What we eventually see underneath this shell is not 'the study in dignity' that Ashley Montagu wrote about, but something far more poignant, a study in genteelness that somehow suppressed all rage.
Vincent Canby - New York Times
I kept asking myself what the film was really trying to say about the human condition as reflected by John Merrick, and I kept drawing blanks.
Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times
The picture itself is a strange trade-off between Lynch's personal themes -- the night world of obscure, disturbing sexual obsessions -- and the requirements of a middlebrow message movie.
Dave Kehr - Chicago Reader
Director David Lynch has created an eerily compelling atmosphere in recounting a hideously deformed man's perilous life in Victorian England.
Variety Staff - Variety
Heartbreaking drama isn't for sensitive viewers.
Scott G. Mignola - Common Sense Media
A moving, faithful retelling of a bizarre true story.
Dean Essner - TV Guide's Movie Guide
The greatest contribution -- apart from the central performances -- comes from Francis, whose wonderful black and white, widescreen photography lends atmosphere and clarity to the proceedings.
Dean Essner - Film4
It's an amazing story about the human spirit that's told with great sensitivity.
Dennis Schwartz - Ozus' World Movie Reviews
One of the year's best films. Only DeNiro could take the Oscar away from John Hurt.
Michael A. Smith - Nolan's Pop Culture Review
In this follow-up to the amazing Eraserhead, David Lynch exposes undercurrents of anguish along with an emotionally accessible tale of Merrick's nobility--a Victorian morality play disguised as an elegy to freakishness
Emanuel Levy - EmanuelLevy.Com
Has the look and texture of an authentic document, elevated by the hand of a artist with a singular vision
Dan Jardine - Cinemania
This black-and-white film already includes several Lyncian benchmarks: hissing noises, nightmare sequences, and moments of deadly quiet.
Jeffrey M. Anderson - Combustible Celluloid
A marvellous movie, shot in stunning black-and-white by Freddie Francis.
Tom Milne - Time Out
Perhaps Lynch's finest moment -- Both disturbingly odd and surprisingly humane.
Dan Fienberg - Zap2it.com
Mark R. Leeper - rec.arts.movies.reviews
David Lynch does a neat turn with a straight drama.
Cole Smithey - ColeSmithey.com
Eric Lurio - Greenwich Village Gazette
Jake Euker - F5 (Wichita, KS)
S. James Wegg - JWR
The Elephant Man is a memorable film about human survival and a powerful commentary on human exploitation.
Brian Webster - Apollo Guide
Michelle Alexandria - Eclipse Magazine
Rich Cline - Shadows on the Wall
Rumsey Taylor - Not Coming to a Theater Near You
Jeffrey Westhoff - Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)
Philip Martin - Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
John J. Puccio - DVDTown.com
John J. Puccio - Movie Metropolis
Beautifully acted and photographed in absolutely gorgeous wide-screen black-and-white, the results are rarely less than stunning, despite the lapses into the melodramatic.
Ken Hanke - Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)
My apologies to the fans of the absurd, but I'd call this David Lynch's one true masterpiece.
Scott Weinberg - eFilmCritic.com
This very interesting and moving film challenges us to examine the complex nuances of benevolence and the potential of the human spirit to transcend genetic impairments.
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat - Spirituality and Practice
Avoids the obvious traps of simple romanticism and playing into sheer pity for Merrick's noble plight.
James Kendrick - Q Network Film Desk
Hopkin's performance is the performance in the film.
David Thomson - Movieline
This tale of a pure soul struggling to be heard over the prejudice of the many is quite heart-rending.
Almar Haflidason - BBC
A very rich film, confident enough in its emotional core to get away with broadstrokes like the villainous performances of Freddie Jones and Michael Elphick as rotten exploiters.
Kim Newman - Empire Magazine
Understated and masterful in its use of costumes, makeup, and low-budget camerawork, David Lynch's portrait of John The Elephant Man Merrick stands as one of the best biographies on film.
Christopher Null - Filmcritic.com