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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:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Ann Rule in an updated edition of her true crime novel about Ted Bundy, "The Stranger Beside Me", after "The Deliberate Stranger" first aired on TV, the real Bundy started to receive hundreds more love letters per day. Rule concluded that many of these women who sent Bundy love letters were actually writing them to Mark Harmon, or imagining that Bundy was more like Harmon than he actually was. See more »


The victim in the beginning of the film is based on Georgeann Hawkins (name changed to Ann Pitney). She is seen wearing a hot pink navel baring top, with a white mini skirt, and stiletto platform shoes. In reality, according to Hawkins missing persons report, she was wearing a white backless shirt, a sheer red, white, and blue floral print long sleeved shirt, navy blue cotton bell bottom pants (which had one button and was missing three), and open-toed wedge sandals. While she was carrying a purse, it was not a fancy designer handbag. Hawkins was carrying a leather tan satchel like purse. See more »


Ted Bundy: You're just grasping at straws. Just straws, Jerry.
Jerry Thompson: What kind of game are you playing?
Ted Bundy: You keep at it. Maybe if you find enough straws you can put the broom together.
See more »


Referenced in Turbulence (1997) 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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