Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984, UK)

In director Michael Radford's dystopic sci-fi horror film (with photography by Roger Deakins) - a grim adaptation of George Orwell's classic novel about Thought Police in a post-apocalyptic London (in a province known as Airstrip One, formerly the UK) ruled by the repressive totalitarian state of Oceania, and how Big Brother had invaded everyday life. There were three powerful police states competing with each other: Big Brother's Oceania, the barbaric Communist area of Eurasia, and Socialist East Asia. See Sex in Films for uncensored version.

An earlier filmed version of Orwell's book (with a controversial changed ending) was director Michael Anderson's 1984 (1956, UK) starring Edmond O'Brien, Michael Redgrave and Jan Sterling. Two other films had similar themes of the dangers of mind-control and fascist dictatorships: Terry Gilliam's Brazil (1985), and the comic-book adaptation V for Vendetta (2006):

  • the opening credits sequence presented a prologue title card: "WHO CONTROLS THE PAST CONTROLS THE FUTURE. WHO CONTROLS THE PRESENT CONTROLS THE PAST"
  • during the opening public rally in the year 1984 at Victory Square for the employees of the Ministries, governmental propaganda films were shown (featuring Oceania's beloved Stalin-esque leader Big Brother - "played" by Bob Flag), and viewers were encouraged to vent their anger during Two Minutes of Hate [Note: Big Brother never appeared live and in-person, but only on publicity billboards, posters, and on film or TV.]
  • oppressed, low-ranking, 39 year-old middle-class drone-civil servant Winston Smith (John Hurt) worked at the Ministry of Truth (ironically-titled); his job was to alter and rewrite the past and turn 'vaporized' people into non-existent "unpersons" by erasing the person's name in old newspapers and official records; other than his work in the totalitarian society, Winston lived a life of squalor and deprivation
  • after purchasing an old-fashioned diary with blank pages, Smith began to secretly write down his thoughts, knowing he was committing a thought-crime; he narrated: "April the 4th, 1984. To the past, or to the future. To an age when thought is free. From the Age of Big Brother, from the Age of the Thought Police, from a dead man... greetings"
  • Winston experienced a nightmarish memory or recollection (in his secret journal) of a past visitation with a Whore (Shirley Stelfox) in the off-limits proletarian areas - her seemingly youthful beauty masked a middle-aged, homely, bruised and repulsive woman: "If there is hope, it lies in the proles. If they could become conscious of their own strength, there would be no need to conspire. History does not matter to them. It was three years ago on a dark evening. Easy to slip the patrols, and I'd gone into the proletarian areas. There was no one else on the street, and no tele-screens. She said: 'Two dollars,' so I went with her. She had a young face, painted very thick. It was really the paint that appealed to me: the whiteness of it like a mask, and the bright red lips. (She hiked up her skirt) There were no preliminaries. Standing there with the scent of dead insects and cheap perfume, I went ahead and did it just the same"
Winston's Nightmarish Memory of Visiting a Prostitute (Shirley Stelfox)
  • at a political rally designed to stir up hate against Eurasia, Winston had often noticed a co-worker named Julia (Suzanna Hamilton), who was a print machine mechanic in the Ministry of Truth's Fiction Department; he had suspected that she was a member of the Thought Police, but to Winston's surprise, she passed him a note with three words: "I LOVE YOU"
  • Winston had an oft-repeated dream of a green pasture with isolated trees on the horizon that was turned into a reality when he experienced a rendezvous in the countryside with the rebellious, free-spirited and sensual Julia; as they stood together and looked out on the pasture, he told her: "It's a dream. I want you"; she encouraged them to retreat farther into the forest for safety's sake: ("Not here, come back to the woods, it's safer")
Julia and Winston Falling in Love in the Countryside
  • when he asked if she had been with a man before ("Have you done this before?"), she admitted that, of course, she had previously had sex with "hundreds" of party members, but NOT with Inner Party members: "Not those bastards, although there's plenty who would"; he told her: "Look, I hate purity, I hate goodness. I don't want virtue to exist anywhere. I want everyone corrupt" - she agreed: "Well, I ought to suit you, then. I'm corrupt to the core"; when he asked: "Do you like doing this? (pause) I don't mean just me" - she was emphatic: "I adore it"; she stripped off her blue jumpsuit for an illicit sexual tryst at the beginning of their idyllic - and rebellious - love affair
  • the two attended orthodox meetings where the objective of the state was to eradicate the orgasm that contributed to the growth of family life - "As we all know, the biological and social stimulation of the family leads to private reflection, outside Party needs, and to the establishment of unorthodox loyalties which can only lead to thoughtcrime. The introduction of artsem, combined with the neutralization of the orgasm, will effectively render obsolete the family until it becomes impossible to conceptualize"
  • to keep up their facade of loving the state in the midst of their forbidden relationship, Julia emphatically and fervently screamed during the Two Minutes Hate in a rally, yelling out "Traitor! Criminal!" at the large image on the screen of the Party's enemies
  • middle-class drone Winston and Julia continued their illicit sexual-romantic liaison in a rented room (for $4 dollars a week) above a pawn shop in the proletarian area (a less restrictive living area), rented from pawn shop owner Mr. Charrington (Cyril Cusack), where they lived together and acquired contraband food from the Inner Party: ("proper white bread and jam, a real tin of milk...real coffee") and clothing sold on the black market
  • with his back turned, she surprised him by putting on a pretty, frilly dress and wearing lipstick - and she asked "Do you like me?" - and they embraced ("More than ever"); over time, Winston became paranoid that they would be caught and proposed that they break up: "You know, the only thing to do is to walk out of here before it's too late and never see one another again....Our luck can't last"; they agreed to not meet for several weeks because it wasn't safe
  • after a short time, their fears came true - the couple was apprehended one evening in the rented flat as they stood at their window contemplating their futures - both were naked after making love when they were found out (or betrayed) by Mr. Charrington - a covert member of the Thought Police; in the closely-monitored society, their activities had been recorded by a hidden telescreen behind a picture; they were told the building was surrounded and ordered to obey: "Clasp your hands behind your heads. Stand out in the middle of the room. Stand back-to-back. Do not touch one another" as officers broke into the room to arrest them
  • the two were separated at the Ministry, and forced to be rehabilitated and to repudiate their sexual relationship; both were detained, questioned, and tortured; during Winston's detainment, he experienced severe brain-washing administered systematically by suave, high-ranking Inner Party member O'Brien (Richard Burton in his last film role); he was told: "There is no loyalty except loyalty to the Party. There is no love except love of Big Brother. All competing pleasures, we will destroy. If you want a vision of the future, Winston, imagine a boot stamping on a human face -- forever...If you're a man, you're the last man. Your kind is extinct. We are the inheritors. Do you understand that you're alone? You're outside history. You unexist...Look at you, you're rotting away. That is the last man. If you're human, that is humanity. It won't last forever. You can escape from it whenever you choose. Everything depends on you...don't give up hope. Everyone is cured sooner or later. And in the end we shall shoot you"
  • Winston was warned about Room 101 - with excruciating personalized torture as the last stage of punishment by the totalitarian government: "The thing that is in Room 101 is the worst thing in the world. It goes beyond fear of pain or death. It is unendurable and it varies from individual to individual. It may be burial alive or castration. Or many other things. In your case, it is rats"
Rat-Cage Torture in Room 101
  • Winston was subjected to a cage filled with wild rats that would tear into his face, in order to break down and "cure" his insanity, have him disavow and repudicate his love for Julia, and to force him to express loyalty and affection towards the Party and its leader Big Brother; after being subjugated, stripped and purged of all personal impulses, independent thoughts, and attachments, Winston was a broken shell of a person, but rehabilitated.
A Very Passive Julia Entered Cafe Where Winston Was Playing Chess with Himself
  • in the bleak ending after Winston had been released, he was playing chess with himself in the Chestnut Tree Cafe; he was briefly approached by an equally-changed Julia - both acted unromantically and passively to each other after admitting to betrayal, but they coldly promised to meet again sometime:

