The Man in the Iron Mask (1998 film)

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The Man in the Iron Mask
The Man in the Iron Mask.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRandall Wallace
Screenplay byRandall Wallace
Based on
Produced byRandall Wallace
Russell Smith
CinematographyPeter Suschitzky
Edited byWilliam Hoy
Music byNick Glennie-Smith
Distributed byMGM Distribution Co.
Release dates
  • March 13, 1998 (1998-03-13) (United States)
  • March 20, 1998 (1998-03-20) (United Kingdom)
Running time
132 minutes
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$35 million[2]
Box office$183 million[3][better source needed]

The Man in the Iron Mask is a 1998 American action drama film directed, produced and written by Randall Wallace, and starring Leonardo DiCaprio in a dual role as the title character and villain, Jeremy Irons as Aramis, John Malkovich as Athos, Gérard Depardieu as Porthos and Gabriel Byrne as D'Artagnan.[4] The film uses characters from Alexandre Dumas's D'Artagnan Romances and is very loosely adapted from some plot elements of his 1847-1850 novel The Vicomte de Bragelonne.

The film centers on the aging four musketeers, Athos, Porthos, Aramis and D'Artagnan, during the reign of King Louis XIV and attempts to explain the mystery of the Man in the Iron Mask, using a plot more closely related to the flamboyant 1929 version starring Douglas Fairbanks, The Iron Mask, and the 1939 version directed by James Whale, than to the original Dumas book. Like the 1998 version, the two aforementioned adaptations were also released through United Artists. The film received mixed reviews but was a financial success, grossing $183 million worldwide against a budget of $35 million.


The Kingdom of France faces bankruptcy from King Louis XIV's wars against the Dutch, causing French citizens to starve. As the country moves toward revolution, King Louis prepares for war. At this point, the four musketeers have gone their separate ways; Aramis is now a priest, Porthos is a womanizing drunkard, and Athos has retired to his farm. Only D'Artagnan has remained loyal to the musketeers and is now the captain.

Athos' only son, Raoul, aspires to join the musketeers. At a palace festival, Louis sets his eyes on Christine Bellefort, Raoul's fiancée. He immediately plots to send Raoul to the battlefront, where he is killed soon after. Aware that Louis orchestrated his son's death, Athos renounces his allegiance to the king. After an assassination attempt on Louis by the Jesuit order is foiled by D'Artagnan, Louis instructs Aramis to hunt down and kill their leader. In response, Aramis summons Porthos, Athos, and D'Artagnan for a secret meeting in which he reveals he is the Jesuit's secret leader and has a plan to depose Louis. Athos and Porthos agree to join him, but D'Artagnan refuses. Athos brands him a traitor and threatens him with death should they ever meet again. Meanwhile, Louis seduces Christine, who later begins to suspect his part in Raoul's death.

The musketeers infiltrate the Île Sainte-Marguerite prison and free a prisoner wearing an iron mask. The prisoner is taken to the countryside, where Aramis reveals he is Philippe, King Louis' brother. Their mother, Queen Anne, gave birth to identical twins. Louis XIII, to avoid dynastic warfare between his sons, sent Philippe to live in the countryside and grow up without knowing his true identity. When Louis XIII died, he revealed Philippe's existence to Anne and Louis XIV. Anne wanted to restore Philippe's birthright. Instead, Louis was too superstitious to have his brother killed and, to preserve his power, imprisoned him in the iron mask to conceal his identity, an act that Aramis executed. Aramis wishes to redeem himself and save France by replacing Louis with the more benevolent Philippe. The musketeers tutor Philippe in courtly life and how to behave like Louis. Meanwhile, Athos develops paternal feelings for Philippe.

At a masquerade ball, the musketeers lure Louis to his quarters and subdue him. They dress Philippe in Louis's clothes and return him to the festivities while taking Louis to a waiting boat in the dungeons. D'Artagnan, however, sees through the ruse after Christine publicly accuses Philippe of Louis's role in Raoul's death. He forcibly escorts Philippe to the dungeons. Musketeer soldiers intervene before Athos, Porthos, and Aramis can escape with Louis. The king is rescued as the three musketeers get away, but Philippe is captured. Though Louis is prepared to kill Philippe, D'Artagnan, upon learning Philippe's true identity, begs that he be spared. Louis instead orders Philippe back to the Bastille and into the iron mask. Soon after, a grieving Christine commits suicide.

