Witness (1985) Poster



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  • Rachel Lapp (Kelly McGillis), a young Amish widow, is taking her 8-year-old son Samuel (Lukas Haas) to visit her sister in Baltimore. While in the men's room in the train station in Philadelphia, Samuel witnesses the murder of a policeman. When Samuel fingers narcotics lieutenant James McFee (Danny Glover) as one of the killers, Philadelphia detective Captain John Book (Harrison Ford) realizes that both his and Samuel's lives are in danger, so he goes into hiding in the rural Amish community to protect Samuel until the trial. Living and working beside the Amish men, Book finds himself attracted to Rachel, and she to him. However, their disparate backgrounds make their love forbidden by Amish standards. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • The screenplay for Witness was co-written by American screenwriters and novelists Pamela Wallace, Earl W. Wallace, and William Kelley. Kelley and Earl Wallace released a novelization of the screenplay in 1985. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • In the film, they are mostly speaking modern German. In real life, the Amish have their own German dialect, spoken only occasionally in the film, called Pennsylvania German, commonly known as Pennsylvania Dutch. "Dutch" does not refer to the modern Dutch language but is an English transliteration of the word "Deitsch" (how the Amish refer to their language) which is related to the modern German word "Deutsch", which refers to the German language. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Rachel and John are dancing to (It's A) Wonderful World. It was written by songwriters Sam Cooke, Lou Adler, and Herb Alpert, and recorded by Sam Cooke in the late 1950s. However, it's not Sam Cooke you hear in Witness. That version was sung by Greg Chapman. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • Since the release of Witness, there have been several films set in Amish communities including A Stoning in Fulham County (1988) (1988) in which the Amish and the law clash when an Amish infant is killed, Harvest of Fire (1996) (1996) in which an FBI agent investigates an arson in an Amish community, and For Richer or Poorer (1997) (1997) in which two hustlers hide in an Amish community. More recent movies about the Amish include Plain Truth (2004) (2004) in which an Amish girl is accused of smothering her baby, Saving Sarah Cain (2007) (2007) in which a newspaper reporter attempts to raise her five Amish nieces and nephews, orphaned after the death of her Amish sister, Amish Grace (2010) (2010) based on a true story about the murder of five Amish schoolgirls and the wounding of five others, The Shunning (2011) (2011) about the coming of age of a young adopted Amish woman, and An Amish Murder (2013) (2013) in which a police chief, once Amish herself, investigates the murder of a young Amish girl. Hutterites and Old Order Mennonites are distinct (especially linguistically) from each other and from the Amish, but they all have some cultural similarities. Along those lines, Holy Matrimony (1994) (1994) may be of interest. Edit (Coming Soon)


The FAQ items below may give away important plot points.

  • Because Detective McFee was involved in a drug ring and some missing drugs. In Linda Seger's book, Making A Good Script Great (1994), she reveals that a scene was cut from the movie where it was explained that the murdered cop worked for Internal Affairs and was undercover investigating the corrupt cops. Edit (Coming Soon)

  • McFee, Schaeffer (Josef Sommer), and "Fergie" Ferguson (Angus MacInnes), the second man involved in the murder, locate Book and come to the farm bearing shotguns. Out in the barn with Samuel, Book sees them arrives and tells Samuel to run to the Hochleitners' farm and stay there. He then tries to get away in his car, but it won't start. Fergie hears the car engine turning and fires a few blasts at Book. Book climbs to the top of the silo and tricks Fergie into getting inside whereupon Book dumps corn on top of him, suffocating him. He then climbs on top the corn and retrieves Fergie's shotgun. When McFee comes to investigate, Book shoots him. Meanwhile, Samuel has returned to the house, having heard the gunshots. He is seen by Rachel and Eli (Jan Rubes), but Schaeffer forces them outside. Eli gestures to Samuel to ring the bell, which he does long and hard. Suddenly, everyone within earshot begins coming over the fields and down the road to the Lapp farm. Realizing he is grossly outnumbered, Schaeffer surrenders. In the final scene, Book says goodbye to Samuel, then shares a long, wordless, loving gaze with Rachel. As Book walks to his car, Eli comes out of the barn and says, "You be careful there among them English." Book drives up the road as Daniel Hochleitner (Alexander Godunov) walks down it, presumably on his way to see Rachel. Daniel tips his hat as John drives by. Edit (Coming Soon)

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