Up 202 this week

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 122,707 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 »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

$0.00 with Prime Video

Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

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
25th Hour (2002)
Crime | 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
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 Game (1997)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

Wealthy San Francisco financier Nicholas Van Orton gets a strange birthday present from wayward brother Conrad: a live-action game that consumes his life.

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn
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 criminal genius 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
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
Mr. Brooks (2007)
Comedy | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A psychological thriller about a man who is sometimes controlled by his murder-and-mayhem-loving alter ego.

Director: Bruce A. Evans
Stars: Kevin Costner, Demi Moore, William Hurt
The Score (2001)
Action | Crime | Romance
    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
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A partially idealized film of the controversial pornography publisher and how he became a defender of free speech for all people.

Director: Milos Forman
Stars: Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, Edward Norton
Sleepers (1996)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

After a prank goes disastrously wrong, a group of boys are sent to a detention center where they are brutalized; over 10 years later, they get their chance for revenge.

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Robert De Niro, Kevin Bacon, Brad Pitt
Rounders (1998)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A young man is a reformed gambler who must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks.

Director: John Dahl
Stars: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol


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?


Andre braugher who plays a Chicago cop in this film later played a queens New York cop in frequency four years later also directed by Gregory Hoblit. See more »


While Vail, Tommy, and Naomi are discussing the porno tape, the blue screen of a computer monitor is reflected in Tommy's glasses. But in the reverse shot (showing Vail) the monitor is off. 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 Saturday Night Live: Teri Hatcher/Dave Matthews Band (1996) See more »


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

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Edward Norton delivers the chills...(POSSIBLE SPOILERS AHEAD)
12 September 2006 | by (U.S.A.) – See all my reviews

PRIMAL FEAR is a good old-fashioned thriller with a modern twist. The plot concerns an altar boy accused of killing a clergyman who molested him and a sleazy lawyer who sees a chance to make tabloid news by taking the case. What he doesn't know is that his client can be just as cunning as he is.

RICHARD GERE seemed to specialize in playing these kind of low-down heels (typecasting does have its perils), and LAURA LINNEY as the prosecuting lawyer has her hands full trying to play a game of one-upmanship against him during an intense courtroom trial.

The story ends on a chilling note, thanks largely to the clever, intense and totally convincing performance ED NORTON gives in his film debut. As the guy who seems to have a devious split personality driving him to do bad things, he's the kind of actor who makes the audience sit up and take notice of his abrupt mood changes. It's no wonder he pulls the wool over so many eyes.

Having said that, it's the climax of the film that is most stunning and brings the story to a totally unexpected conclusion. It's the kind of chilling twist that only the most clever scriptwriters can devise and make seem probable--but it succeeds here.

Summing up: The kind of film you'll want to revisit once you know the whole score. Gere, Linney and Norton deserve high praise.

27 of 29 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Sick and sad message oregondanne
Plot hole??? ladyvengeancemusik
Did they ever find Linda's body? cylindroid
Who was the 'real' Aaron? ddb540
And the oscar goes to.... phi413
Meaning of the title...? mattdavefenton
Discuss Primal Fear (1996) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: