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Serpico (1973) More at IMDbPro »

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Down 43% in popularity this week. See why on IMDbPro.
Peter Maas (book)
Waldo Salt (screenplay) ...
View company contact information for Serpico on IMDbPro.
Release Date:
5 December 1973 (USA) See more »
Many of his fellow officers considered him the most dangerous man alive - An honest cop.
The true story about an honest New York cop who blew the whistle on rampant corruption in the force only to have his comrades turn against him. Full summary » | Full synopsis »
Plot Keywords:
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 7 wins & 7 nominations See more »
(217 articles)
User Reviews:
"Unfair. Unfair!" See more (158 total) »


  (in credits order) (verified as complete)

Al Pacino ... Serpico

John Randolph ... Sidney Green
Jack Kehoe ... Tom Keough
Biff McGuire ... Captain McClain
Barbara Eda-Young ... Laurie (as Barbara eda - Young)
Cornelia Sharpe ... Leslie

Tony Roberts ... Bob Blair
John Medici ... Pasquale

Allan Rich ... D.A. Tauber
Norman Ornellas ... Rubello
Edward Grover ... Lombardo (as Ed Grover)
Albert Henderson ... Peluce (as Al Henderson)
Hank Garrett ... Malone

Damien Leake ... Joey
Joseph Bova ... Potts (as Joe Bova)
Gene Gross ... Captain Tolkin

John Stewart ... Waterman
Woodie King Jr. ... Larry (as Woodie King)

James Tolkan ... Steiger (as James Tolkin)
Ed Crowley ... Barto
Bernard Barrow ... Palmer
Sal Carollo ... Mr. Serpico
Mildred Clinton ... Mrs. Serpico
Nathan George ... Smith
Gus Fleming ... Dr. Metz
Richard Foronjy ... Corsaro
Alan North ... Brown
Lewis J. Stadlen ... Berman
John McQuade ... Kellogg (as John Mc Quade)
Ted Beniades ... Sarno
John Lehne ... Gilbert

M. Emmet Walsh ... Gallagher
George Ede ... Daley

Charles White ... Delaney
rest of cast listed alphabetically:

F. Murray Abraham ... Detective Partner (uncredited)
P.J. Benjamin ... Man (uncredited)
Don Billett ... Detective Threatening Serpico (uncredited)

Val Bisoglio ... Weapons Storage Officer (uncredited)
Raleigh Bond ... (uncredited)
John Brandon ... Police Lieutenant (uncredited)
James Bulleit ... Det. Styles (uncredited)
Roy Cheverie ... Cop (uncredited)

Sam Coppola ... Cop (uncredited)
Marjorie Eliot ... Rape Victim (uncredited)

René Enríquez ... Cervantes Teacher (uncredited)
Conard Fowkes ... Cop - Narcotics Raid (uncredited)
Frank Gio ... Police Lieutenant (uncredited)
Trent Gough ... Cop (uncredited)
Paul E. Guskin ... Police Academy Classmate (uncredited)

Nick Hardin ... Television Cameraman (uncredited)

Judd Hirsch ... Cop (uncredited)

Bianca Hunter ... (uncredited)
Richard Kuss ... Detective (uncredited)

Tony Lo Bianco ... Cop (uncredited)
George Loros ... Det. Glover (uncredited)

Kenneth McMillan ... Charlie (uncredited)
Stephen Pearlman ... Desk Sergeant (uncredited)
Tim Pelt ... Black Hood (uncredited)
William Pelt ... Black Hood (uncredited)

Jay Rasumny ... Television Cameraman (uncredited)
Franklin Scott ... Black Prisoner (uncredited)
Tom Signorelli ... Bookmaker (uncredited)
Ben Slack ... Detective Sitting at Desk (uncredited)
Jaime Sánchez ... Cop (uncredited)

Tracey Walter ... Street Urchin (uncredited)

Mary Louise Weller ... Sally - Girl at Party (uncredited)

Directed by
Sidney Lumet 
Writing credits
Peter Maas (book)

Waldo Salt (screenplay) and
Norman Wexler (screenplay)

