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Doubt is a 2008 American drama film written and directed by John Patrick Shanley, based on his Pulitzer Prize-winning and Tony Award-winning 2004 stage play Doubt: A Parable. Produced by Scott Rudin, the film takes place in a Catholic elementary school named for St. Nicholas, led by Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep). Sister James (Amy Adams) tells Aloysius that Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) might be paying too much attention to the school s only black student, Donald Miller (Joseph Foster), thus leading to Aloysius investigating Flynn s behaviour. The film also features Viola Davis as Donald Miller s mother, Mrs. Miller, in her first notable role.

The film premiered October 30, 2008, at the AFI Fest before being distributed by Miramax Films in limited release on December 12 and in wide release on December 25. Grossing $50.9 million against a budget of $20 million, the film received largely positive reviews from critics. Streep, Hoffman, Adams, and Davis were highly praised for their performances, and all were nominated for Oscars at the 81st Academy Awards. Shanley was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay.


In 1964 at a Catholic church in The Bronx, priest Father Brendan Flynn gives a homily on doubt, noting that, like faith, it can be a unifying force. Sister Aloysius, the strict principal of the church s parish school, becomes concerned when she sees a boy pull away from him in the courtyard. Her sisters are told to be alert to suspicious activity in the school.

Sister James, a young and naive teacher, receives a request for Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school s only African-American student, to see Flynn in the rectory. When he returns to class he s upset and she smells alcohol on his breath. Later, she sees Flynn placing an undershirt in Donald s locker. Reporting her suspicions to Aloysius, she says such suspicions disquiet her faith. Aloysius tells her that when you address wrongdoing, you take a step away from God, but in His service.

Aloysius and James invite Flynn into the office supposedly to discuss the school s Christmas pageant. During their discussion, the women express drastically different perspectives on how the church should function with regard to the working class: Flynn believes they should relate to their parishioners more actively through shared interests and community activities, while Aloysius believes that clear boundaries set by the clergy facilitate the relationship with the parishioners.

Eventually, Aloysius brings up Donald Miller, noting that he is the only Black child in the school, at risk of being singled out. She states that even Flynn gave him special treatment, like the private meeting they had last week. He becomes defensive over her insinuations and eventually reveals he called Donald to the rectory because he had been caught drinking Sacramental wine. Flynn had been keeping it quiet to protect Donald, but now that Aloysius has forced it out, he must be removed as an altar boy. James is greatly relieved to hear the explanation. Flynn s next homily is on the evils of gossip.

Unconvinced, Aloysius meets with Donald s mother regarding her suspicions. When describing the potential abusive relationship between Donald and Flynn, she is shocked by Mrs. Miller s seeming ambivalence. Finally, the mother tearfully admits that Donald is gay, and fears his physically abusive homophobic father would kill him if he knew. She describes her difficult position: unable to protect her son from his father s violence, Flynn is the only male figure who has shown Donald any kindness. His position at the school shields him from bullies, and leaving the school now could compromise the better socioeconomic future the school can give Donald. She begs Aloysius to solve the situation by removing Flynn over Donald, but she is unsure of what she can do, given Flynn s entrenched position within the patriarchal senior clergy.

Knowing she has spoken with Donald s mother, Father Flynn threatens to remove Aloysius from her position if she does not back down. She informs him she contacted a nun from his last parish, discovering a history of past infringements. He demands to know what proof she has, and she admits that all she has is her certainty. Flynn accuses her of insubordination and acting outside her duties. She threatens she will do whatever it takes to force him out, even if it means being thrown out of the church herself.

Declaring his innocence, Flynn pleads, asking if she herself has never committed a mortal sin. Aloysius rejects his claims of innocence, threatening blackmail if he does not resign immediately. Acknowledging his downfall would be inevitable should he ignore her threats, he maintains he did nothing wrong, and her own certainty of wrongdoing is fallible. She demands Flynn request a transfer, which he does, delivering a final homily before departing.

