|Release date||December 21, 1967|
Benjamin Braddock (played by Dustin Hoffman in the film), a recent college graduate with no well-defined aim in life, is seduced by Mrs. Robinson (Anne Bancroft) and then falls in love with her daughter Elaine (Katharine Ross).
The film also boosted the profile of folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, whose soundtrack album, on the strength of the hit single "Mrs. Robinson," rose to the top of the charts in 1968 (beating out The Beatles' White Album).
Some scenes and themes in the film have become deeply embedded in the popular consciousness, even decades after its release, and have been widely parodied. One such scene involves the one-word career advice given to Benjamin by family friends—"Plastics", "Aggregates," etc.—offered as a self-explanatory key to a certain life of corporate success.
In the late 1990s the project was revived as a play and appeared in London and Broadway, as well as touring companies, starring such names as Kathleen Turner, Alicia Silverstone and (perhaps more infamously) Morgan Fairchild.
The film explores the life of Benjamin Braddock shortly after earning his bachelor's degree. The movie starts at a party celebrating his graduation at his parents' house in suburban Los Angeles. Benjamin is visibly uncomfortable at the party attended by mostly his parents' friends. One family friend, Mrs. Robinson, asks Benjamin to drive her home, which he reluctantly does.
Arriving at her home, she asks him to come inside. Once inside, she exposes herself to him and offers to have an affair with him. Initially flustered, he flees. A few days later he calls her and their affair begins.
Benjamin is clearly uncomfortable with sexuality, but he is drawn into the affair with the older, but still attractive, Mrs. Robinson. Their affair appears to last most of the summer.
Meanwhile Benjamin is hounded by his father to select a graduate school to attend. Benjamin, clearly not interested in pursuing his studies, shrugs off his father's wishes and spends his time lounging and with Mrs. Robinson. His affair may serve as an escape from his lack of direction or ambition.
Mr. Robinson, unaware of his wife's budding affair, encourages Benjamin to call his daughter, Elaine. Benjamin's parents also repeatedly encourage him to date her. During one liaison, Mrs. Robinson extracts a promise from Ben to never date Elaine. Sensing that getting involved with the daughter of his lover could be disastrous, he tries to avoid it. However, because of the three parents' persistent intervention, he is essentially forced to date her. Therefore, he tries to ensure his date with her will be a disaster so she would not want to pursue a relationship with him. He takes Elaine to a strip club where she is openly offended and silently begins to cry.
After she storms out of the establishment, he is overcome with guilt and pursues her and apologizes. What follows is a relationship with the young Robinson, exactly what Benjamin (and Mrs. Robinson) was trying to avoid.
From here, Benjamin's life falls apart. His affair is discovered and, although he follows Elaine to the University of California, Berkeley, where she is a student, he is barred from seeing Elaine any further. She proceeds to become engaged to another man—one her parents find acceptable.
In the famous conclusion of the film, Benjamin undertakes a desperate drive to somehow head off Elaine's wedding. He is forced to stop for directions, his car runs out of gas, and he is ultimately forced to run the final few blocks. He arrives just as the bride and groom are exchanging vows, and stands looking down at the couple from an upper window. He begins rapping on the glass and screams "Elaine! Elaine!", but they do not garner much response at first, but when Elaine gives the return cry "Ben!" mayhem ensues.
After a violent struggle with Elaine's parents (Ben armed only with a large cross), Ben and Elaine escape on a public bus. The escaping couple sits smiling at the back of the bus, the other passengers stare at them in mute disbelief, and the movie closes with a shot through the back window of Ben and Elaine's smiles fading to an enigmatic neutral expression, and Simon and Garfunkel's soundtrack. This scene has been parodied numerous times, in Wayne's World 2, The King of Queens, Family Guy, and The Simpsons.
The film is consistently in the Internet Movie Database's top 250 films, ranked #9 on the American Film Institute's list of 100 Years, 100 Laughs, #7 on their list of 100 Years, 100 Movies, and has been selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry.
An interview with Hoffman revealed that he was uneasy about his window-pounding antics, as the owner of the church had been watching the filming disapprovingly. Apparently, Hoffman's Christ-like pose when banging on the pane was an attempt to minimize its rattling, rather than an intentional religious reference.
In the Berkeley boarding house where Benjamin ends up living, the landlord is played by Norman Fell, who would later gain fame as "Mr. Roper" on the popular 1970s sitcom Three's Company. Richard Dreyfuss, still an unknown in 1967, is briefly shown as one of Fell's other tenants. Earlier in the film, Mike Farrell, later a star of TV's M*A*S*H, can be glimpsed as one of the hotel bellhops addressing Benjamin as "Mr. Gladstone".
We never learn Mrs. Robinson's first name (or, indeed, the first names of any of Benjamin's and Elaine's parents) during the course of the film.
Robert Redford tested for the part of Benjamin, but he and director Mike Nichols decided they needed someone who appeared more uncomfortable with his sexuality.
Bancroft, whose character is a generation older than Hoffman's, was only six years his senior in real life.
In the opening scene of Robert Altman's 1992 film The Player, a writer (Buck Henry) can be heard talking to Griffin Mill (Tim Robbins) discussing making a sequel to The Graduate with the same actors reprising their roles. Presumably, Mrs. Robinson, now elderly, would be forced to move in with Benjamin and Elaine, who by now have an adult daughter.
Mr. McGuire: "I want to say one word to you. Just one word."
Ben Braddock: "Yes, sir."
Mr. McGuire: "Are you listening?"
Ben Braddock: "Yes, I am."
Mr. McGuire: "Plastics."
Mr. Braddock: "Don't you think that idea is a little half-baked?"
Ben Braddock: "Oh no, Dad, it's completely baked."
Ben Braddock: "You're trying to seduce me, Mrs. Robinson... aren't you?"
Benjamin: "Listen to me. What happened between Mrs. Robinson and me was nothing. It didn't mean anything. We might just as well have been shaking hands."
Mr. Robinson: "Shaking hands? Well, that's not saying much for my wife, is it?"