104 user 244 critic

The Act of Killing (2012)

2:12 | Trailer


See all
A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.
3,614 ( 608)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 50 wins & 40 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A family that survives the genocide in Indonesia confronts the men who killed one of their brothers.

Director: Joshua Oppenheimer
Stars: Adi Rukun, M.Y. Basrun, Amir Hasan
Blackfish (2013)
Documentary | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A documentary following the controversial captivity of killer whales, and its dangers for both humans and whales.

Director: Gabriela Cowperthwaite
Stars: Tilikum, Dave Duffus, Samantha Berg
Documentary | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

The story of how an eccentric French shop-keeper and amateur film-maker attempted to locate and befriend Banksy, only to have the artist turn the camera back on its owner. The film contains... See full summary »

Director: Banksy
Stars: Banksy, Space Invader, Mr. Brainwash
Grizzly Man (2005)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A devastating and heartrending take on grizzly bear activists Timothy Treadwell and Amie Huguenard, who were killed in October of 2003 while living among grizzlies in Alaska.

Director: Werner Herzog
Stars: Timothy Treadwell, Amie Huguenard, Werner Herzog
The Cove (2009)
Documentary | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

Using state-of-the-art equipment, a group of activists, led by renowned dolphin trainer Ric O'Barry, infiltrate a cove near Taijii, Japan to expose both a shocking instance of animal abuse and a serious threat to human health.

Director: Louie Psihoyos
Stars: Richard O'Barry, Louie Psihoyos, Hardy Jones
Documentary | Biography | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

Two South Africans set out to discover what happened to their unlikely musical hero, the mysterious 1970s rock n roller, Rodriguez.

Director: Malik Bendjelloul
Stars: Rodriguez, Stephen 'Sugar' Segerman, Dennis Coffey
Documentary | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence.

Director: Michael Moore
Stars: Michael Moore, Charlton Heston, Marilyn Manson
Citizenfour (2014)
Documentary | Biography | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A documentarian and a reporter travel to Hong Kong for the first of many meetings with Edward Snowden.

Director: Laura Poitras
Stars: Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, William Binney
Cartel Land (2015)
Documentary | Action | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A physician in Michoacán, Mexico leads a citizen uprising against the drug cartel that has wreaked havoc on the region for years. Across the U.S. border, a veteran heads a paramilitary ... See full summary »

Director: Matthew Heineman
Stars: José Manuel 'El Doctor' Mireles
Man on Wire (2008)
Documentary | Biography | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A look at tightrope walker Philippe Petit's daring, but illegal, high-wire routine performed between New York City's World Trade Center's twin towers in 1974, what some consider, "the artistic crime of the century."

Director: James Marsh
Stars: Philippe Petit, Jean François Heckel, Jean-Louis Blondeau
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.5/10 X  

A documentary on the unrest in Ukraine during 2013 and 2014, as student demonstrations supporting European integration grew into a violent revolution calling for the resignation of President Viktor F. Yanukovich.

Director: Evgeny Afineevsky
Stars: Bishop Agapit, Serhii Averchenko, Kristina Berdinskikh
The Imposter (2012)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A documentary centered on a young man in Spain who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years.

Director: Bart Layton
Stars: Adam O'Brian, Anna Ruben, Cathy Dresbach


Complete credited cast:
Himself - Executioner in 1965
Herman Koto ...
Himself - Gangster and Paramilitary Leader
Syamsul Arifin ...
Himself - Governor of North Sumatra
Ibrahim Sinik ...
Himself - Newspaper Publisher
Yapto Soerjosoemarno ...
Himself - Leader of Pancasila Youth
Safit Pardede ...
Himself - Local Paramilitary Leader
Jusuf Kalla ...
Himself - Vice President of Indonesia
Adi Zulkadry ...
Himself - Fellow Executioner in 1965
Soaduon Siregar ...
Himself - Journalist
Suryono ...
Himself - Anwar's Neighbor
Haji Marzuki ...
Himself - Member of North Sumatra Parliament (as Marzuki)
Haji Anif ...
Himself - Paramilitary Leader and Businessman
Rahmat Shah ...
Himself - Member of Parliament
Sakhyan Asmara ...
Himself - Deputy Minister of Youth and Sport


A documentary which challenges former Indonesian death-squad leaders to reenact their mass-killings in whichever cinematic genres they wish, including classic Hollywood crime scenarios and lavish musical numbers.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


When killers win, when killers become heroes. See more »


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

| |  »


| |



Release Date:

8 November 2012 (Denmark)  »

Also Known As:

Az ölés aktusa  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$1,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$27,450 (USA) (19 July 2013)


$484,221 (USA) (28 February 2014)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (extended) | (TV) | (TV)

Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Two of the world's most honored documentary filmmakers - Werner Herzog and Errol Morris - are credited as executive producers. See more »


Anwar Congo: Why did I have to kill them? I had to kill... My conscience told me they had to be killed.
See more »


Featured in The Oscars (2014) See more »


Born Free
Composer: John Barry
Lyrics: Don Black
Courtesy of Sony/ATV Tunes LLC
Sony/ATV Music Publishing Scandinavia
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

The horror! The horror!
5 October 2013 | by (garbanzo) – See all my reviews

I'd be hard-pressed to name any film I've watched that is as strange and disturbing as 'The Act of Killing' (brought to you by executive producers Werner Herzog and Errol Morris).