D'Artagnan contacts the musketeers to help rescue Philippe from the Bastille. Louis, suspecting an attempt, ambushes them at the prison. Louis offers D'Artagnan clemency in exchange for surrender. D'Artagnan refuses, privately telling his comrades that he is Louis and Philippe's father from an affair with the Queen, and that that was the reason for his loyalty to Louis. As they charge one final time at Louis and his men, they are fired upon; their bravery compels the soldiers to close their eyes before firing, and all miss. Louis attempts to stab Philippe but fatally wounds D'Artagnan. Philippe nearly strangles Louis to death, but D'Artagnan's dying words halt him. D'Artagnan's top lieutenant, Andre, angered by his mentor's death, swears his men to secrecy and sides with Philippe. They switch the twins again, and Philippe orders Louis locked away. He then names Athos, Porthos, and Aramis as his closest advisors.

At a small graveside service for D'Artagnan, Philippe tells Athos that he has come to love him like a father, which Athos reciprocates. Philippe later issues Louis a royal pardon and confines him to the countryside to live in seclusion, while he goes on to become one of France's greatest kings.



In this version, the "man in the iron mask" is introduced as prisoner number 64389000 based on the number related to his namesake found at the Bastille.[citation needed] The Château de Vaux-le-Vicomte acts as the primary residence of the king as Versailles was still early in its construction and years away from Louis establishing residence there.[citation needed]


Box office[edit]

The film grossed $17 million on its opening weekend in second place behind Titanic, another film starring Leonardo DiCaprio. It eventually grossed $56 million at the domestic box office, and $126 million in international receipts, for a total of $183 million worldwide.[citation needed]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 32% with an average rating of 5.50/10, based on 41 reviews. The site's critical consensus states, "Leonardo DiCaprio plays dual roles with diminishing returns in The Man in the Iron Mask, a cheesy rendition of the Musketeers' epilogue that bears all the pageantry of Alexandre Dumas' text, but none of its romantic panache."[5] On Metacritic, it has a score of 48 out of 100 based on 18 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[7][8]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 2.5 out of 4.[9]


The film was nominated for the Best Original Score for an Adventure Film by the International Film Music Critics Award (IFMCA).[citation needed]

Depardieu was nominated for the European Film Academy Achievement in World Cinema Award for his role as Porthos. DiCaprio won a Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Screen Couple for his interactions as twins.[citation needed]


The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedMarch 10, 1998 (1998-03-10)
LabelMilan Records
Nick Glennie-Smith chronology
Home Alone 3
The Man in the Iron Mask (Original Soundtrack)
The Lion King II: Simba's Pride
Review scores
AllMusic link
Filmtracks link

The soundtrack was written by the English composer Nick Glennie-Smith.

  1. "Surrounded"
  2. "Heart of a King"
  3. "The Pig Chase"
  4. "The Ascension"
  5. "King for a King"
  6. "The Moon Beckons"
  7. "The Masked Ball"
  8. "A Taste of Something"
  9. "Kissy Kissie"
  10. "Training to Be King"
  11. "The Rose"
  12. "All Will Be Well"
  13. "All for One"
  14. "Greatest Mystery of Life"
  15. "Raoul and Christine"
  16. "It is a Trap"
  17. "Angry Athos"
  18. "Raoul's Letter"
  19. "The Palace"
  20. "Raoul's Death"
  21. "Queen Approaches"


  1. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask". British Film Institute. London. Archived from the original on February 7, 2009. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  2. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ "Domestic 1998 Weekend 11". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ Olthuis, Andrew. "The Man in the Iron Mask". Allmovie. Retrieved November 10, 2012.
  5. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  6. ^ "The Man in the Iron Mask Awards". Metacritic.
  7. ^ "Home". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
  8. ^ "Critical Mass". Entertainment Weekly. March 27, 1998. The Man in the Iron Mask MGM/UA B+ [CINEMASCORE Audiences across the U.S.]
  9. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 13, 1998). "The Man in the Iron Mask movie review (1998) | Roger Ebert". Chicago Sun-Times.

External links[edit]