The Accused (1988)



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Simultaneously gut-wrenching and provocative, The Accused follows the struggle of a young woman to find justice after she is publicly gang-raped in a local tavern. While it seems a straightforward enough case, there are some complicating issues involving the character and intent of the victim herself and also the culpability amongst those who witnessed the crime and did nothing to stop it. Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster in a mesmerizing Oscar-winning turn) is a hard-living sexy little fireball who loves to party with her friends. The night of the rape, she had a fight with her boy friend and so goes to the bar to blow off a little steam. In the dark back room where the pool tables sit and pinball machines flash dimly against the walls, Sarah begins casually flirting, dancing around, drinking a bit and the next thing she knows she is tossed upon a pinball machine being brutally ravaged with guys lined up to have their way with her while other patrons stand around cheering. Badly beaten and traumatized, she ends up in the DA's office facing attorney Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) who listens and takes the case. But as Murphy learns more about Sarah, she becomes less pleased, for Sarah has a long, checkered past of drugs, booze and casual acquaintances that the defense can easily use to destroy her character. Rather than risk that, Murphy goes for a plea bargain that grants the guilty light sentences and frees them from having to admit that they committed rape. Sarah goes ballistic when she hears about the trial and harshly derides Murphy. The lawyer seems unsympathetic at first, but then she sees first hand the devastation the rape has wrought upon Sarah's life and decides to defy her bosses and continue fighting for justice using an entirely new tack. This time, instead of going after the rapists, she is going after the "passive" onlookers who may or may not have encouraged the crime. The Accused is loosely based upon the true story of a much-publicized 1983 case from New Bedford, Massachusetts.

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Jodie Foster
as Sarah Tobias
Kelly McGillis
as Kathryn Murphy
Bernie Coulson
as Kenneth Joyce
Leo Rossi
as Cliff Albrecht
Ann Hearn
as Sally Frazer
Steve Antin
as Bob Joiner
Allan Lysell
as Al Massi
Carmen Argenziano
as Paul Rudolph
Woody Brown
as Danny Rudkin
Peter Van Norden
as Ted Paulson
Scott Paulin
as Attorney Wainwright
Andrew Kavadas
as Defendant Matt Haines
Tom McBeath
as Defendant Stu Holloway
Linda Darlow
as Carol Hunnicutt (Rape Center Woman)
Veena Sood
as Woman Orderly
Anthony Holland
as Plea Bargain Lawyer
Kevin McNulty
as Plea Bargain Lawyer
Jerry Wasserman
as Plea Bargain Lawyer
Barney O'Sullivan
as Trial Judge
Frances Flanagan
as Mrs. Albrect
Mike Winlaw
as TV Commentator
Deryl Hayes
as Court Officer
Dana Still
as Jury Foreman
Denalda Williams
as Sarah's Mother on Phone
Babs Chula
as Woman Lawyer
Rebecca Toolan
as 911 Operator
Stephen Dimopoulos
as Complaining Customer
Freda Perry
as Receptionist
Dave Sheridan
as Sally's Son
Gary Chalk
as Courthouse Reporter
Garwin Sanford
as Courthouse Reporter
Gloria Lee
as Courthouse Reporter
Michelle Goodger
as Courthouse Reporter
Thomas Heaton
as Bartender Jesse
Pamela Sue Martin
as TV Commentator
Wally Marsh
as Bail Hearing Judge
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Critic Reviews for The Accused

All Critics (20) | Top Critics (1)

This performance didn't just win an Oscar. It won the hearts of every woman who has ever had to endure the horror of assault and the continued injustice of having to fight against prejudice and a legal system steeped in patriarchy, to be heard.

Sep 15, 2017 | Full Review…

Possibly the best performance Foster has even given, and the best of its type

Feb 7, 2006 | Rating: 4/5

In her first Oscar role, Jodie Foster's gang-raped waitress transforms from a good-time hard-drinking girl to a woman fighting for the self-esteem she never had.

Dec 18, 2005 | Rating: B | Full Review…

A atuação intensa e corajosa de Jodie Foster quase redime um filme que, graças à direção burocrática de Kaplan, parece ter sido realizado para a televisão.

Jan 13, 2004 | Rating: 3/5

Provides a searing account of a gang rape through the story of two women who speak out against this violent crime

Jul 19, 2003 | Full Review…

Powerful rape drama.

Jul 14, 2003 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Accused

Jodie Foster delivers the goods and how (a shotgun in your face, think young Brando's Kowalski) as a white trash waitress who is cruelly victimized and so must fight for her human dignity. Released in 1988 this one is beginning to show it's age but Foster's performance keeps everything else glued together.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

Jodie Foster & Kelly McGillis' empowering performances shed light on a dark and difficult story. The Accused is gut-wrenching and somewhat unbearable to view that it leaves its audience speechless, emotional and cautious of this heinous action/situation that still occurs to this day. 4/5

Eugene Bernabe
Eugene Bernabe

Super Reviewer

It's an important film with an important message. In terms of quality, better courtroom dramas have been made, but the film succeeds due to the performances, the power of the story, and the grace in which it is presented.

Matthew Samuel Mirliani
Matthew Samuel Mirliani

Super Reviewer


A painfully uncomfortable subject matter and several very shocking scenes make "The Accused" one of the more explorative and unpleasant big budget films. There is nothing truly exploitative to this film, though it does have an explicit rape scene and does deal with a character who is angry, strong, and difficult to sometimes understand. Jodie Foster plays Sarah Tobias, a blue collar working girl who typically does many drugs and drinks, all the while being easy on the eyes, if you catch my drift. In the midst of a beer soaked poolroom she gets raped, and the experience only makes her angry and out for revenge. Her thoughtful rage and ambitious sentiment for justice is very pivotal to the film, because unlike many films dealing with this issue, the victim isn't curled up in a ball, cursing the world and yet staying immobile. This is a hopeful film, about recovery and being strong in the face of a life changing tragedy. In one of the most demeaning scenes, with the most horrific circumstances, they show the true travesty of her situation, but only after they show the way everyone treats her because of who she is rather than what has happened to her. In the rape culture climate of today, this film is still vitally important, and though it's sad to see that this film is not of its time, it is also uplifting. Kelly McGillis plays her laywer, Kathryn, who at first doesn't want the case because she knows she can't win it, but eventually becomes Sarah's saving grace. The contrast between the suave lawyer just trying to win justice for her client and the world around them, telling them they don't care, was poignant and very upsetting. I don't want to say this was a beautiful film, but it sways opinion whenever it's watched, and truly embodies our judicial system.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

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