Nell (1994)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  23 December 1994 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.5/10 from 21,761 users  
Reviews: 86 user | 24 critic

In a remote woodland cabin, a small town doctor discovers Nell - a beautiful young hermit woman with many secrets.



(play), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Paula Olsen
Alexander Paley
Todd Peterson
Mary Peterson
Billy Fisher
Don Fontana
Heather M. Bomba ...
Twin #1
Marianne E. Bomba ...
Twin #2
Mike Ibarra
Stephanie Dawn Wood ...
Ruthie Lovell
Mary Lynn Riner ...
Janet Baring
Lucile McIntyre ...


Nell is a girl who's been brought up in an isolated world. The only people she knew were her mother and twin sister. They lived together in a cottage in the forest. Nobody has ever met Nell. After her mother's death, she's discovered by the local doctor Jerome. He's fascinated by her, since she speaks a mangled language, developed by her sister and herself growing up, "twin speak" if you will. But Paula, a psychology student, wants her observed in a laboratory. The judge decides they get three months to observe her in the forest, after which he'll decide about Nell's future. Written by Tony Kessen <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Language beyond understanding Life beyond words... Discover... See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for nudity | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

23 December 1994 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Una mujer llamada Nell  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£902,923 (UK) (17 March 1995)


£1,843,233 (UK) (14 April 1995)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Ally Sheedy turned down the role of Nell. See more »


(at around 12 mins) Nell swims in the nude, but when on the shore and dancing, she has on underwear. See more »


Paula: To think I was going to be the one to change her life.
Jerry: Me too.
Mary: Don't you know? You were the first.
Paula: The first what?
Mary: To need her.
See more »


Referenced in Grey's Anatomy: The Girl with No Name (2012) See more »


Written by Willie Nelson
Performed by Patsy Cline
Courtesy of MCA Records
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

There's a definition to great art.
18 December 2005 | by (South Korea) – See all my reviews

I can't think of another movie better than this one that I have seen anyway so I nominate it for a ten. The thing about great art is it engages the consciousness of the perceiver creatively with the same amount of energy the perceiver invests. That might sound like a lot of pseudo-babble so let me try again. What you see is what you get with great art--and this relationship happens unpretentiously. In an ideal creation there is nothing presumptuous about the art. No doubt there are moments of stereotypes, but these could be just as easily blamed on bad acting from the supporting cast, or simple lapses in composition. I don't think anyone could seriously say stereotypes are a fundamental weakness of this flick, mainly because the use of stereotypes is serving a larger purpose to the story--at least as I see it. This is probably one of the most complex, multi-layered movies I have ever seen. We witness all the archetypes of good storytelling utilized in ever-meshing ways. How sexual violence is a fetish, and how an innocent mind sees it as simple playing. And in every scene we are given, the meaning of Foster's character and what she represents grows. The ending under these terms is truly remarkable and frankly a surprise if witnessed representationally. I mean these are heavy comments on reality folks. I didn't see the play the screenplay was based on, but over and over again I kept thinking "Who the hell wrote this thing? Who directed this?" It is masterful, and if you can't see it that way, I don't know, go read some books on critical theory, on the development of human consciousness, on Aristotle's's poetics, etc. It is counterpoint perfection--extremely well crafted, and a powerful commentary on not only our culture and "civilization," but what it means to be human in this contemporary moment. Oh yeah, Jodi Foster is outstanding. We could make a case that she and her character are the center of this movie, except that it is the world unfolding around her that makes this such great drama. I think I have to go back to her Disney-era movies to think of a truly awful movie she has made. But that shouldn't count either. I never thought those movies were all that bad, but then I simply watched them as a kid.

20 of 28 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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