AFI Movie Club: GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER – American Film Institute
Guess Who's Coming to Dinner Film Still - Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton



GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was released the year AFI was established and features the talent of AFI Life Achievement Award winner Sidney Poitier – who served as a founding Trustee. The film is also on three AFI lists of the greatest American films of all time, including 100 Years… 100 Movies, 100 Years… 100 Passions and 100 Years… 100 Cheers.

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Watch JK Simmons announce today’s film!


DID YOU KNOW? Interracial relationships were still illegal and considered a criminal offense in 17 states during production, and mixed-race marriages in America accounted for only .5% of the entire population. Several weeks after filming was completed, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down state restrictions, however Columbia Pictures responded the next day by announcing that a scene referencing these laws would not be changed to reflect the news. 

DID YOU KNOW? GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER marked the ninth onscreen pairing of Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy, and their first collaboration since DESK SET, which was released 10 years earlier. It was Tracy’s fourth performance for director/producer Stanley Kramer.   

DID YOU KNOW? Katharine Houghton was the real-life niece of Katharine Hepburn, who recommended the young actress for the part of Joey. 

DID YOU KNOW? The film faced opposition from Columbia Pictures executives, who feared the interracial romance between Sidney Poitier and Katharine Houghton was too risky. Despite positive reviews, some critics complained that the film tried too hard to be palatable for mass audiences and pointed out that the young couple is never shown embracing. 

DID YOU KNOW? Insurance companies were unwilling to provide coverage for Spencer Tracy, who was in extremely poor health at the time of production. Stanley Kramer and Katharine Hepburn lowered their salaries and Tracy deferred his paycheck until filming ended. Tracy died just weeks after he completed his final scenes. 

DID YOU KNOW? GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was honored with 10 Academy Award® nominations – of which it won two, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Actress, marking Katharine Hepburn’s second win. She went on to win two additional Oscars® for THE LION IN WINTER (1968) and ON GOLDEN POND (1981). 

Learn more at the AFI Catalog.

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

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– GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER was considered radical for its time in its depiction of an interracial romance, but it also received scrutiny for not showing the couple in physical contact with each other. Does this film hold up over time, or does it seem dated? What has changed in our world today?

-Does GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER effectively convey a love story, or does it focus more on its social and political implications? Do you feel the love between Joey and John, or are their differences explored in greater detail than their common ground? Can you describe a scene that conveys their intimacy?

-How can film be used as a means to transform cultural beliefs? Does GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER advocate for change or does it ultimately uphold more conservative perspectives? Do some research on the Civil Rights movement and discuss the important events that were underway as of 1967. How would these cultural shifts have impacted the way audiences saw GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER when it was released?

-How would you rate GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER?

Watch Sidney Poitier talk about the making of GUESS WHO’S COMING TO DINNER in this exclusive video from the AFI Archive:

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