Some time later, Aloysius tells James that Flynn has since been appointed to a more prestigious position at a larger church. She reveals that she lied about contacting a nun at Flynn s former parish, reasoning that if it were false, the ruse would not have worked. To her, his resignation is proof of his guilt. James, still believing in Flynn s innocence, is shocked by her lie, but Aloysius restates that, In the pursuit of wrongdoing, one steps away from God, but adds that doing so comes with a price. She then breaks down, tearfully exclaiming, I have doubts…I have such doubts!


  • Meryl Streep as Sister Aloysius Beauvier, the parish school principal
  • Philip Seymour Hoffman as Father Brendan Flynn
  • Amy Adams as Sister James, a teacher at the school
  • Viola Davis as Mrs. Miller, Donald Miller s mother
  • Joseph Foster as Donald Miller, the school s first black student

The other sisters in the film include Alice Drummond as Sister Veronica, Audrie J. Neenan as Sister Raymond, and Helen Stenborg as Sister Teresa. The child actors who played the students of the school include Mike Roukis as William London, Frank Shanley as Kevin, Frank Dolce as Ralph, Paulie Litt as Tommy Conroy, Matthew Marvin as Raymond, Bridget Clark as Noreen Horan, Molly Chiffer as Sarah, and Lydia Jordan as Alice. The actors who played the other staff of the school include, Susan Blommaert as Mrs. Carson, Carrie Preston as Christine Hurley, John Costelloe as Warren Hurley, Margery Beddow as Mrs. Shields, Marylouise Burke as Mrs. Deakins, and Jack O Connell as Mr. McGuinn.


Production began on December 1, 2007. The film, which concentrates on a Bronx Catholic school, was filmed in various areas of the Bronx, including Parkchester, St. Anthony s Catholic School, and the College of Mount Saint Vincent, as well as Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. The garden exterior scenes were shot at the historic Episcopal Church St. Luke in the Fields on Hudson Street in New York s Greenwich Village. The associated St. Luke s School was also heavily featured. The film is dedicated to Sister Margaret McEntee, a Sister of Charity who was Shanley s first-grade teacher and who served as a technical adviser for the movie, after whom Shanley modeled the character of Sister James.

Viola Davis was cast instead of Audra McDonald, Sanaa Lathan, Taraji P. Henson, Sophie Okonedo and Adriane Lenox.


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an 79% approval rating based on 220 reviews, with an average rating of 6.99/10. The site s consensus reads, Doubt succeeds on the strength of its top-notch cast, who successfully guide the film through the occasional narrative lull. Another review aggregator, Metacritic, gave the film a 68/100 approval rating based on 36 reviews. Critic Manohla Dargis of The New York Times concluded that the air is thick with paranoia in Doubt, but nowhere as thick, juicy, sustained or sustaining as Meryl Streep s performance. Meryl Streep s performance as the stern, intimidating and bold principal Sister Aloysius Beauvier was praised, as were Philip Seymour Hoffman and Amy Adams s performances.

Viola Davis s performance as Mrs. Miller was praised by critics; Salon declared that the character was acted with: a near-miraculous level of believability … Davis, in her small, one-scene role, is incredibly moving—I can barely remember a Davis performance where I haven t been moved … plays her character, an anxious, hardworking woman who s just trying to hold her life and family together, by holding everything close. She s not a fountain of emotion, dispensing broad expression or movement; instead, she keeps it all inside and lets us in .

National Public Radio called Davis s acting in the movie the film s most wrenching performance … the other argue strenuously and occasionally even eloquently, to ever-diminishing effect; Davis speaks plainly and quietly, and leaves doubt that the moral high ground is a treacherous place to occupy in the real world .

Roger Ebert, who thought Davis s performance worthy of an Academy Award, gave the film four stars, his highest rating, and praised its exact and merciless writing, powerful performances and timeless relevance. It causes us to start thinking with the first shot , he continued, and we never stop . Ebert goes on to say, The conflict between Aloysius and Flynn is the conflict between old and new, between status and change, between infallibility and uncertainty. And Shanley leaves us doubting.

