Amadeus (1984)


Amadeus (1984)

Antonio Salieri believes that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's music is divine and miraculous. He wishes he was himself as good a musician as Mozart so that he can praise the Lord through composing. He began his career as a devout man who believes his success and talent as a composer are God's rewards for his piety. He's also content as the respected, financially well-off, court composer of Austrian Emperor Joseph II. But he's shocked to learn that Mozart is such a vulgar creature, and can't understand why God favored Mozart to be his instrument. Salieri's envy has made him an enemy of God whose greatness was evident in Mozart. He is ready to take revenge against God and Mozart for his own musical mediocrity.
IMDb   8.3 /10
Metacritic   88 %
TheMovieDb    8.0 /10
FilmAffinity   7.7 /10
Release Date1984-09-19
Runtime2h 40mins
GenreBiography, Drama, History, Music
Content RatingR (R)
AwardsTop Rated Movies #84 | Won 8 Oscars. Another 35 wins & 15 nominations.
CompanyAMLF, The Saul Zaentz Company
CountryUSA, France, Czechoslovakia, Italy
LanguageEnglish, Italian, Latin, German
Antonio Salieri
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Constanze Mozart
Leopold Mozart
Emanuel Schikaneder
Katerina Cavalieri
Emperor Joseph II
Count Orsini-Rosenberg
Michael Schlumberg (2002 Director's Cut)
Parody Commendatore
Papagena (as Lisabeth Bartlett)
Young Salieri (as Martin Cavani)
Count Von Strack

Amadeus (film)

Amadeus is a 1984 American period biographical drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted by Peter Shaffer from his 1979 stage play Amadeus. The story is set in Vienna, Austria, during the latter half of the 18th century, and is a fictionalized story of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from the time he left Salzburg, described by its writer as "fantasia on the theme of Mozart and Salieri". Mozart's music is heard extensively in the soundtrack of the film. The film follows a fictional rivalry between Mozart and Italian composer Antonio Salieri at the court of Emperor Joseph II. The film stars F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce as Mozart. Abraham and Hulce were both nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor, with Abraham winning.

Amadeus was released by Orion Pictures on September 19, 1984, thirteen days following its world premiere in Los Angeles on September 6, 1984. Upon release, the film received widespread acclaim and was a box office hit, grossing over $90 million.

Considered one of the greatest films of all time, Amadeus was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, including eight Academy Awards (including the Academy Award for Best Picture), four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and a Directors Guild of America award. As of 2021, 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 it 53rd on its 100 Years... 100 Movies list. In 2019, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".


In the winter of 1823, Antonio Salieri is committed to a psychiatric hospital after surviving a suicide attempt, during which his servants overhear him confess to murdering Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The young priest Father Vogler approaches Salieri for elaboration on Salieri's confession. Salieri recounts how, even in his youth in the 1760s, he desired to be a composer, much to his father's chagrin. He prays to God that if He makes Salieri a famous composer, he will, in return, promise his faithfulness. Soon after, his father dies, which Salieri takes as a sign that God has accepted his vow. By 1774, Salieri has become court composer to Emperor Joseph II in Vienna. Seven years later, at a reception in honor of Mozart's patron, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, Salieri is shocked to discover that the transcendentally talented Mozart is obscene and immature. Salieri, a devout Catholic, cannot fathom why God would endow such a great gift to Mozart instead of him and concludes that God is using Mozart's talent to mock Salieri's mediocrity. Salieri renounces God and vows to take revenge on Him by destroying Mozart.

Mozart's alcoholism deteriorates his health, marriage, and reputation at court, even as he continues to produce brilliant work. Salieri hires a young girl to pose as Mozart's maid and discovers that Mozart is working on an opera based on the play The Marriage of Figaro, which the Emperor has forbidden. When Mozart is summoned to court to explain, he manages to convince the Emperor to allow his opera to premiere, despite Salieri and the advisers' attempts at sabotage. When Mozart is informed that his father has died, he writes Don Giovanni in his grief. Salieri recognizes the dead commander in the opera as symbolic of Mozart's father and concocts a scheme; he leads Mozart to believe that his father has risen to commission a Requiem. He then plans to kill Mozart once the piece is finished and premiere it at Mozart's funeral, claiming the work as his own. Meanwhile, Mozart's friend Emanuel Schikaneder invites him to write an opera for his theatre. Mozart obliges despite his wife Constanze's insistence that he finish the Requiem. After arguing with Mozart, Constanze leaves with their young son, Karl.

Mozart's new opera, The Magic Flute, is a great success, but the overworked Mozart collapses during one performance. Salieri takes him home and persuades him to continue the Requiem, offering to take the bedridden Mozart's dictation. The next morning, Mozart thanks Salieri for his friendship, and Salieri admits that Mozart is the greatest composer he knows. Constanze returns and demands that Salieri leave immediately. In her guilt, she locks the unfinished Requiem away, and Mozart dies from exhaustion. Mozart is taken out of the city and unceremoniously buried in a mass grave during a rainstorm.

