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Roman Holiday (1953) Review

It’s rare that I’ll watch a film recommended to me by a friend. Not just because most of my friends have a taste in film that would turn even the most amateur movie fan’s stomach, but because I like to pick and choose what I watch, when I like. Just so happening to coincide with a time when I wanted to experience my first Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck pairing, I was recommended Roman Holiday. One of the rare occasions when I will ever listen to any of my friends, and I find myself under the grim realisation that maybe I had knocked the average film taste a little too much, because Roman Holiday was an absolute delight from start to finish. 

With no basis of quality control for any of the performances I had witnessed throughout, I leapt into the unknown. All I knew was that Hepburn was an essential part of the golden era of Hollywood, a reputation that precedes her films. Pairing that up with Gregory Peck, who I had seen only in the Martin Scorsese remake of Cape Fear, and I, as ever, find myself in uncharted territory. There was no doubt in my mind that the performances of Hepburn and Peck would be enjoyable, especially considering how highly regarded each of them are. 

Hepburn in particular is a superb performer, a great performance comes throughout Roman Holiday as Princess Ann, a rebellious royal that seeks a few days of freedom. Coupling her accidentally with journalist Joe Bradley (Peck) and we spend a couple of hours with two individuals that want to experience the best that life has to offer. The chemistry Peck and Hepburn have with one another is crucial to the success of the film, and thanks to a great script from writer and director William Wyler, we receive such a positively fun film. One of the few films of the 50s romantic genre to offer up a wholesome, light-hearted energy, yet at the same time bring about heavy standing plot details that are mertiable for being completely inconsequential. 

That does sound like rather the negative comment, but the unbridled energy found within Roman Holiday makes up for its entirely predictable narrative structure. An ideal as old as time, the plot of Roman Holiday will struggle to surprise audiences, but it’s well natured and feels nice on the whole, to the point where I struggle to fault such an enjoyable experience.  

A completely harmless film that does fall to the predictability of the romantic comedy, but there’s an energy within Roman Holiday that elevates it above both its predecessors and successors. I hate the word timeless, but that is very much how Roman Holiday is presented. A film that can work regardless of timeframe, supported by truly remarkable performances and on the whole an elegantly enjoyable time. Quite the surprise given my ambivalence toward the Royal Family. That’s how good Hepburn is as an actor, she made me care for a member of the Royal Family.  

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet


  1. Wonderful movie Roman Holiday ! Great sightseeing in Rome in the classic style of the 50s. Audrey is a young innocent princess and older Gregory Peck as a man that finds out that he cares for her like a father…

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