The Nutcracker, also known as George Balanchine's The Nutcracker, is a 1993 American Christmas musical film based on Peter Martins's stage production and directed by Emile Ardolino. The film stars Darci Kistler, Damian Woetzel, Kyra Nichols, Bart Robinson Cook, Macaulay Culkin, Jessica Lynn Cohen, Wendy Whelan, Margaret Tracey, Gen Horiuchi, Tom Gold and the New York City Ballet.
The Nutcracker was released by Warner Bros. on November 24, 1993, four days after director Ardolino died. It received mixed reviews and grossed $2,119,994.
The Nutcracker received generally mixed reviews from critics. Based on seven reviews, the film holds a rotten rating of 57% on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with an average rating of 6.3/10. The film was criticized by James Berardinelli for not capturing the excitement of a live performance; he wrote that it "opts to present a relatively mundane version of the stage production... utilizing almost none of the advantages offered by the (film) medium." Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times criticized the film for not adapting the dance for a film audience and also its casting of Culkin who, he writes, "seems peripheral to all of the action, sort of like a celebrity guest or visiting royalty, nodding benevolently from the corners of shots." In The Washington Post, Lucy Linfield echoed Ebert's criticism of Culkin, stating that "it's not so much that he can't act or dance; more important, the kid seems to have forgotten how to smile... All little Mac can muster is a surly grimace." She praised the dancing, however, as "strong, fresh and in perfect sync" and Kistler's Sugar Plum Fairy as "the Balanchinean ideal of a romantic, seemingly fragile beauty combined with a technique of almost startling strength, speed and knifelike precision." The New York Times' Stephen Holden also criticized Culkin, calling his performance the film's "only serious flaw", but praised the cinematography as "very scrupulous in the way it establishes a mood of participatory excitement, then draws back far enough so that the classic ballet sequences choreographed by Balanchine and staged by Peter Martins can be seen in their full glory."
During its theatrical run the film grossed $2,119,994. In North America, the film opened at number 16 in its first weekend with $783,721.