7.7/10
167,843
278 user 87 critic

Primal Fear (1996)

Trailer
2:28 | Trailer
An altar boy is accused of murdering a priest, and the truth is buried several layers deep.

Director:

Gregory Hoblit

Writers:

William Diehl (novel), Steve Shagan (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
Reviews
Popularity
1,616 ( 50)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 10 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

The Game (1997)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

After a wealthy banker is given an opportunity to participate in a mysterious game, his life is turned upside down when he becomes unable to distinguish between the game and reality.

Director: David Fincher
Stars: Michael Douglas, Deborah Kara Unger, Sean Penn
Drama | Fantasy | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

In turn-of-the-century Vienna, a magician uses his abilities to secure the love of a woman far above his social standing.

Director: Neil Burger
Stars: Edward Norton, Jessica Biel, Paul Giamatti
Mystic River (2003)
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

The lives of three men who were childhood friends are shattered when one of them has a family tragedy.

Director: Clint Eastwood
Stars: Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Two Boston area detectives investigate a little girl's kidnapping, which ultimately turns into a crisis both professionally and personally.

Director: Ben Affleck
Stars: Morgan Freeman, Ed Harris, Casey Affleck
Red Dragon (2002)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A retired FBI agent with psychological gifts is assigned to help track down "The Tooth Fairy", a mysterious serial killer. Aiding him is imprisoned forensic psychiatrist Dr. Hannibal "The Cannibal" Lecter.

Director: Brett Ratner
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Edward Norton, Ralph Fiennes
Identity (2003)
Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

Stranded at a desolate Nevada motel during a nasty rain-storm, ten strangers become acquainted with each other when they realize that they're being killed off one by one.

Director: James Mangold
Stars: John Cusack, Ray Liotta, Amanda Peet
Fracture (2007)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

An attorney intent on climbing the career ladder toward success, finds an unlikely opponent in a manipulative criminal he is trying to prosecute.

Director: Gregory Hoblit
Stars: Anthony Hopkins, Ryan Gosling, David Strathairn
25th Hour (2002)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.

Director: Spike Lee
Stars: Edward Norton, Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman
The Machinist (2004)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

An industrial worker who hasn't slept in a year begins to doubt his own sanity.

Director: Brad Anderson
Stars: Christian Bale, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Aitana Sánchez-Gijón
Rounders (1998)
Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A young, reformed gambler must return to playing big stakes poker to help a friend pay off loan sharks, while balancing his relationship with his girlfriend and his commitments to law school.

Director: John Dahl
Stars: Matt Damon, Edward Norton, Gretchen Mol
Insomnia (2002)
Drama | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

Two Los Angeles homicide detectives are dispatched to a northern town where the sun doesn't set to investigate the methodical murder of a local teen.

Director: Christopher Nolan
Stars: Al Pacino, Robin Williams, Hilary Swank
The Others (2001)
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

A woman who lives in her darkened old family house with her two photosensitive children becomes convinced that the home is haunted.

Director: Alejandro Amenábar
Stars: Nicole Kidman, Christopher Eccleston, Fionnula Flanagan
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard Gere ... Martin Vail
Laura Linney ... Janet Venable
John Mahoney ... Shaughnessy
Alfre Woodard ... Shoat
Frances McDormand ... Molly
Edward Norton ... Aaron / Roy
Terry O'Quinn ... Yancy
Andre Braugher ... Goodman
Steven Bauer ... Pinero
Joe Spano ... Stenner
Tony Plana ... Martinez
Stanley Anderson ... Rushman
Maura Tierney ... Naomi
Jon Seda ... Alex
Reg Rogers ... Connerman
Edit

Storyline

When a young man, Aaron, is charged with the horrific murder of Archbishop Rushman, hot-shot Chicago lawyer Martin Vail takes on his defense at no charge. Aaron was a homeless street kid before he was taken in by the Archbishop. He's shy and speaks with a stammer. Vail is convinced that Aaron is innocent but after discovering a video that shows Aaron may have had good reason to want the Archbishop dead, he begins to question that conclusion. When Aaron lashes out at the psychologist examining him another personality, Roy, is revealed. With the trial already underway, Vail cannot change Aaron plea and so has to find a way to introduce his client's condition. Aaron has something of a surprise for him as well. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Sooner or later a man who wears two faces forgets which one is real. See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief grisly violence, pervasive strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

