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Apt Pupil (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  23 October 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 27,779 users   Metascore: 51/100
Reviews: 250 user | 111 critic | 21 from

A boy blackmails his neighbour after suspecting him to be a Nazi war criminal.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Sociology Teacher
Nightmare Victim
Monica Bowden
Richard Bowden
Victor Bowden
Marjorie Lovett ...
Agnes Bowden
David Cooley ...
Gym Teacher
Blake Anthony Tibbetts ...
Becky Trask
Katherine Malone ...
Grace Sinden ...


Neighborhood boy Todd Bowden (Renfro) discovers that an old man living on his block named Arthur Denker (Mackellan) is Nazi war criminal. Bowden confronts Denker and offers him a deal: Bowden will not go to the authorities if Denker tells him stories of the concentration camps in WWII. Denker agrees and Bowden starts visiting him regularly. The more stories Bowden hears, the more it affects his personality. Written by Casey Ward <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you've got a lot to learn.


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for scenes of strong violence, language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

23 October 1998 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El aprendiz  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,583,151 (USA) (23 October 1998)


$8,838,938 (USA) (1 January 1999)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(8 channels)|



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie is based on a novella (a long short story) by Stephen King from a book of short stories called "Different Seasons" which also includes "The Body" which became Stand by Me (1986) and "Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption" which became The Shawshank Redemption (1994). See more »


When Todd is walking down the hall to give Kurt Dussander the costume, the dolly track is visible on the floor in the hall. See more »


Isaac Weiskopf: When you were a boy, what did you do for fun?
Dan Richler: Went to the movies. Why, what did you do?
Isaac Weiskopf: I used to chase girls.
[they laugh]
Isaac Weiskopf: And now I chase old men.
See more »


Referenced in An Interview with John Ottman (2002) See more »


Tristan Und Isolde
Written by Richard Wagner
Performed by Carlos Kleiber and The Bayeurth Festival Orchestra
Courtesy of Koch International by arrangement with Source/Q
See more »

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User Reviews

Flawed but has great direction and good performances in an uneasy story
13 August 2002 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

Young high school student Todd Bowden uncovers that an old man in his neighbourhood is really Nazi war criminal Kurt Dussander under the name of Arthur Denker. Bowden offers not to turn Dussander in if he agrees to tell him what it was like to carry out the crimes he did during the war. However the relationship changes both Dussander and Bowden, bringing evil to the surface in both of them.

Having read the short story prior to the film being made I knew that this was going to be a difficult subject to bring to the screen. The film does a good job but makes many changes that will disappoint those who know the book. Treating the film as a separate entity it isn't bad but it happens too quickly and doesn't go deep enough. The plot is interesting but the depth Todd sinks to isn't convincing as half of it is forced on him and the other half he seems to embrace it. Dussander himself is well crafted but his descent into evil doesn't go far enough to be truly captivating. The ending is different from the book but I'm in two minds if it works better or not.

Brad Renfro is good but I can't help but compare him to the character in the book and see his short fallings. However he does manage to keep his changes semi-realistic without descending into being OTT or turning into a cartoon character. McKellen is perfect in the lead role and he manages to be larger than life. An actor of Koteas shouldn't have done such a minor role but Schwimmer gives a good performance that isn't his usual `Ross' thing again.

It's hard not to compare this to the book and beside that it pales slightly. As a film in it's own right it's OK but it doesn't quite convince and has an uneasy tone to it. Singer was always going to have a tough time following the amazing Suspects, but here he does pretty well. The direction is great and features plenty of great shots throughout the film.

Overall it is a flawed film because it doesn't go as far as it should nor does it manage to totally sell the characters to us. However it's worth a watch for great direction by Singer and a good lead by McKellen.

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Who else felt really bad for the homeless man? arkayenether
A terrible film. jeremy3
For all the people that worry a real cat was harmed in this film... krasnyoktyabr
How much like the book? Gorgeous_Mistake
Is this just a short story or is a novel? jesy-1
I couldn't finish watching it. storey_12
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