Which Lord of the Flies holds up? : Review
by: Thomas Willis

Lord of the Flies
is a masterpiece. Written by William Golding back in 1954, this novel throws a bunch of British kids onto a paradise-like deserted island and watches as anarchy breaks out. It’s so highly regarded because it’s a thought provoking commentary about humans and how if you scrape away the thin layer of civilization all you have is a CoD fan-boy (a savage). It was only a matter of time before someone made a Lord of the Flies movie. And sure enough, in 1963, a movie was made, then another in 1990. After seeing both films, I decided to find out which one was the superior experience.

Lord of the Flies 1963: One day Peter Brooks arrived on an island accompanied by a film crew, 30 school children and their parents to film the movie. Only one of the children had done any acting experience (the kid who played Ralph) and the budget was a mere 250,000$. Despite this, Peter Brooks managed to create a film that was both true to the book and worked as a movie as well. 

Plot synapses:

30 Schoolboys crash land on an island. The pilot is dead and there are no adults that survived. So, the remaining children attempt to set up a small society with rules and a goal of getting rescued. It quickly becomes apparent it's not all fun and games on this island as jack, the head choir boy, wants to do things his way and hunt the local pigs instead of building shelters and keeping the signal fire going as well as a beast that they imagine is trying to kill them. Things go South when jack eventually gains control over a majority of the boys and forms a sort of savage tribe. They go hunting and feast and in their blood frenzy they kill a little boy who was trying to tell them that the beast is only a dead pilot who parachuted in. Jack steals Piggy’s (the resident fat kid) glasses to make fire with and just act like all-round dicks. Ralph, the leader of the old “tribe” tries to talk some sense into the savages but only manages to get Piggy killed and himself hunted through the forest by the savages who set fire to the island. Just when it seems like all is lost, Ralph encounters a navy captain who saw the smoke and came to investigate. All the boys see this and begin to break into tears.


Lord of the Flies was a very atmospheric book. It created a feel of a foreboding slow decent into madness that was a result of no one but the children themselves, and the movie does a good job emulating this. Due to the children’s lack of acting experience, all the characters feel very real, the children all playing and goofing off like real little boys would. During the hunt scenes the music is just the beating of large drums which creates a feeling of urgency and, dare I say, was quite intimidating. Watching this movie, I wouldn't be surprise if they didn’t just use the book as the script, things happen (for the most part) just like they do in the book, minus a few scenes that would have dragged out the runtime to “Voyage to the Planets” levels of boredom. In some ways this hinders the movie’s pacing, but it was necessary to develop character and tell the story. Another thing I found interesting is that the lyrics the choir boys are singing translate into “god help us.” Just found that interesting.

Cons: I found only two things that bugged me: the direction and the editing. in the editing department things are a little messy. While watching I felt like I was instead watching an episode of Family Guy, as each cut felt jarring and did not flow as it should. As for direction, during every meeting Ralph’s people have, all the boys are just sitting doing nothing, and when the Que comes to run off as it does with every meeting, it feels so... On off like a faucet, as with the editing it lacks flow (as it would with a bunch of boys). 

Score: 8/10

Lord of the Flies 1990: This time around things are different, this time it's Harry Hook directing. The setting is the same, a deserted island although this time much bigger.

Plot synapse: the plot of this movie is the same as the previous with a few key differences: there is an adult on the island, the boys are American cadets from a military school and it takes place during the cold war instead of WWII.

Pros: the only positive things I have to say are all skin deep. Cinematography is on point, there are some great long distance shots that illustrate the main theme well. acting is alright, the island is beautiful and a good choice for demonstrating the downfall of democracy. 

Unfortunately, the book's original atmosphere is lost in this film.

Cons: Everything here is wrong. The book and 1963 film all demonstrate the same point: how normal upstanding boys become savages despite the perfect conditions. Heavy emphasis on normal. The one thing worse that all the rest is that these are not normal upstanding boys. Throughout the movie you hear them swear, talk about getting laid, and admit one of the boys was sent to military school because he was a criminal, opening up the possibility that other boys were sent away for the same reason. This undermines the theme of the book, and completely misses the point. Of course a bunch of military boys who probably have daddy issues are going to have a tendency, of not an affinity, for anarchy. but we can’t forget the other side of the coin, in the book, Ralph was not a perfect person. He occasionally abused Piggy and was predisposed to getting angry at Jack, but he was still a good character. In the 1990 movie, Ralph is the perfect person. If you ask any author, including myself, how to write a compelling character the first thing they will tell you is to give them flaws. Because in real life no one is perfect and flaws make it easier to relate to a character. Which is why in this movie Ralph feels like a rubber person. In fact, the whole problem with this movie is that all the people are rubber. You try to relate to them but any relating just bounces back.

Oh, and the island is too big for any child to determine whether or not it is in fact an island.

Score: 5/10

1963 wins out in the end, because it stuck to the book’s theme, while the 1990 version feels like the book in name only.