186 user 63 critic

The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)

0:31 | Trailer
A bridge engineer and an experienced old hunter begin a hunt for two lions after they start attacking local construction workers.


Stephen Hopkins


William Goldman
Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Douglas ... Charles Remington
Val Kilmer ... Col. John Henry Patterson
Tom Wilkinson ... Robert Beaumont
John Kani ... Samuel
Bernard Hill ... Dr. David Hawthorne
Brian McCardie ... Angus Starling
Emily Mortimer ... Helena Patterson
Om Puri ... Abdullah
Henry Cele ... Mahina
Kurt Egelhof Kurt Egelhof ... Indian Victim
Satchu Annamalai Satchu Annamalai ... Worker #1
Teddy Reddy Teddy Reddy ... Worker #2
Raheem Khan Raheem Khan ... Worker #3 (as Rakeem Khan)
Jack Devnarain Jack Devnarain ... Nervous Sikh Orderly
Glen Gabela Glen Gabela ... Orderly #1


Sir Robert Beaumont is behind schedule on a railroad in Africa. Enlisting noted engineer John Henry Patterson to right the ship, Beaumont expects results. Everything seems great until the crew discovers the mutilated corpse of the project's foreman, seemingly killed by a lion. After several more attacks, Patterson calls in famed hunter Charles Remington, who has finally met his match in the bloodthirsty lions. Written by Jwelch5742

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Only the most incredible parts are true. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violence and gore involving animal attacks | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Theatrical trailer shows two alternate scenes; Alternate take and angle of the scene where Samuel says "They are not lions, they are the ghost and the darkness" and alternate close up angles of Patterson and Remington during the scene where they are preparing trap for lions and are talking about how many people did the lions killed. Making of documentary shows following deleted scenes: Samuel saying "If we stay, we will all die" (it looks like this was part of his same alternate scene shown in trailer), Samuel and Patterson standing on the bridge and looking at jungle when Samuel asks Patterson "Do you know what Tsavo means?" when Patterson says no Samuel says "The place of slaughter", alternate/additional narration by Samuel about the story of two lions where he says "This is the most famous true story of Africa. But even now, when children ask about it, you do not tell them at night", extended dialogue in scene where Remington and Patterson first meet and Remington says one extra line "Stay out of my way". See more »


In reality, Patterson killed both lions himself. The great white hunter Remington is complete fiction, and no one like that was ever present in Tsavo during the time the events took place. See more »


[first lines]
Samuel: [narrating] This is the most famous and true African adventure. Famous because what took place at Tsavo never happened before. Colonel John Patterson was there when it began. A fine Irish gentleman, a brilliant engineer. He was my friend. My name is Samuel. I was there. Remember this: even the most impossible parts of this story really happened.
See more »

Crazy Credits

The beginning of the end credits is shown with a photograph of the real bridge as background. See more »


Referenced in The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day (2009) See more »


Jungal Bahar (The Prey Song)
Written and Produced by George Acogny
Performed by The Worldbeaters with The Johannesburg Choir
See more »

User Reviews

Based on real events about two lions whose attacks stop the construction of the East African Railroad
25 March 2014 | by ma-cortesSee all my reviews

Thrilling as well as handsome adventure story set in 1896 , dealing with of two man-eating lions , hunting together for sport rather than food , as they killed 130 people and nearly derailed the building of the East African Railway . These Lions of Tsavo (prophetically means place of slaughter) were maneless, perhaps due to environmental variables, although maneless lions are not unique to Tsavo. Their taste for man may have been due to an outbreak of Rinderpest at the time, which may have depleted their normal prey. Engineer John Patterson (Val Kilmer) is sent by his chief (Tom Wilkinson) to build a bridge over the Tsavo river . Then the workers become convinced the lions , nicknamed ¨The Ghost¨ and ¨the Darkness¨ are actually demons carrying out a cruel carnage . John sets in pursuit the beasts but he has little luck killing the lions , though he gets to survive on a mixture of cunning and bravura . As the beasts contemptuously evade all traps set for them . After losing dozens of workers to the lions, the company brought in Remington, an American , to hunt them, but even his reputation for being the best could not prevent yet more massacre . There is eventually formed a team between the brave engineer and a famous white hunter (Michael Douglas ,despite having top billing, he doesn't appear on screen until 45 minutes into the movie) but the legendary lions survive to kill and kill again ; as they still seem to have advantage until a frenziedly breathtaking last reel .

This nail-biting film packs thrills , chills , grisly events , slurping blood , quick cut edition is used to depict the lions' attacks and terror elements . Based on a true story well screen-written by the notorious writer William Goldman , he took the actual experiences by real Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson published a book about his adventures , titled "The Man-Eaters of Tsavo" ; however , Michael Douglas' character Remington as a 'great white hunter' is fictionalized , while Val Kilmer's character John Patterson killed both lions . Lt. Col. Patterson owned the skins and skulls of the two Tsavo man-eaters. After the lions were killed, their skins were used as rugs by Patterson. They were later sold In 1924, Patterson sold them to the Field Museum in Chicago for $5,000 . Because they were originally used as rugs with resulting deterioration of the hides, the lions are much smaller than they originally were . There is only one scene involving an animatronic lion , all the other shots were used using two real life lions named Bongo and Caeser ; the same lions also appeared in the film George of the jungle (1997).

Very good acting from main cast , and nice support casting . As Val Kilmer is magnificent as an engineer in charge of building a bridge and turned into a relentless hunter . Michael Douglas is top-notch as a two-fisted as well as legendary game hunter with his complex mixture of bravado , toughness and calm . Impressive production design and art design from Stuart Wurtzel and Giles Masters , including wonderful outdoors and a lot of extras . The location where the bridge was built is now called Man-Eater's Junction, after the two lions. It is in Tsavo East National Park, Kenya, about 200 miles southeast of Nairobi . Support actors are frankly engaging such as Tom Wilkinson as Robert Beaumont , John Kani as Samuel , Bernard Hill as Dr. David Hawthorne , Brian McCardie as Angus Starling , Om Puri as Abdullah and Emily Mortimer as wife . Rousing as well as exciting musical score by maestro Jerry Goldsmith . The motion picture was compellingly filmed by Director Stephen Hopkins (Lost in space , Predator 2 , Under suspicion , Blown away) , he wanted his longtime collaborator Peter Levy to be the film's cinematographer, but he was overruled by the studio, who wanted to hire Vilmos Zsigmond who carries out a splendid and colorful cinematography . Rating : Above average . Well worth watching .

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Germany | USA


English | Hindi

Release Date:

11 October 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Ghost and the Darkness See more »


Box Office


$55,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,215,063, 13 October 1996

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

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