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The American Friend (1977)
"Der amerikanische Freund" (original title)

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Reviews: 50 user | 33 critic

Tom Ripley, who deals in forged art, suggests a picture framer he knows would make a good hit man.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lisa Kreuzer ...
Gérard Blain ...
Raoul Minot
Nicholas Ray ...
Samuel Fuller ...
Der Amerikaner
Peter Lilienthal ...
Sandy Whitelaw ...
Arzt in Paris
Jean Eustache ...
Freundlicher Mann
Andreas Dedecke ...
David Blue ...
Allan Winter
Stefan Lennert ...
Rudolf Schündler ...


Tom Ripley has a sweet deal with an art forger. The forger creates the paintings; Tom sells them. But another criminal business associate wants Tom to go in for an even riskier enterprise: murder. Tom suggests his associate ask a local picture framer instead. That man has a fatal disease, or so it's rumored. More, he has a wife and kid that surely he wouldn't want to leave penniless. Let this picture framer be a hit man, and no one will suspect. The terminally ill craftsman may agree to the misdeed, and several more, but he'll end up needing Tom Ripley in a pinch. Written by J. Spurlin

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


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Release Date:

28 September 1977 (France)  »

Also Known As:

The American Friend  »

Box Office


DEM 3,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
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Did You Know?


Director Wim Wenders originally wanted to adapt his favorite Patricia Highsmith novel, "The Cry of the Owl," but the film rights had already been sold. He then attempted to obtain the rights to his next favorite Highsmith novel, "The Tremor of Forgery," but the rights to this novel had also already been sold. Upon learning that Wenders wanted to adapt one of her novels, Highsmith offered him an unpublished manuscript of "Ripley's Game." See more »


[first lines]
Derwatt: Who is it?
Tom Ripley: It's Ripley.
Derwatt: The door is open.
See more »


Referenced in Blodigt jävla helvete (2008) See more »


Too Much on My Mind
Written by Ray Davies
Performed by The Kinks
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User Reviews

A probing and fully realized character study
19 January 2004 | by (Vancouver, B.C.) – See all my reviews

Jonathan Zimmerman (Bruno Ganz) is an easy going Swiss picture framer living in Germany who believes he is dying from a rare blood disease. When he makes the acquaintance of Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper), an art dealer of dubious reputation, he is faced with a profound moral question. Should he commit a murder for Ripley's underworld associate, Raoul Minot (Gérard Blain) in order to guarantee the lifelong security of his wife Marianne (Liza Kruezer) and son Daniel (Andreas Dedecke)? Based on the novel Ripley's Game by Patricia Highsmith, Wim Wenders The American Friend is a probing character study of two very different men, one a solitary high stakes adventurer, the other a staid family man grown desperate by his circumstances. Perhaps as a result of an unacknowledged admiration for the other's lifestyle, the business relationship between the two men slowly develops into a reluctant friendship, powerfully illustrating the complexity of the human condition.

Shot in Paris, New York, and Hamburg, Germany, Cinematographer Robby Muller's moody waterfront shots and interior yellow-green color images enhance the mood of paranoia and keep the tension flowing. Cameo appearances by directors Nicholas Ray as a painter who faked his own death and Sam Fuller as an American mobster pay homage to these icons of American cinema. The plot centers around Ripley's revenge for an offhand remark Zimmerman made at an art auction, first spreading the rumor that is health is failing rapidly, then driving him to undertake an act that he would normally consider morally reprehensible. In trying to convince Zimmerman to commit the crime, Raoul offers to provide the services of a Paris hematologist but the lab results are faked and Zimmerman more than ever is convinced that he is going to die. Reluctantly, he commits the murder in a brilliant set piece aboard the Paris Metro, then slowly sinks into a maelstrom of deceit and deception that adds additional twists and turns to an already intricate plot.

Though questions remain unanswered, the strength of the film is not in the plot but in its multi-leveled characterizations and powerful performances. Ganz is fully believable as the decent man tortured by a moral dilemma and Hopper, rebounding from a period of substance abuse, turns in a performance of diabolical intensity as the underworld-connected profiteer. The American Friend avoids the temptation to be simply another film noir thriller or a good versus evil escapade, showing fully realized human beings who have thoughts and feelings we can understand even when we strongly disapprove of their actions. I just have one question. Didn't any one ever tell Zimmerman about life insurance?

35 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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this movie is great!!! carlaisthe
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hopper's best performance? teejay6682
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