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Primal Fear (1996)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  3 April 1996 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.7/10 from 122,677 users   Metascore: 47/100
Reviews: 239 user | 79 critic | 18 from Metacritic.com

An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.



(novel), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bud Yancy
Tommy Goodman
Joey Pinero
Abel Stenner
Archbishop Rushman
Naomi Chance
Jack Connerman


Courtroom thriller about a slick, hotshot lawyer who takes the seemingly unwinnable case of a young altar boy accused of murdering an eminent catholic priest. Written by Jonathan Broxton <j.w.broxton@sheffield.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Don't believe everything you see... See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Iskonski strah  »

Box Office


$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$293,515 (USA) (26 July 1996)


JPY 197,208,300 (Japan) (6 December 1996)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Both Maura Tierney and Laura Linney played the wife of Jim Carrey in "Liar, Liar" and "The Truman Show" respectively. See more »


Martin's bottle of water changes position on the table beside him between shots as he watches TV. See more »


[first lines]
Marty: On my first day of law school, my professor says two things. First was; "From this day forward, when your mother tells you she loves you - get a second opinion."
Jack Connerman: [chuckles] And?
Marty: "If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court."
See more »


Referenced in Big Wolf on Campus: The Pleasantville Strangler (1999) See more »


Don't Deceive Me (Please Don't Go)
by Chuck Willis
Performed by Johnny Otis
Courtesy of Alligator Records
See more »

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User Reviews

Excellent film
19 April 2007 | by (Denmark) – See all my reviews

My fiancée suggested I watch this, and when we found it for sale at a good price, we bought it right away. I must say, this is a marvelous and quite well-crafted film. The acting is top-notch all the way. Gere manages to make us care about a type of person that few like. O'Quinn is somewhat underused, as he is a magnificent actor, but apart from that, everyone gets a good chance to perform well, and they all live up to it. I would have to say that I now have a completely new-found respect for Norton... and I had a great deal of respect for him before even knowing of this movie. The plot is well-written and has good layers to it, especially for a movie of two hours(running time does put quite a limitation on the level of detail and intricacy of the plot). The pacing is really good, the movie never moves neither too fast nor too slowly. This is the second film I've seen that was directed by Gregory Hoblit... and the second that I've really, really liked(both have received 8's by yours truly, and very deservedly so), so I will most definitely keep an eye out for any future works by the man. I haven't read the book of the same title that this is based on, so I can't comment on how accurate and true to the tone this film is. I urge anyone intending to watch this to steer clear of any spoilers on it, because the plot is too good to ruin. I won't detail it here, I'll just say that the film has many court-room scenes, and deals with a very violent crime(and it's not the only occurrence in the film of a violent nature). For that same reason, since it is depicted graphically in the film(but not too much... there was nothing gratuitous about it), I urge anyone who believes they may not be able to handle seeing such to consider if they should watch it or not. There is also quite a bit of language, as well as a brief scene of sexual nature, so if such bother you, you may want to watch a censored version, if you are interested in seeing it. I recommend this very warmly to any fan of court-room dramas and thrillers. If you enjoy an engaging and involving thriller with surprises, this is the movie for you. 8/10

34 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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