Schindler's List is a 1993 American epic historical drama film directed and co-produced by Steven Spielberg and scripted by Steven Zaillian. It is based on the novel Schindler's Ark by Thomas Keneally, an Australian novelist. The film is based on the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman who saved the lives of more than a thousand mostly Polish-Jewish refugees during the Holocaust by employing them in his factories. It stars Liam Neeson as Schindler, Ralph Fiennes as Schutzstaffel (SS) officer Amon Goeth, and Ben Kingsley as Schindler's Jewish accountant Itzhak Stern. John Williams composed the score.
Ideas for a film about the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) were proposed as early as 1963. Poldek Pfefferberg, one of the Schindlerjuden, made it his life's mission to tell the story of Schindler. Spielberg became interested in the story when executive Sid Sheinberg sent him a book review of Schindler's Ark. Universal Studios bought the rights to the novel, but Spielberg, unsure if he was ready to make a film about the Holocaust, tried to pass the project to several other directors before finally deciding to direct the film himself.
Principal photography took place in Kraków, Poland, over the course of 72 days in 1993. Spielberg shot the film in black and white and approached it like a documentary. Cinematographer Janusz Kamiński wanted to give the film a sense of timelessness. John Williams composed the score, and violinist Itzhak Perlman performs the film's main theme.
Schindler's List premiered on November 30, 1993, in Washington, D.C. and it was released on December 15, 1993, in the United States. Regarded as one of the greatest films ever made, it was also a box office success, earning $321.2 million worldwide on a $22 million budget. It was the recipient of seven Academy Awards (out of twelve nominations), including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, and Best Original Score, as well as numerous other awards (including seven BAFTAs and three Golden Globes). In 2007, the American Film Institute ranked the film 8th on its list of the 100 best American films of all time. The Library of Congress selected it for preservation in the National Film Registry in 2004.
In 1939, the Germans move Polish Jews into the Kraków Ghetto as World War II begins. Oskar Schindler, an ethnic German, arrives in the city hoping to make his fortune. A member of the Nazi Party, Schindler lavishes bribes on Wehrmacht (German armed forces) and SS officials and acquires a factory to produce enamelware. To help him run the business, Schindler enlists the aid of Itzhak Stern, a local Jewish official who has contacts with black marketeers and the Jewish business community. Stern helps Schindler arrange loans to finance the factory. Schindler maintains friendly relations with the Nazis and enjoys wealth and status as "Herr Direktor", and Stern handles administration. Schindler hires Jewish workers because they cost less, while Stern ensures that as many people as possible are deemed essential to the German war effort, which saves them from being transported to concentration camps or killed.
SS-Untersturmführer (second lieutenant) Amon Goeth arrives in Kraków to oversee construction of Płaszów concentration camp. When the camp is completed, he orders the ghetto liquidated. Many people are shot and killed in the process of emptying the ghetto. Schindler witnesses the massacre and is profoundly affected. He particularly notices a tiny girl in a red coat – one of the few splashes of color in the black-and-white film – as she hides from the Nazis. When he later sees the red coat on a wagon loaded with bodies being taken away to be burned, he knows the girl is dead. Schindler is careful to maintain his friendship with Goeth and, through bribery and lavish gifts, continues to enjoy SS support. Goeth brutally mistreats his maid and randomly shoots people from the balcony of his villa, and the prisoners are in constant daily fear for their lives. As time passes, Schindler's focus shifts from making money to trying to save as many lives as possible. He bribes Goeth into allowing him to build a sub-camp for his workers so that he can better protect them.
As the Germans begin to lose the war, Goeth is ordered to ship the remaining Jews at Płaszów to Auschwitz concentration camp. Schindler asks Goeth to allow him to move his workers to a new munitions factory he plans to build in his home town of Zwittau-Brinnlitz. Goeth agrees, but charges a huge bribe. Schindler and Stern create "Schindler's List" – a list of people to be transferred to Brinnlitz and thus saved from transport to Auschwitz.
As Schindler's workers begin to arrive at the new site, the train carrying the women is accidentally redirected to Auschwitz. Schindler bribes the commandant of Auschwitz with a bag of diamonds to win their release. At the new factory, Schindler forbids the SS guards to enter the production areas and encourages the Jews to observe the Sabbath. To keep his workers alive, he spends much of his fortune bribing Nazi officials and buying shell casings from other companies; his factory does not produce any usable armaments during its seven months of operation. Schindler runs out of money just as Germany surrenders, ending the war in Europe.
As a Nazi Party member and war profiteer, Schindler must flee the advancing Red Army to avoid capture. The SS guards have been ordered to kill the Jews, but Schindler persuades them to return to their families as men, not murderers. He bids farewell to his workers and prepares to head west, hoping to surrender to the Americans. The workers give Schindler a signed statement attesting to his role saving Jewish lives, together with a ring engraved with a Talmudic quotation: "Whoever saves one life saves the world entire." Schindler is touched but is also deeply ashamed, as he feels he should have done even more. As the Schindlerjuden (Schindler Jews) awaken the next morning, a Soviet soldier announces that they have been liberated. The Jews leave the factory and walk to a nearby town.
After some scenes depicting Goeth's execution and a summary of Schindler's later life, the black-and-white frame changes to a color shot of actual Schindlerjuden at Schindler's grave in Jerusalem. Accompanied by the actors who portrayed them, the Schindlerjuden place stones on the grave. In the final scene, Neeson places a pair of roses on the grave.
- Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler
- Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern
- Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth
- Caroline Goodall as Schindler's wife Emilie
- Jonathan Sagall as Poldek Pfefferberg
- Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch
- Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg
- Andrzej Seweryn as Julian Scherner
- Jerzy Nowak as Investor
- Norbert Weisser as Albert Hujar
- Anna Mucha as Danka Dresner
- Hans-Michael Rehberg as Rudolf Höß
- Daniel Del Ponte as Josef Mengele
- Schindler's List at the Internet Movie Database
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