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The Graduate is a American comedy-drama film directed by Mike Nichols, based on the 1963 novel The Graduate by Charles Webb, who wrote it shortly after graduating from Williams College. The screenplay is by Calder Willingham and Buck Henry, who makes a cameo appearance as the hotel clerk. The film tells the story of Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman), a recent university graduate with no well-defined aim in life, who is seduced by an older woman, Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft), and then proceeds to fall in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).

In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". It ranked as the seventh greatest film of all time on AFI's 100 Years... 100 Movies and placed #18 on the list of highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada, adjusted for inflation.


Benjamin Braddock returns home, shortly after earning his bachelor's degree from an unnamed college in the northeast United States, to a party celebrating his graduation at his parents' house in Pasadenamarker, a satellite city of Los Angelesmarker. Benjamin is visibly uncomfortable at the party attended by his parents' friends. He remains aloof while his parents deliver accolades and neighborhood friends ask him about his future plans. One of the guests whispers in Benjamin's ear, "Plastics." Benjamin escapes from each person who comes to congratulate him, exposing his seeming embarrassment at all the honors he had won at college. Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's law partner, asks Benjamin to drive her home, which he reluctantly does.

Arriving at her home, she pleads for Benjamin to come inside, saying that she does not like to enter a dark house. Once inside, she forces a drink on him, opens up about her private life, exposing herself to him and offering to have an affair with him. Initially flustered, he is immediately shocked by her advances and flees the house. A few days later he calls her, and their affair begins. Benjamin is clearly uncomfortable with sex, but he is drawn into the affair with the older, but still attractive, Mrs. Robinson. Their affair appears to last most of the summer.

Meanwhile Benjamin is hounded by his father to select a graduate school to attend. Benjamin, clearly not interested in pursuing his studies, shrugs off his father's wishes and spends his time lounging about and sleeping with Mrs. Robinson. Mr. Robinson (Murray Hamilton), unaware of his wife's budding affair, encourages Benjamin to call on his daughter, Elaine (Katharine Ross), and Benjamin's parents repeatedly encourage him to date her. During one liaison, Mrs. Robinson forces a promise from Ben to never date Elaine. Whether out of fear of Mrs. Robinson, or sensing that getting involved with the daughter of his lover could be disastrous, he tries to avoid it. Due to the other three parents' persistent intervention, he is essentially forced to date her. Therefore, he tries to ensure his date with her will be a disaster so she would not want to pursue courtship with him. He drives recklessly, practically ignoring Elaine, and then takes her to a strip club where she is openly humiliated and silently begins to cry. After she storms out of the establishment, he is overcome with guilt and pursues her, apologizes, and then kisses her. What follows is a courtship with the younger Robinson: exactly what Benjamin and Mrs. Robinson were trying to avoid.

From here, Benjamin's life falls apart. He confesses the affair to Elaine (under threat of exposure by Mrs. Robinson), and she angrily tells him to never see her again. Although he follows Elaine to UC Berkeleymarker, where she is a student, he is barred from seeing Elaine any further. She proceeds to become engaged to another man (Brian Avery), one her parents find acceptable. However, Benjamin, believing (with some justification) that she loves him, refuses to give up hope, despite warnings and threats of arrest from Mr. Robinson, who has learned of his wife's affair.

Benjamin undertakes a desperate drive across a distance of many miles to somehow head off Elaine's wedding in Santa Barbaramarker. He is forced to stop for directions, his car, an Alfa Romeo Spider, runs out of gas, and he is ultimately forced to run the final few blocks. He arrives just as the bride and groom are about to kiss, and stands looking down at the couple from an upper window. He fears for a moment that he is too late, but begins pounding on the glass anyway screaming "Elaine! Elaine!". This does not garner much response at first, but when Elaine gives the return cry "Ben!", mayhem ensues.

After a violent struggle with Elaine's parents and wedding guests (Ben armed only with a large cross), Ben and Elaine escape on a public bus. The escaping couple sits smiling at the back of the bus, the other passengers stare at them in mute disbelief. As the film ends, Ben's smile fades to an enigmatic, neutral, somewhat uncomfortable expression as he gazes forward into the bus. While Elaine looks at Ben's expression, she takes on a similar gaze.