The film and the cast earned numerous awards and nominations including five Academy Award nominations: for Best Actress for Streep, Best Supporting Actor for Hoffman, Best Supporting Actress for both Adams and Davis, and Best Adapted Screenplay for Shanley.

The scholar Daniel Cutrara, in his book on sex and religion in cinema, commented that the film works as a metaphor for worldwide uncertainty over priests accused of pedophilia—specifically through Father Flynn s resignation as an indication of guilt and then Sister Aloysius s subsequent doubt.


Doubt received five Academy Awards nominations on January 22, 2009, for its four lead actors and for Shanley s script. It was the fourth film to date—following My Man Godfrey (1936), I Remember Mama (1948), and Othello (1965)—to receive four acting nominations without being nominated for Best Picture.

Award Category Recipient(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Viola Davis Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated
BAFTA Awards Best Leading Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Viola Davis Nominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Critics Choice Awards Best Picture Doubt Nominated
Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Supporting Actor Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Nominated
Best Acting Ensemble Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Writer John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won
Detroit Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Golden Globe Awards Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Amy Adams Nominated
Viola Davis Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Houston Film Critics Society Awards Best Supporting Actress Viola Davis Won
Best Cast Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Won
National Board of Review Awards Breakthrough Performance by an Actress Viola Davis Won
Best Cast Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Won
Palm Springs International Film Festival Spotlight Award Amy Adams Won
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Satellite Awards Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Meryl Streep Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Best Screenplay – Adapted John Patrick Shanley Nominated
Screen Actors Guild Awards Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Leading Role Meryl Streep Won
Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Supporting Role Philip Seymour Hoffman Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Female Actor in a Supporting Role Amy Adams Nominated
Viola Davis Nominated
Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association Awards Best Supporting Actress Amy Adams Nominated
Viola Davis Won
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Awards Best Actress Meryl Streep Won
Best Cast Amy Adams, Viola Davis, Philip Seymour Hoffman and Meryl Streep Won

