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An Enemy of the People (1978)

G | | Drama | 17 March 1978 (USA)
A scientist stands against an entire town when he discovers their medicinal spa is polluted.



(adaptation), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Aslaksen (as Richard A. Dysart)
Michael Higgins ...
John Levin ...
Ham Larsen ...
Louise Hoven ...
Glenn Ransom
Leon Charles
Harry Frazier


It's winter in a small southern Norwegian town in the late nineteenth century. After years of struggling, Dr. Thomas Stockmann and his family - his wife Catherine, their young adult daughter Petra, and their two adolescent sons Ejlif and Morten - have returned to town after being away for five years up north, he now well respected and successful as the medical resident of the Health Institute at Kirsten Springs, where he is also a board member. He devised the springs and institute as a center of therapeutic benefits on his own, but developed it with his brother, the town mayor, Peter Stockmann, who is the board chair. They have reinvigorated what was the financially crumbling town. Peter takes credit for giving Thomas this air of respectability, something that has never been important to Thomas, who would rather be seen as a man of conviction in doing the right thing. In this respect, Petra takes after her father. Thomas often writes articles for the local activist newspaper, The ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


The story of a man of courage. See more »




G | See all certifications »




Release Date:

17 March 1978 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

O Inimigo do Povo  »

Box Office


$2,500,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Sound Mix:


(opening and end sequence)| (Metrocolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Steve McQueen wanted his wife Ali MacGraw to star opposite him, until they broke up just before production began. See more »


Petra Stockmann: This book! It's absolutely against everything the people believe.
Hovstad: Oh, no. It isn't that bad, is it?
Petra Stockmann: It says that if you're good, there's a supernatural force that'll make sure you end up happy. And if you're bad, you'll be punished! Now since when does the world work that way?
See more »


Version of An Enemy of the Society (1972) See more »

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User Reviews

Rarely Seen Film by Steve McQueen Contains Important Themes
3 September 2015 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

From an Arthur Miller adaptation of a Henrik Ibsen play, "An Enemy of the People" is a film about a man who stands up for truth in the face of adversity. This film is shot much as a play, with a concentration on ideas and not embellishments. It was executive produced by Steve McQueen, the popular actor whose popularity was created by roles in action films, like "The Great Escape" and "Bullitt". When shown to test audiences, the reception for this film was poor, so it never saw theatrical release.

Doctor Thomas Stockmann (Steve McQueen) is a practitioner in a small town that has great hopes for tourism and financial gain due to a spring they have developed into a destination for those seeking its healthy waters. But the doctor has suspicions that the runoff from an upstream tannery is polluting the waters, creating a health risk. He takes his concerns to his brother, Peter (Charles Durning), who also happens to be the mayor and the CEO of the corporation that developed the springs.

The story is a warning about democracy/majority rule and the dynamics of mob rule. Like the town of Amity in "Jaws", the people do not want to hear news that might have a negative impact on their finances. Like the people of Salem in "The Crucible", they can be manipulated easily by those who tell them what they want to hear. And like Atticus Finch in "To Kill a Mockingbird", Dr. Stockmann is armed with the truth but finds opposition from those who are invested in any "truth" that supports their biases.

In today's terms, Stockmann is a whistleblower. He is also a man of science who realizes that others before him were persecuted for their truths. The story also contains lessons about the responsibility of newpapers and, very importantly, the right of free speech.

This is a well-crafted story, but I feel the ending is abrupt. The acting is good, but I find no Oscar-worthy performances. The sound was the only aspect of the film that I thought subpar, having an unevenness and an echo that distracted.

"An Enemy of the People" is worth seeing for its themes. Being an effort by Steve McQueen to stretch his acting muscles, it is also an interesting anomaly.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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OFFICIAL DVD now available directly from Warner's webpage! simonhowson
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