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Apt Pupil (1998)

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



(novel), (screenplay)
6 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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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 <ward@citizen.infi.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


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


Crime | 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?


One of the pictures of Dussander as during in the years of World War II was actually Heinrich Himmler but was digitally replaced with Ian McKellen's face. See more »


Mr. Kramer removes a "blood pressure cuff" from his arm to get out of the hospital bed. Blood pressure cuffs are not left on a patient, just used and then removed, so it should not have been on his arm. See more »


Todd Bowden: Have you lost your mind? What the hell were you thinking, 'Grandpa'?
Kurt Dussander: What are you so excited about?
Todd Bowden: Oh, you've got some fucking balls! I could have screwed you up, anything could have happened!
Kurt Dussander: You played it beautifully, boy. I knew you would.
Todd Bowden: Are you fucking drunk? I could have busted you right there!
Kurt Dussander: Yes, you could have, but you did not. Now, why was that? Your Edward French is not going to give you any more trouble, so now you are upset because the only way you can make things right is to ...
See more »


Referenced in Angel: Somnambulist (2000) 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.

45 of 49 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
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
Brief contrast of this with Shawshank Redepmtion and Stand by Me hcruzado
I couldn't finish watching it. storey_12
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