Lord of the Flies (1990 film)

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Lord of the Flies
Lord of the Flies (1990 film).jpg
Theatrical Release Poster
Directed by Harry Hook
Produced by Lewis M. Allen
Screenplay by Jay Presson Allen credited as Sara Schiff
Based on Lord of the Flies by William Golding
The Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky
Starring Balthazar Getty
Chris Furrh
Danuel Pipoly
James Badge Dale
Bob Peck
Music by Philippe Sarde
Cinematography Martin Fuhrer
Edited by Harry Hook
Castle Rock Entertainment
Nelson Entertainment
Distributed by Columbia Pictures (Originally)
MGM (DVD [Possibly Current Rights Holder])
Release date(s) March 16, 1990 (1990-03-16)
Running time 90 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million
Box office $13,985,225

Lord of the Flies is a 1990 American survival film adapted from the classic novel Lord of the Flies, written by William Golding. It was written by Jay Presson Allen, and directed by Harry Hook. It is the second film adaptation of the book, the first being the 1963 film. This adaptation takes more liberties with some aspects of the plot, while the 1963 edition was more faithful to the novel.

The film was a moderate box office success, but was given mixed reviews by critics.


The film follows the same basic premise as the original: a group of young boys become stranded on an island along with an injured captain, and form a tribal society. This time, the children are from an American military school. The boys eventually turn wild and two of them and the captain are killed.



Filming locations included Port Antonio, island of Jamaica.

Differences between the 1990 film and the book[edit]

The plot is different from that of the book (as indicated below), but it still is meant to illustrate the same themes, motifs, and symbols.

