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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 71,894 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?


According to the original script, the subway station Jacob arrives at in the beginning of the movie was supposed to be Nostrand Avenue - not Bergen Street. See more »


The fortuneteller scene at the party switches between Jacob's left and right hands. See more »


Jacob Singer: [holding a crucifix and a bible] Look, I carry these around everywhere with me but they don't help.
Paul: Nothing helps.
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 Sublime (2007) See more »


Written by Renaldo Benson (as R. Benson) / Al Cleveland (as A. Cleveland) / Marvin Gaye (as M. Gaye)
Published by Jobete Music Co., Inc. (ASCAP) / Stone Agate Music (BMI)
Performed by Marvin Gaye
Courtesy of Motown Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Anguishing, Intriguing, Original, Unique
7 October 2006 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

On 06 Oct 1971, in Mekong Delta, Vietnam, the American soldier Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is wounded by a bayonet during an attack to his platoon. He wakes up in New York subway while going home late night after working overtime in the post office. He is divorced from Sarah (Patricia Kalember), lives with his colleague and lover Jezebel (Elizabeth Peña) is a small apartment in Brooklyn and misses his young son Gabe (Macaulay Culkin), who died in an accident where Jacob feels responsible for. Along the next days, Jacob is chased by demons and finds conspiracy in the army, while having different visions of different moments of his life.

Yesterday I saw "The Jacket" and I decide to see once more "Jacob's Ladder", maybe for the fifth time. This anguishing and intriguing story is one of the most original and unique I have ever seen, and has been plagiarized many times mainly in the foregoing mentioned "The Jacket". Tim Robbins gives another top-notch performance in the role of a troubled man resolving his life, due to the feeling of guilty for the loss of his younger son. Bruce Joel Rubin, who also wrote and produced "Ghost", "Jacob's Ladder" and "My Life", shows that is very connected with spiritual issues, approaching this theme in his films. The Brazilian title of this movie, "Alucinações do Passado" ("Hallucinations From the Past"), wrongly induces the viewer and destroys the dubious sense of the original title: Jacob is the lead character, "Ladder" is the name of the experiment his platoon and him had been submitted in Vietnam; but the interpretation of "Jacob's Ladder" in the Bible is that this is the only means to reach the total ecstasy, the plenitude, however, we need first supersede the obstacles that we find in our ascension. Further, "Jacob experienced a vision in which he saw a ladder reaching into heaven with angels going up and down it, a vision that is commonly referred to as Jacob's Ladder" (from "Wikipedia"). Another interesting aspect is that all the characters have biblical names. For example, Jezebel is considered the most wicked woman in the entire Bible (the character of Elizabeth Peña was responsible for the separation of Jacob and Sarah and maybe he was blaming her for keeping him far from his family); and Gabriel is the angel that explained signs from God and announced the conception, birth, and mission of Jesus to Mary. My vote is nine.

Title (Brazil): "Alucinações do Passado" ("Hallucinations From the Past")

Note: On 19 May 2009, I saw this movie again, now on DVD.

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