Movie Review:
The World
According to Garp

MOVIE REVIEW: The World According to Garp (1982)

TITLE: The World According To Garp

RELEASE DATE: July 23, 1982




The World According to Garp centers on the life of T.S. Garp, played by Robin Williams, who is the son of a feminist mother, Jenny Fields. 

His life is defined by a variety of unconventional experiences and relationships as he aspires to be a writer. 

The film also depicts Garp's reaction to the changing social and political climate in America throughout his life.


I have not read the book, but a few friends said the book is a faithful adaptation while missing some of the absurdity and being a little tame on the social commentary. This film taps some great social commentary, but sometimes feels like it pulls the punch instead of fully going for it. Still, there is a lot of great stuff in the themes.

Garp’s struggle with his identity and finding a purpose in the world.

Feminism and Gender Roles - His mother’s influence and impact as a feminist icon… and in turn, how it affects Garp to live in her shadow. This is also true from his very conception through to the moment before the final scene. This theme is also heavily implied throughout Garp’s marriage.

The contrast between conservative values and the progressive and liberal views of his mother and her followers. I especially love the way Garp is stuck between the two. His best friend is transgender (a HUGE step at that time, particularly how easily and fully Garp accepts Roberta). But he is not progressive enough to accept the Ellen James Society cutting out their tongues in solidarity with a young girl who was raped and mutilated by two men. I’m right there in the same place as Garp all these years later. But I love reminders that no matter how progressive we think we are, there are usually lines that are too far for each of us. I am always fascinated by films that invite us to reflect on our own beliefs and where those lines are for each of us.

Love, Tragedy, and Loss – Loss is a big one in this. I don’t want to get too heavy into spoiler territory, so I’ll leave it at that, but actions have consequences.


For me, so much is wonderful about this film. The performances of Robin Williams, Glenn Close, and John Lithgow are nearly perfect. When you take into account how this film covers more than 40 years, the actors (and the writing) do a fantastic job of acting within each decade and reacting, learning, and adjusting accordingly.  Every character is flawed, but it’s almost impossible to dislike them because of these performances and the well-rounded character arcs.

I loved the writing overall. The scene where Garp is trying to write and hears his mother typing away and succeeding resonated with me. LOL

I additionally liked how much of this story could be told today without changing a lot.


If I had to pick anything, I would say the pacing was a bit off in places. Some of the middle drags. But that’s pretty symbolic of life too. ;)

My biggest complaint would be about one death. While I didn’t need this movie to totally fall apart into Griefville, I thought Garp should’ve been evenly more heavily affected by one loss in particular (The car accident). It was explored for a bit and then kind of felt like it wasn’t really an issue after that.


My favorite part, without a doubt, is the absolute insanity of the plane flying into the house Garp and his wife are purchasing. When the pilot climbs out and asks to use the phone… I lost it.

The car accident is a close second for me.

Honorable mentions:

The final line in the film. “I’m flying.”

“Not tonight, I have a headache.” “You always have a headache!”


This is the 2nd in my 59-film trek through Robin’s films. While it won’t be my favorite by the time it’s done, I’m sorry I slept on it for… 40 years. LOL


John Lithgow received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actor for his role as Roberta.