Down 211 this week

Pay It Forward (2000)

PG-13  |   |  Drama  |  20 October 2000 (USA)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.1/10 from 91,891 users   Metascore: 40/100
Reviews: 658 user | 158 critic | 34 from Metacritic.com

A young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance.



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

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A man against capital punishment is accused of murdering a fellow activist and is sent to death row.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Kate Winslet, Laura Linney
K-PAX (2001)
Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

PROT is a patient at a mental hospital who claims to be from a far away Planet. His psychiatrist tries to help him, only to begin to doubt his own explanations.

Director: Iain Softley
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Jeff Bridges, Mary McCormack
21 (2008)
Biography | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

"21" is the fact-based story about six MIT students who were trained to become experts in card counting and subsequently took Vegas casinos for millions in winnings.

Director: Robert Luketic
Stars: Jim Sturgess, Kate Bosworth, Kevin Spacey
I Am Sam (2001)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A mentally handicapped man fights for custody of his 7-year-old daughter, and in the process teaches his cold hearted lawyer the value of love and family.

Director: Jessie Nelson
Stars: Sean Penn, Michelle Pfeiffer, Dakota Fanning
Biography | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A swooning study of "Mack the Knife" singer Bobby Darin (Spacey) specifically, and his relationship with his wife Sandra Dee (Bosworth).

Director: Kevin Spacey
Stars: Kevin Spacey, Kate Bosworth, John Goodman
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

In a desperate attempt to prove his innocence, a skilled police negotiator accused of corruption and murder takes hostages in a government office to gain the time he needs to find the truth.

Director: F. Gary Gray
Stars: Samuel L. Jackson, Kevin Spacey, David Morse
Adventure | Drama | Sci-Fi
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A highly advanced robotic boy longs to become "real" so that he can regain the love of his human mother.

Director: Steven Spielberg
Stars: Haley Joel Osment, Jude Law, Frances O'Connor
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

Collective screening of the Academy Award nominated short films from the Live Action category for 2013.

Adventure | Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Two terminally ill men escape from a cancer ward and head off on a road trip with a wish list of to-dos before they die.

Director: Rob Reiner
Stars: Jack Nicholson, Morgan Freeman, Sean Hayes
Biography | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A struggling salesman takes custody of his son as he's poised to begin a life-changing professional endeavor.

Director: Gabriele Muccino
Stars: Will Smith, Thandie Newton, Jaden Smith
Comedy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

A teacher meets a woman who turns out to be a thief and they introduce each other to new things.

Director: Kieron J. Walsh
Stars: Peter McDonald, Flora Montgomery, Marie Mullen
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

Collective screening of the Academy Award nominated short films from the Live Action category for 2015.



Cast overview, first billed only:
Ricky McKinney
Colleen Flynn ...
Woman on Bridge
Thorsen's Daughter (as Hannah Werntz)


Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor's efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Is it possible for one idea to change the world? See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

20 October 2000 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Cadena de favores  »

Box Office


$40,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$9,631,359 (USA) (20 October 2000)


ESP 191,771,560 (Spain) (29 June 2001)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In the book, the teacher is a black man named Reuben St.Clair. The role of Reuben was originally offered to Denzel Washington but was turned down due to other commitments. When Kevin Spacey agreed to the movie the character was changed to a white man named Eugene Simonet. See more »


When Trevor is drawing his "Pay it forward" diagram on the black board, the diagram has clearly already been drawn once and erased. See more »


Eugene: OK. You know, I'm going to have to consult my spirit guides here, because you tell me that Trevor is withholding from you, but you won't tell me anything specific and you still want me to sit here and divine why.
Arley: Divine why? You always talk like that?
Eugene: Yes.
Arley: You go to some big, fancy school?
Eugene: Yes.
Arley: Think you can stop rubbing my nose in it?
See more »


Referenced in After Tiller (2013) See more »


By Gwen Stefani and Tom Dumont (as Thomas Dumont)
Performed by No Doubt
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Not for the stonehearted.
9 February 2002 | by (Manchester, England) – See all my reviews

Pay It Forward is a movie that is aimed at one particular audience. The kind of audience that expects to have their life changed as the minutes tick by.

And as a film that provides profound, poignant and tear-jerking moments, Pay It Forward will be perfect for this manner of audience. Unfortunately, harder, more expecting movie-goers will probably dismiss this movie as an oversentimental and perhaps unrealistic film.

The film is centred around Trevor (Hayley Joel-Osment). An 11 year old boy, living alone with his dysfunctional, on-off alcoholic mother Arlene (Helen Hunt). One day Trevor is set a homework assignment by his new Social Studies teacher, the mysterious, slightly disfigured Eugene (Kevin Spacey). Eugene sets the class a difficult task; to think of an idea that will change the world and put it into action. Et voila!! Pay It Forward is born.

Trevor is played with an endearing maturity and at times, unstable frustration by uber kid actor Osment. As an aspiring actor, I worry that an 11 year old boy can grab hold of such difficult roles and make them his, while I still strive to gain my Equity card!! What Osment promised in The Sixth Sense, he shows again here with a more difficult and emotionally charged role. Trevor is a boy not altogether happy with his life. He is lacking in a father figure, his Mother struggles to have any impact on him as she juggles two jobs to make ends meet, which leaves Trevor with nothing but his own intuition to drag him through life. For a child that can only be extatic and contented with HIS life, Osment does well to project such a fragile character on screen.

Eugene is a character made for Kevin Spacey (although all his roles seem perfect for him). Intelligent, compassionate, slightly bitter and at times unpredictable, Eugene is a man that we, as an audience cannot help but engage with. The dialogue written for Spacey is much better than other characters in the film, and he puts it to good use. Spacey is at his best when doing two things; calmly and charismatically attracting attention to himself (Ordinary Decent Criminal, Midnight In The Garden Of...), and when he bubbles just below the surface, inviting audiences in so that he can devastate you with a single revelation (Seven, Usual Suspects, Swimming With Sharks). And his revelation in this film (he relives how he came to get his horrific scars), is so vivid, so intricately and harrowingly retold that you cannot help but feel a tear well up in your eye.

Helen Hunt is fantastic as Arlene. Managing to achieve a look that bizarrely mixes trailer trash, run down alcoholic with vulnerable cuteness. She doesn't get the pick of the dialogue however, and the role aswell as the whole film would have been a whole lot worse off had Hunt not been on top form. You don't want her to be your Mother, but you really want to see her happy and for her to do a good job at being Trevors.

The film falls short in little details. Supporting characters do little to affect the story (Jay Mohr as an almost non-speaking narrator??) and the whole thing feels flat if Spacey is off screen too long. Good actors like Jim Caviezel go almost unnoticed and you can't help but feel that a few more juicy characters would help the story become a little more...cohesive.

The ending is a reinforcement of the atmosphere of the whole film. It is a sequence that heightens our emotion and should set the tears rolling.

In short, see this film for three things; Haley Joel-Osment, Kevin Spacey and Helen Hunt. All three are fantastic, and it's obvious to see why so much Oscar gossip was being spread.

If you like heart warming films with a little bit of edge, then watch on. If you're expecting an original, exciting, twisty or philosophical film...watch it anyway, at least the three leads are good.

80 of 109 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
How can anyone possibly like this movie?? chloen1979
a better ending rutica
now if you got stabbed in the stomach Sensfan1915
Did anyone ever have 7th grade teacher like that? MBasler89
Should be a law... libertess66
from a mother who lost her son goldstalk
Discuss Pay It Forward (2000) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: