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The Panic in Needle Park (1971)

PG | | Drama | 1 June 1971 (France)
Follows the lives of heroin addicts who frequent "Needle Park" in New York City.


Jerry Schatzberg


James Mills (book), Joan Didion (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »




Cast overview, first billed only:
Al Pacino ... Bobby
Kitty Winn ... Helen
Alan Vint ... Hotch
Richard Bright ... Hank
Kiel Martin ... Chico
Michael McClanathan ... Sonny
Warren Finnerty ... Sammy
Marcia Jean Kurtz ... Marcie
Raul Julia ... Marco
Angie Ortega Angie Ortega ... Irene
Larry Marshall ... Mickey
Paul Mace ... Whitey
Nancy MacKay Nancy MacKay ... Penny
Gil Rogers ... Robins
Joe Santos ... DiBono


This movie is a stark portrayal of life among a group of heroin addicts who hang out in "Needle Park" in New York City. Played against this setting is a low-key love story between Bobby, a young addict and small-time hustler, and Helen, a homeless girl who finds in her relationship with Bobby the stability she craves. She becomes addicted too, and life goes downhill for them both as their addiction deepens, eventually leading to a series of betrayals. But, in spite of it all, the relationship between Bobby and Helen endures. Written by E. Schofield <evescho@cafe.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


In the dark corner of the city, they found light See more »




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Ned Rorem composed a score for the film that was ultimately removed from the final cut (the isolated score is included as a special feature on the Blu-ray). See more »


(at around 15 mins) When Bobby asks Helen to do him a favor, his hand changes position between being under his hair on his forehead and being on top of his hair. See more »


Bobby: [pawning a TV set] This is UHF! You get everything on here. You want Chicago, you get Chicago. You get Turkey, I hear on this thing. Come on.
Pawnshop Lady: I'll give you fifteen dollars, okay?
Bobby: Esther, I'm a dope addict.
Pawnshop Lady: I heard that before. Why don't you give me something new.
Bobby: I'm a sex-crazed dope fiend.
Pawnshop Lady: Come on, here, I'll give you twenty dollars, huh. Twenty dollars!
Bobby: I'm dyin' from the dope, Esther.
Pawnshop Lady: And I'm dyin' from hunger.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Originally rated "R" in the U.S. upon its release, some profanity and drug use was cut from the film to be re-rated "PG". The "R" rated version was released on video but is now out of print and extremely rare. See more »


Referenced in Sodankylä Forever: Valon draama (2010) See more »

User Reviews

Well made...and thoroughly unpleasant.
11 December 2016 | by MartinHaferSee all my reviews

"The Panic in Needle Park" is an incredibly unpleasant film...which is what you'd expect about a film that centers around two heroin addicts living in New York. So, if you are looking for a film to make you smile or a good date film, do NOT see this movie! In fact, that is the biggest problem with the picture...most folks won't wanna see two people slowly destroying themselves. Most folks watch films to be entertained. Now I am NOT saying it's a bad film and it might be a good one to show teens, as it shows how wretched a life hooked on drugs can be...though there are a few more recent films which make drug use seem a lot more unpleasant, such as the brilliant but hard to watch "Requiem for a Dream".

The film has very little in the way of plot. It simply shows two addicts who are in love, Bobby and Helen (Al Pacino and Kitty Winn), as they slowly degenerate...sinking lower and lower and lower through the course of the movie. At first, Bobby is very glib...and fun to be with and Helen seems rather innocent. Naturally, this doesn't last and both sink deeper and deeper into their habit. Bobby claims he's a 'chipper' (a casual user who is not addicted) but after a while he's dealing and overdoses. Helen begins turning tricks to buy their next fix.

Unpleasant, to be sure, but mostly realistic. When they shot up, it looks real...and the language is street language...nasty and crude. But the only problem I saw is that both LOOKED healthy through the course of the film and the makeup could have been better...enabling them not only to act like addicts but to look more like them. Well made but I am strongly warning you...it's not a movie for kids or for the squeamish.

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Release Date:

1 June 1971 (France) See more »

Also Known As:

The Panic in Needle Park See more »


Box Office


$1,645,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono (Westrex Recording System)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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