The Pelican Brief (1993)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Pelican Brief Videos & Photos

Movie Info

Embroiled in an affair with Thomas Callahan (Sam Shephard), her alcoholic professor, precocious 24-year-old Tulane University law student Darby Shaw (Julia Roberts) writes up an insightful theory about the recent murder of two Supreme Court justices, one of whom, Abraham Rosenberg (Hume Cronyn), served as Callahan's mentor. When Callahan shares this so-called "Pelican Brief" with buddy Gavin Verheek (John Heard), an FBI lawyer, the document makes its way to White House flack Fletcher Coal (Tony … More

Rating: PG-13
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Alan J. Pakula, John Grisham
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 27, 1997
Warner Home Video


as Darby Shaw

as Gray Grantham

as Thomas Callahan

as Gavin Verheek

as Fletcher Coal

as Denton Voyles

as Bob Gminski

as The President

as Justice Rosenberg

as Smith Keen

as Marty Velmano

as Edwin Sneller

as Matthew Barr

as Alice Stark

as Charles Morgan/Garci...

as Eric East

as KO Lewis

as Song & Dance Man fro...

as Managing Editor

as Sara Ann Morgan

as Rosenberg's Nurse

as Edward Linney

as Justice Jensen

as Parklane Security Of...

as Rosenberg's Nurse

as Himself

as W & B Security Guard

as Sara Ann Morgan's Fa...

as Herself

as New Orleans Policewo...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for The Pelican Brief

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.


Critic Reviews for The Pelican Brief

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (8)

It's too bad that Pakula allows this 1993 movie to dawdle after its climax, but prior to that he's adept at suggesting unseen menace and keeping things in motion.

Full Review… | March 30, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Pakula has improved on Grisham's book by excising much of the detritus, crafting a taut, intelligent thriller that succeeds on almost every level.

Full Review… | November 5, 2008
Top Critic

An old hand at this sort of thing, Pakula goes through the motions, but not much more.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

As the film piles on shovelfuls of further exposition, Mr. Washington and Ms. Roberts are left to look terrific and recite perfunctory lines.

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

A brightly wrapped, ketchup-drenched mush-burger, it slides down the Zeitgeist esophagus like a slippery McPelican. You pay, you swallow, you drive home. You're left with nothing except, possibly, heartburn.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

A routine thriller, curiosuly disappointing from Alan Pakula that even stars like Denzel Washington and Julia Roberts can't rescue

Full Review… | June 18, 2011

Audience Reviews for The Pelican Brief


Not all that enthralling. Probably only of interest to Julia Roberts fans. Over long and hard to follow (or maybe just my attention kept drifting off). Wanted to like it, but just a bit dull.

Nicki Marie

Super Reviewer


Made somewhere around the start of the mid-90's legal thriller craze (and most of those films were from John Grisham novels) The Pelican Brief is a film about a young law student's theory about the assassinations of two Supreme Court justices...and it just happens to actually be true. The paper reaches the president through a chain starting with her law professor - who she's also sleeping with - and uncovers a conspiracy involving the chief executive. Thus, the government does anything and everything to kill her, including murdering everyone she comes in contact with. Also coming into play in this is Denzel Washington, a Washington newspaper reporter who agrees to meet with her and becomes involved, no doubt because of the incredible attention and readership it would bring to him. The acting is superb, shifting from drama to action film almost effortlessly. I don't normally go for legal thrillers all that much, but this one is an exception to the rule.

Derek Daniels

Super Reviewer

A very good political conspiracy thriller with an outstanding cast. Based on the John Grisham novel. This is a entertaining film with a deep plot, it can be a little slow at times and light on action but overall an enjoyable well made film.

Dean King

Super Reviewer

The Pelican Brief Quotes

– Submitted by Jesse K (3 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss The Pelican Brief on our Movie forum!