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Bad Lieutenant (1992)

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While investigating a young nun's rape, a corrupt New York City police detective, with a serious drug and gambling addiction, tries to change his ways and find forgiveness.



(as Zoe Lund),
2 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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A New York City film director, working on his latest movie in Los Angeles, begins to reflect the actions in his movie and real-life, especially when he begins an affair with the lead actress.

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Stars: Harvey Keitel, Madonna, James Russo


Cast overview, first billed only:
Brian McElroy ...
Frank Acciarito ...
LT's Son (#2) (as Frankie Acciarito)
LT's Wife
LT's Daughter
Dana Dee ...
LT's Baby Girl
Cop #1 (as Paul Calderone)
Cop #2 (as Leonard Thomas)
Anthony Ruggiero ...
Robin Burrows ...
Victoria Bastel ...
G. Elvis Phillips ...
Young Cop
Stephen Chen ...


A police Lieutenant goes about his daily tasks of investigating homicides, but is more interested in pursuing his vices. He has accumulated a massive debt betting on baseball, and he keeps doubling to try to recover. His bookies are beginning to get agitated. The Lieutenant does copious amounts of drugs, cavorts with prostitutes, and uses his status to take advantage of teenage girls. While investigating a nun's rape, he begins to reflect on his lifestyle. Written by Ed Sutton <esutton@mindspring.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Gambler. Thief. Junkie. Killer. Cop.


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated NC-17 for sexual violence, strong sexual situations & dialogue, graphic drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

17 December 1992 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Teniente corrupto  »

Filming Locations:



Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$47,454, 22 November 1992, Limited Release

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


According to Abel Ferrara, the film was originally supposed to be funny. "It was always, in my mind, a comedy", Ferrara said. He cited the scene where the Lieutenant pulls the teenage girls over, as a specific example of how Christopher Walken would have played it, and how Harvey Keitel changed it. "The Lieutenant was going to end up dancing in the streets with the girls as the sun came up. They'd be wearing his gun belt and hat, and they'd have the radio on, you know what I mean? But oh my God, Harvey, he turned it into this whole other thing." See more »


Just as the lieutenant is leading the boys into the train station near the end of the film, a cab driver (obviously not a paid extra) is seen waving to the camera. See more »


Beat Cop: I told you once before that this guy will come by your house and blow up your house up with your wife and kids and everybody in it. You know that, right?
The Lieutenant: Good, good. I'll give him an extra ten grand for his trouble. I hate that fucking house.
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Featured in Cinéma, de notre temps: Abel Ferrara: Not Guilty (2003) See more »


Words and Music by Abel Ferrara
Performed by Paul Hipp (as Paul G. Hipp) & Abel Ferrara
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Intense, subtle, and in some ways unique- Bad Lieutenant is the sleeper of 1992
23 November 2003 | by See all my reviews

Abel Ferrara has on his hands a small masterwork of one man's existence in the doldrums, and he has such a way of dealing with "the streets" as a perpetually gritty, hellish world in a movie that I didn't disbelieve it for a second. In a sense he can be compared to the likes of Scorsese, however he certainly works in a different frame of honesty in mind in depicting his lead character and those he encounters.

At the core of this extremely well made, unconventional film is the best performance Harvey Keitel delivered in the nineties, a bravado piece of work in which he bares all of the qualities that can make up the badness in the lieutenant. The Lieutenant spends little time with his kids, and when he does is hardly happy, and when he leaves them he goes into the underworld to do coke, crack and heroin, gulps down alcohol like Evian, and tries to cling onto whatever dignity he has left in betting on the Mets in the championship series.

When a startling case occurs - a nun is raped by two street kids - the lieutenant is on the scene, however fogged in his muck, and can't understand how somebody, even a nun, can forgive such a crime. This leads into the third act of the film, and this is where the work propels itself into a higher ground, mature, spiritual, and ultimately fascinating in every aspect. Overall, Bad Lieutenant is a lean, un-abashed first-person singular in a rather sophisticated delivery. We are delivered a character, like Alex in Clockwork Orange for example, who is not even a half-way decent person.

But just by the way Ferrara and Keitel bring us into his world, and the details of his existence, a viewer can start to understand that the film works on other levels besides those of a conventional "all around bad-cop" story.

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