Amadeus (film)

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Theatrical release poster by Peter Sís
Directed by Miloš Forman
Produced by Saul Zaentz
Screenplay by Peter Shaffer
Based on Amadeus
by Peter Shaffer
Cinematography Miroslav Ondříček
Edited by
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • September 6, 1984 (1984-09-06) (Los Angeles)
  • September 19, 1984 (1984-09-19) (United States)
Running time
161 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $18 million[2]
Box office $52 million (North America)[2]

Amadeus is a 1984 American period drama film directed by Miloš Forman, written by Peter Shaffer, and adapted from Shaffer's stage play Amadeus (1979). The story, set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century, is a fictionalized biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart's music is heard extensively in the soundtrack of the movie. Its central thesis is that Antonio Salieri, an Italian contemporary of Mozart is so driven by jealousy of the latter and his success as a composer that he plans to kill him and to pass off a Requiem, which he secretly commissioned from Mozart as his own, to be premiered at Mozart's funeral. Historically, the Requiem which was never finished was commissioned by Count von Walsegg and Salieri, far from being jealous of Mozart, was on good terms with him and even tutored his son after Mozart's death.

The film was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, which included eight Academy Awards (including Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globes, and a Directors Guild of America (DGA) award. As of 2016, it is the most recent film to have more than one nomination in the Academy Award for Best Actor category. In 1998, the American Film Institute ranked Amadeus 53rd on its 100 Years... 100 Movies list.


The story begins in 1823 as the elderly Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) attempts suicide by slitting his throat while loudly begging forgiveness for having killed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) in 1791. Placed in a lunatic asylum for the act, Salieri is visited by Father Vogler (Richard Frank), a young priest who seeks to hear his confession. Salieri is initially sullen and uninterested, but eventually warms to the priest and launches into a long "confession" about his relationship with Mozart.

Salieri goes on telling his tale through the night, and into the next day. He reminisces about his youth, particularly about his devotion to God, and his love for music, despite his father's plans for him to go into commerce. He pledged to God to remain celibate as a sacrifice if he could somehow devote his life to music, and perceived his father's subsequent death as divine intervention to make this possible.

Years later, Salieri is part of the 18th-century cultural elite in Vienna, the "city of musicians". He is respected, financially well-off, and has been appointed court composer for Holy Roman Emperor Joseph II (Jeffrey Jones). He is content, and believes his successes are God’s rewards for his piety.

The famous child prodigy Mozart arrives in Vienna, and Salieri goes to a performance hoping to meet him, convinced that Mozart's genius must be a gift from God. Salieri secretly observes Mozart, and is shocked to discover that rather than the paragon of virtue that he has imagined, Mozart is in fact boorish, irreverent, and lewd. Later, when Mozart meets the Emperor, Salieri presents Mozart with a "March of Welcome," which he had toiled to create. After hearing the march only once, Mozart plays it from memory, tactlessly critiques it, and effortlessly improvises a variation, transforming Salieri's "trifle" into what later would become the Non più andrai march from his opera The Marriage of Figaro.

Salieri reels at the notion of God speaking through the childish, petulant Mozart: nevertheless, he regards his music as miraculous. Gradually, Salieri’s faith is shaken. He believes that God, through Mozart's genius, is cruelly laughing at Salieri's own musical mediocrity. Salieri's struggles with God are intercut with scenes showing Mozart's own trials and tribulations with life in Vienna: pride at the initial reception of his music, anger and disbelief over his subsequent snubbing by the Italians of the Emperor's court, happiness with his wife Constanze (Elizabeth Berridge) and his son Karl, and grief at the death of his father Leopold (Roy Dotrice). Mozart becomes more desperate as the family's expenses increase and his commissions decrease. When Salieri learns of Mozart's financial straits, he sees his chance to avenge himself, using "God's Beloved" (the literal meaning of "Amadeus") as the instrument.

Salieri hatches a complex plot to gain ultimate victory over Mozart and God. He disguises himself in a mask and costume similar to one he saw Leopold wear at a party, and commissions Mozart to write a requiem mass, giving him a down payment and the promise of an enormous sum upon completion. Mozart begins to write the piece, the Requiem in D minor, unaware of the true identity of his mysterious patron and oblivious of his murderous intentions. Glossing over any details of how he might commit the murder, Salieri dwells on the anticipation of the admiration of his peers and the court, when they applaud the magnificent Requiem, and he claims to be the music's composer. Only Salieri and God would know the truth—that Mozart wrote his own requiem mass, and that God could only watch while Salieri finally receives the fame and renown that he deserves.

