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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?


Kevin Pollak was originally attached to play Edward French but was replaced by David Schwimmer. Bryan Singer was impressed with Schwimmer's performance in a play in Los Angeles and cast him in the part instead. See more »


After Dussander comes down the steps in the Nazi uniform, he approaches Todd and his hat switches hands between shots. See more »


Victor Bowden: Arthur, I wonder if you'd mind if I asked you a personal question.
Kurt Dussander: Not at all.
Victor Bowden: What did you do during the war?
[Todd looks at Dussander]
Kurt Dussander: I was in the reserves, as were most young men, Victor. My poor eyesight kept me out of combat, thank God. No, I spent most of the war in a military hospital washing bed linens and nurses' uniforms.
See more »


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


Prelude And Liebestod
from Tristan Und Isolde
Written by Richard Wagner
Performed by Charles Münch (as Charles Munch) and The Boston Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy of BMG Classics/RCA Victor
See more »

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User Reviews

Original, Intriguing
19 November 2006 | by (Manitoba, Canada) – See all my reviews

A teenage boy befriends an elderly man. During countless discussions over many a night, they form a special friendship that manages to bridge their considerable age gap. It would sound like a sweet character study if the old man wasn't a Nazi war criminal and the teen wasn't a Holocaust-obsessed recluse blackmailing his new pal for all the gory details.

APT PUPIL scores the highest marks for originality. Nothing ever quite like this has been done before, and it's all quite intriguing. In the beginning, we come close to feeling sorry for the old man despite his past misdeeds. Here is he living out his golden years in peace and seclusion when all of a sudden a pushy teenager threatens to blow his cover. As the tale progresses, we see that the elder is just as conniving as the boy, threatening simply to expose their friendship, forever linking the young man with unimaginable notoriety. What starts out as a bizarre acquaintance escalates into a duel of manipulation.

It's not surprising that APT PUPIL is based on a novella by Stephen King. The film bears many of the hallmarks of King's works. And while it's never actually scary, it is thrilling at a psychological level that King reaches best. It's not perfect, but with the skilled direction of Bryan Singer and solid performances by leads Brad Renfro and Ian McKellen, it generally accomplishes what it sets out to do.

You don't have to be a horror person or a teenager at a late night party to enjoy APT PUPIL. The film has a unique appeal beyond what its target audience may have been. If you missed it when it was released in 1998 (as many did, based on its limited commercial success), it's certainly worth a look.

17 of 20 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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