7.7/10
143,465
252 user 84 critic

Primal Fear (1996)

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

Director:

Writers:

(novel), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Popularity
1,423 ( 287)

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON TV
ON DISC
ALL
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Game (1997)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn
Drama | Mystery | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a magician uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.

Director: Neil Burger
Stars: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti
Identity (2003)
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain-storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.

Director: James Mangold
Stars: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet
Red Dragon (2002)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A retired FBI agent with psychological gifts is assigned to help track down "The Tooth Fairy", a mysterious serial killer; aiding him is imprisoned forensic psychiatrist Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter.

Director: Brett Ratner
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes
Mystic River (2003)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

With a childhood tragedy that overshadowed their lives, three men are reunited by circumstance when one has a family tragedy.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, inciting violent retribution and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.

Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson
Fracture (2007)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An attorney, intent on climbing the career ladder toward success, finds an unlikely opponent in a manipulative criminal he is trying to prosecute.

Director: Gregory Hoblit
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn
The Score (2001)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

An aging thief hopes to retire and live off his ill-gotten wealth when a young kid convinces him into doing one last heist.

Director: Frank Oz
Stars: Robert De Niro, Edward Norton, Marlon Brando
The Machinist (2004)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.

Director: Brad Anderson
Stars: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
25th Hour (2002)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.

Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman
Sci-Fi | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Evan Treborn suffers blackouts during significant events of his life. As he grows up, he finds a way to remember these lost memories and a supernatural way to alter his life by reading his journal.

Directors: Eric Bress, J. Mackye Gruber
Stars: Ashton Kutcher, Amy Smart, Melora Walters
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl's kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.

Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Casey Affleck
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Dr. Molly Arrington
...
...
Bud Yancy
...
Tommy Goodman
...
Joey Pinero
...
Abel Stenner
...
Martinez
...
Archbishop Rushman
...
Naomi Chance
...
Alex
...
Jack Connerman
Edit

Storyline

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

Taglines:

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

|

Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Iskonski strah  »

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

$56,059,267 (USA) (16 August 1996)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The exterior police station where Martin Vail goes to see Aaron Stampler is the same exterior police station used for the TV series Hill Street Blues (1981) , for which director Gregory Hoblit was producer and director. See more »

Goofs

On film sets, it is common practice to mark a bottle of water with your initials so that it doesn't get lost amidst the sea of other half empty bottles of water on set, especially if you're the PA or AD tasked with babysitting an actor's water. When Martin walks into his living room to watch the news report about Aaron's arrest, he's carrying a bottle of water that is clearly marked with the initial R. See more »

Quotes

[last lines,while in a holding cell in the back of the courthouse]
Roy: Mr. Vail?
Martin Vail: Yeah?
Roy: [stammering] Will you t-tell Miss Venable I'm sorry? Tell her I hope her neck is okay.
Martin Vail: Yeah... I will.
[begins walking away, then turns back]
Martin Vail: Wait... What did you just say? What? You told me just a few minutes ago that you didn't remember. You blacked out. So how do you know about her neck?
Roy: [slow clapping sardonically, in a southern accent,] Well... good for you, Marty. I was going to let it go. You was looking so ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Happy Endings: Blax, Snake, Home (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Pammy Slam
Written & Performed by Steve Porcaro
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

 
The Smartest Guy In Town
27 September 2008 | by (Buffalo, New York) – See all my reviews

Although Richard Gere has one of his juiciest roles in Primal Fear, the best performance by far is that of Edward Norton who got the film's only Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a stunning debut picture. It's the kind of debut that any player would like to make and the trick is to keep up a high standard you've already set for yourself. Which Norton to his credit certainly has in his career.

But as to Gere he plays Martin Vail, a top criminal defense attorney who will let everyone know it if they haven't figured it out. It's a tricky part because a guy this arrogant has to maintain some kind of surface likability or else you'd never believe he'd ever win a case in front of a jury. As for movie viewers they must have a rooting interest for him as well. But Gere's definitely a guy who they make lawyer jokes about.

A young altar boy has murdered the archbishop of Chicago, a mush mouth kid with a Kentucky twang played by Edward Norton. He's part of a choir of street kids that the Chicago archdiocese shows off on many an occasion. It was a particularly brutal murder, multiple stabbings and the carving of a cryptic message in the chest of the deceased.

Gere makes no bones about it, he's wanting this case because of the headlines it will bring him. But when F. Lee Bailey or Johnnie Cochran offers to defend you for nothing, you don't ask questions.

Which brings us to Norton who has you might have gathered is not all he seems. He's a street kid and he's used to getting over on people himself. It's one of the darkest characters ever done on screen, maybe a bit too dark for Academy tastes. That might have been the reason that Cuba Gooding beat out Norton for Best Supporting Actor with his much lighter role in Jerry Maguire.

One in this film you will notice are Laura Linney as the Assistant District Attorney who Gere was once involved with and is getting a lot of pressure to bring in a guilty verdict for understandable political reasons. I also liked Alfre Woodard as the very patient judge at Norton's trial and Frances McDormand as the psychiatrist who examines Norton.

If you think you've figured out what's behind Primal Fear, rest assured you haven't from this description. Let's just say everyone gets good and played here.

Which brings to mind the dedication for this review. Gere's attorney character is likable, but arrogant. Back in the day I knew an attorney who was arrogant without any real reason for the arrogance. He'd love to have been Richard Gere, I'm sure he saw himself that way. So to you Ron D'Angelo this review is dedicated to.


54 of 60 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?