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The English Patient is a 1996 film adaptation of the novel of the same name by Michael Ondaatje. The film, written for the screen and directed by Anthony Minghella, won nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Ondaatje worked closely with the filmmakers.


The film is set during World War II and depicts a critically burned man, at first known only as "the English patient", who is being looked after by Hana (Juliette Binoche), a French-Canadian nurse in a ruined Italianmarker villa. The patient is reluctant to disclose any personal information but through a series of flashbacks, viewers are allowed into his past. It is slowly revealed that he is in fact a Hungarian geographer, Count László de Almásy (Ralph Fiennes), who was making a map of the Sahara Desert, and whose affair with a married woman (Kristin Scott Thomas) ultimately brought about his present situation. As the patient remembers more, David Caravaggio (Willem Dafoe), a Canadian thief/intelligence operative, arrives at the monastery. Caravaggio lost his thumbs while being interrogated by officers of the German Afrika Korps, and he gradually reveals that it was the patient's actions that had brought about his torture.

In addition to the patient's story, the film devotes time to Hana and her romance with Kip (Naveen Andrews), an Indianmarker sapper in the British Army. Due to various events in her past, Hana believes that anyone who comes close to her is likely to die, and Kip's position as a bomb defuser makes their romance full of tension.


In his book The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002) Michael Ondaatje records his conversations with the film's editor and sound designer Walter Murch, who won two Academy Awards for the film. Murch describes the complexity of editing a film with multiple flashbacks and timeframes; he edited and reedited numerous times and notes that the final film features over 40 time transitions.

The movie was filmed on location in Tunisiamarker and Italymarker.


The film garnered widespread critical acclaim and was a major award winner as well as a box office success; its awards included the Academy Award for Best Picture, the Golden Globe Award and the BAFTA Award for Best Film. Juliette Binoche won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress, winning out over Lauren Bacall for The Mirror Has Two Faces (it would have been Bacall's only Oscar win, and in her acceptance speech Binoche commented that she had expected Bacall to win). Anthony Minghella took home the Oscar for Best Director. Kristin Scott Thomas and Ralph Fiennes were nominated for Best Actress and Best Actor. In all, The English Patient was nominated for an impressive 12 awards and ultimately walked away with 9. It is the highest-grossing non-IMAX film (and second highest-grossing film overall) to never reach the weekend box office top 5.

The English Patient is one of only two Best Picture winners (Amadeus the other) to never enter the weekend box office top 5 since top 10 rankings were first recorded in 1982.

Chicago Sun Times critic Roger Ebert gave the movie a 4/4 rating, saying "it's the kind of movie you can see twice - first for the questions, the second time for the answers."

Awards and honors

1996[15030] Academy Awards
  • Won, Best Picture
  • Won, Best Actress in a Supporting Role: Juliette Binoche
  • Won, Best Art Direction-Set Decoration (Stuart Craig and Stephanie McMillan)
  • Won, Best Cinematography (John Seale)
  • Won, Best Costume Design (Ann Roth)
  • Won, Best Director (Anthony Minghella)
  • Won, Best Film Editing (Walter Murch)
  • Won, Best Original Score (Gabriel Yared)
  • Won, Best Sound (Walter Murch, Mark Berger, David Parker, and Christopher Newman)
  • Nominated, Best Actor in a Leading Role: Ralph Fiennes
  • Nominated, Best Actress in a Leading Role: Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Nominated, Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium (Anthony Minghella)

1997 Golden Globes, USA
  • Won, Best Motion Picture - Drama
  • Won, Best Original Score - Motion Picture (Gabriel Yared)
  • Nominated, Best Director - Motion Picture (Anthony Minghella)
  • Nominated, Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama: Ralph Fiennes
  • Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Drama: Kristin Scott Thomas
  • Nominated, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture: Juliette Binoche
  • Nominated, Best Screenplay - Motion Picture (Anthony Minghella)

1997 BAFTA Awards, UK
  • Won, Best Film
  • Won, Best Cinematography (John Seale)
  • Won, Best Editing (Walter Murch)
  • Won, Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role (Juliette Binoche)
  • Won, Best Screenplay - Adapted (Anthony Minghella)
  • Won, Best Music (Gabriel Yared)


  1. Top Grossing Movies That Never Hit the Top 5 at the Box Office
  2. The English Patient weekend box office results,
  3. Amadeus weekend box office results,
  4. Rogert Ebert - Official Website The English Patient. Retrieved on June 10, 2008.

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