Year 2008
ReleaseDate 2008-12-25
RuntimeMins 104
RuntimeStr 1h 44min
Plot A Catholic school principal questions a priest’s ambiguous relationship with a troubled young student.
Awards Nominated for 5 Oscars, 25 wins & 97 nominations total
Directors John Patrick Shanley
Writers John Patrick Shanley
Stars Meryl Streep, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Amy Adams
Produced by Celia D. Costas,Mark Roybal,Scott Rudin,Nora Skinner
Music by Howard Shore
Cinematography by Roger Deakins
Film Editing by Dylan Tichenor
Casting By Ellen Chenoweth
Production Design by David Gropman
Art Direction by Peter Rogness
Set Decoration by Ellen Christiansen
Costume Design by Ann Roth
Makeup Department Alan D’Angerio,J. Roy Helland,Todd Kleitsch,Louise McCarthy,Jerry Popolis,Karen Specht,Victoria Wood,Mary Cooke,Christine Fennell,Valerie Gladstone-Appel
Production Management Celia D. Costas,Deb Dyer,Dan Hassid,Jennifer Lane,Linda A. Borgeson
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Marcos González Palma,Amy Lauritsen,John Rusk,John Silvestri,David Fischer,Tudor Jones,Christian Vendetti
Art Department Derrick Alford,Tommy Allen,Rand Angelicola,James J. Archer,Kenny Burke,Stephen Caldwell,Jon Carter,Yongxi Chen,Richard Cohn,John Davis,Paul George Divone,Ann Edgeworth,Joan Finley,Glen Fjotland,Steven Gamiello,Gordon Gertsen,Jonathan Graham,Sandy Hamilton,Jon F. Hopkins,Adam Jones,Judie Juracek,Clifford Klatt,Gordon Krause,Imogen Lee,Joe Martin,Dawn Masi,Rebecca Meis DeMarco,Kay Michaels,Nick Miller,Ronald Miller,Kris Moran,Brandon Odegaard,David Poses,Gennaro Proscia,Raymond Reddy,Diane Rich,Helen Ripple,Will Scheck,Adam Scher,Ari David Schwartz,Jeannine Sloane,Paul Steinberg,Bruce Swanson,Betsy Tanner,Dick Tice,Robert Topol,M. Tony Trotta,James Walker,Danny Woods,I. Javier Ameijeiras,William Depaolo,Flo Frintzilas,Miguel López-Castillo
Sound Department Ron Bochar,Kam Chan,Marko A. Costanzo,Lee Dichter,Robert Fernandez,Josh Frieser,Jim Gardner,Sean Garnhart,Heather Gross,Gregg Harris,Ruth Hernandez,Harry Higgins,Eric Hirsch,Larry Hopkins,Mike Howells,Bobby Johanson,Avi Laniado,George A. Lara,Debora Lilavois,Paul McGrath,Danny Michael,Branka Mrkic,Jordan O’Neill,Kira Smith,Steve F.B. Smith,Clémence Stoloff,Paul Yurt,Alexa Zimmerman,Chad Birmingham,Travis MacKay,Michael Miller,Beauxregard Neylen,Nicholas Renbeck,Eric Thompson
Special Effects by Roland Hathaway,Steven Kirshoff,Devin Maggio,Roy Savoy,John Stifanich
Visual Effects by John Bair,Randall Balsmeyer,Michael Bogen,Ella Boliver,John Campuzano,Patrick Clancey,Vivian Connolly,J. John Corbett,Emily Fenster,Will Frazier,Maureen Healy,Jesse Parker Holmes,Ali Kocar,Ladd Lanford,Vance Miller,Robert Montgomery,Josh Mossotti,David Piombino,Michael Queen,Carlos Rosario,Mark Russell,David Sosalla,Scott Winston,Adrienne Winterhalter,Thomas Mathai,Bob Wiatr
Stunts Peter Bucossi,Jennifer Lamb
Camera and Electrical Department Cesar Baptista,Wesley Battle,Angela Bellisio,Eric Boncher,Vincent Camuto Jr.,Patrick Capone,Roger Deakins,Glen Engels,Richie Ford,Scott Gregoire,Joseph Grimaldi,Richard Guinness Jr.,Bruce Hamme,Andy Harris,Joel Holland,Victor Huey,Billy Kerwick,Kevin Kerwick,Jeremy Knaster,Jason Lanci,Sal Lanza,Scott Lipkowitz,Michael J. Maurer,William Moore,Bill O’Leary,Michael Oates,Louis Petraglia,Jeff Pinette,Brent Poleski,Charlie Price,Chris Primavera,Michael Rudolph,Andrew D. Schwartz,Lance Shepherd,Joseph Viano,Robert Vuolo,Michael Wacks,Vincent Camuto Jr.,Andrew Cavagnet,Patrick Fontana,William V. Kerwick,Francine Natale,Patrick Quinn
