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Absence of Malice (1981)

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When a prosecutor leaks a false story that a liquor warehouse owner is involved in the murder of a union head, the man's life begins to unravel.



Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 3 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Arnie Ross ...
Eddie Frost
Phanie Napoli ...
Nickie (as Anna Marie Napoles)
Shelley Spurlock ...
Sarah Wylie
Hood 1
Joe Petrullo ...
Hood 2


Mike Gallagher is a Miami liquor wholesaler whose deceased father was a local mobster. The FBI organized crime task force have no evidence that he's involved with the mob but decide to pressure him into perhaps revealing something - anything - about a murder they're sure was a mob hit. They let Megan Carter, a naive but well-meaning journalist, know he is being investigated and Gallagher's name is soon all over the newspaper. Gallagher has an iron-clad alibi for when the murder occurred but won't reveal it to protect his fragile friend Teresa. When Carter publishes her story, tragedy ensues. Needing to make amends, Carter tells Gallagher the source of the first story about him and he sets out to teach the FBI and the Federal Attorney a lesson. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


In America can a man be guilty until proven innocent? Suppose you picked up this morning's newspaper and your life was a front page headline... And everything they said was accurate... But none of it was true. The D.A., Feds and the police set her up to write the story that explodes his world. Now he's going to write the book on getting even. See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

18 December 1981 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Ausencia de malicia  »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$64,775, 22 November 1981, Limited Release

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


This film's director Sydney Pollack was well known for making a number of pictures with actor Robert Redford. Paul Newman and Redford famously co-starred in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (1969) but Absence of Malice (1981) was the only ever film that Newman and Pollack made together. See more »


When Teresa talks with Meg in the park, Teresa's cigarette jumps from her left to right hand. See more »


Michael Colin Gallagher: Why aren't you married?
Megan Carter: How do you know I'm not?
Michael Colin Gallagher: I don't see a ring.
Megan Carter: Haven't you heard of women's lib?
Michael Colin Gallagher: Most of them are ugly.
Megan Carter: Is that supposed to be a compliment?
See more »


Referenced in Absence of Malick (2003) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

All the news that's fit to print (and then some)
1 October 2005 | by See all my reviews

This movie provides a clever insight into the principles the press live by. Reporters sometimes lose their basic humanity because they're not looking at the human interest, but at covering all the angles. What's newsworthy is what's in the public domain as fact, not gossip. It's definitely something to think about in this age when large sections of the media are intent on muckraking over the affairs of those who are deemed to be 'high-profile'...

The movie asks us, though, to keep in mind that sometimes there's more going on than meets the eye, and that certain acts function as a means to an end. It can be seen as an extension of that great 70's movie tradition where acclaimed directors make polished films exposing high-level corruption. "Absence of Malice" is an involving exercise in paranoid mystery, with Newman in fine form as always, and Sally Field providing capable support.

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