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Witness (1985)

tomatometer

91

Average Rating: 8.1/10
Reviews Counted: 35
Fresh: 32 | Rotten: 3

A wonderfully entertaining thriller within an unusual setting, with Harrison Ford delivering a surprisingly emotive and sympathetic performance.

71

Average Rating: 7.2/10
Critic Reviews: 7
Fresh: 5 | Rotten: 2

A wonderfully entertaining thriller within an unusual setting, with Harrison Ford delivering a surprisingly emotive and sympathetic performance.

audience

80

liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 45,566

My Rating

Movie Info

In Peter Weir's thriller Witness, Samuel (Lukas Haas), a young Amish boy, witnesses a murder in the restroom of a Philadelphia bus station. Harrison Ford stars as John Book, the police detective investigating the murder. When Book discovers that the crime was part of a conspiracy involving several officials in his department, he flees Philadelphia to the Amish community where Samuel lives with his widowed mother, Rachel (Kelly McGillis). Slowly assimilating himself into the Amish community, Book

Jun 29, 1999

Paramount Pictures

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All Critics (35) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (3) | DVD (27)

Weir, an Australian filming in this country for the first time, has succumbed to blandness.

January 14, 2013 Full Review Source: New Yorker
New Yorker
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A moderately effective, highly affected thriller.

January 14, 2013 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Witness warms up as the attraction builds between Ford, McGillis and Haas -- all performing excellently through this portion.

July 6, 2010 Full Review Source: Variety
Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Playing John Book allowed viewers the opportunity to see Ford the actor instead of Ford the action/adventure icon. It is one of the few times he has been given the opportunity to play in a straight drama.

June 10, 2008 Full Review Source: ReelViews
ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Powerful, assured, full of beautiful imagery and thankfully devoid of easy moralising, it also offers a performance of surprising skill and sensitivity from Ford.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Harrison Ford has never given a better performance in a movie.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times | Comment (1)
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Taut drama has just a few moments of intense violence.

July 2, 2013 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

Harrison Ford renders one of his best dramatic performances, for which he won his sole Oscar nomination, in Peter Weir's beautifully shot feature, which is effective as a cop thriller as well as a chronicle of the rural Amish subculture.

February 5, 2009 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com
EmanuelLevy.Com

A lot of care and attention has gone into both the Oscar-winning screenplay and the beautiful cinematography, to create a powerful and romantic story.

December 4, 2007 Full Review Source: BBC.com

My favourite Peter Weir film, Witness is something special...Three years after Blade Runner, Harrison Ford is at his best, while Kelly McGillis in her second film role, exudes a Grace Kelly-like serenity.

November 30, 2007 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Ford is on top of his form, underplaying his role throughout and never mugging it up for the cameras.

November 29, 2007 Full Review Source: eFilmCritic.com
Oz
eFilmCritic.com

A back-of-beyond thriller from Weir, who turns his sharp eye incisively on America's cosy heartland.

November 29, 2007 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

...a refreshingly adult story.

November 28, 2007 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Fish-out-of-water stories were very popular for a while in the 1980s, but none had the classical resonance of this powerful Oscar-nominated drama.

November 17, 2005 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Humanizes the conflict of peace versus the arguable necessity of violence.

August 20, 2005
Groucho Reviews

It's got some action, some romance, a few drips of comedy, and a lot of fascinating insight into a culture we know very little about.

August 17, 2005 Full Review Source: DVD Clinic
DVD Clinic

takes a high concept idea and turns it into a character study more suspenseful and more rewarding than the anticipated norm

July 14, 2005 Full Review Source: Filmcritic.com
Filmcritic.com

A compelling thriller, a smoldering love story, a thoughtful study in comparative cultures, and a respectful exploration of religious community and nonviolence.

February 3, 2005 Full Review Source: Decent Films Guide
Decent Films Guide

A dynamic, thoughtful thriller that balances its themes extraordinarily well.

March 18, 2004
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

An offence to the Amish

August 21, 2003 | Comments (4)
Pasadena Weekly

Audience Reviews for Witness

I am sure that it impressed when it was released, however today Witness feels very dated, slow, and a bit underwhelming. Nonetheless, one can appreciate the film for its unique storyline, even if the quality of the film doesn't do it justice. I was expecting more. Harrison Ford does impress, as he always does, but no real surprises here.
July 30, 2014
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer

While the script eventually steamrolls over the finer details of a very different culture, "Witness" is nonetheless a very unique 80s thriller that succeeds thanks to Harrison Ford's charming performance and some resonant thematic moments about how people deal with the similarities and differences between cultures.
October 11, 2013
Sam Barnett

Super Reviewer

While it isn't wrong to call this 1985 Peter Weir drama a romantic thriller, it should be noted that less emphasis should be put on the thriller side of things, as it's only a thriller at t he beginning and end, with the bulk of the film being a romantic drama about culture clash and forbidden love.

A young Amish boy named Samuel witnesses a brutal murder in a bus station bathroom. Hardened Philadelphia police detective John Book is assigned to investigate. When he realizes the murder is part of a larger conspiracy involving people in his own department, Book gets wounded and flees to Amish country with Samuel and his recently widowed mother Rachel.

While recuperating, Book slowly begins to assimilate to the more plain and simple way of life his hosts live, and along the way finds himself falling in love with Rachel, despite the complications and consequences of such a forbidden situation.

This is one of the few films to really seriously focus on the Amish, and it's great. Yeah, the film isn't a perfect representation of their culture, but it is fairly accurate, but, more importantly, fairly respectful and sensible with how it treats things. It provides nice insight, and also gives a good look at how the Amish stick out as much in John's world as he does in theirs.

The film isn't fast paced, but that's actually not a problem. It takes it's time to do some world building, and develop the story and characters. Thankfully this is all interesting subject matter, too. There's romance, as I mentioned, but it's handled in a not very Hollywood way, which is a breath of fresh air. The film is quite serious, but it does have a few needed moments of levity here and there.

Harrison Ford is great here. This marked a change for him as he had, until this point, primarily spent his time either in sci-fi action romps, or as Indiana Jones. Here he is simply in a straight drama, and he delivers a quietly affecting performance. Lukas Haas is also good as the young Samuel, but the real jewel is Kelly McGillis as Rachel. She's a solemn, traditional woman, but her curiosity gets the best of her the more she spends time around the "Englishman". It's also cool seeing Viggo Mottensen in his brief big screen debut.

Featuring strong writing and direction, an interesting and fitting score from Maurice Jarre that's sometimes really otherworldly, and some good cinematography, this is a wonderful movie with a great story that I highly recommend.
January 21, 2013
cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Not bad 80's thriller. It does go on a little in the middle with the Amish stuff (I mean, seriously, did we need to see a barn getting built?), and the romance was a little odd, but still worth a look. I had never seen this before and I did not find it too dated.
March 4, 2012
romy861

Super Reviewer

    1. Eli Lapp: Just squeeze the teats. I don't think you've ever squeezed a teat before.
    2. John Book: Never one that big.
    3. Eli Lapp: Ha! Ha! Ha!
    – Submitted by George P (8 months ago)
    1. Rachel: We're all very happy that your going to live, John Book. We didn't know what we were going to do with you if you died.
    – Submitted by George P (8 months ago)
    1. Moses Hochleitner: No. Try not. Do or do not. There is no try.
    – Submitted by Jesse K (23 months ago)
View all quotes (3)

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