Mother Night (1996) - Rotten Tomatoes

Mother Night (1996)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. once summarized the moral of his novel Mother Night like so: "We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be." In Keith Gordon's film adaptation of Vonnegut's book, Nick Nolte stars as Howard W. Campbell Jr., an American playwright living in Germany shortly before the U.S. entered World War II. Campbell is essentially apolitical; if he sometimes hobnobs with Nazi leaders, it's only because they're VIPs in his time, place, and social circle, and he cares for little besides his writing and his beloved wife Helga (Sheryl Lee). One day, Campbell is approached by Frank Wirtenan (John Goodman), an American intelligence agent who offers Campbell an unusual assignment -- a position as a radio commentator beaming Nazi propaganda broadcasts to U.S. troops across Europe, which in fact feature coded information that will aid the American war effort. Campbell agrees, but succeeds all too well -- he makes such a convincing Nazi sympathizer that at the end of the war, he finds it impossible to convince people he wasn't really a Nazi, and even those inclined to believe him feel he aided Germany as much as the Allies. After 15 years as a recluse in New York City, a racist tabloid prints a story about Campbell, and in 1961 he discovers himself behind bars, awaiting trial as a war criminal. Besides Nick Nolte, who gives an outstanding performance, the supporting cast also includes Alan Arkin, Frankie Faison, and Kirsten Dunst; Kurt Vonnegut Jr. also makes a cameo appearance.more
Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Drama, Action & Adventure, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 22, 2000
New Line Home Entertainment


Nick Nolte
as Howard Campbell
Sheryl Lee
as Helga Noth
Alan Arkin
as George Kraft
John Goodman
as Frank Wirtanen
Kirsten Dunst
as Resi Noth
Arye Gross
as Abraham Epstein
Frankie Faison
as Black Fuhrer of Harl...
David Strathairn
as Bernard B. O'Hare
Bernard Behrens
as Dr. Lionel Jones
Henry Gibson
as Adolph Eichmann's Vo...
Norman Rodway
as Werner Noth
Anna Berger
as Epstein's Mother
Anthony J. Robinow
as Prison Warden
Michael McGill
as Prison Official
Shimon Aviel
as Guard Bernard Liebma...
Bill Corday
as Campbell's Father
Bronwen Mantel
as Campbell's Mother
Brawley Nolte
as Young Howard Campbel...
Louis Strauss
as Old Jewish Man
Zach Grenier
as Joseph Goebbels
Richard Zeman
as Rudolph Hess
Thomas Hauff
as SS Officer
Jeff Pufah
as Young German Soldier
Vlasta Vrana
as August Krapptauer
Gerard Parkes
as Father Keeley
Michael Moran
as Violent Man
William Haughland
as TV Reporter
Joel Miller
as Israeli Vice-Consul
Kurt Vonnegut Jr.
as Sad Man on Street
Michael [wr] Moran
as Violent Man
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Mother Night

Critic Reviews for Mother Night

All Critics (43) | Top Critics (14)

A serious drama that is also funny without crossing into burlesque.

January 1, 2000
USA Today
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Detroit News
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Nick Nolte is excellent in Keith Gordon's ambitious but flawed adaptation of Vonnegut's fascinating novel.

Full Review… | April 28, 2011

Audience Reviews for Mother Night


Unusual and thoughtful character study featuring a great perfomance from Nick Nolte. Perfectly captures the tone of Vonnegut's intelligent but offbeat writing style. A forgotten gem.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

Tight script and direction with some good performances in this underrated WW2 drama.

Anthony Valletta

Super Reviewer

One of the strangest films I have seen based on Nazis and World War II. It was great seeing Nick Nolte really play this role. Kurt Vonnegut Jr. is one of the greatest novelists in American literature history and his story really comes alive in Keith Gordon's adaptation. The entire story of Howard Campbell Jr. makes me wonder if someone like that really existed in Berlin during the height of World War II. I also loved John Goodman as the OSS agent who liaises with Campbell. What a screwed up assignment for Campbell. Great shots of black and white in the prison as well. Wonderful work by Nick Nolte and Sheryl Lee. A very good film.

Mother Night Quotes

– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Frances H (2 years ago)

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