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Cape Fear (1991)

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A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a fourteen-year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.


Martin Scorsese


John D. MacDonald (novel), James R. Webb (earlier screenplay) | 1 more credit »
1,622 ( 302)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 19 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert De Niro ... Max Cady
Nick Nolte ... Sam Bowden
Jessica Lange ... Leigh Bowden
Juliette Lewis ... Danielle Bowden
Joe Don Baker ... Claude Kersek
Robert Mitchum ... Lieutenant Elgart
Gregory Peck ... Lee Heller
Martin Balsam ... Judge
Illeana Douglas ... Lori Davis
Fred Dalton Thompson ... Tom Broadbent
Zully Montero Zully Montero ... Graciella
Craig Henne Craig Henne ... Prisoner
Forest Burton Forest Burton ... Prisoner
Edgar Allan Poe IV Edgar Allan Poe IV ... Prisoner
Rod Ball ... Prisoner


Sam Bowden (Nick Nolte)is a small-town corporate attorney/"Leave It to Beaver" type family-man. Max Cady (Robert De Niro) is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender assigned to Max Cady's rape trial, and he made a serious error: he hid a document from his illiterate client that could have gotten him acquitted. Now, the cagey, bibliophile Cady has been released, and he intends to teach Sam Bowden and his family a thing or two about loss. Written by James Craver

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Sam Bowden has always provided for his family's future. But the past is coming back to haunt them. See more »


Crime | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong violence, and for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

15 November 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Cabo de miedo See more »

Filming Locations:

Florida, USA See more »


Box Office


$35,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo (as Dolby Stereo SR)


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


This was the first film Martin Scorsese shot in the wider 2.39:1 aspect ratio, as opposed to the taller 1.85:1 ratio in which he had filmed all his previous works (excluding New York, New York (1977), which was shot in 1.66:1). For years, he held off shooting his movies in 2.39:1 in fear of pan-and-scan destroying his image. However, by 1991 he knew that widescreen home media was becoming more and more available. So he decided to finally shoot a movie in 2.39:1 since he knew that the movie would see a widescreen release for home media. However despite this, there was still a pan-and-scan VHS released, but along side it was a widescreen VHS and laserdisc released. Because this film saw a pan and scan VHS release, Scorsese shot his later films, The Age of Innocence (1993) and Casino (1995), in the 2.39:1 aspect ratio, using the Super 35 format. See more »


When Sam Bowden is first confronted by Max in his car, he offers to buy Max off. Max counters Sam's hypothetical $10,000 offer with, "Let's say $50,000--$50,000 into [about] 5,000 days" equals $10 per day. He meant to say 5,000 days into $50,000, which would give his daily pay rate. (The first calculation equals 1/10th of a day per dollar.) See more »


[first lines]
Danielle: My reminiscence. I always thought that for such a lovely river the name is mystifying: "Cape Fear". When the only thing to fear on those enchanted summer nights was that the magic would end and real life would come crashing in.
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Crazy Credits

At the start of the film, when the Universal Pictures logo appears on screen, instead by studio's theme, sounds from the thunders and rainy is heard, and the logo changes of Egyptian ripple waters. See more »

Alternate Versions

SPOILER: When the movie was originally shown on network television, the blood left by Kersek's killing was optically removed by censors and replaced by a clean tile floor. See more »


The Bog
Performed by Bigod 20
Courtesy of Sire Records Company
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Released ex-con blames an advocate for his prison and schemes an insidious vendetta on his family
4 March 2012 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Gripping and extraordinary psycho-thriller with an unforgettable Robert De Niro who suffers incarceration and seeks revenge as a nasty criminal and believably creepy . This thriller has a clear reminiscent to previous remake based on John MacDonald's novel titled ¨The executioners¨ and adding riveting psychological layers . It concerns on Max Cady (Robert De Niro, also producer , role formerly performed by Robert Mitchum) a psycho ex-convict excellently played by De Niro , who released from jail after fourteen years accuses a Southern lawyer , a magnificent Nick Nolte, for his several years imprisoned and plans a malevolent vengeance ,vowing make a living hell for his wife (Jessica Lange , anterior role by Polly Bergen) and daughter (Juliette Lewis , previously performed by Lori Martin). Nolte is helped by the chief Inspector (the politician Fred Dalton Thompson , formerly interpreted by Martin Balsam) and he hires an astute detective (Joe Don Baker , role of Telly Savalas) to watch him . Meanwhile, Max Cady/De Niro plays to cat and mouse with his family which is increasingly menaced .

This exciting film with interesting screenplay by Wesley Strick contains psychological characterization , grisly triller , tense situations and is pretty entertaining , though overlong . It's brilliant , atmospheric and slickly developed , almost a masterpiece . Phenomenal and artistic main titles by Saul Bass , Hitchcock's usual . Lavishly produced by the great Steven Spielberg and Barbara De Fina , Scorsese's ordinary producer . Awesome performance from De Niro as a self-educated wacko with ominous purports , though sometimes hands the role overblown and overacting way . Major asset are the continuous suspense and marvelous acting though at the ending becomes into an unbelievable terror film . Casting is frankly awesome with exceptional performances, especially by Nolte as a wily advocate at law , Jessica Lange as suffering wife and Joe Don Baker as a tough eye-private . Brief star cameos by Gregory Peck , Robert Mitchum and Martin Balsam who starred the classical version (1962) by J. Lee Thompson and screenplay by James R. Webb , still daring for his time . Musical score by Elmer Berstein based on the soundtrack composed by the master Bernard Herrmann with a similar style from Hitchcock music films . Sensational and colorful cinematography in Panavision by the excellent and veteran British cameraman Freddie Francis . The motion picture is splendidly directed by Martin Scorsese , one of the best contemporary filmmakers . It's a must see for Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte fans. The film is one of the best thrillers from the 90s in spite of being a remake . Rating : Better than average, well worth watching .

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