The British Film Institute presents the best global cinema on-demand:
From classic and contemporary films to the best of the BFI National Archive.

Murder in the Cathedral

Close

This film is certified

Please confirm that you accept our terms of use.

Close

Murder in the Cathedral 1952 PG

114 mins United Kingdom Director. George Hoellering

George Hoellering’s powerful adaptation of TS Eliot's classic verse drama is a stark and highly atypical example of British historical cinema. Little-seen despite winning a top prize at the Venice Film Festival, the film recounts - entirely in verse - the clash between King Henry II and Archbishop of Canterbury, Thomas Becket, over the limits of church authority. As Becket finds his resolve tested by four ‘tempters’ (the last of which is voice by an unseen Eliot), the film takes on a mystical atmosphere reminiscent of the great religious cinema of Carl Th. Dreyer and Ingmar Bergman.

Cast mainly with non-professionals (though Leo McKern, in his first film, is a notable exception), the film constituted the sole acting credit for lead performer John Groser, and his depiction of Becket’s dignity and determination sits comfortably alongside those more famous portrayals of English martyrdom by Peter O’Toole (Becket) and Paul Schofield (Thomas More, The Man for All Seasons).

Although the film has been seen in both 114 and 140-minute versions, the director’s preferred 114-minute theatrical cut is presented here, but the longer variant can be found on BFI’s DVD/Blu-ray release.

Start watching in: 30 days

Finish watching in: 48 hours

Directed by

George Hoellering

Featuring

Leo McKern

T.S. Eliot

Basil Burton

George Woodbridge

David Ward

Alexander Gauge

John Groser

Genres

Historical drama

Tags

Becket, Thomas (1118-1170)

Collection

Based on the Book…

Certificate

PG brief bloody image

Released

1952

Country

United Kingdom

Language

English

Read lessRead more
Part of

1,000s of beautifully preserved films, capturing 120 years of Britain on Film

Explore
The map

Explore further

View A Pilgrimage to Canterbury
A Pilgrimage to Canterbury
Watch for free 1 mins

A Pilgrimage to Canterbury 1928

Beautifully composed views of one of Britain's prettiest cities prove that, pilgrim or not, a visit to Canterbury is well worth the trip.

1 mins United Kingdom

View A Canterbury Tale
A Canterbury Tale
HD

A Canterbury Tale 1944 U

Powell and Pressburger's most personal film combines a Chaucer-inspired pilgrimage with a war-time celebration of English landscape and values to create a gem of British cinema.

124 mins United Kingdom Director. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

Subscription

View All

Welcome to a new subscription service like no other.

>100s of hand-picked classics and critically-acclaimed films

>Critic Mark Kermode picks a must-see film every week

>No contract, cancel anytime

Cookies Policy

This website uses cookies, as explained in our Cookies Policy.

To accept the terms and hide this message please click 'I accept'.

I accept

Passionate about film? So are we…

Don't miss the email made for the in-the-know film fan:

New releases — on the same day as in cinemas Special collections & unheralded classics Exclusive news on discounts


Never ask | Ask me later