Casting Department Sophia M. Costas,Sondra James,Amelia Rasche McCarthy
Costume and Wardrobe Department Megan Asbee,David Davenport,Kevin Draves,Nicole Greenbaum,Nina Johnston,Dain I. Kalas,Dan Kulas,Michelle Matland,Remy Pearce,Lee Purdy,Jonathan Schwartz,Tom Soluri,Benjamin Wilson,Nina Cinelli,Debbe DuPerrieu
Editorial Department Angie Alavez,Ian Blume,George Chavez,Michael Dillon,Roland Eisinger,Louisa Forni,Michael Hatzer,Chris Jensen,Mike Kennedy,Jordan Lindblad,Jessica Mazzer,George Papuashvili,Amy Pawlowski,Daniel Triller,Sean Cooney,John Vladic
Location Management Zoran Blazevic,Fletcher Elkington,Sarah Follett,Jason Fritz,Joe Guest,Matthew Kania,Elizabeth Klenk,Robert Noonan,Phuong-Thuy Pham,John Spady,Matthew H. Wiesner,Malcolm Alston,Nick Carr,Graham Goetz,Colby Shrefler
Music Department Nick Ariondo,Elizabeth Cotnoir,George Doering,Jennifer L. Dunnington,Kaylin Frank,Alan Frey,Mark Graham,Richard Grant,Tom Hardisty,Jim Hoffman,Ben Holiday,Greg Laporta,Sandra Park,Diane Freiman Reynolds,Simon Rhodes,Ryan Robinson,Adryan Russ,Naomi Sato,Howard Shore,Sue Sinclair,James Sizemore,Tim Starnes,Sally Stevens,Angie Teo,Gina Zimmitti,Alan Ett,Scott Liggett,John Rodd
Script and Continuity Department Dianne Dreyer,Andrew D. Cooke
Transportation Department Thomas Aquino,Rudy Arietta,Ed Battista,Mike Buckman,Joseph Buonocore,Michael Buonocore,Mike Canales,James Charleston,Kerry Clark,Ryan Patrick Cooke,William Curtin,Robert Dwyer,William Espand,Robert J. Gallagher,Pat Hogan,Patrick Hogan,Paul Kane,Joseph W. Kelly,Peter Krienbihl,Leonard Luizzi,Joseph Paprota,Wesley Petersen,Jim Popper,Joseph Riso,Timothy Shannon,Barry Sweeney,Paul Weiner,James Patrick Whalen Jr.
Additional Crew Daniel Altieri,Jodi Arneson,Kyle Barrett,Michael Bartol,Justen Bennett-Maccubbin,Valerie Rose Bronte,Damon Cardasis,Sal Carino,Anne Carlisle,Sean Carroll,Darin Chavez,Joey Cohen,Wendy Cohen,Andrea Coles,Scotch James Diaz Crisostomo,Andrew Crowley,Eliza Czander,Ethan Duffy,Kathleen Fellegara,Rich Fellegara,Glenn Ferrara,Meryl Finger,Megan Gallagher,Molly Gallagher,Bianca Giancoli,David Kennedy,Adam Klaff,Kim Krafsky,Keri Lederman,Kalliope Mamias,Steve McAuliff,Patrick McDevitt,Margaret McEntee,Sarah Miles,Tim Monich,Sara Murphy,Eric Myers,Leda Nornang,Steve Oppenheim,Jim Pellegrinelli,Cynthia Poulsen,Christine Putnam,Kim Rideout,Jennifer Roberts,Ramón Rodríguez,Sally Rusk,Michelle Sarama,Fanny Schwartz,Alana Serignese,Lucy Shapiro,Teresa Soneborg,C.L. Mega Sterling,Maud Streep,Narges Takesh,Christopher Tricarico,Christian Vendetti,Patty Willett,Kori E. Wilson,Tim Wilson,Nick Zayas,James Bednark,J. John Corbett,Logan Wolfe Edler,Lisa Falzarano,Jason Fesel,Anouk Frösch,Sophie Holland,Keri Lederman,Kara Mazzola,Jean-Marc Pannetier,Michael Perilstein,Sophie Saleyron,Reyna Shaskan,Heli Soell,Lygia Day Szelwach,Bill Timoney,Brendan Van Meter,Jean-Pierre Vincent,Frank Zwick
Thanks Heather Goldenhersh,Doug Hughes,Cherry Jones,Adriane Lenox,Margaret McEntee,Nico Muhly,Brían F. O’Byrne
Genres Drama, Mystery
Companies Goodspeed Productions, Scott Rudin Productions
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating PG-13
ImDbRating 7.5
ImDbRatingVotes 129527
MetacriticRating 68
Keywords priest,new york city,nun,boy,catholic