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Murder in the First (1994)



Average Rating: 4.7/10
Critic Reviews: 11
Fresh: 4 | Rotten: 7

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 21,753

My Rating

Movie Info

This shocking prison drama was inspired by a true story. In 1938, Henri Young (Kevin Bacon), sentenced to Alcatraz for stealing $5, attempted to escape from prison with three other prisoners. One of the escapees was captured, and to curry favor with Warden Glenn (Gary Oldman), he informed on the others. Young was soon brought back to custody, and was to be punished by spending 19 days in solitary confinement. Nineteen days stretched into three years, in which Young was kept in a pit with no


Mystery & Suspense, Drama

Jun 22, 1999

Warner Bros. Pictures

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All Critics (40) | Top Critics (14) | Fresh (18) | Rotten (18) | DVD (1)

The figures are right, the investment looks good, but the emotional pay-off is minimal.

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

More than likely you will forgive the compromises -- the story of Henri Young needed to be told.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Woefully over-manipulative and over-the-top.

February 13, 2001 Full Review Source: Los Angeles Times
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Regardless of how this version raises the hackles of Alcatraz aficionados, Marc Rocco's movie is a solid and affecting example of film making.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: ReelViews
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Slater, who in certain shots looks curiously like Kevin Costner, is an actor with talent, but he is too young for this role, and not confident enough to dial down a little.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

An example of what happens when a picture has everything going for it except good writing and good direction.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Moving story of justice but too intense for kids.

January 2, 2011 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

A must see for Kevin Bacon's performance, especially in the early scenes.

January 30, 2005

It is Bacon's absolutely powerhouse performance that helps make 'Murder' one of the classic prison pictures of all time. (published 1-27-95)

January 4, 2005 Full Review

Average thriller.

December 23, 2004
Juicy Cerebellum

O roteiro maniqueísta e a direção pesada, nada sutil, de Rocco comprometem irremediavelmente o filme - que ainda conta com a atuação nada convincente de Slater.

April 13, 2004
Cinema em Cena

An arbitrary by-the-numbers courtroom/crime yarn that sometimes shifts between being too preachy and pretentious.

May 29, 2003
Movie Eye

Standard courtroom thriller with two fantastic performances.

July 26, 2002

It's a sorry excuse for a serious movie.

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

As a thriller, Murder in the First has all the elements but is so flamboyant and overblown that it becomes off-putting quite quickly.

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

Unsalvageable and inadvertently silly.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

Attempts to masquerade as a historical drama, but twists the facts to have them fit the traditional Hollywood courtroom drama.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Cinematter

Explores the human condition with a rare passion.

January 1, 2000
Jam! Movies

Audience Reviews for Murder in the First

A young convict imprisoned in Alcatraz murders a fellow inmate after spending three years being brutally beaten in solitary confinement. Murder in The First is a courtroom drama based upon the true story of a man who was transformed into a murderer on the brink of insanity by his merciless treatment at the hands of the American penal system in the infamous state prison. Kevin Bacon takes centre stage as the broken shell of a man and although his performance is a little affected, it's still a harrowing tale that shocked the nation at the time. The superior cast, including Gary Oldman as the cold and ruthless governor and William H. Macy as the district attorney looking for an open and shut case, are what make the film in general; the direction can be slightly clumsy and the script writer a little too fond of "dictionary definitions", but it's an important and moving story that the viewer cannot help but be drawn into. One of those films that works because it was a true story and although a little melodramatic its button pushing works for rather than against it as a result.
June 19, 2012
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

James Stamphill: Unlike many men who lived long after, Henry Young did not die in vain. In the end he was not afraid. He lived and he died in triumph. If only we could all do that. 

"One broke his silence. The other broke the system."

I did not for the most part like Murder in the First. Most of that came from my general distaste for the lead, Christian Slater. Everything he does in this movie irritates me. The rest of the cast is amazing though, especially Kevin Bacon, who gives one of the better performances I have seen from him. Gary Oldman and William H. Macy are also good, but they have such small roles that they don't really affect my feelings toward the movie. 

Murder in the First is the true story of Henri Young, a man who was convicted of stealing $5 and sent to Alcatraz. He tried to escape, but was unsuccessful and ended up being put in solitary confinement. There was supposed to be a limit on how long a man could stay in solitary and that was 19 days. Henri was stuck there for three years and when he came out he killed the man who narced him out. The rest of the movie is an average courtroom drama that seems really fabricated. I don't that that is the case necessarily, but nothing the film really felt genuine. It seems as if a lot of liberties were taken in approaching this story.

It is still a worthwhile film to watch because of that performance from Kevin Bacon as Henri and of course because the story is a pretty interesting one. I just think this could have been done so much better and that it could have benefited from having a better lead. He isn't a terrible actor, but he is just all wrong in this role. Christian Slater seems more at home in movies like Very Bad Things. 
December 19, 2011
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

I thought this was just another boring prison drama, but it is based on a true story, which makes it slightly more interesting. If you like prison dramas, you'll like it better than me.
May 28, 2011

Super Reviewer


The producers wanted authenticity so Bacon, Slater and Oldman spent some of their free time locked in jail cells while the movie was being filmed. Kevin Bacon even lost twenty pounds for his role as the Alcatraz inmate.
November 29, 2009
Wahida K

Super Reviewer

    1. Henri Young: You don't know what you're talking about, because you don't know what it's like!
    2. James Stamphill: What's like?
    3. Henri Young: Alcatraz! I mean where do you think they're going send me those ten years they're talking about!They're going to send me back to Alcatraz those ten years they're talking about!
    4. James Stamphill: Henry, when it's over you'll be alive! You'll be able to take care of your sister..
    5. Henri Young: I'm the one that's got to do the time, not you! And I can't do it! I can't! It's not worth it!
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Henri Young: I spent three Goddamn years in the dark thinking. I hate thinking!
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Associate Warden Glenn: Henry, I have a job to do here at Alcatraz. Do you know what that is? To protect you from yourself.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. James Stamphill: The federal guideline regarding solitary confinements states that the maximum stay for an inmate shall not exceed nineteen days.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. Henri Young: How long?
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
    1. James Stamphill: Definition of rehabilitate: To restore to a state of physical, mental and moral health through treatment and training.
    – Submitted by Frances H (15 months ago)
View all quotes (6)

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