Mozart's financial situation worsens due to his spendthrift lifestyle. This, combined with his heavy drinking, continued grief over the death of his father, and the composing demands of the Requiem and The Magic Flute drive him to the point of exhaustion as he alternates work between the two pieces. After a violent argument, Constanze leaves him and takes their son with her. His health worsens, and he collapses during a performance of The Magic Flute. Salieri takes the stricken Mozart home and convinces him to work on the Requiem. Mozart dictates while Salieri transcribes throughout the night. When Constanze returns in the morning, she tells Salieri to leave. Constanze locks the manuscript away despite Salieri's objections, but as she goes to wake her husband, she finds that Mozart is dead. The Requiem is left unfinished, and Salieri is left powerless as Mozart's body is hauled out of Vienna for burial in a pauper's mass grave.

The film ends as Salieri finishes recounting his story to the visibly shaken young priest. Salieri concludes that God killed Mozart rather than allow Salieri to share in even an ounce of his glory, and that he is consigned to be the "patron saint of mediocrity". Salieri absolves the priest of his own mediocrity and blesses his fellow patients as he is taken away in his wheelchair. The last sound heard before the credits roll is Mozart's high-pitched laughter.



In his autobiography Beginning, Kenneth Branagh says that he was one of the finalists for the role of Mozart, but was dropped from consideration when Forman decided to make the film with an American cast.[3] Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe's mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart's unpredictable genius.[4] Branagh and Hulce finally worked together in the Branagh's 1994 film, Mary Shelley's Frankenstein.

Meg Tilly was cast as Mozart's wife Constanze, but she tore a ligament in her leg the day before shooting started.[4] She was replaced by Elizabeth Berridge. Simon Callow, who played Mozart in the original London stage production of Amadeus, was cast as Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist of The Magic Flute.

The film was shot on location in Prague, Kroměříž, and Vienna. Notably, Forman was able to shoot scenes in the Count Nostitz Theatre in Prague, where Don Giovanni and La clemenza di Tito debuted two centuries before. Several other scenes were shot at the Barrandov Studios.

Forman collaborated with American choreographer Twyla Tharp.


In 1985, the film was nominated for eleven Academy Awards, including the double nomination for Best Actor with Hulce and Abraham each being nominated for their portrayals of Mozart and Salieri, respectively. The film won eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Actor (Abraham), Best Director (Forman), Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk), Adapted Screenplay (Shaffer), Art Direction (Karel Černý, Patrizia von Brandenstein), Best Makeup, and Best Sound. The film was nominated for but did not win Oscars for Best Cinematography and Best Editing. Amadeus, The English Patient, The Hurt Locker, The Artist, and Birdman are the only Best Picture winners to never enter the weekend box office top 5 after rankings began being recorded in 1982.[5][6][7][8] Amadeus peaked at #6 during its 8th weekend in theaters. Saul Zaentz produced both Amadeus and The English Patient.

The film was nominated for six Golden Globes (Hulce and Abraham were nominated together) and won four, including awards to Forman, Abraham, Shaffer, and Golden Globe Award for Best Picture – Drama. Jeffrey Jones was nominated for Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Drama. Forman also received the Directors Guild of America Award for his work.

At the end of the Oscar ceremony, Laurence Olivier came on stage to present the Oscar for Best Picture. As Olivier thanked the Academy for inviting him, he was already opening the envelope. Instead of announcing the nominees, he simply read, "The winner for this is ‘Amadeus’." An AMPAS official quickly went onstage to confirm the winner and signaled that all was well, before Olivier then presented the award to producer Saul Zaentz. Olivier (in his 78th year) had been ill for many years, and it was because of mild dementia that he forgot to read the nominees.[9] Zaentz then thanked Olivier, saying it was an honour to receive the award from him,[10] before mentioning the other nominees in his acceptance speech: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart and A Soldier's Story. Maurice Jarre won the Oscar for Best Original Music Score for his scoring of A Passage to India. In his acceptance speech for the award, Jarre remarked "I was lucky Mozart was not eligible this year".[11]

