El Cid (1961)

El Cid (1961)

“Can a man live without honor?”

After saving the lives of a few Moorish enemies during battle, medieval knight Rodrigo Díaz de Vivar (Charlton Heston) earns the loyalty of their leader (Douglas Wilmer) but the wrath of members back at his home court — including the jealous rival (Raf Vallone) who wants to marry his girlfriend Jimena (Sophia Loren). When “El Cid” (Heston) slays Jimena’s father (Andrew Cruickshank) in a forced battle of honor, he loses her love and soon finds himself caught up in a rivalry involving two princes (John Fraser and Gary Raymond) and their sister (Geneviève Page), all while preparing to face a new Moorish threat (Herbert Lom).

Genres, Themes, Actors, and Directors:

  • Anthony Mann Films
  • Charlton Heston Films
  • Historical Drama
  • Hurd Hatfield Films
  • Medieval Times
  • Revenge
  • Royalty and Nobility
  • Sophia Loren Films

Anthony Mann directed and Samuel Bronston produced this epic widescreen drama based on the life and heroism of an 11th century Castilian knight dubbed “El Cid” (“The Lord” in Arabic). Filmed largely on location in Spain, the production feels as grandiose as its topic, expertly evoking a particular time, place, and ethos, with Christianity pitted against Islam and loyalty revered above all else.

The sets (both indoors and out) are consistently gorgeous, as is Robert Krasker’s cinematography — and first-choice casting picks Heston and Loren are both ideal in their roles.

I first saw El Cid at the Cinerama Dome in Los Angeles during its 1993 restoration re-release, which was an epic but slightly disorienting experience given the inevitable distortion of such a curved screen. Watching it again recently on a smaller screen at home, I found I was still duly impressed by the imagery, which remains rich and satisfying throughout. In terms of the narrative, it’s pretty straightforward (if occasionally over-stretched at 3+ hours), but serves its purpose well. It’s worth a look as a fine example of its genre and style.

Notable Performances, Qualities, and Moments:

  • Majestic sets, costumes, and battle sequences

  • Robert Krasker’s gorgeous cinematography

  • Miklos Rozsa’s score

Must See?
Yes, for its historical relevance and overall majesty.


  • Historically Relevant


One thought on “El Cid (1961)

  1. First viewing. A once-must, for its solid place in cinema history.

    Strange that I hadn’t seen this film until now. But it’s a successful example of epic storytelling (though, of course, truth-seekers must look elsewhere re: where the film takes liberties).

    It’s particularly well-shot by Robert Krasker and the script generally feels sturdy (with a few nice surprises). However, things are a bit sluggish around the first-half of the last hour, and I could have done with less of Heston & Loren’s lovey-dovey-affection dialogue.

    I’m not sure that I would watch this again at any time but it’s one that ffs should experience.

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