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The Ghost and the Darkness (1996)



Average Rating: 4/10
Critic Reviews: 10
Fresh: 1 | Rotten: 9

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.3/5
User Ratings: 52,413

My Rating

Movie Info

A man bringing modern transportation to the ancient jungles of Africa discovers one of man's oldest enemies lays in wait for him in this period adventure drama. John Beaumont (Tom Wilkinson) is the owner of a British railroad firm who is building a rail line through Uganda. A bridge is needed so that the tracks may cross a large river, and engineer John Henry Patterson (Val Kilmer) is summoned to the African nation to supervise construction. While Beaumont has placed Patterson under a strict


Drama, Action & Adventure, Horror

William Goldman

Dec 1, 1998

Paramount Home Video

Watch It Now



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All Critics (54) | Top Critics (15) | Fresh (23) | Rotten (23) | DVD (4)

The picture is too lightweight, too posturing and too self-important to go in an introspective direction.

June 18, 2002 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ranges in quality from adolescent boys' adventure stories to Heart of Darkness.

April 12, 2002 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

When the movie sticks to fact, the result is a hypnotic spectacle.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

A scenery-chewing Michael Douglas is the highlight of this passable landlocked variation of Jaws.

October 6, 2005
Fantastica Daily

Effectively wipes out the lion's cuddly image from The Lion King and reinstates its rep as the fearsome king of the jungle.

September 10, 2005 Full Review Source:

It sounds like it might be a good movie, but it ain't.

August 25, 2005 | Comments (2)
7M Pictures

A roaring adventure.

January 28, 2005 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

atmospheric but uneven thriller

November 8, 2004
Shadows on the Wall

Gets a bit weird and boring. Both stars can do better.

April 3, 2004

An exciting man vs. nature adventure that falls short of terrifying because William Goldman's script is too reminiscent of Jaws.

July 11, 2003 Full Review
Northwest Herald (Crystal Lake, IL)

Excellent thriller. Michael Douglas and Val Kilmer are outstanding.

January 24, 2003

Enjoyable and entertaining in a passive sort of way. Kilmer's performance makes the film.

January 9, 2003
Flipside Movie Emporium

Provides us with an unforgettable primal encounter with the mysterious other.

August 28, 2002 Full Review Source: Spirituality and Practice
Spirituality and Practice

A compelling experience because it is true and because it is photographed with such panoramic intensity.

June 26, 2002
Jam! Movies

A rousingly effective 'man versus beast' yarn in the great tradition of Jaws and Moby Dick.

June 5, 2002 Full Review Source: Boxoffice Magazine
Boxoffice Magazine

The Ghost And the Darkness keeps you waiting, and waiting, and waiting... and it just never revs up.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source:

The main failure of the script is a complete lack of tension.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Examiner
San Francisco Examiner

The Ghost and the Darkness isn't bad as a matinee distraction, but goodness knows it isn't good, either.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: SPLICEDWire

What Jaws did for sharks, The Ghost and the Darkness may do for lions.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City

Audience Reviews for The Ghost and the Darkness

Based on a true story, this is a suspenseful adventure yarn about the Tsavo Manhunters who terrorized laborers working on a railroad in East Africa in 1896.

The Tsavo Manhunters are a pair of vicious lions who kill for sport, and seem unafraid of man and fire, and have an almost supernatural ability to sense danger and traps. The native workers name them the Ghost and The Darkness, due to their attack methods.

Col. John Henry Patterson is a railroad engineer/big game hunter tasked with killing the lions and getting the railroad built on time. His efforts to succeed continually fail, so a wily American big game hunter named Charles Remington is brought in to help him out.

Screenwriter William Goldman was originally wanting to meld Lawrence of Arabia with Jaws. The basic idea of that is onscreen, but unfortunately it isn't taking to the level it could have been. Maybe had a stronger director been attached... The film strays some from the original story, mostly by adding the fictional character of Remington, but still retains the gist and spirit of the actual events.

The film is actually rather light on gore, and some of the action scenes are a bit too choppy and frenetic with how they're edited, but somehow the film is still rather suspenseful and gripping. Plus, it's got some good cinematography, and the deeper themes of imperialism and "white man as champion" are touched upon and dealt with somewhat, so that's cool. The music is also appropriately subversive at times, and tense when it needs to be.

Val Kilmer is good as Patterson, and I like how they don't treat him as a total wimpy character. Michael Douglas is wildly scenery chewing as Remington, but perhaps a bit too over-the-top and goofy. Still though, his performance is rather fun to watch. A pre-fame Tom Wilkinson is good at the company man who doesn't care about the setbacks, and just wants his damn railroad built, and John Kani is decent as the native sidekick Samuel.

All in all, this is a decent enough adventure thriller in the vein of old fashioned adventure serials. It's pretty flawed, and sometimes goofy, but I found myself more pleased with it than not, so give it a go.
August 15, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

This African hunting adventure seems to come right out of the era of great Hollywood films with similar themes. It is old-fashioned in the good sense. Two men, their guns and two lions, that terrorize a bridge-building camp in Uganda. That simply premise is delivered well here, with decent acting, enthralling lion attacks and action scenes and great cinematography. When the camera lingers on the sea of dry grass and you expect to spot a lion in there somewhere, the film is particularly strong. Sadly, it wastes its rather interesting minor characters a little too easily. But overall, it's an entertaining and well made film.
January 19, 2012

Super Reviewer

This movie is unintentionally hilarious with its cheesy lines and horrible acting. Michael Douglas turns in a hilariously bad performance while Val Kilmer is tolerable. The only thing that makes this movie interesting is that it is true (with Hollywood exaggerations of course).
December 6, 2011
Sanjay Rema

Super Reviewer

Movies Like The Ghost and the Darkness

    1. Samuel: Are not lions, they are The Ghost and the Darkness.
    – Submitted by Brunno S (2 years ago)
    1. Helena Patterson: Save yourself. No, send me your ATM.
    – Submitted by Barbara N (3 years ago)
    1. Col. John Henry Patterson: I'm a tad frightened, you?
    – Submitted by Barbara N (3 years ago)
    1. Col. John Henry Patterson: Gevalt! Women and children go first!
    – Submitted by Barbara N (3 years ago)
View all quotes (4)

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