The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

4 Stars

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

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Having just been released from prison, Tom Joad (Henry Fonda) returned home to Oklahoma to find his family's farm deserted. He is told by Muley (a family friend) that his family had been forced from their home by the deed holders of the land.

Eventually he finds his family at his uncle's house which is also soon to be taken over by the deed holders. There they decide to act upon a leaflet declaring that there is much work as fruit pickers in California.

Along the way to California in their dilapidated truck, the family struggles against many setbacks that face them in the Great Depression.


Last Christmas, my Grandparents came over to my house and my Granddad was flicking through the 5-star list. Page after page he turned without knowing 90% of the modern films, but then when we hit "G" he was in his element. The Grapes of Wrath was the film he spent the most time pointing at and heaping praise over. I couldn't understand why a film about angry fruit would get someone so excited.

The Grapes of Wrath wasn't easy to make thanks to its type-cast director and relatively new main actor. John Ford, more renowned for his Westerns, took a break from cowboys to direct his third film containing Henry Fonda - which, in turn, became the platform that boosted Fonda's career.

On release, The Grapes of Wrath was controversial for two reasons. Firstly, it highlighted the stark reality of the Great Depression in the United States (children were restricted from entering showings), but secondly that reality wasn't nearly as stark as John Steinbeck's book, which ended far more sourly than the film.

Of course, this "dumbed down" version of The Grapes of Wrath isn't completely happy and jolly. We are still able to follow the Joad family through truly awful conditions where their only choice is work for minuscule pay or leave the family to starve. In fact, with today's economic situation, the film has arguably never been more relevant.

My only criticism of the film is that because it is such a bleak film it is hard to watch and therefore difficult to follow as the family move along the road to California. If you can keep up with this though you'll enjoy a film with a sense of realism rarely depicted in the modern era.

Review by on . Film Rating: 4/5