LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is, without a doubt, the greatest historical epic ever filmed and the crowning achievement of David Lean's career. It's also the film that makes best use of the majestic desert landscape with shots of extraordinary rock formations, dunes, shimmering "mirages," and caravans making their way across seemingly endless sands.
LAWRENCE OF ARABIA tells the story of T.E. Lawrence and his adventures in the Middle East during World War I as he led the Arab revolt against the Turks. It is loosely based on Lawrence's book, THE SEVEN PILLARS OF WISDOM.
Even though there are battle scenes in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, this film is, first and foremost, a character study of Lawrence who was, by anyone's account, a fascinating figure. Even the battle scenes serve to enhance the character of Lawrence rather than detailing the horrors of war and we see Lawrence's dark, embittered side as well as his heroic one.
Although Peter O'Toole wasn't David Lean's first choice to play Lawrence (both Marlon Brando and Albert Finney were offered the part), I can't imagine anyone else in the title role.
Omar Sharif is impressive as Sherif Ali Ibn El Kharish. Prior to this film, he was a virtual unknown, but LAWRENCE OF ARABIA launched Sharif on a long career that made him instantly recognizable the world over.
Even though O'Toole and Sharif weren't well-known when they starred in LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, the film's supporting case is certainly stellar: Alec Guiness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer and Claude Raines.
Although I think LAWRENCE OF ARABIA is best viewed on a large theatrical screen, this doesn't mean anyone should pass up the DVD. It's just too good for that, especially the Director's Cut (but do make sure you get the widescreen edition; this film demands it).
Don't watch LAWRENCE OF ARABIA expecting to get a history lesson. Watch it to learn more about the fascinating man who was T.E.Lawrence. If you do, I can't see any way you'll be disappointed.