The film, like the book, was considered controversial. It was met with especially harsh criticism by the Roman Catholic Church for the accusation that it is behind a two-thousand-year-old cover-up concerning what the Holy Grail really is and the concept that Jesus Christ and Mary Magdalene were married and that the union produced a daughter. Many members urged the laity to boycott the film. Two organizations, the Priory of Sion and Opus Dei figure prominently in the story. In the book, Dan Brown claims that the Priory of Sion and "...all descriptions of artwork, architecture, documents and secret rituals in this novel are accurate". The film grossed $224 million in its worldwide opening weekend and a total of $758 million worldwide, becoming the second highest-grossing film of 2006 behind Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. It was followed by two sequels, Angels & Demons (2009) and Inferno (2016).
Jacques Saunière, the Louvre's curator, is pursued through the Great Gallery by an albino Catholic monk named Silas, who demands the location of the Priory's "keystone" to find and destroy the Holy Grail. Saunière gives him a false lead and is murdered, the police finding his body posed like the Vitruvian Man. Police captain Bezu Fache summons American symbologist Robert Langdon to examine Saunière's body, showing him a Polaroid of the body while he is signing autographs at one of his public talks. Langdon discovers a message hidden by blacklight which contains an out of order Fibonacci number sequence. A police cryptographer and Saunière's granddaughter, Sophie Neveu, reveals to Langdon that Fache planted a tracker on him, believing he murdered Saunière due to a message to find him, erased by Fache. The two get rid of the tracker and sneak around the Louvre, finding more clues in Leonardo da Vinci's works, Langdon deducing that Saunière was grand master of the Priory of Sion.
Silas is revealed to be working for an anonymous person named the Teacher, alongside members of Opus Dei led by Bishop Aringarosa. Evading the police, Langdon and Sophie travel to the Depository Bank of Zurich, discovering a safe deposit box opened by the Fibonacci sequence. Inside is a cryptex: a cylindrical container that hides a papyrus message which can only be accessed by spelling out a five-letter code word using dials. When the police arrive, Langdon and Sophie are aided by the bank manager Andre Vernet, only for him to take them hostage in the back of a truck, demanding the cryptex. Langdon disarms Vernet, and he flees with Sophie.
The two visit Langdon's friend Sir Leigh Teabing, a Holy Grail expert, who claims the Grail is not a cup but instead Mary Magdalene, who was Jesus Christ's wife and pregnant during His Crucifixion, and the Priory was formed to protect their descendants. The Opus Dei have been trying to destroy the Grail to preserve the credibility of the Vatican. Silas breaks in, but Teabing knocks him out. The group escape to London via Teabing's private plane, aided by his butler Remy Jean. They travel to the Temple Church but the clue to unlocking the cryptex is a red herring. Silas is freed by Remy, who claims to be the Teacher, taking Teabing hostage and dumping him in his car's trunk while Silas hides out in an Opus Dei safe house. Teabing poisons Remy and send the police after Silas, who is shot by police after accidentally wounding Aringarosa, who is promptly arrested by Fache for using him to hunt Langdon.
Langdon and Sophie are confronted by Teabing, revealed to be the Teacher, who wants to bring down the Church for centuries of persecution and deceit. The trio goes to Westminster Abbey to the tomb of Isaac Newton, a former grand master of the Priory. Langdon tosses the cryptex into the air, Teabing catching it but the papyrus destroyed. The police arrive to arrest Teabing, but he realizes Langdon removed and solved the cryptex's code beforehand. The code is revealed to be "apple" after the apocryphal myth of Newton's gravity-based discovery of the law of universal gravitation. The clue inside the cryptex leads Langdon and Sophie to Rosslyn Chapel in Scotland.
Inside, they discover Magdalene's tomb has been removed. Langdon realizes that Sophie's family died in a car crash, but the media reported she too died. Saunière was not her actual grandfather but her protector, and she is the last descendant of Jesus Christ. The two are greeted by several members of the Priory, including Sophie's grandmother, who promise to protect her. Langdon and Sophie part ways, the former returning to Paris. Whilst shaving, he cuts himself and has an epiphany when his blood curves down the sink, reminding him of the Rose Line. Realising the true meaning of the cryptex clue, he follows the line to the Louvre, concluding the Holy Grail, the sarcophagus of Mary Magdalene, is hidden in a shopping mall. Langdon kneels before it, as the Knights Templar did before him.
The film rights were purchased from Dan Brown for $6 million.
Filming had been scheduled to start in May 2005; however, some delays caused filming to begin on June 30, 2005.