    - Julia: "I told them all about you. I'm only thankful they got me before it was too late."
    - Winston: "Yes, I told them about you, too. ThoughtCrime. SexCrime, all your treachery."
    - Julia: "I have a meeting to go to. We must meet again."
    - Winston: "Yes. We must meet again."

  • after she departed, a large telescreen behind him played a broadcast of himself admitting his numerous crimes: ("I accuse myself of the following crimes. I have seduced Party members of both sexes. I've been to the proletarian areas. I deliberately contracted syphilis in order to spread the disease to my wife and other Party members. Together with other agents, I have counterfeited banknotes, wrecked industrial machinery, polluted the water supply, and guided Eurasian rocket bombs to targets on Airstrip One by means of coded radio signals. I stand here, a victim of the influence of Emmanuel Goldstein, guilty on all counts. I'm glad I was caught. I was mentally deranged. Now I am cured. I ask only for you to accept my love of our leader. I ask only to be shot while my mind is still clean")
  • Winston heard news of the "utter rout of the Eurasian army" on the African front. He turned to the image of Big Brother on the screen and whispered faintly (did he actually mouth the words or were they off-screen?) - the film's final words: "I love you."

Ministry of Truth Employee Winston Smith (John Hurt) at Public Rally Scene in 1984 at Victory Square

Screaming During Two Minutes of Hate

Oceania's Beloved Stalin-esque leader Big Brother

Winston's Diary To Keep a Record of His Secret Thoughts

With (Suzanna Hamilton) at Rally - When She Surprisingly Passed Him a Note: "I LOVE YOU"

Julia: "Traitor! Criminal!"

Sharing Contraband Food in a Rented Apartment

Wearing a Frilly Dress With Lipstick

Julia to Winston: "Do you like me?"

Winston With Julia - Fearing They Would Be Caught Soon

Last Words Before Being Apprehended: "We Are the Dead!"

Caught - And Ordered To Stand Back to Back

Torture by O'Brien: "You unexist...You're rotting away"

Winston by Himself, Listening to His Own Confession

Bleak Ending: "I Love You"


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