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Many of the exterior shots of Benjamin on the campus were actually filmed on the brick campus of USCmarker in Los Angeles, as the UC Berkeley campus features buildings with gray granite exteriors. Other scenes were filmed on the Berkeley campus, on Durant Avenue in Berkeley, and on Telegraph Avenuemarker.

The Taft Hotel scenes were filmed at the famed Ambassador Hotelmarker, the same hotel in which U.S. Senator and Presidential candidate Robert Kennedy was assassinated less than six months after the film's release.

The church used for the wedding scene is actually the United Methodist Church in LaVernemarker. 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 owner of the church had been watching the filming disapprovingly.The residence used for the Robinsons' house was located on North Palm Drive in Beverly Hillsmarker.

There are repeated subliminal shots of Mrs. Robinson's bare breasts and midriff in the scene in Elaine's room when Benjamin has been trapped by Mrs. Robinson.

One of the Campus Loop buses at Kent State Universitymarker in the 1970s had a plaque in it identifying it as a "movie star" and stating that it was the bus Benjamin and Elaine escape on at the end of the film.


The film boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel, whose soundtrack album (The Graduate Original Soundtrack), on the strength of the hit single "Mrs. Robinson", rose to the top of the charts in 1968 (knocking off The Beatles' White Album). However, the version that appears in the film is markedly different from the hit single version, which would not be issued until Simon and Garfunkel's next album, Bookends. The actual film version of "Mrs. Robinson" does appear on the "Graduate" soundtrack LP.

According to a Variety article by Peter Bart in the 15 May 2005 issue, Nichols had become obsessed with Simon & Garfunkel's music while shooting the film. Lawrence Turman, his producer, made a deal for Simon to write three new songs for the movie. By the time they were 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 didn't 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."


A.D. Murphy of Variety and Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times praised the film upon its release with Murphy describing it as a "delightful satirical comedy-drama" and Ebert claiming it was the "funniest American comedy of the year".

For the film's thirtieth anniversary reissue, Roger Ebert retracted some of his previous praise for the film He, along with Gene Siskel, gave the film a mediocre review on the television program Siskel & Ebert.

Awards and honors

Dustin Hoffman earned an Oscar nomination for his performance as did Bancroft and Ross.

Along with the acting nominations, the film received nominations for Best Cinematography, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Picture. Mike Nichols won the Academy Award for Best Director.

The film won the BAFTA Award for Best Film, as well as the BAFTA Award for Best Editing (to Sam O'Steen).

In 1996, The Graduate was selected for preservation in the U.S. National Film Registry by the Library of Congressmarker as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant", and placed #18 on the list of highest-grossing films in the United States and Canada, adjusted for inflation.

American Film Institute recognition

Stage adaptation

John Reid produced a play in 2000, adapted from the movie, which was a hit both in Londonmarker's West Endmarker and on Broadwaymarker and has toured the United States. There is a Brazilianmarker 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 and Linda Gray. The Broadway production in 2002 starred Kathleen Turner, Jason Biggs, and Alicia Silverstone.

The play often receives media attention due to a sequence that requires the (often notable) actress playing Mrs. Robinson to disrobe and act a scene in the nude. Some productions of the play incorporate an on-stage topless love scene involving the Mrs. Robinson character.

Possibility of sequel

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 30 May 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 the French lawyers to attempt to retrieve his rights. The novel was released in Britain in 2007.

In Robert Altman's Hollywood satire The Player (1992), Buck Henry, co-writer of The Graduate, plays a screenwriter (himself, in fact, as Buck Henry was a screenwriter on the original film) attempting to pitch a sequel to The Graduate to a Hollywood producer. Henry's character reminds the producer that the leading actors are all still alive and envisages a scenario in which Ben, Elaine and Mrs. Robinson live together in a ménage à trois.

The Graduate's characters are at the center of Rob Reiner's 2005 movie Rumor Has It.


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