Permission to film on the premises was granted to the film by the Louvre (although, since the crew was not permitted to shine light on the Mona Lisa, a replica was used instead, while the film crew used the Mona Lisa's chamber as a storage room). Westminster Abbey denied the use of its premises, as did Saint-Sulpice. The Westminster Abbey scenes were instead filmed at Lincoln and Winchester cathedrals, which both belong to the Church of England. (Westminster Abbey is a Royal Peculiar, a church or chapel under direct jurisdiction of the monarch; whereas Saint-Sulpice is a Roman Catholic institution.)
Due to the denial of a location permit for Saint-Sulpice, the entire scene had to be recreated virtually by post-production company Rainmaker U.K. and though the set had been partially built, the co-ordinates were centimeters out from what the compositors had expected and so the entire process was extremely difficult to complete.
Lincoln Cathedral reportedly received £100,000 in exchange for the right to film there, with filming there occurring between August 15 and 19, 2005, mainly within the cloisters of the cathedral. The cathedral's bell, which strikes the hour, was silent for the first time since World War II during that time. Although it remained a closed set, protesters led by a 61-year-old woman named Sister Mary Michael demonstrated against the filming. Sister Mary Michael spent 12 hours praying on her knees outside the cathedral in protest against what she saw as the blasphemous use of a holy place to film a book containing heresy.
Winchester Cathedral answered criticism by using its location fee to fund an exhibition, lecture series and campaign to debunk the book. The scenes for the Pope's summer residence, Castel Gandolfo were filmed on location at Belvoir Castle in Leicestershire, England.
Shoreham Airport in West Sussex, England, was used as a filming location, with its art-deco terminal building utilised in a night shoot for the scenes at 'Le Bourget' Airport.
Filming also took place elsewhere in the United Kingdom. Locations included King's College London campus; Fairfield Halls (Croydon); the Temple Church (London); Burghley House (Lincolnshire) and Rosslyn Chapel and Rosslyn Castle (Midlothian, Scotland) make an appearance at the final of the film.
The filmmakers shot many of the internal scenes at Pinewood Studios; the opening sequence in the cavernous 007 Stage at Pinewood Shepperton, where the interior of the Louvre was recreated. In this sequence, Hanks' character is taken by French police to the Louvre, where a dead body has been discovered. David White of Altered States FX, a prosthetics and special makeup effects company, was tasked with creating a naked photorealistic silicone body for the scene. Lighting effects were utilized to obscure the body's genitalia, a technique also used on television programmes such as NCIS.
Pinewood's state-of-the-art Underwater Stage was used to film underwater sequences. The stage opened in 2005 after four years of planning and development. The water in the tank is filtered using an ultraviolet system which creates crystal clear water, and the water is maintained at 30 °C (86 °F) to create a comfortable environment to work in for both cast and crew.
Alternate versions of Bettany's nude flagellation scenes were shot, in which he wears a black loincloth. Clips of these versions appear in the History Channel's Opus Dei Unveiled documentary, aired in summer 2006.
At a conference on April 28, 2006, the secretary of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, a Vatican curial department, Archbishop Angelo Amato specifically called for a boycott of the film; he said the movie is "full of calumnies, offences, and historical and theological errors".
Cardinal Francis Arinze, in a documentary called The Da Vinci Code: A Masterful Deception, urged unspecified legal action against the makers of the film. He was formerly Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments in the Vatican.
Stating that it does not intend to organize any boycotts, Opus Dei (the Catholic organization that is featured prominently in the novel and the film) released a statement on February 14, 2006, asking Sony Pictures to consider editing the soon-to-be-released film so that it would not contain references that it felt might be hurtful to Catholics. The statement also said Brown's book offers a "deformed" image of the church and that Opus Dei will use the opportunity of the movie's release to educate about the church.
On Easter, April 16, 2006, Opus Dei published an open letter by the Japanese Information Office of Opus Dei mildly proposing that Sony Pictures consider including a disclaimer on the film adaptation as a "sign of respect towards the figure of Jesus Christ, the history of the Church, and the religious beliefs of viewers". The organization also encouraged the studio to clearly label the movie as fictitious "and that any resemblance to reality is pure coincidence".
According to a statement by Manuel Sánchez Hurtado, Opus Dei Press Office Rome, in contrast to Sony Corporation's published "Code of Conduct" the company has announced that the film will not include such a disclaimer.
U.S. Catholic bishops launched a website, JesusDecoded.com, refuting the key claims in the novel that were about to be brought to the screen. The bishops are concerned about errors and serious misstatements in The Da Vinci Code. The film has also been rated morally offensive—by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' Office for Film and Broadcasting, which denounced its depiction of both the Jesus-Mary Magdalene relationship and that of Opus Dei as "deeply abhorrent".