Back in the present day, Vogler is too shocked to absolve Salieri, who surmises that the "merciful" God preferred to destroy His beloved Mozart rather than allow Salieri to share in His glory. Salieri promises, with bitter irony, to both pray for and absolve Vogler along with all of the world's mediocrities as the "patron saint" of their order. As Salieri is wheeled down a hallway, absolving the hospital's patients of their own inadequacies as he passes by, Mozart's laughter rings in the air.


  • F. Murray Abraham as Antonio Salieri
  • Tom Hulce as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • Elizabeth Berridge as Constanze Mozart
  • Roy Dotrice as Leopold Mozart
  • Simon Callow as Emanuel Schikaneder
  • Christine Ebersole as Caterina Cavalieri
  • Jeffrey Jones as Emperor Joseph II
  • Charles Kay as Count Orsini-Rosenberg
  • Kenneth McMillan as Michael Schlumberg (Director's Cut)
  • Kenny Baker as Parody Commendatore
  • Lisabeth Bartlett as Papagena
  • Barbara Bryne as Frau Weber
  • Martin Cavani as young Salieri
  • Roderick Cook as Count von Strack
  • Milan Demjanenko as Karl Mozart
  • Peter DiGesu as Francesco Salieri
  • Michele Esposito as Salieri's student (Director's Cut)
  • Richard Frank as Father Vogler
  • Patrick Hines as Kapellmeister Giuseppe Bonno
  • Nicholas Kepros as Count Hieronymus von Colloredo, Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg
  • Philip Lenkowsky as Salieri's Servant
  • Herman Meckler as Priest
  • Jonathan Moore as Baron van Swieten
  • Cynthia Nixon as Lorl, Mozart's maid
  • Brian Pettifer as Hospital Attendant
  • Vincent Schiavelli as Salieri's Valet
  • Douglas Seale as Count Arco
  • Miroslav Sekera as young Mozart
  • Cassie Stuart as Gertrude Schlumberg (Director's Cut)
  • John Strauss as Conductor
  • Karl-Heinz Teuber as Wig Salesman
  • Rita Zohar as Frau Schlumberg (Director's Cut)


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.

Mark Hamill, who replaced Tim Curry as Mozart towards the end of the run of the stage play on Broadway, recalled in an interview that he read with many actresses auditioning for Mozart's wife Constanze and after the reads, Forman decided to not cast him because of his association with the character of Luke Skywalker, believing that the audience would not believe him as the composer. Tom Hulce reportedly used John McEnroe's mood swings as a source of inspiration for his portrayal of Mozart's unpredictable genius.

Meg Tilly was cast as Mozart's wife Constanze, but she tore a ligament in her leg the day before shooting started. 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 and Kroměříž. 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.


Critical reception

Amadeus holds a score of 93% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 95 reviews, with an average rating of 8.92/10. The site's consensus states: "A lavish, entertaining, powerful film about the life and influence, both positive and negative, of one of Western culture's great artists." Giving the film four out of four stars, Roger Ebert acknowledged that it was one of the "riskiest gambles a filmmaker has taken in a long time," but added "(here is the genius of the movie) there is nothing cheap or unworthy about the approach," and ultimately concluded that it was a "magnificent film, full and tender and funny and charming". Ebert later added the film to his Great Movies list. Peter Travers of People magazine said that "Hulce and Abraham share a dual triumph in a film that stands as a provocative and prodigious achievement." Stanley Kauffmann of The New Republic put it on his list of films worth seeing. In one negative review, Todd McCarthy of Variety said that despite "great material and themes to work with, and such top talent involved," the "stature and power the work possessed onstage have been noticeably diminished" in the film adaptation. The film's many historical inaccuracies have attracted criticism from music historians.

Box office

The film grossed $52 million in the United States and Canada and by November 1985, while still in theaters overseas, had grossed over $90 million worldwide to date.


In 1985, Amadeus 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 also nominated for Best Cinematography and Best Editing but lost in both categories to The Killing Fields. Amadeus, The English Patient, The Hurt Locker, The Artist, and Birdman are the only Best Picture winners never to enter the weekend box office top 5 after rankings began being recorded in 1982. Amadeus peaked at No. 6 during its 8th weekend in theaters. Saul Zaentz produced both Amadeus and The English Patient.

The film was nominated for six Golden Globe Awards (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. Zaentz then thanked Olivier, saying it was an honour to receive the award from him, 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".


From the beginning, writer Peter Shaffer and director Milos Forman both were open about their desire to create entertaining drama only loosely based on reality, calling the work "fantasia on the theme of Mozart and Salieri".

The idea of animosity between Mozart and Salieri was popularized by Alexander Pushkin in 1830 in his play Mozart and Salieri. In it, Salieri actually murders Mozart on stage. The play was made into the opera Mozart and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov 67 years later, which in turn had its first screen adaptation by silent-film director Victor Tourjansky in 1917.

Another significant departure in the film is the portrayal of Salieri as a pious loner trapped in a vow of chastity, when in reality he was a married family man with eight children and at least one mistress.

