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Jacob's Ladder (I) (1990)

R  |   |  Drama, Horror, Mystery  |  2 November 1990 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 71,979 users   Metascore: 62/100
Reviews: 339 user | 99 critic | 20 from Metacritic.com

Mourning his dead child, a haunted Vietnam war veteran attempts to discover his past while suffering from a severe case of dissociation. To do so, he must decipher reality and life from his own dreams, delusion, and perception of death.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Anthony Alessandro ...
Brent Hinkley ...
Hospital Receptionist
Doug Barron ...
Group Leader


New York postal worker Jacob Singer is trying to keep his frayed life from unraveling. His days are increasingly being invaded by flashbacks to his first marriage, his now-dead son, and his tour of duty in Vietnam. Athough his new wife tries to help Jacob keep his grip on sanity, the line between reality and delusion is steadily growing more and more uncertain. Written by Jean-Marc Rocher <rocher@fiberbit.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The most frightening thing about Jacob Singer's nightmare is that he isn't dreaming.


Drama | Horror | Mystery


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

2 November 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Dante's Inferno  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$25,000,000 (estimated)


$26,118,851 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Actors who were allegedly interested in playing the leading role of Jacob Singer included Dustin Hoffman, Al Pacino and Richard Gere. For the role of Jezzie, director Adrian Lyne auditioned roughly 300 women, including Julia Roberts, Andie MacDowell, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez. The role eventually went to the very first person who auditioned - Elizabeth Peña. See more »


Jacob Singer walks from one subway car to another but when he exits the subway, the car is not there. See more »


Jacob's Doctor: You're a lucky guy, Jake. You must have friends in high places.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits roll over a grainy black and white photo of Gabe and Jacob crossing the street together. See more »


Referenced in Wicker Park (1999) See more »


Written by Buddy G. DeSylva (as B.G. de Silva) / Lew Brown (as L. Brown) / Ray Henderson (as R. Henderson) / Al Jolson (as A. Jolson)
Published by Warner Bros. Music (ASCAP)
Performed by Al Jolson
Courtesy of MCA Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Way before Shyamalan came on board, Adrian Lyne had blown the collective consciousness!
9 October 2003 | by (Longmont, Colorado) – See all my reviews

One "reviewer" here wrote (I presume) in all seriousness "Like a bad dream - impossible to understand!" That being the case, I can only describe his subsequent attempt to compile a review as "gutsy" in the extreme.

I believe JACOB'S LADDER is one of the 10 best films ever made. It is NOT impossible to understand...you merely have to listen and interpret! For those without the ability to effect the latter...just listen! Danny Aiello's character, Louis the chiropracter lays it out for you - word for word. I think it is the best part Aiello ever had, small one though it is in terms of screen time. Integral to a collective grasp of this great and disturbing film however is the need to tie-in the relationship between Jacob the individual, the biblical "Jacob's Ladder" itself and the relevance of "The Ladder" as explained (and seemingly forgotten by most everybody) by the runty chemical weapons boffin at the near conclusion of the film.

To those who view the ending as "rushed," "unsatisfying," "obscure" even "dumb" as I recall, I would merely suggest you watch it again and take into account the likelihood is, that it is in fact YOU that has missed what has been so cleverly set out for you. SIGNS was equally misunderstood by the majority of people that even liked it - there never WERE any aliens!

JACOB'S LADDER is Robbins' greatest film - Lyne's too. The last few minutes are amongst the most emotional and uplifting scenes I have ever seen since the "star child" in 2001 A SPACE ODYSSEY. Culkin was the perfect choice!

I saw this movie in a near deserted theater in Times Square the week it came out. At the conclusion of this particular late show I noticed an old man sitting some two rows away to my left, absorbed in his thoughts. Having to walk past him to gain the exit I noticed tears in his eyes. He looked up as I approached. After studying me for a moment all he said to me was "You understood didn't you?" I said, "Yes I understood!" He replied softly..."You're very lucky!"

246 of 308 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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