Alternative versions[edit]

Amadeus premiered in 1984 as a PG-rated movie with a running time of 161 minutes. In 2002, director Miloš Forman introduced an R-rated version with nearly 20 minutes of restored footage. This version was released by the studios as a Director's Cut. In the 1995 supplemental material for Pioneer's deluxe LaserDisc, Miloš Forman had justified why those scenes were cut in the first place. However, in a subsequent 2002 interview with The A.V. Club, the director explains why the scenes were eventually restored:

When you finish a film, before the first paying audience sees it, you don't have any idea. You don't know if you made a success or a flop, when it comes to the box office. And in the '80s, with MTV on the scene, we are having a three-hour film about classical music, with long names and wigs and costumes. Don't forget that no major studio wanted to finance the film, for these reasons. So we said, "Well, we don't want to be pushing the audience's patience too far". Whatever was not directly connected to the plot, I just cut out. But it was a mutual decision [to limit the running time]. I wanted the best life for the film myself... Well, once we are re-releasing it on DVD, it doesn't matter if it is two hours and 40 minutes long, or three hours long. So why don't we do the version as it was written in the script?[12]


Film credits[edit]

Original Soundtrack Recording[edit]

The soundtrack album[13] reached #1 in the Billboard Classical Albums Chart, #56 in the Billboard Popular Albums Chart, has sold over 6.5 million copies and received thirteen gold discs, making it one of the most popular classical music recordings of all time.[14] It won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Album in 1984.[15]

  • Disc 1
  1. Mozart: Symphony No. 25 in G minor, K. 183, 1st movement
  2. Giovanni Battista Pergolesi: Stabat Mater: Quando corpus morietur and Amen
  3. Early 18th Century Gypsy Music: Bubak and Hungaricus
  4. Mozart: Serenade for Winds in B flat major, K. 361, 3rd movement
  5. Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384, Turkish Finale
  6. Mozart: Symphony No. 29 in A major, K. 201, 1st movement
  7. Mozart: Concerto for Two Pianos in E flat major, K. 365, 3rd movement
  8. Mozart: Great Mass in C minor, K. 427, Kyrie
  9. Mozart: Symphonie Concertante in E flat major, K. 364, 1st movement
  • Disc 2
  1. Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22 in E flat major, K. 482, 3rd movement
  2. Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, Act III, Ecco la marcia
  3. Mozart: The Marriage of Figaro, K. 492, Act IV, Ah, tutti contenti
  4. Mozart: Don Giovanni, K. 527, Act II, Commendatore scene
  5. Mozart: Zaide, K. 344, Aria, Ruhe sanft
  6. Mozart: Requiem, K. 626, Introitus (orchestral introduction)
  7. Mozart: Requiem, K. 626, Dies irae
  8. Mozart: Requiem, K. 626, Rex tremendae majestatis
  9. Mozart: Requiem, K. 626, Confutatis
  10. Mozart: Requiem, K. 626, Lacrimosa
  11. Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, 2nd movement

All tracks on the album were performed specifically for the film. According to the film commentary by Forman and Schaffer, Marriner agreed to score the film if Mozart's music was completely unchanged from the original scores. Marriner did add some notes to Salieri's music that are noticeable in the beginning of the film, as Salieri begins his confession.

The aria Ruhe sanft from the opera Zaide does not appear in the film.

More Music from the Original Soundtrack[edit]

In 1985 an additional album with the title More Music from the Original Soundtrack of the Film Amadeus was issued containing further selections of music that were not included on the original soundtrack release.[16]

  1. Mozart: The Magic Flute, K. 620, Overture
  2. Mozart: The Magic Flute, K. 620, Act II, The Queen of the Night (Der Holle Rache Kocht)
  3. Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477
  4. Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, 1st movement
  5. Antonio Salieri: Axur, Finale
  6. Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G major), K. 525, 1st movement, arranged for woodwind octet by Graham Sheen
  7. Mozart: Concerto for Flute and Harp in C major, K. 299, 2nd movement
  8. Mozart: Six German Dances (Nos. 1-3), K. 509
  9. Giuseppe Giordani: Caro Mio Ben
  10. Mozart: The Abduction from the Seraglio, K. 384, Chorus of the Janissaries (Arr.) and Ich Mochte Wohl (Ein deutsches Kriegslied), K. 539 (Arr.)

