-->'''Mrs. Kendel:''' Why, Mr. Merrick, you're not an elephant man at all.
-->'''Merrick:''' Oh no?
-->'''Mrs. Kendel:''' Oh no... no... you're a Romeo.
The VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory saga of Joseph Merrick, the Elephant Man.
Basically, one of the saddest films ever, and one of Creator/DavidLynch's few non-"[[MindScrew omgwhaththehellisthisaaaaaaaaaI'mscared]]" movies, depicting Joseph (here called John, and played by John Hurt) Merrick's struggle to leave an abusive circus sideshow, while meeting Dr. Frederick Treves (Anthony Hopkins), who takes him out of that place and gets him into the London Hospital, where he--being an educated and kind person but still with the outward appearance of a freak--becomes the focus of London's attention, raising the question: is Merrick just moving from one circus to another?
Also starring Sir John Gielgud, Dame Wendy Hiller, and Anne Bancroft.
!!Tropes present in the film:
* BeautyEqualsGoodness: Averted, subverted, inverted, beaten over the head with a shovel, driven out to the desert, executed gangland style, dismembered and buried.
* BittersweetEnding: [[spoiler:Merrick dies. But he dies on the happiest day of his life, and dies doing what he wants to do: to sleep like he's normal.]] It does not count as a DownerEnding.
* BodyHorror: Sort of. Merrick's physical anomalies become ever less-repellent as his kindly personality is revealed.
* CreepyCircusMusic: The soundtrack (in places), and it's heartbreaking.
* TheDanza: John Hurt as John Merrick
** Although in RealLife Merrick's first name was Joseph.
* DreamSequence: Provides the surreallism, since most of the film avoids the MindScrew Lynch is known for.
* EverythingsBetterWithMonkeys: Averted, with the big mean baboons at the circus.
* HeelRealization: Dr. Treves is shaken by the Head Nurse's observation that the arrangement he set up for John Merrick, which include receiving respectable callers, means he is still being treated as a freak on display, albeit in a high class cushy style.
-->"Why did I do it? Am I a good man or a bad man?"
* HeroicBSOD: Merrick in the train station. See below for PunctuatedForEmphasis
* HistoricalVillainUpgrade: While Bytes was a CompositeCharacter, the real-world Merrick's managers for most of his life were not bad people, and he was generally grateful to them.
* HumansAreBastards / HumansAreSpecial: The whole movie questions "What does it mean to be human?"
* InspirationallyDisadvantaged: An UnbuiltTrope here, and it could easily be read as a deconstruction, since a big part of the movie's point is that he's still being exploited. As Mothershead the nurse points out, "he's just being stared at all over again."
* LittlePeopleAreSurreal: Invoked but averted, with a pair of little people working at the Belgian circus who help John escape. They're portrayed as very normal, good people. Lynch would later play this one [[TwinPeaks famously]] [[MulhollandDrive straight]], though.
* MonstrosityEqualsWeakness: TruthInTelevision for the real Merrick, sadly.
* NotSoDifferent: Bytes accuses Treves of being just as exploitative of John.
* OscarBait: A downplayed version. It was a tragic biopic about a physically disabled man shot in black and white, which certainly covers several typical OscarBait traits, and was nominated for seven different Oscars. However, [[AwardSnub it won none of them.]] The big winner was [[RagingBull a different biopic shot in black and white]].
* PunctuatedForEmphasis: "'''I'''! AM NOT! AN '''ELEPHANT! I''' AM NOT! AN '''ANIMAL!''' I! AM A '''HUMAN! BEING!''' I! AM! ...a man." [[spoiler: This exclamation works; the mob immediately becomes more sympathetic.]]
** "Where - ''is'' - he?"
* PromotionToLoveInterest: Mrs. Kendall is treated as a love interest for John, in a very chaste sort of way. In real life, it's doubtful they ever met, and his autographed photo of her was actually delivered by her husband.
* SirNotAppearingInThisTrailer: Executive producer Creator/MelBrooks deliberately kept his name off the film, for fear people would expect it to be a comedy. He did the same with ''TheFly'', among other films in the '80s.
* TakeOurWordForIt: For the first chunk of the movie, we never get a good look at John. It helps build the suspense as we only see the reactions of others to poor Merrick's [[BodyHorror physical deformities]]. To make it even more effective, the film averts TrailersAlwaysSpoil- both the posters and the trailer only show Merrick with his head covered or in a position where you can't clearly see him. You have to watch the movie in full to find out what the main character actually looks like.
* VeryLooselyBasedOnATrueStory: Bytes is a CompositeCharacter, with evidence indicating that Merrick was actually well-treated in the British sideshow. The Belgian one was probably about as bad as the movie suggests.
* VictorianLondon: The setting for most of the film.
* YouBastard: The second half of the movie makes you feel bad for wanting to get a good look at him in the first half.