A boy blackmails his neighbor after suspecting him to be a Nazi war criminal.


Bryan Singer


Stephen King (novel), Brandon Boyce (screenplay)
6 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Brad Renfro ... Todd Bowden
Ian McKellen ... Kurt Dussander
Joshua Jackson ... Joey
Mickey Cottrell ... Sociology Teacher
Michael Reid MacKay ... Nightmare Victim
Ann Dowd ... Monica Bowden
Bruce Davison ... Richard Bowden
James Karen ... Victor Bowden
Marjorie Lovett ... Agnes Bowden
David Cooley David Cooley ... Gym Teacher
Blake Anthony Tibbetts Blake Anthony Tibbetts ... Teammate
Heather McComb ... Becky Trask
Katherine Malone Katherine Malone ... Student
Grace Sinden Grace Sinden ... Secretary
David Schwimmer ... Edward French


Neighborhood boy Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) discovers that an old man living on his block named Arthur Denker (Sir Ian Mackellan) is a Nazi war criminal. Bowden confronts Denker and offers him a deal: Bowden will not go to the authorities if Denker tells him stories of the concentration camps in World War II. Denker agrees and Bowden starts visiting him regularly. The more stories Bowden hears, the more it affects his personality. Written by Casey Ward <ward@citizen.infi.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


If you don't believe in the existence of evil, you've got a lot to learn.


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for scenes of strong violence, language and brief sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Director Bryan Singer and cast members Sir Ian McKellen and Bruce Davison subsequently worked together on X-Men (2000). Author Stephen King contributed to an X-Men series called "Heroes for Hope" in 1985. See more »


At the end, the monitor shows a flat line and there's a solid tone, yet it still shows a bpm of 189 which then switches to and stays at 167. See more »


Kurt Dussander: To have someone in your control. To have them know that they are alive only because you have not decided to the contrary. Do you have that power? Ask yourself. It's not an easy question, I think you know that.
Todd Bowden: You know this means we're through, don't you? You won't be seeing me around here anymore.
Kurt Dussander: No. I suppose I won't.
Todd Bowden: What are you doing?
[he's pouring two glasses of whiskey]
Kurt Dussander: This is the end. Here. A drink. To our lives together. The beginning and the end.
Todd Bowden: I think you should fuck yourself.
Kurt Dussander: Oh, my ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The film has a 1997 copyright date in the credits. See more »


Version of Apt Pupil See more »


Whatever Will Be, Will Be (Que Sera, Sera)
Written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans
Performed by Ian McKellen
See more »

User Reviews

Very interesting film with two fine central performances
21 March 2012 | by tomgillespie2002See all my reviews

In the late 1990's there was a small resurgence in interest in the work of Stephen King, who had been popularised in the 1970's and '80's as the prime horror author. What was slightly more interesting about this late reprisal, was that the stories were not directly linked to the horror genre, and led to one of the most loved films of the 1990's, The Shawshank Redemption (1994). Whilst this film did not do well in the cinemas, it made it's impact on video, and therefore the more dramatic, cerebral and often realistic King adaptation's were given the green light. Hot off the success of 1995's The Usual Suspects, Bryan Singer was brought in to direct this story of power over other humans, and the devastation this can cause.

Todd Bowden (Brad Renfro) is a top student in his high-school, and the film opens on a closing class focusing on the holocaust. The subject has clearly opened up something in the young man. Being convinced that there is an ex-Nazi officer living secretly in his neighbourhood, he decides to pay the man, Kurt Dussander (Ian McKellen), a visit. What transpires is that Todd had collected research on the subject, and uses this to blackmail Kurt into revisiting and verbalising his war stories, with particularly macabre focus on the killing of Jews. As the relationship between the two progresses it becomes clear that what fascinates Todd the most, is the power that was exerted over a people, and he has a hunger to know what this power is like. This begins with his power over Kurt; he revels in a display of power after he purchases a Nazi uniform for Kurt and makes him march on the spot. However the power that Todd exposes, is also resurfaced in the very isolated old man.

Well, as this is a Stephen King adaptation, the film obviously leads to murder. But the main theme of the film is the abuses of power, and the corrupting nature of power over others. It's a very interesting film, and Singer's direction is spot on. Seeing this now also highlights the loss of a very promising actor, Brad Renfro, who unfortunately died of a drug overdose in 2008. However, without any doubt this is McKellen's film. He is note perfect for this ageing, lonely man, who has had to live with his knowledge of the concentration camps for many years. The film does tend to lose it's effect at times, and falls into a clichéd trap; for example, after Kurt has attempted to kill a homeless guy, but has to get the young Todd to finish the job after suffering a heart attack, Todd repeatedly hits the tramp with a shovel - a jump moment proceeds as the tramp gets back up after 'being killed' - yawn. However, this seems mainly to be the fault of the narrative, and is easy to overcome, particularly with the two fine central performances.


3 of 3 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 278 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.



USA | France | Canada


English | German

Release Date:

23 October 1998 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Apt Pupil See more »

Filming Locations:

USA See more »


Box Office


$14,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$3,583,151, 25 October 1998

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

SDDS (8 channels)| Dolby SR


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

2.39 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Recently Viewed