  • In the book, set forty years earlier than the film and involving boys from another nation, both dialogue and cultural attitudes are very different.
  • In the film, the boys are American military school cadets, as opposed to British schoolboys in the novel. The novel is set in the 1950s at a time when war has broken out and children are being evacuated from Britain by air.
  • In the film, the boys are all from the same military academy; in the novel, the children are from two British public schools traveling together on the same evacuation flight.
  • The cadets in the film swear frequently. This is not seen in the novel, whose characters use milder British insults.
  • Ralph is always a friend to Piggy in the film, but isn't nice to Piggy in the beginning of the book.
  • Piggy doesn't ask any of the boys what their names are, in the book he asks most of the boys.
  • The boys don't use the phrases "Biguns" and "Littluns" for each other in this movie version. These terms are British public school slang expressions from the period in which the book was written.
  • In the book one of the boys presumably dies after the fire spreads out of control, but in the film this never happens.
  • In the book Ralph and Piggy emerge from the crashed aircraft on the island, and it is implied that the other boys do the same. In the movie, they are all brought ashore by a life raft.
  • In the book, Sam and Eric are forced to join Jack's tribe. In the film, they join earlier by their own desire, possibly because Jack calls them "girls".
  • The only characters from the book that are in the film are Ralph, Jack, Piggy, the twins (Sam and Eric), Simon, and Roger. Although one of the boys strongly resembles Percival Weyms Madison (the boy who discovers the cave).
  • In the film, the American children are of differing ethnicity and creed, one boy wears a cross (indicating that he is a Christian), another wearing the Star of David (indicating a Jewish boy), and one boy is African-American while another is clearly Hispanic. In the book, they are all white British and their religious beliefs are not stated.
  • The time the boys spent on the island was only 13 days, while it was for an indefinite period in the novel.
  • Instead of a dead parachutist playing the role of "the beast," Captain Benson plays it here, who was the only surviving adult, but was killed when he scared a boy, exploring a cave in a state of fever hallucinations.
  • Ralph, rather than Jack, discovers that Piggy's spectacles can make fire.
  • The Lord of the Flies never talks to Simon in the film, whereas the novel has Simon experiencing a hallucination in which it speaks to him.
  • In the book, the Lord of the Flies was safely away from the "beast", but in the film the Lord of the Flies is right next to it.
  • The killing of the mother sow is not shown, only the boys chasing and decapitating a pig.
  • Simon's death is much less violent in the movie where he is struck with spears. In the book he was bitten and clawed to death by the others.
  • In the book, Simon is shown to be much more mystical, reflecting the allegorical nature of Golding's novel.
  • Simon has only a few lines in the film.
  • In the book, Jack dislikes Piggy because he found he talked too much and was fat, in the film Piggy starts the bad relationship, by telling Jack to "shut up" unnecessarily.
  • When Jack leaves the tribe, the whole re-election scene is left out; instead, he just leaves the tribe and asks who wants to come with him.
  • Piggy's character is very different in the film: he is not annoying, courageous, or particularly intelligent.
  • Piggy in the novel speaks in a working-class dialect distinctly different to the speech of the other boys, where Piggy in the film does not appear to have unusual speech conventions.
  • In the film Sam or Eric names Piggy, whereas in the novel Ralph calls him Piggy after Piggy told him if he were to be called anything, he would not want to be called Piggy.
  • In the book the boys call the creature the "beast" but in the film they call it the "monster" instead.
  • In the film Piggy dies from the boulder thrown off of Castle Rock bludgeoning him, but in the book he falls off a cliff after being struck by the boulder.
  • In the film the conch is never shown being broken. In the book however, it shatters when Piggy is struck by the boulder, symbolizing the loss of order.
  • In the book, Ralph is described as having blond hair, Simon black hair, and Jack red hair. All three characters have different hair colors in this adaptation.
  • In the book the vote of the leader is very important, while in the film it is not. Also, Jack seems very upset by the loss of the election to Ralph while in the film he seems to laugh it off.
  • The reason Ralph is voted leader in the film is that 'he's colonel', whereas in the book it is because he is older and found the conch.
  • In the movie, Simon had a lizard as a pet that is eventually killed by Roger. No such pet existed in the novel.
  • In the movie, there is a "survival knife"; in the book, there isn't. Jack does have a knife, but it's his only and not referred to as a "survival knife." Jack and his tribe also never have to steal it from Ralph and Piggy because the knife is Jack's to begin with.
  • In the novel, all the adults (presumably teachers and aircrew) accompanying the boarding school boys have died in the plane crash. The dead body attached to a parachute is apparently that of a pilot from another plane shot down before the book starts. However, in the movie, the pilot is a named individual from the aircraft carrying the military academy cadets and survives for a while before he dies.
  • In the book, Piggy is described as being obese. In the movie, he is only big compared to all the other boys.
  • In the movie a helicopter went near the island, in the book (set in the 1950s) it was a ship.
  • Jack is never called "Merridew" in the film.
  • In the book, Jack broke Piggy's glasses by punching him. In the movie, Jack did not instead, they stepped on their shelter and possibly stepped on the glasses.
  • In the book, Jack leaves Ralph's group by himself and the boys eventually all join his group, in the film Jack already has 6 other boys when he leaves Ralph's group.
  • No glow sticks were shown in the book, while in the movie, Simon used the glow stick to see what was in the cave.
  • It was stated that Simon discovered the "beastie" in day time instead of night time.
  • The twins are never called "Samneric" in the film. Their names are only spoken once in the film by Ralph, but saying "Sam...Eric".
  • When Ralph and Piggy was offered pork by Jack, only Piggy ate it. While in the book, both Ralph and Piggy ate the pork.
  • Neither Ralph nor Piggy should be awake when Piggy's glasses were stolen, but in the movie, both were awake.
  • Two of the boys talk about "ALF" in the movie. The book was written over 30 years before the TV show was created.
  • In the book, Piggy mentions his aunt many times; in the film, the only family member he mentions is his stepfather "Major Dingledine".
  • In the book, it is implied that Roger was building up his eagerness to push the rock on Piggy when the latter arrives at castle rock, in the film Roger spontaneously puts his spear to one side and pushes the rock off.
  • In the book, Roger pushes the rock so it falls down the mountainside, gradually. In the movie, he directly pushes it off a sheer cliff drop. Thus, Ralph didn't dodge the rock in the movie.
  • In the book, Ralph and Piggy did not find any musical instruments in the water. In the movie, Ralph saw it and both of them took it out from the water and Ralph faked to play it.
  • In the book, it is stated that Ralph took the stick that was sharpened at both ends from the "Lord of the Flies" and defended himself with it. However, in the movie, Ralph left the sow's head as it was, complete with stick.
  • When the boys chased Ralph and ran into a Royal Navy officer in the book, he stated that he expected better behavior from British boys. In the movie, the US Marine officer just asked "What are you guys doing?"
  • It is not clear at the end of the film whether the American military who arrive in force, are searching for the missing cadets or whether they are have come on training maneuvers. In either event it is implied that the island is close to the US mainland. In the book there is a third world war beginning in Europe and the Royal Navy ship is drawn to the island (apparently located in the Pacific) by the fires begun by Jack and his hunters to smoke out Ralph.
  • All the children in the book weep when their savage dysfunctional society is suddenly ended by the arrival of the adults of the naval landing party. However only Ralph cries in the movie, although the other boys seemed to be in shock.
  • In the movie Ralph had an injured left arm (Balthazar Getty broke his arm a few weeks before filming began), in the book it was not mentioned.


Box Office[edit]

The movie made $13,985,225 domestically in 919 theaters from its $9,000,000 budget.[citation needed]


Critics' reviews were generally mixed to positive; the film has a rating of 61% "Fresh" on the movie review site Rotten Tomatoes.[1] Some cited that the novel in general is somewhat dated and unsuitable for a remake. Roger Ebert remarked in his review that "events take place every day on our mean streets that are more horrifying than anything the little monsters do to one another on Golding's island."[2]

Barrie Maxwell of DVD Verdict commented that the color of the island creates a more superficial atmosphere than the stark black and white of the previous version.[3]

Despite the reviews, the acting of the boys was generally praised.


The melodies used in the soundtrack were not composed by Philippe Sarde, but were taken from the mediaeval hymnbook Llibre Vermell, specifically "Stella Splendens in Monte," "Los Set Gotxs," and "Mariam Matrem." No credit was given for their use, though the orchestrations were original. Other melodies in the soundtrack are arranged excerpts from Stravinksy's Rite of Spring, primarily during high-tension or chase scenes.


External links[edit]