6.5/10
24,630
184 user 114 critic

A Civil Action (1998)

PG-13 | | Drama | 8 January 1999 (USA)
The families of children who died, sue two companies for dumping toxic waste: a tort so expensive to prove, the case could bankrupt their lawyers.

Director:

Writers:

(book), (screenplay)

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

ON DISC
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Mad City (1997)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 X  

A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him.

Director: Costa-Gavras
Stars: John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Alda
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

When the daughter of a well-known and well-respected base commander is murdered, an undercover detective is summoned to look into the matter and finds a slew of cover-ups at West Point.

Director: Simon West
Stars: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell
Phenomenon (1996)
Drama | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

An ordinary man sees a bright light descend from the sky, and discovers he now has super-intelligence and telekinesis.

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.5/10 X  

When Danny witnessed Rick murder a man, Frank has to protect his son from the greatest danger.

Director: Harold Becker
Stars: John Travolta, Nick Loren, James Lashly
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.2/10 X  

The story takes place in alternative America where the blacks are members of social elite, and whites are inhabitants of inner city ghettos. Louis Pinnock is a white worker in a chocolate ... See full summary »

Director: Desmond Nakano
Stars: John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch
Michael (1996)
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

Two tabloid reporters checking out a report of the Archangel Michael living with an old woman find that it's true. But that's not the only surprise.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt
Class Action (1991)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

Jed Ward is an attorney who specializes in whistle blower, David vs. Goliath, type cases. He finds a client who is suing an auto company over a safety problem that has had a severe effect ... See full summary »

Director: Michael Apted
Stars: Gene Hackman, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Colin Friels
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Bruce Norris ...
...
...
...
Neil Jacobs
...
...
...
Pinder
...
...
...
Edit

Storyline

Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious lawyer, is addressed by a group of families. When investigating the seemingly non-profiting case, he finds it to be a major environmental issue that has a lot of impact potential. A leather production company could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also is the main employer for the area. Schlichtmann and his three colleagues set out to have the company forced to decontaminate the affected areas, and of course to sue for a major sum of compensation. But the lawyers of the leather company's mother company are not easy to get to, and soon Schlichtmann and his friends find themselves in a battle of mere survival. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Justice has its price.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

 »
Edit

Details

Country:

Language:

Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Una acción civil  »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$75,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$70,079, 27 December 1998, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$56,702,901, 2 May 1999
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Multiple characters make subtle fun of Mr. Cheeseman's name, emphasizing CHEESE-man. James Gandolfini calls him Chessman after his deposition, subtly implying he is merely a pawn. This is reinforced later when Facher (Robert Duvall) refers to himself and Schlichtman (John Travolta) as Kings. Several shot set-ups also emphasize the chess-theme being played out in court. See more »

Goofs

In the Crane vs. Massachusetts General Hospital case with the wheelchair plaintiff, the defense lawyer writes a settlement offer for $1.2 million on a Post-It note with a Mont Blanc tapered tip pen but the scene cuts back to the amount being written with a flat top Waterman. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jan Schlichtmann: [narrating] It's like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely-maimed plaintiff. However, if it's a long slow agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably. A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle aged. A dead woman less than a dead man. A single adult less than one who's married. Black less than white. Poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The producers wish to thank the people of Boston, Waltham, Northbridge, Charlestown, Dedham, Brimfield and Palmer, MA. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Making of 'A Civil Action' (1999) See more »

Soundtracks

Theme
from A Summer Place (1959)
Music by Max Steiner
Performed by Percy Faith and His Orchestra (uncredited)
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Good film – but what happened to the case!
8 June 2002 | by See all my reviews

Personal injury lawyer Jan Schlichtmann is approached by a group of families who believe they are being poisoned by a toxic waste dump near their water supply as many of their children have developed leukemia. Two of America's biggest law firms defend the case which stretches over 9 years and threatens to bankrupt Schlichtmann's firm and all it's staff.

I approached this film with firm expectations. I work as an environmental consultant and in part of my law training I was advised to read the book as it was a good case study (albeit a 500 page case study) on a environmental case. The book was fascinating if a little heavy in detail. For the film I knew that much of it was going to be trimmed but I didn't realize how much. The `trimmed' bit is the whole case! There is none of the trial instead any court room scenes are more focused on the characters than the case.

As a film this still plays well and is entertaining if not enlightening or interesting. It still carries the mantle of being `true' but without any of the book's case detail it is never more than a Grisham-esque drama despite having a better ending.

The cast are great – easily turning out for a worthy film and they are rewarded because the characters get much better treatment than the facts. Travolta does well but doesn't manage to be as real as the book's portrayal of Schlichtmann. Duvall is good while the rest of the cast are very much support but manage to be deep. When names like William H Macy, Shalhoub, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Stephen Fry, Dan Hedaya and James Gandolfini are all in support then you rightly expect it to be a very worthy film.

Overall this is a good film that is entertaining. There is a more powerful, more interesting and moving captivating story at it's heart – anyone wanting that story should read the book.


32 of 43 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 184 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page