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Witness (1985)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Romance  |  8 February 1985 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 62,912 users   Metascore: 76/100
Reviews: 171 user | 79 critic | 14 from Metacritic.com

A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.



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Won 2 Oscars. Another 10 wins & 26 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Frederick Rolf ...
John Garson ...
Beverly May ...
Ed Crowley ...


Samuel Lap is a young Amish boy who witnesses a murder in Philadelphia while traveling with his mother Rachel. A good cop named John Book must go with them into hiding when the killers come after them. All three retreat to Amish country and Book has to adjust to the new life style, and his feelings for the boy's mother. Of course the killers are still on their trail. Written by Greg Bole <bole@life.bio.sunysb.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

amish | murder | train | love | police | See All (90) »


8 year old Samuel: sole witness to a murder. Three killers who'll stop at nothing to silence him. One honest cop who'll give his life to save him... See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

8 February 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Called Home  »

Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)


$65,500,000 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(as Dolby Stereo)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Harrison Ford was nominated for Best Actor, his one and only Oscar nomination. See more »


During the train ride to Philadelphia, the paint on the locomotive changes from a wide red and blue band separated by a narrow white one, to equal red, white and blue bands. See more »


Tourist Lady: [Book is in town with Eli. Eli and the other Amish are trying to avoid the tourists with cameras] Hi! We're just here for the day, would you mind...
John Book: Lady, you take my picture with that thing and I'm gonna rip your brassiere off... and strangle you with it! You got that?
Tourist Lady: [in disbelief, to no one in particular] Did you hear what that Amish just said to me?
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Tom Scott. Scott was a member of the casting department on Witness. See more »


References Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) See more »


Written by Alan Brackett and Scott Shelly
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

13 September 2002 | by See all my reviews

This is one of those movies whose virtues and subtleties become more and more apparent with subsequent viewings. The crime story is nothing more than a pretense - a "MacGuffin", in Hitchcock's phrase - on which to hang this sensitive and insightful story of the conflict between modernity and the culture of the Amish, which is portrayed here with admiring respect and not a hint of condescension.

Harrison Ford's portrayal of John Book is perhaps his finest work on screen so far. In particular, Book's struggle to suppress his rising attraction for Rachel, and his tormented realization that a relationship between them is not possible, is achingly portrayed. Ford's effort is well-matched by Kelly McGillis, whose beauty here is almost breathtaking. The erotic interplay between them, because it is unconsummated, radiates an almost painful tension, and the easily lampooned "running through the field" scene - because it has been led up to so convincingly - is almost heartbreaking. The character of Eli Lapp, wonderfully played by Jan Rubes, is richly multifaceted. His suspicion of the "English" outsider and his anger at Rachel's attraction to him, is surmounted by an underlying humanity. His parting words to Book, "You be careful out there among them English," are moving testimony to his acceptance of him. His stern yet loving dialogue to his grandson about renouncing hatred and violence is a treasured moment.

Both direction and cinematography are splendid. The simplicity of Amish interiors is shot in a way that makes its austerity almost beautiful, and the barnraising scene is an exercise in cinematic lyricism.

It would be easy to fault the movie for the facile scene in which the punks taunting of Book's newfound friends and protectors drives him over the edge (Eli: "It's not our way, Book" / Book: "No, but it's MY way."), but his gift to the young thug of a bloody nose is mighty satisfying to behold.

My one criticism is with the music; certainly not with the venerable Maurice Jarre's score itself, but with its paltry synthesized realization. They should have found the money to spring for a full orchestra.

In short, a highly satisfying, richly themed, and multifaceted film which is well worth watching.

87 of 106 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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