Mozart was indeed commissioned to compose a Requiem Mass by an anonymous benefactor. In reality, the patron turned out to be Count Franz von Walsegg, who was grieving after the death of his wife, not Salieri disguised as the ghost of Mozart's father.

Alternative version

Amadeus premiered in 1984 as a PG-rated movie with a running time of 161 minutes. 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 on September 24, 2002. Forman justified why those scenes were cut in the first place in the 1995 supplemental material for Pioneer's deluxe LaserDisc. However, he explains why the scenes were eventually restored in a subsequent 2002 interview with The A.V. Club:

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. 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?


Film credits

  • Music conducted and supervised by Neville Marriner
  • Music coordinator: John Strauss
  • Orchestra: Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Neville Marriner
  • Choruses Academy Chorus of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by László Heltay Ambrosian Opera Chorus, conducted by John McCarthy The Choristers of Westminster Abbey, conducted by Simon Preston
  • Academy Chorus of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by László Heltay
  • Ambrosian Opera Chorus, conducted by John McCarthy
  • The Choristers of Westminster Abbey, conducted by Simon Preston
  • Instrumental soloists Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, K. 482: Ivan Moravec Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466: Imogen Cooper Adagio in C minor for Glass Harmonica, K. 617: Thomas Bloch with The Brussels Virtuosi, conducted by Marc Grauwels
  • Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat major, K. 482: Ivan Moravec
  • Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466: Imogen Cooper
  • Adagio in C minor for Glass Harmonica, K. 617: Thomas Bloch with The Brussels Virtuosi, conducted by Marc Grauwels
  • Parody backgrounds: San Francisco Symphony Chorus
  • "Caro mio ben" by Giuseppe Giordani: Michele Esposito, soprano

Original soundtrack recording

The soundtrack album reached No. 1 in the Billboard Classical Albums Chart, No. 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. It won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Album in 1984.

  • Disc 1
  • Disc 2

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.


Chart (1985)Peak
Australia (Kent Music Report)10
United States (Billboard 200)56

More Music from the Original Soundtrack

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.

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 (included on the Original Soundtrack Recording).

Director's Cut soundtrack

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. It contains most of the music from the previous two releases, but with the following differences.

The following pieces were added for this release:

  • Salieri's March of Welcome turned into "Non più andrai" from The Marriage of Figaro (includes dialogue from the film)
  • Adagio in C minor for Glass Harmonica, K. 617 (from a new 2001 recording)

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

  • Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477
  • Six German Dances (Nos. 1–3), K. 509

Awards and nominations

YearAwardCategoryNominated workResultRef.
1984Academy AwardsBest PictureSaul ZaentzWon
Best DirectorMiloš FormanWon
Best Actor in a Leading RoleF. Murray AbrahamWon
Tom HulceNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplayPeter ShafferWon
Best Art DirectionPatrizia von Brandenstein, Karel ČernýWon
Best CinematographyMiroslav OndříčekNominated
Best Costume DesignTheodor PištěkWon
Best Film EditingNena Danevic and Michael ChandlerNominated
Best MakeupDick Smith and Paul LeBlancWon
Best SoundMark Berger, Todd Boekelheide, Tom Scott & Christopher NewmanWon
1984Golden Globe AwardsBest Motion Picture – DramaSaul ZaentzWon
Best DirectorMiloš FormanWon
Best Actor – Motion Picture DramaF Murray AbrahamWon
Tom HulceNominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion PictureJeffrey JonesNominated
Best ScreenplayPeter ShafferWon
1985British Academy Film AwardsBest FilmMiloš Forman and Saul ZaentzNominated
Best ActorF Murray AbrahamNominated
Best Adapted ScreenplayPeter ShafferNominated
Best CinematographyMiroslav OndříčekWon
Best Production DesignPatrizia von BrandsteinNominated
Best Costume DesignTheodor PištěkNominated
Best Makeup and HairDick Smith and Paul LeBlancWon
Best EditingNena Danevic and Michael ChandlerWon
Best SoundMark Berger, Thomas Scott
Christopher Newman
1984Los Angeles Film Critics AssociationBest PictureSaul ZaentzWon
Best DirectorMiloš FormanWon
Best ActorF Murray Abraham
tied with Albert Finney for Under the Volcano
Best ScreenplayPeter ShafferWon
1984American Film InstituteAFI's 100 Years...100 MoviesAmadeus#53
1984American Cinema EditorsBest Edited Feature FilmNena Danevic and Michael ChandlerWon
1984Casting Society of AmericaBest Casting for Feature FilmMary GoldbergWon
1984Directors Guild of AmericaOutstanding Director - Motion PicturesMiloš FormanWon
1984Kansas City Film Critics CircleBest ActorF Murray AbrahamWon
1984César AwardBest Foreign FilmAmadeusWon
1984Japan Academy PrizeBest Foreign Language FilmWon
1984David di DonatelloBest Foreign FilmWon
Best Director – Foreign FilmMiloš FormanWon
Best Foreign ActorTom HulceWon
1984Amanda AwardBest Foreign Feature FilmAmadeusWon