Sean Connery stars as the medieval Franciscan friar William of Baskerville, who gets called upon to solve a deadly mystery in an abbey.
The film has examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: The book is a detective mystery interwoven with 500 pages of incredible detail of the religious and political schism in the church that is nearly inscrutable to anyone without a post-graduate degree in Theology and 14th Century Political History. (Or, reasonably arguably, anyone but Umberto Eco.) The movie drops most of the Theology, History and Politics in favor of the detective story.
- Adaptation Dye-Job: William is blond in the book, but Sean Connery (and later John Turturro) are not.
- Adaptation Expansion: The miniseries adds a subplot involving the daughter of Fra Dolcino, who survives the Dulcinite revolt and tries to take revenge on Bernardo Gui.
- Adapted Out: The Swedish monk Benno of Uppsala was cut from the film, as are the blacksmith and Judge Alinardo.
- Adaptation Name Change: Malachi the librarian is renamed Malachia in the film, for some reason.
- Anachronistic Animal: Narrowly averted in the movie adaptation. There's a scene including a short shot featuring pigs; the director intended to use modern, pink pigs but the historical consultant pointed that pink pigs were anachronic and medieval pigs were black or brown. Since they couldn't find black pigs in time, the pigs have been dyed for the shooting.
- Artistic License History: Pretty much the only thing the film version gets right about the historical Bernardo Gui is that he was an Inquisitor during the fourteenth century. While Gui did convict large numbers of heretics during his tenure, only about five percent of them were executed; he far preferred to prove heresies wrong and to reconcile heretics with the church rather than kill them, and he was always more scholar and administrator than zealot and crusader. He's less of a cackling arch-villain in the novel, but not by much. Neither he nor the Inquisition accused people of witchcraft either, for at the time the Church officially disbelieved it existed. Even later, the Inquisitions dealt mainly with heresy.
- Burn the Witch!: Brother Salvatore and Brother Remigio are burned at the stake as scapegoats by Father Bernardo Gui, leader of the Inquisition. Gui also tries to burn a local peasant girl, but in the film she is rescued by rebellious peasants who manage to kill Gui in the resulting chaos.
- Character Exaggeration: The transmogrification of the saintly Ubertino da Casale (a minor character) from a well-educated, decent, pious (if slightly fanatical) old man with some hints of being a Dirty Old Man (teenaged Adso remarks how he hugs him very close and keeps touching him) to a creepy, obtuse Butt-Monkey who hits on Adso and is ridiculed by William. Note that the poor guy actually existed.
- Cover Innocent Eyes and Ears: When Bernado Gui tears off the peasant's cloak, one monk covers an eye and closes the other, which he quickly opens again for a peek.
- Eek, a Mouse!!: The monks laugh when Berengar does the 'jump up on the chair' version.
- Friend-or-Idol Decision: Adso, at the end of the film, chooses to follow his master rather than stay with the girl.
- Gonk: The abbot, the Greek translator, and Adelmo are pretty much the only three of the Benedictine monks who are not frightfully ugly. The worst is undoubtedly Ron Perlman's Salvatore, who doesn't even look human.
- The Grotesque: Adso is peering fearfully at some hideous gargoyles when the equally hideous Salvatore lurches at him out of the darkness, babbling nonsense.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Bernardo Gui in the film. This didn't happen in the book or in Real Life, in which he died quietly of natural causes (he was also older at the time, about 69 or 70) a couple of years after the time in which the movie takes place.
- Motive Rant: Downplayed in the movie, where the Big Bad is more reactive and less prone to discussion; most of it is held while the villain is eluding the heroes throughout the library.
- Obfuscating Disability: Ron Perlman's version of the deformed, mentally disabled hunchback Salvatore is smarter than he seems. Unfortunately it doesn't work on Bernado, who simply tortures him until he gets the answers he wants.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: As expected in an abbey, it happens four times in-universe:
Urbs Jerusalem beataDicta pacis visioQuæ construitur in caelisVivis ex lapidibus(x2)
- After the first night, Urbs Jerusalem beata:
- Spared by the Adaptation: The peasant girl just barely escapes her execution in the film, and she has a final moment with Adso at the end. We still never learn her name.