The film was released on December 22, 1967, received positive reviews and grossed $104.9 million. With the figures adjusted for inflation the film's gross is $754 million, making it the 22nd highest-ever grossing film in North America. In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." Initially, the film was placed at number 7 on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies list in 1998. When AFI revised the list in 2007, the film was moved to number 17. The Graduate won the Academy Award for Best Director for Nichols and was nominated in six other categories, making it the last film so far to win Best Director and nothing else.
Benjamin Braddock, aged twenty-one, has earned his bachelor's degree from Williams College and has returned home to a party celebrating his graduation at his parents' house in Pasadena, California. Benjamin, visibly uncomfortable as his parents deliver accolades and neighborhood friends ask him about his future plans, evades those who try to congratulate him. Mrs. Robinson, the neglected wife of his father's law partner, insists that he drive her home. Benjamin is coerced inside to have a drink and Mrs. Robinson attempts to seduce him. She invites him up to her daughter Elaine's room to see her portrait and then enters the room naked, making it clear that she is available to him. Benjamin initially rebuffs her but a few days later after his scuba demonstration on his birthday, he clumsily organizes a tryst at the Taft hotel.
Benjamin spends the remainder of the summer drifting around in the pool by day, purposefully neglecting to select a graduate school, and seeing Mrs. Robinson at the hotel by night. He discovers that he and Mrs. Robinson have nothing to talk about. However, after Benjamin pesters her one evening, Mrs. Robinson reveals that she entered into a loveless marriage when she accidentally became pregnant with Elaine. Both Mr. Robinson and Benjamin’s parents encourage him to call Elaine, even though Mrs. Robinson makes her disapproval clear.
Benjamin takes Elaine on a date but tries to sabotage it by ignoring her, driving recklessly and taking her to a strip club. After Elaine runs out of the strip club in tears, Benjamin has a change of heart, realizes how rude he was to her, and discovers that Elaine is someone with whom he is comfortable. In search of a late-night drink they visit the Taft hotel but when the staff greet Benjamin as "Mr. Gladstone" (the name he uses during his rendezvous with Mrs. Robinson) Elaine correctly guesses that he has been having an affair with a married woman and accepts his assurances that the affair is now over. To preempt a furious Mrs. Robinson, who threatens to tell Elaine her version of their affair, Benjamin tells Elaine that the married woman was her mother. Elaine is distraught and returns to Berkeley. Benjamin pursues her there and tries to talk to her. She reveals that her mother's story is that he raped her while she was drunk, and refuses to believe that it was in fact her mother who seduced Benjamin. After much discussion over several days, Benjamin begins to make inroads with Elaine. However, Mr. Robinson arrives at Berkeley after learning about the affair, confronts Benjamin at his rooming house, and threatens to put him behind bars if Benjamin sees his daughter again. Mr. Robinson then forces Elaine to drop out of college and takes her away to marry Carl, a classmate with whom she had briefly been involved.
Returning to Pasadena in search of Elaine, Benjamin breaks into the Robinson home but encounters Mrs. Robinson. She tells him he will not be able to stop the wedding and then calls the police claiming that her house is being burgled. Benjamin visits Carl’s fraternity brothers who tell him that the wedding is in Santa Barbara, California that very morning. He rushes to the church and arrives just as Elaine is married. He bangs on the glass at the back of the church and screams out "Elaine!" repeatedly. After a brief hesitation, Elaine screams out "Ben!" and starts to run toward him. A brawl ensues as guests try to stop Elaine and Benjamin from leaving together. Elaine manages to break free from her mother, who then slaps her. Benjamin manages to keep the guests at bay by using a large cross and jamming it into the doors of the church. Both he and Elaine then run into the street to flag down a passing bus and take the back seat. Although initially elated at their victory, the pair become increasingly uncomfortable as they journey towards an uncertain future.
According to TCM host Robert Osborne, "Mike Nichols wanted Doris Day for Mrs. Robinson, Robert Redford for Benjamin Braddock, and Gene Hackman for Mr. Robinson." But there were numerous actors considered or tested for, or who wanted, roles in the film.
