A mild-mannered man becomes a local hero through an act of violence, which sets off repercussions that will shake his family to its very core.


David Cronenberg


John Wagner (graphic novel), Vince Locke (graphic novel) | 1 more credit »
2,100 ( 96)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 37 wins & 82 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Viggo Mortensen ... Tom Stall
Maria Bello ... Edie Stall
Ed Harris ... Carl Fogarty
William Hurt ... Richie Cusack
Ashton Holmes ... Jack Stall
Peter MacNeill ... Sheriff Sam Carney
Stephen McHattie ... Leland
Greg Bryk ... Billy
Kyle Schmid ... Bobby Singer
Sumela Kay ... Judy Danvers
Gerry Quigley Gerry Quigley ... Mick
Deborah Drakeford ... Charlotte
Heidi Hayes ... Sarah Stall
Aidan Devine ... Charlie Roarke
Bill MacDonald Bill MacDonald ... Frank Mulligan


Leading a happy and quiet life with his lawyer wife and their two children in the small town of Millbrook, Indiana, mild-mannered Tom Stall cherishes his simple, uneventful existence. However, their idyllic lifestyle is shattered when, one night, Tom saves his customers and friends in self-defence, foiling a vicious attempted robbery in his diner by two violent wanted criminals. Now, heralded as a local hero, Tom's life is changed overnight, attracting unwanted attention, and a national media feeding frenzy. Uncomfortable with his newfound celebrity, Tom tries to return to normalcy, only to find himself confronted by a mysterious man who arrives in town believing Tom is the man who wronged him in the past. More and more, as Tom and his family struggle to cope with their new reality and this case of mistaken identity, they have no other choice but to fight back and protect all that they hold dear. But, is there more to Tom than meets the eye? Does he have, indeed, a history of violence? Written by Nick Riganas

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A film by David Cronenberg See more »


Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong brutal violence, graphic sexuality, nudity, language and some drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Viggo Mortensen came to prominence playing Aragorn in the Lord of the Rings films. Those films were scored by Howard Shore, best known for his collaborations with David Cronenberg. The films also featured Ian Holm, who had worked with Cronenberg on Naked Lunch and Existenz. See more »


Although quite out of focus and in the distance, two police cruisers can easily be seen blocking traffic with their overhead lights on as Tom is driving towards Philly. See more »


[first lines]
William Orser: [Leland and Billy walk out of the motel room] So we keep headin' east?
Leland Jones: Yeah, that's the idea.
William Orser: Stay out of the big cities?
Leland Jones: Uh-huh.
William Orser: I think I'm tired.
Leland Jones: [Leland smiles] Yeah. Me, too.
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Alternate Versions

There are some minute differences between the US and the International version when it comes to some of the violent scenes:
  • Fogarty's thug, who gets his nose smashed into his skull has more blood spurt out in the International version in the shot where he is dying on the ground.
  • When Joey stomps on Richie's thug's throat, he spits blood (instead of it 'welling up') and the sound effect of the neck breaking is louder. Both shots last the same length of time and use the same take, the amount of blood was simply toned down digitally for the MPAA. Most video versions outside the U.S. use the 'international version' but the shots appear in the supplements on the U.S. DVD (In the featurette titled 'Violence's History', Cronenberg shows the U.S. and international cut scenes side by side and explains the reason why there wasn't a standard 'unrated' version in the U.S. was because the changes were so small).
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Club Hoppin'
Written by Michael Foster and Darrell 'Digga' Branch
Performed by Blinky Blink
Courtesy of Spirit Music Group
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User Reviews

30 October 2005 | by nowonmai42See all my reviews

In the first fifteen minutes of "A History of Violence," we get a small town diner, a baseball game, and a sneering, varsity letter-wearing high school bully. Throw in an apple pie on a window sill and some kids saying bedtime prayers, and you've got the Saturday Evening Post. But this is the work of David Cronenberg, whose films so often explore the blurry – and icky – lines between biology and technology. So it's not surprising when this film, too, heads for the gray areas, this time between the sensibilities of Rockwell and Tarantino.

Small town diner owner Tom Stalls (Viggo Mortenson) runs the kind of place where you can eat at the counter, and "see you in church" is a standard goodbye. When he single-handedly foils a robbery and saves a few lives, then, the townsfolk are impressed and grateful, but not all that surprised. Tom is a Man, after all, and that's what Men do. But as David Lynch has taught us, pastoral postcard America often conceals deep weirdness and violence. The diner incident is of course big news in Anytown, USA, and Tom finds himself attracting not only local reporters who want to know "how it felt," but also the Reservoir Dog-type Mr. Foggerty (Ed Harris), who isn't surprised that Tom knows his way around a gun, and waxes nostalgic about good times in Philadelphia involving barbed wire and a guy named Joey Cusack. Foggerty seems to think Tom knows exactly what he's talking about.

Tom as "local hero" his family can handle, but after the Foggerty matter comes to a head, they do begin to wonder where these moves that would make Jeff Speakman proud are coming from. Perhaps more unsettling is the fact that they unconsciously sort of get off on their new image of dad. Junior soon finds in himself the will to flatten his jock tormentor, and wife Edie (Maria Bello) with some gusto acts out a rough rape fantasy with her hubby. Tom Stalls, indeed, but can't prevent the inevitable truth from coming to light nor catching up with him. That's shocking enough to his family, though maybe less so than the ways that knowledge affects them.

"A History of Violence" is fond of feinting toward familiar territory, only to veer away. Just when we think we've seen if before, in "Natural Born Killers," "Cape Fear," and the "just when I think I'm out, they pull me back in" tropes of countless mob flicks, it shifts its focus. For all its brutality, it comes across as a quiet movie. There is indeed more to Tom than he lets on, but less than his detractors might believe. He may be a liar in the strictest sense, but his protestations to his family and persecutors are sincere. The contemplation of violence, both pre and post-facto, rather than the acts themselves, drive the film. Whether the capability for, and indeed commission of, such acts permanently defines a person is left for us to decide. The film ends ensconced once again in small town tranquility, though this time seething with unspoken fear, accusations, and uncertainty. "A History of Violence" doesn't force itself with preaching or moralizing, but simply unfolds. It's another solid offering from the strong career of David Cronenberg.

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Release Date:

30 September 2005 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

A History of Violence See more »


Box Office


$32,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$364,000, 25 September 2005

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (heavily cut)

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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