February 8th, 1985



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Still of Harrison Ford and Kelly McGillis in WitnessStill of Kelly McGillis in WitnessStill of Lukas Haas in WitnessWitnessStill of Harrison Ford in WitnessStill of Harrison Ford in Witness

A young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder; policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.

Release Year: 1985

Rating: 7.5/10 (37,171 voted)

Critic's Score: 76/100

Director: Peter Weir

Stars: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas

Samuel Lap is a young Amish boy who witnesses a murder in Philadelphia while traveling with his mother Rachel. A good cop named John Book must go with them into hiding when the killers come after them. All three retreat to Amish country and Book has to adjust to the new life style, and his feelings for the boy's mother. Of course the killers are still on their trail.

Writers: William Kelley, Pamela Wallace

Harrison Ford - John Book
Kelly McGillis - Rachel
Josef Sommer - Schaeffer
Lukas Haas - Samuel
Jan Rubes - Eli Lapp
Alexander Godunov - Daniel Hochleitner
Danny Glover - McFee
Brent Jennings - Carter
Patti LuPone - Elaine
Angus MacInnes - Fergie
Frederick Rolf - Stoltzfus
Viggo Mortensen - Moses Hochleitner
John Garson - Bishop Tchantz
Beverly May - Mrs. Yoder
Ed Crowley - Sheriff

Taglines: 8 year old Samuel: sole witness to a murder. Three killers who'll stop at nothing to silence him. One honest cop who'll give his life to save him...

Release Date: 8 February 1985

Filming Locations: 30th Street Station - 3001 Market Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $12,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $4,539,990 (USA) (10 February 1985) (876 Screens)

Gross: $65,500,000 (USA)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Since the Amish community declined to be in the film, a lot of the extras were played by Mennonites.

Continuity: "We've got a barn to build, and only a day to do it"... and yet they start the barn raising around noon (judging by the shadows) instead of the crack of dawn.

Rachel Lapp: Your sister says you don't have a family.
John Book: No, I don't.
Rachel Lapp: She thinks that you ought to get married and have children of your own, instead of trying to be a father to hers.
John Book: Yeah.
Rachel Lapp: Except she thinks you are afraid of the responsibility.
John Book: That's interesting... anything else?
Rachel Lapp: Mm hm... she thinks you like policing because you think you are right about everything and you're the only one who can do anything, and when you drink a lot of beer you say things like 'none of the other police know a crook from a bag of elbows!'. At least I think that's what she said.

User Review


Rating: 7/10

This is one of those movies whose virtues and subtleties become more and more apparent with subsequent viewings. The crime story is nothing more than a pretense - a "MacGuffin", in Hitchcock's phrase - on which to hang this sensitive and insightful story of the conflict between modernity and the culture of the Amish, which is portrayed here with admiring respect and not a hint of condescension.

Harrison Ford's portrayal of John Book is perhaps his finest work on screen so far. In particular, Book's struggle to suppress his rising attraction for Rachel, and his tormented realization that a relationship between them is not possible, is achingly portrayed. Ford's effort is well-matched by Kelly McGillis, whose beauty here is almost breathtaking. The erotic interplay between them, because it is consummated, gives off an almost painful tension, and the easily lampooned "running through the field" scene - because it has been led up to so convincingly - is almost heartbreaking. The character of Eli Lapp, wonderfully played by Jan Rubes, is richly multifaceted. His suspicion of the "English" outsider and his anger at Rachel's attraction to him, is surmounted by an underlying humanity. His parting words to Book, "You be careful out there among them English," are moving testimony to his acceptance of him. His stern yet loving dialogue to his grandson about renouncing hatred and violence is a treasured moment.

Both direction and cinematography are spendid. The simplicity of Amish interiors is shot in a way that makes its austerity almost beautiful, and the barnraising scene is an exercise in cinematic lyricism.

It would be easy to fault the movie for the facile scene in which the punks taunting of Book's newfound friends and protectors drives him over the edge (Eli: "It's not our way, Book" Book: "No, bit it's MY way."), but his gift to the young thug of a bloody nose is mighty satisfying to behold.

My one criticism is with the music; certainly not with the venerable Maurice Jarre's score itself, but with its paltry synthesized realization. They should have found the money to spring for a full orchestra.

In short, a highly satisfying, richly themed, and multifacted film which is well worth watching.


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