Produced by
Martin Bregman .... producer
Roger M. Rothstein .... associate producer
Dino De Laurentiis .... executive producer (uncredited)
Original Music by
Mikis Theodorakis 
Cinematography by
Arthur J. Ornitz (director of photography)
Film Editing by
Dede Allen 
Richard Marks (co-editor)
Casting by
Shirley Rich 
Production Design by
Charles Bailey 
Art Direction by
Douglas Higgins 
Set Decoration by
Thomas H. Wright 
Costume Design by
Anna Hill Johnstone 
Makeup Department
Philip Leto .... hair stylist (as Phillip Leto)
Reginald Tackley .... makeup artist (as Redge Tackley)
Michael R. Thomas .... special makeup effects artist (uncredited)
Production Management
Martin Danzig .... unit manager
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director
Burtt Harris .... assistant director
Alan Hopkins .... assistant director
Art Department
Leslie Bloom .... set dresser (as Les Bloom)
Joseph M. Caracciolo .... property master (as Joe Caracciola)
Jack Hughes .... scenic artist
Robert Hart .... construction coordinator (uncredited)
Sound Department
Edward Beyer .... sound editor
Richard P. Cirincione .... sound editor
Jack Fitzstephens .... sound editor (as John J. Fitzstephens)
Robert M. Reitano .... sound editor (as Robert Reitano)
Robert Rogow .... boom operator
James Sabat .... sound mixer (as James J. Sabat)
Dick Vorisek .... re-recordist (as Richard Vorisek)
Maurice Schell .... assistant sound editor (uncredited)
Maurice Schell .... foley editor (uncredited)
Frank Orsatti .... stunt coordinator (uncredited)
Camera and Electrical Department
Lou Barlia .... camera operator (as Louis Barlia)
Charles Kolb .... key grip
Willie Meyerhoff .... gaffer (as Willy Meyerhoff)
Joseph Di Pasquale .... first assistant camera (uncredited)
Jim Hovey .... assistant camera (uncredited)
Casting Department
Michael Chinich .... extras casting (uncredited)
Don Phillips .... extras casting (uncredited)
Costume and Wardrobe Department
Clifford Capone .... wardrobe (as Clifford C. Capone)
Editorial Department
Ronald Roose .... assistant editor
Angelo Corrao .... assistant editor (uncredited)
Music Department
Bob James .... conductor
Bob James .... music arranger
Transportation Department
Raymond Hartwick .... transportation gaffer
Other crew
B.J. Bjorkman .... script supervisor (as B.J. Bachman)
Dino De Laurentiis .... presenter
Shari Leibowitz .... production secretary (uncredited)
Crew verified as complete

Production CompaniesDistributorsOther Companies

Additional Details

Also Known As:
130 min | Spain:113 min
Color (Technicolor)
Aspect Ratio:
1.85 : 1 See more »
Sound Mix:
Argentina:18 | Australia:M | Brazil:12 | Chile:18 | Finland:K-15 (DVD rating) | Germany:12 (re-rating) (2006) | Iceland:16 | Netherlands:12 | New Zealand:R16 | Norway:18 | Peru:18 | Singapore:NC-16 | South Korea:15 | Sweden:15 | UK:X (original rating) | UK:18 (tv rating) | UK:18 (video rating) (1987) (2003) | USA:R (MPAA rating: certificate #23806) | West Germany:18 (original rating)

Did You Know?

Al Pacino considers this movie to be one of his greatest achievements as an actor.See more »
Factual errors: Prisoners "chain gang" being led into the Paddy Wagon at beginning, had both male and female prisoners on the same "chain," and transporting both sexes in the same wagon. This was absolutely forbidden by the NYPD, then, and now.See more »
Frank Serpico:I'm a marked man in this department. For what?
District Attorney Tauber:I've already arranged a transfer for ya'.
Frank Serpico:To where? China?
See more »
Movie Connections:
Aria di RinuccioSee more »


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52 out of 62 people found the following review useful.
"Unfair. Unfair!", 16 January 2002
Author: Michael Coy ( from London, England

Frank Serpico begins his career with the NYPD as an idealistic rookie who believes in the moral value of policing. He has a simple and old-fashioned ethical code, an outlook which used to be known as honesty. What he finds is a moral sewer, five boroughs wide, in which almost every cop is on the take. The police are just another gang of hoodlums, but with more guns than the bad guys. Even basically decent cops go along with the kickback culture, because a locker-room psychology prevails in which values have become perverted. Squad loyalty is now a criminal conspiracy of silence. Detectives do not hesitate to shake-down hoods who are slow to pay. To Frank Serpico, this is simply wrong. He wants no part of it. And so his long agony begins.