The Peruvian Episcopal Conference (CEP) declared the movie—and the book—as part of a "systematic attack on the Catholic Church". Furthermore, the Archbishop of Lima, the Cardinal and member of Opus Dei Juan Luis Cipriani, urged his community not to see the film: "If someone goes (to see the movie), they are giving money to those who hurt the faith. It's not a problem of fiction; if truth is not respected, what arises we could call white glove terrorism."
The National Organization for Albinism and Hypopigmentation (NOAH) expressed concern about Silas' character giving people with albinism a bad name. However, the filmmakers did not change his appearance.
The film was banned by many christian and islamic African countries.
The film was banned in Syria.
Although The Da Vinci Code was passed by Chinese censors, it was abruptly removed by authorities from public view in mainland China, after "a remarkable run in China, grossing over $13 million", due to protests by Chinese Catholic groups.
Both the book and the film were banned in Egypt due to pressure from Coptic Christians. Some Muslims compared the film to the Danish cartoons that had caused a controversy earlier that year. Hafez Abu Saeda, of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights stated that "This violates freedom of thought and belief ... This is fiction. It's art and it should be regarded as art."
The film was banned in Belarus. http://iqna.ir/fr/news/1478889/le-film-da-vinci-code-interdit-au-bélarus
The biggest cinema in the Faroe Islands, Havnar Bio, decided to boycott the film, effectively blocking it from the other smaller cinemas, who rely on second-hand films from this source, because it seems to be blasphemous in their point of view. Its CEO, Jákup Eli Jacobsen, says that "he fears losing the operating license if it exhibits blasphemy in the cinema".
A private initiative by the individual Herluf Sørensen has arranged the movie to be played, despite the boycott by Havnar Bio. The movie played at the Nordic House in the Faroe Islands on June 8–9, 2006.
There was a huge outcry in many states by the Christian and the Muslim minorities to ban the film from screening in India for the perceived anti-Christian message. Possibly the largest reaction occurred in Kolkata where a group of around 25 protesters "stormed" Crossword bookstore, pulled copies of the book off the racks and threw them to the ground. At the same day, a group of 50-60 protesters successfully made the Oxford Bookstore on Park Street decide to stop selling the book "until the controversy sparked by the film's release was resolved".
The film was allowed to be released without any cuts but with an A (Adults Only) certification from the Central Board for Film Certification and a 15-second disclaimer added at the end stating that the movie was purely a work of fiction. The Supreme Court of India also rejected petitions calling for a ban on the film, saying the plot which suggested Jesus was married was fictional and not offensive.
The film has been totally banned in some states such as Punjab, Lakshadweep , Goa, Nagaland, Meghalaya,Mizoram, Maharashtra, Jammu and Kashmir,Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. The Andhra Pradesh High Court subsequently reversed the State Government's order banning the screening of the film in the state; the State Government had previously banned the film based on the objections lodged by Christians and Muslims.
The film was banned in Jordan where authorities said the film "tarnishes the memory of Christian and Islamic figures and contradicts the truth as written in the Bible and the Koran about Jesus".
The film was banned in Lebanon.
The film was banned in Iran due to protests by christian minorities and many muslim teams. https://mobile.nytimes.com/2006/07/26/books/27davinci.html
Pakistan banned The Da Vinci Code for showing what officials called blasphemous material about Jesus. Christian groups, along with the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal held protests against the film calling for a global ban.
The Philippine Alliance Against Pornography (PAAP) appealed to then Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stop the showing of The Da Vinci Code in the Philippines. They branded the film as "the most pornographic and blasphemous film in history" and also requested the help of Pope Benedict XVI, the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) and other religious groups to stop the showing of the film.
However, Cecille Guidote Alvarez, Philippine Presidential Adviser on Culture and the Arts, said the Philippine government would not interfere in the controversy about the film and leaves the decision to the Movie and Television Review and Classification Board's (MTRCB) rating. Eventually, MTRCB decided to give The Da Vinci Code an R-18 rating (restricted to those 18 years of age and above) despite PAAP's opposition for showing it.
The film was banned outright in the Independent State of Samoa after church leaders watching a pre-release showing filed a complaint with film censors.
Solomon Islands Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare said he would seek to have the film banned in his country, as it might threaten the Solomons' predominantly Christian faith:
We profess Christian religion in the country, and that film that depicts some thoughts about this person called Jesus Christ that Christians adore as not only as a good man, but was himself God, and such a film basically undermines the very roots of Christianity in Solomon Islands.
