weird, that's all.

    • profile image

      Pat Mills 

      4 years ago from East Chicago, Indiana

      I'm sure the racial divides will continue to exist in the US long after we are gone. Equal rights, as many misunderstand, means equal rights for all, and not just for those who have a similar skin color. Any candidate still in the running for President offers more leadership than a pompous billionaire. It's so hard, though, to be a real-life Atticus Finch, for too many folks only hear what they want to hear, and fail to see the big picture. Still, everyone must make the effort to do right, even if the efforts go unappreciated. To Kill A Mockingbird is an exceptional courtroom drama. In spite of your reservations about this genre, I recommend two more from Sidney Lumet - The Verdict and Find Me Guilty.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)