3 April 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Iskonski strah See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$30,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,871,222, 7 April 1996

Gross USA:

$56,116,183

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$102,616,183
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Casting the role of Aaron/Roy was such a challenge, Richard Gere nearly left the project before Edward Norton came in. See more »

Goofs

(at around 1h 19 mins) It is stated by several characters that a plea cannot be changed mid trial. However, it is entirely possible to change a plea before sentencing. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
[while getting dressed as Naomi helps him]
Martin Vail: On my first day of law school, my professor says two things. First was: from this day forward, when your mother tells you she loves you, get a second opinion.
Jack Connerman: [chuckles] And?
Martin Vail: If you want justice, go to a whorehouse. If you wanna get fucked, go to court.
See more »

Connections

Featured in The Hour: Episode #7.159 (2011) See more »

Soundtracks

Chez What
Written & Performed by Steve Porcaro
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Full of holes but still enjoyable and inventive
1 February 2004 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

When an altar boy, Aaron Stampler, is accused of murdering a priest, the media-friendly, arrogant lawyer Martin Vail takes the case (and the headlines). However he discovers that the boy is not all he seems and that there may have been a third person in the room when the priest was murdered. However his plea is fixed and he must work the case to turn things back to his advantage.

Years ago, the UK did a day where the Government subsidised cinemas to offer all tickets for £1. On that day I had nothing I wanted to see but I thought (like thousands other) that a saving of £3 (at the time) was too good to miss, so I went to see this film despite my caution when it comes to courtroom thrillers. The plot here is so very full of holes that it is a wonder that the whole film doesn't fall into itself, however it just about manages to succeed by being quite clever and significantly different from the usual courtroom stuff (although it does still have the same faults as the rest of the genre).

The film is a lot darker than many courtroom thrillers; first of all, Vail is not a sympathetic character - he is arrogant and conceited, and the film never really offers him redemption at any point. Likewise the climax of the film is not the usual genre twist - or rather, it is, but not in the usual way. The film's main weakness however is that it is at least 20 minutes too long. The revelations about Roy happen but then are forgotten for about 10 minutes and then raised again before being put aside again. I really can't even understand why the film feels so padded at points in the middle when really that was when the Roy thing kicks in and the film should have stepped up a gear in a flash. That it doesn't is a problem, but not an insurmountable one, as it does slowly get faster towards a downbeat conclusion that is enjoyably different from the usual Perry Mason style twist (although it is a twist).

I'm by no means a Richard Gere fan, but he does a very good job here. He never wants to be a good guy here and he plays it well. However the film is driven by a great performance from Norton, marking himself out as one to watch in coming years. His dual roles are great and the film would have failed if he hadn't been able to carry it off. The support cast is surprisingly deep with people who were either well-known at the time or became famous later. When a cast includes Mahoney, McDormand, Woodard, Linney, Seda, and Braugher then it is worth a look - although some of them have very small roles there are no weak links. However it is a credit to Norton that he stands shoulder to shoulder with all of them and is the one that sticks in the mind long after it finishes.

Overall this is an enjoyable courtroom thriller that only struggles in the middle with an inability to really just let rip. It's ironic, but I enjoyed it because it was less showy and so on when compared to others of the genre, but it could have benefited from knowing when to let go sooner. However the cast is top notch and the unlikely plot is held together by a low key Gere and a fantastic central performance(s) from Norton.


50 of 78 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 278 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Free Movies and TV Shows You Can Watch Now

On IMDb TV, you can catch Hollywood hits and popular TV series at no cost. Select any poster below to play the movie, totally free!

Browse free movies and TV series

Stream Trending Movies With Prime Video

Enjoy a night in with these popular movies available to stream now with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed