MOVIEmeter
SEE RANK
Up 1,651 this week

A Civil Action (1998)

 -  Drama  -  8 January 1999 (USA)
6.5
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 6.5/10 from 20,765 users   Metascore: 68/100
Reviews: 176 user | 108 critic | 26 from Metacritic.com

The families of children who died sue two companies for dumping toxic waste: a tort so expensive to prove, the case could bankrupt their lawyer.

Director:

Writers:

(book), (screenplay)
Watch Trailer
0Check in
0Share...

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Instant Video

Editors' Spotlight

IMDb Picks: October

IMDb's editors share the movies and TV shows they are excited to see in October.


User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 25 titles
created 18 Feb 2012
 
a list of 47 titles
created 11 May 2012
 
a list of 44 titles
created 11 Jan 2013
 
a list of 33 titles
created 17 Jan 2013
 
a list of 25 titles
created 9 months ago
 

Related Items

Search for "A Civil Action" on Amazon.com

Connect with IMDb


Share this Rating

Title: A Civil Action (1998)

A Civil Action (1998) on IMDb 6.5/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of A Civil Action.

User Polls

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

Videos

Photos

Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

The Apostle (1997)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

After his happy life spins out of control, a preacher from Texas changes his name, goes to Louisiana and starts preaching on the radio.

Director: Robert Duvall
Stars: Robert Duvall, Todd Allen, Paul Bagget
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.2/10 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
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
Mad City (1997)
Crime | Drama
    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
Lucky Numbers (2000)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A television weatherman scams a local lottery.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth
Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A broken-down, middle-aged country singer gets a new wife, reaches out to his long-lost daughter, and tries to put his troubled life back together.

Director: Bruce Beresford
Stars: Robert Duvall, Tess Harper, Betty Buckley
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
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

As he approaches manhood, Ben Meechum struggles to win the approval of his demanding alpha male father, an aggressively competitive, but frustrated marine pilot.

Director: Lewis John Carlino
Stars: Robert Duvall, Blythe Danner, Michael O'Keefe
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  

A divorced father discovers that his 12-year-old son's new stepfather is not what he made himself out to be.

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

Scott Barnes (Travolta) is an alcoholic turned social worker hellbent on saving a young boy named Tommy (Lawrence) from self-destructing when he finds out he has begun selling crack in an ... See full summary »

Director: Rod Holcomb
Stars: John Travolta, Marilu Henner, Joseph Lawrence
Michael (1996)
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 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
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
...
...
...
...
...
Bruce Norris ...
William Cheeseman
...
...
...
Neil Jacobs
...
...
...
Pinder
...
...
Richard Aufiero
...
Al Eustis
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  »

Box Office

Budget:

$60,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

£332,872 (UK) (9 April 1999)

Gross:

$56,702,901 (USA) (30 April 1999)
 »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

| |

Color:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

During the phone conversation in the radio booth, a confused Schlictmann asks Anne Anderson, "Is this Rikki?" Rikki Klieman is a real-life lawyer and former love interest of Schlictmann's in the true-to-life book. Since 1999, she's been married to Boston's former police chief William Bratton, who also headed the LAPD and the NYPD. See more »

Goofs

At the meeting in the hotel where Jan asks for $300+ million, Cheeseman begins calculating the figures on a pad of paper with his left hand. A cut to an over-the-shoulder shot shows him writing the figures with his right hand. 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

Referenced in Cold Case: Breaking News (2009) See more »

Soundtracks

Hard Workin' Man
(1978)
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Lyrics by Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Paul Schrader
Performed by Don Van Vliet (as Captain Beefheart)
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

 
Thankfully not another pretty conversation piece
10 August 2004 | by See all my reviews

I'm usually put off by courtroom films simply because I associate them with either the tendency for pompous and ornate speech-making a la "A Few Good Men," or cheap audience-manipulation a la "Primal Fear." Yes, they are entertaining, usually with great actors and fine performances - thinking man's thrillers. But generally they remain nothing more than that - a well-done conversation piece.

"A Civil Action" was a pleasant surprise because it is not only like neither of those films, but also because it is a good film starring John Travolta. While he had his moments in the spotlight for good reason (think: "Pulp Fiction") his movies are generally not that great. But that's just a personal opinion and I may be wrong.

Still, "A Civil Action" is a great courtroom film. For one, it's a true story (which doesn't necessarily say much), and it is told with restraint, quietness and respect for the characters involved (which should be saying a lot). It takes the best from "Silkwood" and "Verdict" and it gives us people who are real and who engage in battle the way we imagine real people would. They don't have dramatic moments in the courtroom upon which an unreal stillness descends so as to be shattered at the end of the speech by the thunderous sound of unanimous, emotionally-fraught clapping.

John Travolta is great here and so is the rest of the cast, among them William H. Macy, Kathleen Quinlan, Sydney Pollack, John Lithgow, Stephen Fry (in a small cameo role), Kathy Bates (in an even smaller cameo role) and the great Robert Duvall. In the end, it is Duvall who steals the show in his quiet, unemotional musings, advice-givings and deliberations with Travolta. He embodies the restraint for which the film strives.

"A Civil Action" is quiet in its proceedings and, consequently real. It tells the story of a lawyer who reluctantly accepts a case having to do with the contamination of water and the deaths of many children in a small town and becomes obsessed with it to the point of going bankrupt. His obsession mirrors the self-destructiveness of Paul Newman's lawyer in "Verdict," and it has real results. His adversaries are not evil people, per se (think Jack Nicholson in "A Few Good Men"), but people who are simply doing their jobs damn well, defending their interests. We shouldn't expect them to cave in to pretty speech-making, nor should the jury.

And watching "A Civil Action" we don't and it doesn't. The personalities clash, personal tragedy is pitted against financial burdens of the legal process, and it yields startling conclusions about the American Justice system. And that is what "A Civil Action" chooses to focus on more so than the true story it tells (though it doesn't ignore it either). The film shows the price of justice and how justice is understood in the legal process. In fact, it draws a very fine dichotomy between non-legal justice and legal justice and shows how hard it is to get "justice" in a legal setting. Needless to say, it becomes a very expensive ordeal full of re-interpretations of the law and annoying manipulations of it. What we can gather from the story, however, is that we should be grateful for people who are willing to go to extreme lengths, at great personal cost, to define justice on their own terms and to fight for it.


46 of 53 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Best Law Student Movie to Watch blaviage-1
More movies like 'A Civil Action' shrekkie
Watching this movie in Chemistry. ecwmanbeastss
Why is Jan broke at the end? correo-8
What I don't understand about the money markusschneider0815
The End of the Movie greeninc13
Discuss A Civil Action (1998) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for:
?