247 user 121 critic

Apt Pupil (1998)

2:31 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $3.99 (SD) on Prime Video

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



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



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A mysterious new shop opens in a small town which always seems to stock the deepest desires of each shopper, with a price far heavier than expected.

Director: Fraser C. Heston
Stars: Max von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia
Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A widowed mother and her son change when a mysterious stranger enters their lives.

Director: Scott Hicks
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Anton Yelchin, Hope Davis
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A big-city reporter travels to the small town where her mother has been arrested for the murder of an elderly woman that she works for as a maid.

Director: Taylor Hackford
Stars: Kathy Bates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Christopher Plummer
Thinner (1996)
Fantasy | Horror
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

An obese attorney is cursed by a gypsy to rapidly and uncontrollably lose weight.

Director: Tom Holland
Stars: Robert John Burke, Joe Mantegna, Lucinda Jenney


Cast overview, first billed only:
Sociology Teacher
Nightmare Victim
Agnes Bowden
David Cooley ...
Gym Teacher
Blake Anthony Tibbetts ...
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 USA:

$3,583,151, 25 October 1998, Wide Release

Gross USA:

$8,838,938, 3 January 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(8 channels)|



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The movie is based on a novella 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 »


After Dussander comes down the steps in the Nazi uniform, he approaches Todd and his hat switches hands between shots. 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 An Interview with John Ottman (2002) See more »


Das Ist Berlin
Music by Leo Leux & Matthias Perl (as Matthias Perl)
Lyrics by Hans Hannes & Bruno Balz
Performed by Liane Augustin (as Liane) & The Boheme Bar Trio
Courtesy of Omega Record Group, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

A Character Study Illustrating How Nazi's Were Able to Assert Their Power
16 April 1999 | by See all my reviews

The only thing more frightening that having the Holocaust as part of our world's long history is to know that are human minds capable of creating and sustaining such an oppression. The real horror of Bryan Singer's adaptation of Stephen King's novella "Apt Pupil" lies in that we have this knowledge. We know that Adolf Hitler possessed the powers of immense manipulation and charisma. This has been so ingrained into our heads that I remember as a child knowing that Hitler was charismatic before I really knew what the term meant. This film is an exploration into the mind of a person who conceivably has many of the same manipulative characteristics. In the progression of the film, we slowly learn why.

Before any images actually come on screen, we hear the voice of someone asking if the Holocaust occurred as a result of economic or social cultural reasons. Or was it in fact, human nature? We then realize that the monologue is being given by a school teacher in a social studies class. The principle character, Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro), a member of this class and is fascinated with studying the Holocaust. He spends much time in the library reading books and newspaper articles on the subject. Just as the opening credits finish, the camera zooms in slowly to the eyes of a concentration camp leader. This is the first of many extreme close-up shots of eyes. This distance motif is incredibly effective. The eyes are the window to a man's soul and the psyche that "Apt Pupil" explores.

One rainy night, while Todd is riding the bus, he sees a mysterious man, who he realizes is Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellan), a Nazi war criminal and concentration camp leader who managed to escape from Germany years before. This is when we really begin to see Todd's disturbed mind. He is the kind of person who is so meticulous that he finds fourteen finger print matches of Dussander and builds a file that will be sent to the Israeli government if he doesn't agree to tell stories about the Holocaust that "they are too afraid to tell in school". It is now clear that Todd is not so fascinated with the Holocaust because he's racist (the film makes no reference to him being racist). He admires the power, dedication and will behind the driving force of the Holocaust. He mimics this power in his blackmailing of Dussander.

The scenes with Dussander explaining in explicit detail the acts that he performed in concentration camps are quite disturbing in themselves, but what is more disturbing is that Todd seems more detached than Kurt. Most of us would cringe in disgust if we were to sit and listen to the stories that Kurt tells. We get the impression that Todd is thrilled with the fact that he is able to control this man and make him relive his past.

In the film's most harrowing scene, Todd brings Kurt an officer's uniform, similar to what he would have worn during the War years, and makes him march. Up until this point, we are led to believe that perhaps Kurt has had some time to develop remorse over the years for his haneous acts of brutality, but when Todd begins commanding him, Kurt fades to the same state of mind of his Nazi persona from the past and we see the man capable of ordering concentration camp personnel to gas hundreds of Jews. The scene is truly chilling and stands out as the most memorable in the film.

"Apt Pupil" is occasionally slow, but never boring. I, for one could not take my eyes off the screen for a second. The power struggles between Todd and Kurt are always intense. The sequence of events leads up to a horrifying scene with Todd and his guidance counselor (David Schwimmer). Here, we learn of the lengths that Todd will take his manipulation. "You can't do that," the guidance counselor says. "You have no idea what I am capable of doing," replies Todd. This line of dialogue is very effective. We know from having seen the rest of the film that Todd is capable of quite a lot. While not as powerful or intense as Stephen King's novella, the film "Apt Pupil" gives us a creepy insight to the corruption of power and manipulation.

**** out of ****

104 of 114 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 247 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Watch the Latest Episode of "The IMDb Show"

Zach Braff tackles acting and directing on his new show "Alex, Inc.," and we take a look at the 15 most bingeable TV shows of all time.

Watch the show