Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Anne Bancroft, Katharine Ross
Plot: Ben has recently graduated from college, with his parents now expecting great things from him. At his "Homecoming" party, Mrs. Robinson, the wife of his father's business partner, has Ben drive her home, which leads to an affair between the two. The affair eventually ends, but comes back to haunt him when he finds himself falling for Elaine, Mrs. Robinson's daughter.
In Dustin Hoffman and Anne Bancroft's first encounter in the hotel room, Bancroft did not know that Hoffman was going to grab her breast. Hoffman decided offscreen to do it, because it reminded him of schoolboys trying to nonchalantly grab girls' breasts in the hall by pretending to put their jackets on. When Hoffman did it onscreen, director Mike Nichols began laughing loudly offscreen. Hoffman began to laugh as well, so rather than stop the scene, he turned away from the camera and walked to the wall. Hoffman banged his head on the wall, trying to stop laughing, and Nichols thought it was so funny, he left it in.
None of the older characters has their first name identified in the film; only the younger characters of Benjamin, Elaine and Carl do, increasing the sense of a generation gap.
Two interesting camera techniques are used in the film. In the scene where Benjamin is running, he is shown at some distance running straight at the camera, an effect which makes him look as if he getting nowhere as he's running. (This technique is accomplished with a very long telephoto lens, which foreshortens distances in relation to the camera.) In another scene, Benjamin is walking from the right side of the screen to the left, while everyone else in the scene is moving from left to right. In western culture, things that move left to right seem natural (think of the direction you read words on a page), those that move right to left seem to be going the wrong way. These two visual techniques echo the themes of the film, Benjamin is going the wrong way, and getting nowhere in life.
Apparently, Dustin Hoffman's screen test consisted of him fumbling his lines and awkwardly trying to grab Katharine Ross's behind, which angered her. As he left thinking he didn't get the role, his awkwardness was just what director Mike Nichols needed for Benjamin Braddock.
Although Mrs. Robinson is supposed to be much older than Benjamin, Anne Bancroft and Dustin Hoffman are just under six years apart in age. He looked naturally boyish, and she was made up to look older. For the same reason, Bancroft was only 8 years older than her "daughter" Katharine Ross, William Daniels (Mr. Braddock) only 10 years older than his "son" Hoffman.
Robert Redford screen-tested with Candice Bergen for the part of Benjamin Braddock but was finally rejected by director Mike Nichols because Nichols did not believe Redford could persuasively project the underdog qualities necessary to the role. When he told this to Redford, the actor asked Nichols what he meant. "Well, let's put it this way," said Nichols, "Have you ever struck out with a girl?" "What do you mean?" asked Redford. "That's precisely my point," said Nichols. Redford told Nichols that he perfectly understood the character of Benjamin who was a social misfit. He went on and on about his ability to play the part. Nichols finally said to him, "Bob, look in the mirror. Can you honestly imagine a guy like you having difficulty seducing a woman?"
When Elaine tracks down Ben in his gloomy room and he causes her to scream, a number of other tenants gather behind the landlord in the doorway. One says, "Shall I get the cops? I'll get the cops..." It's Richard Dreyfuss in one of his earliest film roles.
In the famous promotional still for this film, Dustin Hoffman is seen in the background framed by Mrs. Robinson's shapely leg. The leg in that photo didn't belong to Anne Bancroft, however; it belonged to a then-unknown model, Linda Gray, who later played Mrs. Robinson in a London stage musical of The Graduate.
The movie's line "Mrs. Robinson, you're trying to seduce me. Aren't you?" was voted as the #63 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100), as the #5 of Premiere's "100 Greatest Movie Lines" (2007).
The song "Mrs. Robinson" was not written for the movie; it was the working title of a song Simon was then writing (originally called "Mrs. Roosvelt", and about Eleanor Roosevelt) and Nichols decided to include it.
Dustin Hoffman later commented he was uneasy about doing the scene in which he pounds on the glass because a church official was watching the filming with obvious disapproval.
Within a year of the movie's release, plastic manufacturing companies became enormously successful. Many people attribute this to Walter Brooke's quote about "plastics". Brooke himself once told his nephew that he would have invested in plastics, if he had known that the remark would lead to such success.
Anne Bancroft said that for many years after doing this movie, young men would tell her that she was the first woman they had sexual fantasies about.
Dustin Hoffman was only paid $17,000 to make the film and after taxes and living expenses, he had only $4,000 left. An overnight success in The Graduate, he nevertheless found himself collecting unemployment checks after its release. It wasn't long, however, before he landed his next major feature role, Ratso in Midnight Cowboy (1969), a part Mike Nichols warned him not to take for fear it would ruin his image and emerging career.
Near the beginning of the movie there is a shot of Ben in his room with a fishtank behind him. His head is below the water level, indicating he feels as though he is figuratively drowning.
On Inside the Actors Studio (1994), director Mike Nichols claims that the final "sobering" emotion that Benjamin and Elaine go through was due to the fact that he had just been shouting at the two of them to laugh in the scene. The actors were so scared that after laughing they stopped, scared. Nichols liked it so much, he kept it.
When Benjamin is shown banging on the church window with his arms raised and extended, many reviewers felt he was portrayed as a Christ-like image. In actuality, this was a compromise with the minister of the church. The minister had threatened to throw everyone out when the scene was rehearsed with Benjamin pounding his fists on the fragile window, which had been a gift to the church.