Day turned down the offer because the nudity required by the role offended her. Nichols' actual first choice for Mrs. Robinson was French actor Jeanne Moreau. The idea behind this was that in the French culture, the "older" women tended to "train" the younger men in sexual matters. Joan Crawford inquired as to play the part, while Lauren Bacall and Audrey Hepburn both wanted the role. Patricia Neal turned down the film as she had recently recovered from a stroke and did not feel ready to accept such a major role. Geraldine Page also turned it down. Other actors considered for the part included Claire Bloom, Angie Dickinson, Sophia Loren, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, Susan Hayward, Anouk Aimee, Jennifer Jones, Deborah Kerr, Eva Marie Saint, Rosalind Russell, Simone Signoret, Jean Simmons, Lana Turner, Eleanor Parker, Anne Baxter and Shelley Winters. Angela Lansbury also asked about playing the part. Ava Gardner sought the role of Mrs. Robinson, and reportedly called Nichols saying,"I want to see you! I want to talk about this Graduate thing!" Nichols did not seriously consider her for the role (he wanted a younger woman as Bancroft was 36 and Gardner was 45), but did end up visiting her hotel. He later recounted that "she sat at a little French desk with a telephone, she went through every movie star cliché. She said, 'All right, let's talk about your movie. First of all, I strip for nobody.'" Meanwhile, Natalie Wood turned down not only the role of Mrs. Robinson, but also that of Elaine.
For the character of Elaine, casting was also an issue. Patty Duke turned down the part as she did not want to work at the time. Faye Dunaway was also considered for Elaine, but had to turn it down, in favor of Bonnie and Clyde. Sally Field and Shirley MacLaine refused the role as well. Raquel Welch and Joan Collins both wanted the role, but did not succeed in getting it. Carroll Baker tested, but was said to have been too old to portray Anne Bancroft's daughter. Candice Bergen screen-tested as well, as did Goldie Hawn and Jane Fonda. Additionally, Ann-Margret, Elizabeth Ashley, Carol Lynley, Sue Lyon, Yvette Mimieux, Suzanne Pleshette, Lee Remick, Pamela Tiffin, Julie Christie, and Tuesday Weld were all on the director's shortlist before Katharine Ross was cast.
When Dustin Hoffman auditioned for the role of Benjamin, he was asked to perform a love scene with Ross. Hoffman had never done one during his acting classes and believed that, as he said later, "a girl like [Ross] would never go for a guy like me in a million years." Ross agreed, believing that Hoffman "look[ed] about 3 feet tall ... so unkempt. This is going to be a disaster." Producer Joseph E. Levine later admitted that he at first believed that Hoffman "was one of the messenger boys." Despite—or perhaps because of— Hoffman's awkwardness, Nichols chose him for the film. “As far as I’m concerned, Mike Nichols did a very courageous thing casting me in a part that I was not right for, meaning I was Jewish,” said Hoffman. “In fact, many of the reviews were very negative. It was kind of veiled anti-Semitism…. I was called ‘big-nosed’ in the reviews, ‘a nasal voice.’” Before Hoffman was cast, Robert Redford and Warren Beatty were among the top choices. Beatty turned the film down as he was occupied with Bonnie and Clyde. Redford tested for the part of Benjamin (with Candice Bergen as Elaine), but Nichols thought that Redford did not possess the underdog quality that Benjamin needed. When Mike Nichols talked with Redford, Redford asked what he meant. "Well, let's put it this way," said Nichols, "Have you ever struck out with a girl?" "What do you mean?" asked Redford. "That's precisely my point," said Nichols. Charles Grodin turned down the part, as the money was not right. Both Brandon deWilde and Michael Parks auditioned for the role. In addition, Keir Dullea, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, George Hamilton, Albert Finney, Gene Wilder, Steve McQueen, Jack Nance, Anthony Perkins, Robert Wagner, and Jack Nicholson were all considered for the part of Benjamin. Burt Ward, who starred as Robin on the Batman television series, had to pass on the role as he was committed to filming the show, and the studio would not lend him anyway.
In the role of Mr. Robinson, Gene Hackman was originally cast, but just before filming began, the director decided he was too young and decided to replace him. Marlon Brando, Howard Duff, Brian Keith, George Peppard, Jack Palance, Frank Sinatra, Walter Matthau and Gregory Peck were all other choices for the role that Murray Hamilton eventually played. Susan Hayward was the first choice for Benjamin's mother, Mrs. Braddock, but the role was given to Elizabeth Wilson. And to play Mr. Braddock, Yul Brynner, Kirk Douglas, Jack Lemmon, Robert Mitchum, Karl Malden, Christopher Plummer and Ronald Reagan all came close to getting the role that ended up going to William Daniels.
