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Apt Pupil (1998)

R  |   |  Drama, Thriller  |  23 October 1998 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.7/10 from 27,776 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?


Todd's high school mascot (the Pirates) and school color (green and gold) are the same as director Bryan Singer's old high school. Also, the number on Todd's varsity jacket (85) is the year Bryan graduated. See more »


When Todd gives Danker(Dussander) the uniform, he is wearing a blue sweater over a red shirt. Minutes later when Danker comes down stairs wearing the uniform, Todd's sweater is missing and he's just in the red polo. See more »


Todd Bowden: [about the killings at the death camps] What did it feel like?
Kurt Dussander: It was something that had to be done. A door had been opened and couldn't be shut. It was the end... You don't understand.
See more »


Referenced in Angel: Somnambulist (2000) See more »


Too Much Of Nothing
Written by Paul Nelson, Sue Fink & Carl Verheyen
Performed by Dante Marchi
See more »

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User Reviews

A psychological thriller
22 November 2004 | by (Drexel Hill, PA (USA)) – See all my reviews

Directed by Bryan Singer (The Usual Suspects and both X-Men features), Apt Pupil is a story of adolescent curiosity and evil intentions. Ian McKellen (X-Men) plays the role of an aged, former Nazi soldier living alone in a quiet town with Brad Renfro (Sleepers) as a young, high school teenager in the search of finding the truth about Nazi life in wartime Germany.

Adapted from the Stephen King novella of the same name, Apt Pupil is a psychological thriller with an Alfred Hitchcock-like presence, leaving quite a bit to the viewer's imagination. Much like a game of cards, the action moves back and forth between characters, each trying to take control of one another. While Kurt Dussander (McKellen) wants to keep his past in the past, Todd Bowden (Renfro) keeps probing (and sometimes threatening) to unleash the stories of the reign of Hitler and the torture of the Jews.

While this movie is much like other Stephen King-adapted novels in the sense that it doesn't always translate well to the big screen (with all of the little nuances that made King famous), the superb acting and directing makes Apt Pupil a worthwhile venture into the nature of mental wickedness. Both Singer's vision and McKellen's portrayal of Nazi war criminal bring excitement and intrigue to this movie making it a must-see.

38 of 43 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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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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