AFI Movie Club: DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – American Film Institute
Doctor Zhivago Film Still - Julie Christie and Omar Sharif



DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is ranked #39 on AFI’s original list of the greatest movies of all time. Yuri Zhivago and Lara’s timeless romance lands at #7 on AFI’s greatest love stories of all time. Director David Lean was honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award in 1990.

Watch MIRA NAIR announce the film:

Movie Trivia about DOCTOR ZHIVAGO

-DID YOU KNOW that Boris Pasternak wrote “Doctor Zhivago” over many years, chronicling Russian life from Imperialism through the October Revolution, civil war and Joseph Stalin’s Great Purge?

-DID YOU KNOW the film is a semi-autobiographical account of Pasternak’s longstanding love affair with fellow poet, translator and literary editor Olga Ivinskaya? She was imprisoned by Communists in an attempt to intimidate him.

-DID YOU KNOW the “Doctor Zhivago” manuscript was smuggled out of Russia and printed by Italian publisher Giangiacomo Feltrinelli, despite threats from both the Russian and Italian Communist Parties?

-DID YOU KNOW Pasternak was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1958? He declined the honor so he could remain in his homeland.

-DID YOU KNOW David Lean’s DOCTOR ZHIVAGO was a reunion of sorts? Holdovers from his previous film, LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, include stars Omar Sharif and Alec Guinness, screenwriter Robert Bolt, composer Maurice Jarre, production designer John Box and costume designer Phyllis Dalton.

-DID YOU KNOW cinematographer Nicolas Roeg was replaced three months into filming over creative differences? Roeg would eventually become a celebrated director himself – helming, among other things, DON’T LOOK NOW starring none other than Julie Christie.

-DID YOU KNOW producer Carlo Ponti originally bought the rights to the film with the part of “Lara” in mind for his wife Sophia Loren? Jane Fonda was also considered, but ultimately declined, leading Julie Christie to be cast instead. In 2014, Fonda said that of all the movies she’s turned down, DOCTOR ZHIVAGO is the one she regrets the most.

-DID YOU KNOW that for the iconic scene where winter dissolves into spring, over 4,000 daffodils were imported from Holland and placed on the outskirts of the mountain town of Soria, Spain?

-DID YOU KNOW that composer Maurice Jarre won the Academy Award® for Best Original Score for his work on DOCTOR ZHIVAGO – which includes the iconic and bittersweet “Lara’s Theme”?

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

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-What do you know about the political climate during the time when Pasternak wrote “Doctor Zhivago” and when the film was released in 1965?

-Why do you think “Doctor Zhivago” provoked so much anger from Soviet Union government officials, causing them to ban Pasternak from publishing it?

-The novel is a sprawling epic. How do the novel and film differ? What do you think of David Lean and Richard Bolt’s adaptation?

-What do you think of the doctor-poet Yuri Zhivago? How does he reconcile both aspects of his character and how does he evolve throughout the film?

-What do you think of Yuri’s relationship with Lara (Julie Christie) compared with Tonya (Geraldine Chaplin)? What does Lara represent for him?

-How is nature used as a motif in DOCTOR ZHIVAGO? What did you think of cinematographer Freddie Young’s use of color throughout?

-How would you rank DOCTOR ZHIVAGO in terms of the greatest love stories ever told?


Watch Omar Sharif talk about acting and DOCTOR ZHIVAGO in this exclusive AFI Archive video:

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In this time when we are reminded “There’s no place like home,” AFI has created a global, virtual gathering of those who love the movies. Each day’s film is accompanied by fun facts, family-friendly discussion points and material from the AFI Archive to enrich your viewing experience.

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