Both responding to and helping to shape the mood of its time, a weary cynicism towards authority, "Serpico" arrived on the screen just as Watergate built to its climax. Americans could no longer regard their institutions as gleaming examples to mankind of optimism and good government. The film begins gloomily with Serpico badly wounded, having been shot in the face. We hear police and ambulance sirens fading, symbolically representing the life-force ebbing from Frank, and the withering of American dreams.

This first-class film is a triumph, and one that could easily have misfired. Had the crooked cops been depicted as mere thugs, then Serpico himself would have been an archetype, just another two-dimensional crusader. What gives the film its psychological richness is the realisation that the dishonest cops are NICE. These are affable, reasonable men who want to like Serpico and want to welcome him onto the team. The camaraderie is seductive and it's difficult for Frank to hold out against it. He is besieged by self-doubt, wondering if he is just a one-man awkward squad, or worse - a prima donna, sacrificing personal relationships on the altar of his own ego.

Again, the easy (but disastrous) course would have been to give Frank some big heroic speeches, allowing him to inveigh against corruption. The film chooses instead to go for psychological truth, and this is what makes the project outstanding. Appalled, afraid and despairing of ever changing anything, Frank withdraws into himself. He becomes the spectre at the feast, the silent rebuke, the muted but ever-present conscience of his colleagues.

Though Frank rejects the golden shield which is eventually offered, we feel that the system still means something. There are still some honest cops, and even after all these vicissitudes, the United States is still a nation of laws. Lumet's profoundly liberal and optimistic view of America ultimately shines through, but the final mood is one of quiet resignation rather than triumphalism. Right can prevail over wrong, but a price has to be paid. Serpico wins his titanic struggle, but he is diminished and saddened as a man.

The film contains some marvellous technical things. In the opening minutes, the action cuts between Frank as he is now (wounded, broken and alone) and as he started out (the clean-cut, idealistic rookie). These transitions are seamless, and the narrative logic is smooth and natural. We see Frank's first moment of disenchantment in a cafeteria when it dawns on him that cops get free handouts of food, but they have to take whatever comes. This first bewilderment develops until we see the gulf open up between Frank and the dishonest cops, the ones who take the money but also take the self-loathing.

The terrible stress to which Frank is subjected is depicted with skill. The police department has a huge institutional inclination to protect its own, and this vast weight is brought to bear on Serpico. Equally, the pressure is relieved cleverly at appropriate points in the narrative. Frank's 'collar' of Rudi Casaro reaches an explosive climax as this all too human guy reaches breaking-point. On the other hand, the romantic story-telling interlude with Laurie and Serpico's undercover cameo as an orthodox rabbi break the tension and vary the pace beautifully.

The second-unit work is of a uniformly high standard. We are shown atmospheric New York streetscapes with grubby brownstones and the massive, overbearing masonry of the Brooklyn Bridge, in knowing homage to the films noirs of twenty years earlier. The symbols are powerful. This city, and this police department, are too colossal for one man to stand against them. Practice sessions in the police firing gallery intelligently reinforce the film's undercurrent of foreboding. Paper targets obscure the gunmen's faces, suggesting a monolithic force united against Frank, then come hurtling towards him on pulleys, signifying the fate which is rushing to meet him.

Mikis (Zorba the Greek) Theodorakis has provided a classy score. I particularly liked the jazzy, minor-key horn passage.

Pacino puts in another of the towering performances which have distinguished him as the profoundest acting talent of his era. He is simply wonderful. Barbara Eda-Young gives top-notch support as Laurie, the genuinely loving partner who is destroyed by her man's seeming eagerness for martyrdom in rejection of domestic happiness. If ever an actor exuded confidence it's Tony Roberts, and he is ideally cast as Bob Blair, Serpico's well-connected ally. Though he can open City Hall doors, he can't actually help Frank at all. Nobody can. Christ-like, Frank understands that it is ordained - he must go to the hill alone.

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