The Masonic Funeral Music was originally intended to play over the closing credits, but was replaced in the film by the second movement of the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor[17] (included on the Original Soundtrack Recording).

Director's Cut soundtrack[edit]

In 2002, to coincide with the release of the Director's Cut of the film, the soundtrack was remastered with 24-bit encoding and reissued with the title Special Edition: The Director's Cut - Newly Remastered Original Soundtrack Recording on two 24-karat gold CDs.[18] It contains most of the music from the previous two releases, but with the following differences.

The following pieces were added for this release:

The following pieces, previously released on More Music from the Original Soundtrack of the Film Amadeus, were not included:

Awards and nominations[edit]

United States[edit]

Academy Awards 1985
Golden Globe Awards 1985
LAFCA Awards 1984
American Cinema Editors
  • Won (1)
    • Best Edited Feature Film (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)
Casting Society of America
  • Won (1)
    • Best Casting for Feature Film (Mary Goldberg)
Directors Guild of America
  • Won (1)
    • Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures (Miloš Forman)
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award
  • Won (1)
    • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)
American Film Institute

United Kingdom[edit]

  • Won (4)
    • Best Cinematography (Miroslav Ondříček)
    • Best Editing (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)
    • Best Make Up Artist (Dick Smith and Paul LeBlanc)
    • Best Sound (Mark Berger, Thomas Scott and Christopher Newman)
  • Nominated
    • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham)
    • Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk)
    • Best Film (Miloš Forman and Saul Zaentz)
    • Best Production Design (Patrizia von Brandstein)
    • Best Screenplay – Adapted (Peter Shaffer)


David di Donatello
Nastro d'Argento
  • Won (2)
    • Best Actor – Foreign Film (Tom Hulce)
    • Best Director – Foreign Film (Miloš Forman)


César Award


Japan Academy Prize


Amanda Award
  • Won (1)
    • Best Foreign Feature Film


  1. ^ "Amadeus". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved May 13, 2014. 
  2. ^ a b "Amadeus (1984) - Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved December 22, 2014. 
  3. ^ Branagh, Kenneth (1990). Beginning. New York: Norton. pp. 105–109. ISBN 978-0-393-02862-1. OCLC 20669813. 
  4. ^ a b The Making of Amadeus. DVD. Warner Bros Pictures, 2001. 20 min.
  5. ^ The English Patient weekend box office results,
  6. ^ Amadeus weekend box office results,
  7. ^ The Hurt Locker weekend box office results,
  8. ^ Birdman weekend box office results,
  9. ^ Olivier, by Terry Coleman, 2005, p 484
  10. ^ "Academy Awards Acceptance Speeches". Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. 1985-03-25. Retrieved 2011-02-24. 
  11. ^ Sharon Waxman (March 21, 1999). "The Oscar Acceptance Speech: By and Large, It's a Lost Art". The Washington Post. 
  12. ^ A.V. Club interview with Miloš Forman, April 24, 2002
  13. ^ "Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Neville Marriner*, Academy Of St. Martin-In-the-Fields - Amadeus (Original Soundtrack Recording)". Discogs. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  14. ^ "Amadeus Soundtrack". Academy of St Martin in the Fields. Retrieved 30 September 2016. 
  15. ^ "Past Winners: 1984 - 27th Annual GRAMMY Awards". The Recording Academy. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  16. ^ "Sir Neville Marriner, Academy Of St. Martin-In-The-Fields – Amadeus (More Music From The Original Soundtrack Of The Film)". Discogs. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  17. ^ More Music from the Original Soundtrack of the Film Amadeus, album liner notes
  18. ^ "Sir Neville Marriner, Academy Of St. Martin-in-the-Fields – Amadeus (Original Soundtrack Recording - Special Edition: The Director's Cut)". Discogs. Retrieved 29 September 2016. 
  19. ^ "The 57th Academy Awards (1985) Nominees and Winners". Retrieved 2011-10-13. 
  20. ^ "Amadeus". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009-01-01. 

External links[edit]