Sri Lanka is also one of the countries that banned the film from being released. It was banned by presidential order of Mahinda Rajapakse. Public Performances Board to ban the screening of the movie ‘The Da Vinci Code’ in local cinemas and on local television channels. Apparently the Catholic Bishops Conference made the appeal through an epistle .”The decision to ban the film was taken on an appeal by the Catholic Bishops Conference in Sri Lanka”
Christian groups in this mostly Buddhist country protested the film and called for it to be banned. On May 16, 2006, the Thai Censorship Committee issued a ruling that the film would be shown, but that the last 10 minutes would be cut. Also, some Thai subtitles were to be edited to change their meaning and passages from the Bible would also be quoted at the beginning and end of the film.
However, the following day, Sony Pictures appealed the ruling, saying it would pull the film if the decision to cut it was not reversed. The censorship panel then voted 6–5 that the film could be shown uncut, but that a disclaimer would precede and follow the film, saying it was a work of fiction.
Hanks told the Evening Standard that those involved with the film "always knew there would be a segment of society that would not want this movie to be shown. But the story we tell is loaded with all sorts of hooey and fun kind of scavenger-hunt-type nonsense." He said it is a mistake "to take any sort of movie at face value, particularly a huge-budget motion picture like this." He also stated at the Cannes Film Festival that he and his wife saw no contradiction between their faith and the film, as "My heritage, and that of my wife, suggests that our sins have been taken away, not our brains."
Also at Cannes, McKellen was quoted as saying "While I was reading the book I believed it entirely. Clever Dan Brown twisted my mind convincingly. But when I put it down I thought, 'What a load of [pause] potential codswallop." During a May 17, 2006 interview on The Today Show with the Da Vinci Code cast and director, Matt Lauer posed a question to the group about how they would have felt if the film had borne a prominent disclaimer that it is a work of fiction, as some religious groups wanted. (Some high-ranking Vatican cabinet members had called for a boycott of the film.) McKellen responded, "I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying 'This is fiction.' I mean, walking on water? It takes. . . an act of faith. And I have faith in this movie—not that it's true, not that it's factual, but that it's a jolly good story." He continued, "And I think audiences are clever enough and bright enough to separate out fact and fiction, and discuss the thing when they've seen it."
The film's teaser trailer was released in the summer of 2005, a full year before the film's worldwide release and prior to shooting even a single frame of the movie. It features crevices with some hidden symbols and was later revealed as an image of Da Vinci's most famous painting, the Mona Lisa. (In reality, the painting plays a very small part in the film and is shown only for a few seconds.)
The court case brought against Dan Brown by Richard Leigh and Michael Baigent, the authors of the non-fiction book Holy Blood, Holy Grail, has added to the film's publicity.
A cross-promotion appeared on The Amazing Race 9, where one team earned a trip to the movie's premiere in Hollywood, California. The prize was awarded to the first team to arrive at the Pit Stop bearing two parchments and demonstrating that, when combined, they revealed a picture of Leonardo da Vinci's Vitruvian Man and a coded message.
As part of the promotional lead up to the film, various encrypted clues were placed in trailers and interviews. In mid-April, two such clues appeared in the Da Vinci Code interviews on Entertainment Tonight and The Insider, as highlighted letters in the names of interviewees.
In February, Sony, in cooperation with Grace Hill Media, launched The Da Vinci Dialogue (aka The Da Vinci Challenge), a fairly comprehensive web site which is intended to defuse Christian opposition to the film. The site mixes some mild criticisms with movie promotional material.
According to the Associated Press, during a preview for movie critics in Cannes, a line spoken by Tom Hanks "drew prolonged laughter and some catcalls". Nearing the end of the screening, "there were a few whistles and hisses, and there was none of the scattered applause even bad movies sometimes receive at Cannes."
There have been protesters at several movie theaters across the United States on opening weekend protesting the themes of the film, citing it as blasphemy and claiming that it shames both the Catholic Church, and Jesus Christ himself. More than 200 protesters also turned out in Athens, Greece to protest the film's release shortly before opening day. In Manila, the film was banned from all theaters and the set by the local MTRCB as an R18 movie for the Philippines. In Pittsburgh, protesters also showed up at a special screening of the film the day before its widespread release. Protests also occurred at the filming sites, but only a monk and a nun stood in a quiet protest at the Cannes premiere. In Chennai, India, the film was banned for a two-month period to appease local Christian and Muslim groups.