When Indonesian president Sukarno allied himself with communists in 1965, he was toppled by a military coup and a bloody, anti-communist purge followed. Ethnic Chinese, deemed disproportionately wealthy and corrupt by other Indonesians, were targeted as well – or at least this is how some pretended to justify the genocide of so many innocents. A million people were killed. The same paramilitary death squads that carried out the assassinations are politically strong today and count with government ministers among their members. They proclaim themselves national heroes and boast loudly about their "achievements". Director Joshua Oppenheimer interviews some of these gangsters and invites them to reenact the murder scenes by adapting them to their favorite movie genres (Westerns, musicals, etc.)

I initially wondered whether such a bizarre concept wasn't disrespectful to the victims of the massacre, but I realized that it was precisely this format that enabled the director to revisit history and unearth its truth. Oppenheimer had to stroke the gangsters' egos or he would have never been allowed to film. Some of them, including the main character, Anway, started their criminal careers by scalping tickets at a local cinema and were big fans of Hollywood films. In an article from The Australian newspaper, Oppenheimer explains the documentary's theatrical approach this way: "Killing always involves some kind of distancing from what you are doing. Maybe that always means a kind of performance and acting, some kind of storytelling. Maybe it can just mean drinking first. But for Anwar, in part, it comes from the stories that he would imbibe in the cinema, the images and roles, the process of cinematic identification. The act of killing, for Anwar, was always some kind of act."

The result is both chilling and surreal. It is shocking to see these men proudly celebrating their monstrous crimes, including rape. Have they no empathy? How ignorant, demented and evil can humans be? This reminds me of the BBC documentary mini-series 'The Nazis: A Warning Story', in which former Nazi members speak coldly about their ideology, indifferent to the suffering they have caused. These Indonesian gangsters, however, are still in power and are applauded on national TV, their insanity still shared decades later by a significant portion of the population.

There seems to be a disconnect between these people and their feelings, as if all the violence had somehow rendered them numb. This is most evident in Anwar. While a few of the thugs express some awareness of the harm they have done, Anwar is in a state of denial. He blocks his emotions and appears to bury any remorse for his acts under a fabricated storyline that absolves him. Yet, toxic memories stubbornly surface every night in the form of nightmares. As the film goes on, he slowly wakes up from the cloud of illusion that he has created around him and realizes the horror that he's participated in. This is one of the film's big successes.

It's frightening to picture this kind of cruelty emerge from a marginal, uneducated, third-world environment. But we have to ask ourselves how different we are from them. Don't we turn a blind eye on the killing of civilians carried out by drones in other countries, for example? Don't we also glorify national heroes who wiped out entire populations? As a Venezuelan, I think of the revered Independence leader Bolivar, who ordered the systematic murder of all Spanish civilians with his decree of 'War to the Death'. Every country has its stories. We seem to rationalize these inconvenient facts by telling ourselves that the war was merciless on both sides or that the end somehow justifies the means. Like gangster Adi suggests, history is written by the victors and war crimes are defined by the winners.

At two and a half hours long, the film could use a little more editing, in my opinion. I feel like it would be even more effective if it were stripped down further, removing any hints of sensationalism. I'm confused, for example, as to why Herman, the obese gangster, is dressed in drag during each reenactment. Did he find it comical? Was he aiming for the grotesque? Did he do it out of his own initiative or did the filmmakers encourage this? It gives the impression that someone was trying hard to make things look even weirder, which is completely unnecessary. Maybe there's a good explanation for this. And then again, everything in this film is so bizarre that it often resembles a work of pitch-black satire. Its terrifying strangeness, however, is no joke.

33 of 37 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Oh, how we love to point fingers. . . to other murderers but ourselves. wzard999
Anyone else hate the subtitles? SandersOnPPW
I'm Indonesian and I find this disturbing wuhugm
What messages did you take away from this film? TheViewfromNowhere
Postscript about the neighbor whose stepfather was murdered TheViewfromNowhere
Criminal that it didnt win an oscar magicninga
Discuss The Act of Killing (2012) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page