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The Deliberate Stranger (1986)

Not Rated | | Crime, Drama, Thriller | TV Movie 4 May 1986
Based on a true story, this film depicts the life of Theodore Robert Bundy, the serial killer. In 1974, after having murdered several young women, he leaves Seattle for Utah, where he is a ... See full summary »



(book), (teleplay)
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Det. Bob Keppel
Richard Larsen
Det. Mike Fisher
Cas Richter
Det. Sam Davies
Det. Roger Dunn
Louise Bundy
Officer Bradley (Provo detective)
Frederick Coffin ...
Jerry Thompson
Martha Chambers
Ken Wolverton
Larsen's editor
Mrs. Richter
William Boyett ...
Aspen Detective


Based on a true story, this film depicts the life of Theodore Robert Bundy, the serial killer. In 1974, after having murdered several young women, he leaves Seattle for Utah, where he is a law student and where other girls disappear. It takes the cooperation of a number of police forces to work efficiently on this case. Soon, but not soon enough, the police eliminate endless possibilities and close in on him. Bundy is tried in the media and his good-boy attitude brings him sympathy but also the hatred of many. Written by Steve Richer <sricher@sympatico.ca>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


He was easy to like. Deadly to know. Tough to catch.


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »




Release Date:

4 May 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Alptraum des Grauens  »

Company Credits

Production Co:

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Scenes from "The Deliberate Stranger" were filmed at The Davis County Courthouse in Farmington, Utah. See more »


In the beginning of the film, Ted murders his first victim, Ann Pitney (based on Georgeann Hawkins). It's shown with Bundy sneaking up behind the victim (while she was walking down a dark alley from her boyfriend's dormitory) and snatching her. In reality Bundy first approached Hawkins while he was on crutches and carrying a briefcase (he often feigned injuries to ensnare his victims), and asked Hawkins to help him carry it to his car (which was nearby). He lured her into a secluded parking lot near the alley. Bundy then unlocked his car and opened the door, and as Hawkins bent over to put his books into the car he grabbed a crowbar he had hidden under the wheel of his car and knocked Hawkins out cold. However, at the time the film was made, Bundy had not confessed or given the details to Hawkins murder, so the exact details of her death where not known at this time. It wasn't until three years after production, days before his execution, which Bundy confessed to Hawkins murder. See more »


Det. Bob Keppel: The MO of the Ted at Lake Sammamish, same fractures to the victim's skulls, and the same mountain location where the bodies were dumped all add up to one human... monster.
See more »


Referenced in NCIS: Smoked (2006) See more »

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User Reviews

Well Done for a TV Movie
2 September 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

The best thing about this made-for-TV-movie is Mark Harmon's performance as Bundy. As others have said, he gives an absolutely chilling performance, full of subtleties and very multidimensional. Great acting by Harmon -- in fact, this may be one of his best performances ever.

I don't think Harmon ever met Bundy, but he wanted to go and see him on Death Row before the movie was made so he could "look into his eyes." I believe it was the director who convinced Harmon to go instead to meet Carol DeRonch (the only woman to escape Bundy after she got into his car). Whatever else Harmon did to prepare for this role, it certainly worked. The result is riveting.

Keep in mind that this is only a TV-movie with a presumably conservative budget. Even still, the underlying story is told very well, and gives the viewer multiple points of view, putting special emphasis on the suffering of the victims families and the stress felt by the detectives who worked the "Ted" case for so many years. There have been a few more Bundy movies made since, but in my opinion, this one outranks them easily.

If you're looking for blood and guts, this version doesn't offer much of that, but that's what makes it so good. The violence is mostly implied and/or left to the imagination which makes it all the more powerful.

Sure, almost all the names are changed and there is some poetic license taken, but for the most part, this movie gets most of the big scenes and moments exactly right. Bundy's story is so broad and so full of detail that it is tough to cover it all in a few hours. You have to expect that certain aspects of the story will either be left out or brushed over, and that does happen. Even still, the major events remain intact, as do the major messages -- that Bundy took a life full of potential and threw it all away, and that his victims included many, many more people than simply the poor girls he killed.

I am still waiting for a *quality* big-budget film on Bundy, done for the big screen. Until that happens, The Deliberate Stranger stands up quite well. If you're fascinated with Ted Bundy's story, I would definitely recommend it. 9/10.

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