When a young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder, policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.


Peter Weir


William Kelley (story by), Pamela Wallace (story by) | 3 more credits »
3,122 ( 849)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 11 wins & 25 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Harrison Ford ... John Book
Kelly McGillis ... Rachel
Josef Sommer ... Schaeffer
Lukas Haas ... Samuel
Jan Rubes ... Eli Lapp
Alexander Godunov ... Daniel Hochleitner
Danny Glover ... McFee
Brent Jennings ... Carter
Patti LuPone ... Elaine
Angus MacInnes ... Fergie
Frederick Rolf Frederick Rolf ... Stoltzfus
Viggo Mortensen ... Moses Hochleitner
John Garson John Garson ... Bishop Tchantz
Beverly May Beverly May ... Mrs. Yoder
Ed Crowley ... Sheriff


An 8 year old Amish boy and his mother are traveling to Philadelphia, on their way to visit the mother's sister. While waiting at the train station, the young boy witnesses a brutal murder inside one of the bathroom stalls. Police detective John Book is assigned to investigate the murder of the man, who was an undercover cop. Soon after, Book finds out that he's in great danger when the culprits know about his investigation and hides out in the Amish community. There, he learns the way of living among the Amish locals, which consists of non-violence and agriculture. Book soon starts a romance with the mother of the little boy, but their romance is forbidden by the Amish standards. But, it's not long before the bad guys find out Book's whereabouts. Written by blazesnakes9

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

amish | murder | train | love | police | See All (109) »


Harrison Ford is John Book - A big city cop who knows too much. His only evidence: a small boy who's seen too much... See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Although the film was made with advice from experts on the Amish community, some members of the community were critical, feeling the portrayal was not entirely accurate. The National Committee for Amish Religious Freedom called for a boycott of the film, citing fears that these communities were "overrun by tourists" because of its popularity. They worried that "the crowding, souvenir-hunting, photography, and trespassing on Amish properties would increase as a result." When the film was finished, then-Pennsylvania governor Dick Thornburg promised not to promote the Amish film communities as future film sites. See more »


In the scene where Rachel hands him his gun, Book puts it in his side pants pocket. Amish men's clothes do not have side pockets. See more »


Daniel Hochleitner: Your hole, it is better now?
John Book: Yeah, it's pretty much healed.
Daniel Hochleitner: Good. Then you can go home.
See more »

Crazy Credits

For Tom Scott. Scott was a member of the casting department on Witness. See more »

Alternate Versions

In the VHS version, just after John Book is shot, we see a close-up of his gun and a voice-over from an earlier conversation Book had with the captain. We hear the words: "Who else knows about this? "Just you and me." In the DVD version, we see the close-up of the gun and then it segues to Book's sister waking up Rachel and her son Samuel, minus the voice-over. See more »


Referenced in GLOW: Pilot (2017) See more »


Shocking Behavior
Written by Paul Chiten and Sue Sheridan
See more »

User Reviews

When two worlds collide
31 December 2013 | by MaziunSee all my reviews

„Witness" works on 3 levels – as a thriller , drama and romance. The thriller elements of the movie appear at the beginning and the ending of the movie, while the middle of the film is basically a drama with a love story in it. It's an interesting combination and while it might not work for those who like pure thrillers or dramas it certainly worked for me. One has to remember that "Witness" is first a electrifying and poignant love story , then the thriller. A romantic thriller.

It's a movie worth watching just for the fact that is first and one of the few films to focus on Amish culture. As a kid I would laugh at their philosophy of life . The more and more I'm getting older the more I'm thinking they are right. The Amish way of life has many virtues - they have a deep faith in God , pacifism , sense of community.

"Witness" is a story about cultural clash between two completely different worlds. Both cultures are forced to come together. Each one had to search out the moralities, prejudices and actions of the other. The film is thankfully devoid of easy moralizing.

It's an interesting thing that Sylvester Stallone ("Rocky") and Jack Nicholson ("One flew over the cuckoo nest") were considered for the role of John Book . While I do believe that they would handle the role very well , I'm happy that Harrison Ford ("Raiders of the lost ark") got the part in the end. Harrison Ford gives his finest performance in "Witness" , the only one which got him an Oscar nomination. Hord walks away from his hero persona (Indiana Jones , Han Solo). His John Book isn't stereotypical cynical and strong cop. His tough enough to be convincing as a city cop , but it's more about his sense of duty and dignity. It's interesting how the film uses Ford's real-life carpenter's talent. Kelly McGillis ("Top gun") also gives a great and underrated performance , the best in her career. Her Rachel is very sensible and lonely woman , who finds soul mate in Book. Both Ford and McGillis have a wonderful chemistry together . The say much more by the things they don't say (for example the bating scene , the dance scene). The romantic plot reaches it's climax with one of the best on-screen kisses in the history of film. This brief-scene is powerful , sincere and moving. The love story here is beautiful and tragic.

Danny Glover("Lethal weapon") does a nice job as the bad guy. Who could forget Lukas Haas ("Inception") as the Amish kid. His cheerful , colorful face is something that can't go unseen. Watch out for Viggo Mortensen ("The Lord of the rings " trilogy) in his debut as an Amish.

Peter Weir gives a brilliant direction . This is a simple story wit heart . Every dramatic moment is powerful and every small scene is important. Weir isn't a action/thriller director , yet he gives us great Hitchcockian set pieces such as the scene in the toilet and the final confrontation in style of "High noon" (silo death).

The screenplay quite rightfully won the Oscar. The film's script by Earl W. Wallace, William Kelley and Pamela Wallace has become a frequent model for budding screenwriters, often used to display clear structure in a screenplay. It is a film about adults, whose lives have dignity and whose choices matter to them just like it's a story about cops.

The soundtrack by Maurice Jarre is good , but I think it would have sounded much better with real orchestra instead of synthesizer. John Searle's cinematography is gorgeous – the scene of raising the barn is cinematic lyricism.

Highly recommended. I give it 8/10.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | German

Release Date:

8 February 1985 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Called Home See more »


Box Office


$12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$4,539,990, 10 February 1985

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (as Dolby Stereo)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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