The Da Vinci Code received a 25% "rotten" rating on the film review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes based on a sample of 220 reviews and an average rating of 4.8/10. The critics consensus states: "What makes Dan Brown's novel a best seller is evidently not present in this dull and bloated movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code." The film was poorly received at the Cannes Film Festival, where it debuted.
Michael Medved gave the film a negative review, citing it as "an attack on religion". Anthony Lane of The New Yorker addressed the concerns of Catholics in his film review, stating that the film "is self-evident, spirit-lowering tripe that could not conceivably cause a single member of the flock to turn aside from the faith." In his Movie Guide, Leonard Maltin called the film "a letdown in every respect." Director Howard noted that the overwhelmingly negative reviews were "frustrating" to him.
Conversely, Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times (who had spoken very negatively of the novel) gave the film three out of four stars, stating "The movie works; it's involving, intriguing and constantly seems on the edge of startling revelations." Of the storyline, he also commented "Yes, the plot is absurd, but then most movie plots are absurd. That's what we pay to see." Lawrence Toppman of The Charlotte Observer, who also liked the film, gave it three and a half out of four stars and noted "unlike most Hollywood blockbusters, this one assumes audience members will be smart."
Although many critics gave mixed to negative reviews of the film, critics praised the performances of McKellen as well as Bettany.
On the "Worst Movies of 2006" episode of the television show Ebert & Roeper (January 13, 2007), guest critic Michael Phillips (sitting in for the recovering Roger Ebert) listed the film at No. 2. The film earned a Razzie Award nomination for Ron Howard as Worst Director, but lost to M. Night Shyamalan for Lady in the Water.
The film opened with an estimated $31 million in box office sales on its opening day, averaging $7764 per screen. During its opening weekend, moviegoers spent an estimated $77 million in America, and $224 million worldwide. The Da Vinci Code is the best domestic opening for both Tom Hanks and Ron Howard.
It also enjoyed the third biggest opening weekend for that year (after Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest and X-Men: The Last Stand, and the second biggest worldwide opening weekend ever, just behind 2005's Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith.) This has led some critics, particularly in the UK, to moot the idea of the 'critic-proof film'.Number 1 film at the USA box office during its first week grossing more than $111 million. Fifth highest gross of 2006 in the USA, and grossed $758 million worldwide in 2006 – the second highest of 2006. Its worldwide total made it the 51st highest grossing film, and the highest grossing film in the franchise.
On June 20, 2006, it became only the second film of the year to pass the $200 million mark in the USA.
The film was released on DVD and VHS on November 14, 2006 in three editions:
- A Target exclusive three-disc release in both widescreen and fullscreen, along with a History Channel documentary.
- A two-disc release in both widescreen and fullscreen.
- A "special edition gift set" that includes a two-disc DVD set, working cryptex, and replica Robert Langdon journal.
All DVD sets include an introduction from director Howard, ten featurettes, and other bonus features.
In Australia, New Zealand, Spain and Latin America (DVD region code 4), the two-disc set also included an extended edition of the film, including over twenty-five minutes of extra footage, bringing the running time to 174 minutes.
In Hong Kong and Korea (Region 3), the extended cut was also released on DVD in a two-disc set. Two gift sets were also released, with working cryptex replica, replica journal, and more. The French and Spanish Region 2 disc also received a special gift set.
On April 28, 2009, a two-disc Blu-ray edition of the extended version of the film was released in North America. While there is no regular DVD release of the extended version in the United States or a Region 2 release in the United Kingdom, a version of the extended cut was released in Germany.
The Da Vinci Code was also released on UMD for the Sony Playstation Portable (PSP) on the November 14, 2006.
Screenwriter Akiva Goldsman, with the help of Jurassic Park screenwriter David Koepp, adapted Angels & Demons (a Dan Brown novel published before The Da Vinci Code) into a film script, which was also directed by Howard. Chronologically, the book takes place before The Da Vinci Code. However, the filmmakers re-tooled it as a sequel. Hanks reprises his role as Langdon in the film, which was released in May 2009 to moderate (but generally better) reviews.
Sony Pictures produced a film adaptation of Inferno, the fourth book in the Robert Langdon series, which was released in October 2016 with Ron Howard as director, David Koepp adapting the screenplay and Tom Hanks reprising his role as Robert Langdon. Filming began on April 27, 2015 in Venice, Italy, and wrapped up on July 21, 2015. On December 2, 2014, Felicity Jones was in early talks to star in the film. Bollywood actor Irrfan Khan has also been cast, as The Provost. Danish actress Sidse Babett Knudsen was also added to the cast as Elizabeth Sinskey.