There are considerable age discrepancies between the lead roles and the actors who portrayed them. Benjamin Braddock says, "I will be 21 next week "; at the time of filming, Dustin Hoffman was 29. William Daniels, who plays Hoffman's father, was, at 39, only 10 years older than Hoffman. Mrs. Robinson states, "Benjamin, I am twice your age." Anne Bancroft was 35, only six years older than Hoffman. Mrs. Robinson's daughter Elaine is 19 and was portrayed by Katharine Ross, who was 27 at the time. Elaine May, who portrayed Elaine's college roommate and delivered a note to Benjamin from Elaine, was 35 at the time and only seven months younger than Anne Bancroft. Mrs. Singleman and Miss DeWitte, party guests in one of the Taft Hotel scenes, were said to be sisters, though there was a 38-year age difference between their portrayors, Alice Ghostly (age 44) and Marion Lorne (age 82).
Many of the exterior university campus shots of Berkeley were actually filmed on the brick campus of USC in Los Angeles. Other scenes were filmed on Durant Avenue and College Ave. across from the Unit One Dorms in the city of Berkeley, as well as on the Berkeley campus itself (shot remotely from Telegraph Avenue, as the university did not permit commercial filming at the time).
The Taft Hotel scenes were filmed at the Ambassador Hotel.
The church used for the wedding scene is actually the United Methodist Church in La Verne. In a commentary audio released with the 40th anniversary DVD, Hoffman revealed that he was uneasy about the scene in which he pounds on the church window, as the minister of the church had been watching the filming disapprovingly. The wedding scene was highly influenced by the ending of the 1924 comedy film Girl Shy starring Harold Lloyd, who also served as an advisor for the scene in The Graduate. The residences used for the Braddocks' house and the Robinsons' house were located on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hills. The scene with Benjamin and Elaine at night in his car at the drive-in restaurant was filmed in Westwood Village, Los Angeles.
The scenes of Benjamin driving to Berkeley on the San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge were filmed on the top level of the bridge—leading into San Francisco—the opposite direction of Berkeley. In another scene as he drives south to Santa Barbara, his Alfa Romeo Spider is shown heading north through the Gaviota Tunnel, also the wrong direction.
The film boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel. Originally, Nichols and O'Steen used their existing songs like "The Sound of Silence" merely as a pacing device for the editing until Nichols decided that substituting original music would not be effective and decided to include them on the soundtrack, an unusual move at that time.
According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the May 15, 2005, issue, Lawrence Turman, his producer, then made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they had nearly finished editing the film, Simon had only written one new song. Nichols begged him for more, but Simon, who was touring constantly, told him he did not have the time. He did play him a few notes of a new song he had been working on; "It's not for the movie... it's a song about times past—about Mrs. Roosevelt and Joe DiMaggio and stuff." Nichols advised Simon, "It's now about Mrs. Robinson, not Mrs. Roosevelt."
On the strength of the hit single "Mrs. Robinson", the soundtrack album rose to the top of the charts in 1968. However, the version that appears in the film is markedly different from the hit single version, which would not be issued until Simon & Garfunkel's next album, Bookends. The actual film version of "Mrs. Robinson" does appear on The Graduate soundtrack LP.
In addition to the Simon & Garfunkel songs, the film features an instrumental score by Dave Grusin.
The Graduate was met with positive reviews from critics upon its release. A.D. Murphy of Variety and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film, with Murphy describing it as a "delightful satirical comedy-drama" and Ebert claiming it was the "funniest American comedy of the year".
Modern critics continue to praise the film, if not always with the same ardor. For the film's thirtieth anniversary reissue, Ebert retracted some of his previous praise for the film, noting that he felt its time had passed and that he now had more sympathy for Mrs. Robinson than Benjamin (whom he considered "an insufferable creep"), viewing one's sympathy for Mrs. Robinson and disdainful attitude toward Ben as a function of aging and wisdom. He, along with Gene Siskel, gave the film a positive if unenthusiastic review on the television program Siskel & Ebert. Furthermore, the film's rating in the AFI list of the greatest American films fell from 7th in 1997 to 17th in the 2007 update. Lang Thompson, however, argued that "it really hasn't dated much".
Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film an approval rating of 91% based on 74 reviews, with an average rating of 8.8/10. The site's consensus reads, "The music, the performances, the precision in capturing the post-college malaise—The Graduate's coming-of-age story is indeed one for the ages." On the similar website Metacritic, the film holds a score of 77 out of 100, based on 10 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".
The film received Academy Award nominations for Best Picture (Lawrence Turman), Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Actress (Anne Bancroft), Best Supporting Actress (Katharine Ross), Best Adapted Screenplay (Buck Henry and Calder Willingham), and Best Cinematography (Robert L. Surtees). Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director.
The film also received Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy (Hoffman), and Best Screenplay (Henry and Willingham). Bancroft won the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy, Nichols won the Golden Globe Award for Best Director, Turman and Joseph E. Levin won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy, Hoffman won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actor, and Ross won the Golden Globe Award for New Star of the Year – Actress.
In addition, the film won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, BAFTA Award for Best Direction (Nichols), BAFTA Award for Most Promising Newcomer to Leading Film Roles (Hoffman), the BAFTA Award for Best Editing (Sam O'Steen). Bancroft was nominated for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role.
In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and placed #21 on the list of highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada, adjusted for inflation.
Years later in interviews, Bancroft conceded that, much to her surprise, Mrs. Robinson was the role with which she was most identified, and added "Men still come up to me and tell me 'You were my first sexual fantasy.'"
The film is listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die.
In 1985 Alfa Romeo introduced the Graduate, a version of the Alfa Romeo Spider which recalled the car used in the movie. This version of the car was produced until 1990.
American Film Institute
The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:1998: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #7
2000: AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs – #9
2002: AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions – #52
2004: AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
"Mrs. Robinson" – #6
2005: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
Mr. Maguire: "Plastics." – #42
Benjamin Braddock: "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" – #63
2007: AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – #17
Terry Johnson's adaptation of the original novel and the film ran both on London's West End and on Broadway, and has toured the United States. There is a Brazilian version adapted by Miguel Falabella. Several actresses have starred as Mrs. Robinson, including Kathleen Turner, Lorraine Bracco, Jerry Hall, Amanda Donohoe, Morgan Fairchild, Anne Archer, Vera Fischer, Patricia Richardson and Linda Gray.
The stage production adds several scenes that are not in the novel or the film, as well as using material from both film and novel. It also uses songs by Simon & Garfunkel not used in the film, such as "Bridge Over Troubled Water" as well as music from other popular musicians from the era such as The Byrds and The Beach Boys.
The West End production opened at the Gielgud Theatre on April 5, 2000, after previews from March 24, with Kathleen Turner starring as Mrs. Robinson. The production closed in January 2002. Jerry Hall replaced Turner on July 31, 2000, followed by Amanda Donohoe from February 2001, Anne Archer from June 2001, and Linda Gray from October 2001. The 2003 UK touring production starred Glynis Barber as Mrs. Robinson.
The Broadway production opened at the Plymouth Theatre on April 4, 2002, and closed on March 2, 2003, after 380 performances. Directed by Terry Johnson, the play featured the cast of Jason Biggs as Benjamin Braddock, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine Robinson, and Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson. The play received no award nominations. Linda Gray briefly filled-in for Turner in September 2002. Lorraine Bracco replaced Turner from November 19, 2002.
The Graduate ran at the Cape Playhouse (Dennis, Massachusetts) in July 2011, and starred Patricia Richardson.
Charles Webb has written a sequel to his original novel titled Home School, but initially refused to publish it in its entirety because of a contract he signed in the 1960s. When he sold film rights to The Graduate, he surrendered the rights to any sequels. If he were to publish Home School, Canal+, the French media company that owns the rights to The Graduate, would be able to adapt it for the screen without his permission. Extracts of Home School were printed in The Times on May 2, 2006. Webb also told the newspaper that there was a possibility he would find a publisher for the full text, provided he could retrieve the film rights using French copyright law. On May 30, 2006, The Times reported that Webb had signed a publishing deal for Home School with Random House which he hoped would enable him to instruct French lawyers to attempt to retrieve his rights. The novel was published in Britain in 2007.
While not technically a sequel, the 2005 film Rumor Has It revolves around characters who live in Pasadena and are rumored to have inspired their counterparts in The Graduate.