David Lean


Sir David Lean CBE (March 25, 1908 – April 16, 1991) was an English film director, producer, screenwriter and editor. Widely considered one of the most influential directors of all time, Lean directed the large-scale epics The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957), with Alec Guinness, William Holden, Jack Hawkins, and Sessue Hayakawa; Lawrence of Arabia (1962), with Peter O’Toole, Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Anthony Quinn, Omar Sharif, Anthony Quayle, Claude Rains, and Arthur Kennedy; Doctor Zhivago (1965), with Sharif, Julie Christie, Geraldine Chaplin, Rod Steiger, Alec Guinness, Tom Courtenay, Ralph Richardson, Siobhán McKenna and Rita Tushingham; and A Passage to India (1984), with Peggy Ashcroft, Judy Davis, James Fox, Guinness, Nigel Havers, Victor Banerjee, and Roshan Seth. He also directed adaptations of Charles Dickens novels Great Expectations (1946), with John Mills, Bernard Miles, Finlay Currie, Jean Simmons, Martita Hunt, Guinness, and Valerie Hobson; and Oliver Twist (1948), with Guinness, Robert Newton, Kay Walsh, John Howard Davies, Anthony Newley, and Diana Dors; and the romantic drama Brief Encounter (1945), with Celia Johnson, Trevor Howard, Stanley Holloway and Joyce Carey.

Originally a film editor in the early 1930s, Lean made his directorial debut with In Which We Serve (1942), with Mills, Bernard Miles, Celia Johnson and Richard Attenborough; which was the first of four collaborations with Noël Coward (who also starred). Beginning with Summertime(1955), with Katharine Hepburn, Rossano Brazzi, Darren McGavin, and Isa Miranda; Lean began to make internationally co-produced films financed by the big Hollywood studios; in 1970, however, the critical failure of his film Ryan’s Daughter (with Robert Mitchum, Sarah Miles, Mills, Christopher Jones, Trevor Howard and Leo McKern) led him to take a fourteen-year break from filmmaking, during which he planned a number of film projects which never came to fruition. In 1984 he had a career revival with A Passage to India, adapted from E. M. Forster’s novel; it was an instant hit with critics but proved to be the last film Lean would direct.

Lean’s affinity for pictorialism and inventive editing techniques has led him to be lauded by directors such as Steven Spielberg, Stanley Kubrick, Martin Scorsese, and Ridley Scott. Lean was voted 9th greatest film director of all time in the British Film Institute’s Sight & Sound “Directors’ Top Directors” poll in 2002. Nominated seven times for the Academy Award for Best Director, which he won twice for The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia, he has seven films in the British Film Institute’s Top 100 British Films (with three of them being in the top five) and was awarded the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1990.

Each review will be linked to the title below.

(*seen originally in theaters)

(**seen rereleased in theaters)


  • In Which We Serve (1942) – co-directed with Noël Coward
  • The Happy Breed (1944)
  • Blithe Spirit (1945)
  • Brief Encounter (1945)
  • Great Expectations (1946)
  • Oliver Twist (1948)
  • The Passionate Friends (1949)
  • Madeleine (1950)
  • The Sound Barrier (1952)
  • Hobson’s Choice (1954)
  • Summertime (1955)
  • The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
  • Lawrence of Arabia (1962)
  • Doctor Zhivago (1965)
  • Ryan’s Daughter (1970)
  • Lost and Found: The Story of Cook’s Anchor (1979) – TV documentary short
  • A Passage to India (1984)


  • The Night Porter (1931) – directed by Sewell Collins
  • These Charming People (1932) – directed by Louis Mercanton
  • Insult (1933) – directed by Harry Lachman
  • The Fortunate Fool (1933) – directed by Norman Walker
  • The Ghost Camera (1933) – directed by Bernard Vorhaus
  • Song of the Plough (1933) – directed by John Baxter
  • Matinee Idol (1933) – directed by George King
  • Money for Speed (1934) – directed by Bernard Vorhaus
  • Tiger Bay (1934) – directed by J. Elder Wills
  • The Secret of the Loch (1934) – directed by Milton Rosmer
  • Dangerous Ground (1934) – directed by Norman Walker
  • Java Head (1935) – irected by Thorold Dickinson & J. Walter Ruben
  • Escape Me Never (1935) – directed by Paul Czinner
  • The Crouching Beast (1936) – directed by Victor Hanbury
  • As You Like It (1936) – directed by Paul Czinner
  • Ball at Savoy (1937) – directed by Victor Hanbury
  • Dreaming Lips (1937) – directed by Paul Czinner
  • The Wife of General Ling (1937) – directed by Ladislao Vajda
  • The Last Adventurers (1938) – directed by Roy Kellino
  • Pygmalion (1940) – directed by Anthony Asquith & Leslie Howard
  • French Without Tears (1940) – directed by Anthony Asquith
  • Spies of the Air (1941) – directed by David MacDonald
  • Major Barbara (1941) – directed by Gabriel Pascal
  • 49th Parallel (1942) – directed by Michael Powell
  • One of Our Aircraft Is Missing (1942) – directed by Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger