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Amadeus is a 1984 American period drama film directed by Miloš Forman and adapted by Peter Shaffer from his stage play Amadeus. The story is set in Vienna, Austria during the latter half of the 18th century, and is a fictionalized biography of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 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.

Amadeus is considered one of the best films of all time. It was nominated for 53 awards and received 40, which included eight Academy Awards, four BAFTA Awards, four Golden Globe Awards, and a Directors Guild of America award. As of 2019, 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.


An elderly Antonio Salieri confesses to the murder of his former colleague, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and attempts to kill himself by slitting his throat. Two servants take him to a mental asylum where a priest, Father Vogler, implores him to confess.

Salieri recounts how, even in his youth, he desired to be a composer, much to the chagrin of his father. He prays to God that, if he will make 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. He is educated in Vienna and becomes court composer to Emperor Joseph II.

Mozart arrives in Vienna to perform at the request of his employer, the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Salieri attends the performance to meet Mozart and, despite Mozart's obscenity and immaturity, finds his talent to be transcendent.

The Emperor desires to commission Mozart to write an opera and, despite the reservations of his advisers, summons him to the palace. Mozart happily accepts the job, much to the annoyance of Salieri. Mozart premieres Die Entführung aus dem Serail to mixed reviews from the Emperor. Salieri suspects that Mozart has slept with the star, Caterina Cavalieri, despite his engagement to Constanze Weber.

The Emperor desires that Mozart instruct his niece, Princess Elisabeth, in music, but Salieri discourages him from doing so. Constanze visits Salieri to persuade him to make the Emperor reconsider, but she is unsuccessful.

Salieri is enraged that God has bestowed upon Mozart the talent he has so desperately desired and vows to destroy Mozart. Mozart, meanwhile, struggles to find work and begins drinking. His father, Leopold Mozart, comes to visit him in Vienna. Constanze and Mozart take Leopold to a masked party (which Salieri also attends), where Mozart entertains the guests with musical antics. Leopold disapproves of his son's hedonism, and the family argues until Leopold leaves town.

Salieri hires a young girl to pose as the Mozarts' maid while spying for him. She takes him to the Mozart residence, where he 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.

Messengers arrive in Vienna with news of Leopold's death, and in response a grief-stricken Mozart pens Don Giovanni. Salieri recognizes the dead commander as symbolic of Leopold and hatches a plan. Wearing Leopold's party mask, Salieri visits Mozart and commissions a Requiem Mass. Salieri plots to kill Mozart once the piece is finished, then premiere it at Mozart's funeral, claiming the work as his own.

At a parody of one of Mozart's own operas, Emanuel Schikaneder asks Mozart to write an opera for his theater. Mozart, desperate for money, obliges, despite Constanze's insistence that he finish the Requiem Mass. The couple fight and Constanze leaves with their young son, Karl.

Mozart collapses during a performance of his finished work, The Magic Flute. Salieri takes him home and offers his assistance on the Requiem. Salieri transcribes Mozart's verbal commands, and they work through the night. The next morning, a gravely ill Mozart apologizes to Salieri for his previous behavior. A guilty Constanze returns home and locks the unfinished Requiem away, only to find that Mozart has died from overwork. Mozart is taken out of the city and unceremoniously buried in a mass grave.

Having finished his tale, Salieri asks how a merciful God could destroy his own beloved just to keep a mediocrity like Salieri from sharing in his glory. As he is pushed down the hall in a wheelchair, Salieri declares himself "the patron saint of mediocrities" and mockingly absolves the other patients of their own inadequacies. Mozart's high-pitched laugh is heard as the screen fades to black.


  • 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 Stewart 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

As of the current date, Amadeus holds a score of 93% on movie review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes based on 90 reviews, with an average rating of 8.3/10. 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." 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.


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 never to enter the weekend box office top 5 after rankings began being recorded in 1982. 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 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".

Alternative versions

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. 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 [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?


Film credits

  • Music conducted and supervised by Neville Marriner
  • Music coordinator: John Strauss
  • Orchestra: Academy of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Sir Neville Marriner
  • Choruses
    • Academy Chorus of St Martin in the Fields, conducted by Laszlo 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
  • Parody backgrounds: San Francisco Symphony Chorus
  • Caro mio ben" by Giuseppe Giordani: Michele Esposito, soprano

Original soundtrack recording

The soundtrack album 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.[28] It won the Grammy Award for Best Classical Album in 1984.

  • 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

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.

  1. Mozart: The Magic Flute, K. 620, Overture
  2. Mozart: The Magic Flute, K. 620, Act II, The Queen of the Night aria ("Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen")
  3. Mozart: Masonic Funeral Music, K. 477
  4. Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, 1st movement
  5. Antonio Salieri: Axur, re d'Ormus, 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 möchte wohl der Kaiser sein" ("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 (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

United States

Academy Awards 1985

  • Won (8)
    • Best Actor in a Leading Role (F. Murray Abraham)
    • Best Adapted Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)
    • Best Art Direction (Art Direction: Patrizia von Brandenstein; Set Decoration: Karel Černý)
    • Best Costume Design (Theodor Pištěk)
    • Best Picture (Saul Zaentz)
    • Best Director (Miloš Forman)
    • Best Makeup (Dick Smith and Paul LeBlanc)
    • Best Sound (Mark Berger, Tom Scott, Todd Boekelheide and Christopher Newman)
  • Nominated
    • Best Actor in a Leading Role (Tom Hulce)
    • Best Cinematography (Miroslav Ondříček)
    • Best Film Editing (Nena Danevic and Michael Chandler)

Golden Globe Awards 1985

  • Won (4)
    • Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (F. Murray Abraham)
    • Best Director (Miloš Forman)
    • Best Motion Picture – Drama (producer, Saul Zaentz)
    • Best Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)
  • Nominated
    • Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Tom Hulce)
    • Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture (Jeffrey Jones)

1984 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards

  • Won (4)
    • Best Actor (F. Murray Abraham tied with Albert Finney for Under the Volcano)
    • Best Director (Miloš Forman)
    • Best Picture (producer, Saul Zaentz)
    • Best Screenplay (Peter Shaffer)

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

  • Won (1)
    • AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies – #53

United Kingdom


  • 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

  • Won (3)
    • Best Director – Foreign Film (Miloš Forman)
    • Best Foreign Actor (Tom Hulce)
    • Best Foreign Film

Nastro d'Argento

  • Won (2)
    • Best Actor – Foreign Film (Tom Hulce)
    • Best Director – Foreign Film (Miloš Forman)


César Award

  • Won (1)
    • Best Foreign Film


Japan Academy Prize

  • Won (1)
    • Best Foreign Language Film


Amanda Award

  • Won (1)
    • Best Foreign Feature Film


External links