Director: Mike Nichols
Screenwriter: Calder Willingham and Buck Henry
The funny thing about Mike Nichols' generation-defining motion picture is that the ending has been misrepresented. Benjamin Braddock (Dustin Hoffman), the drifting college grad, sets out on a mission to interrupt the marriage of the young woman he's in love with. His beating on the glass walls of the church has done as much for people's conception of what overwhelming love should look as a pair of star-crossed 16-years-olds in Italy. Advertisers have appropriated this imagery, and over time, the ending of The Graduate has been absorbed by pop culture as a simple one: Love saves the day.
But what's truly exceptional about Nichols' film is the way the story shifts from this jubilant scene into something much more complicated. Look at their faces as they sit on the bus. Worn and full of life initially, Benjamin and Elaine (Katharine Ross) come to grips with what's happen. You watch the realization hit them that they have no idea what they're doing. They may have just become their parents. And it's terrifying. —RS