Manhunter (1986)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Manhunter, a rough precursor to Silence of the Lambs (which was also based on a novel by Thomas Harris), follows an FBI agent (William Petersen) who brings maniacal killers to justice by duplicating their mindset. The agent's last case, Dr. Hannibal Lektor (played here by Brian Cox), caused his early retirement, but he reactivates himself to solve a mystery involving a killer who murders entire families. The movie, like the Thomas Harris novel, is also known as Red Dragon.

Rating: R
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Action & Adventure
Directed By:
Written By: Michael Mann, Walon Green
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 30, 2001
Anchor Bay Entertainment


as Molly Graham

as Reba McClane

as Dr. Hannibal Lecktor

as Jack Crawford

as Freddy Lounds

as Francis Dollarhyde

as Kevin Graham

as Sherman Children

as Sherman Child #2

as Jimmy Price

as Jacobi Boy

as Beverly Katz

as Dr. Sidney Bloom

as Mrs. Sherman

as Ralph Dandridge

as Eileen

as Springfield

as Spurgen

as Lt. Fisk

as Young Woman Housebuy...

as Mother on Plane

as Mrs. Leeds

as Attendant

as Husband Housebuyer

as Storage Guard

as Storage Guard

as Dr. Warfield

as Technician

as Secretary

as Secretary

as State Trooper

as Airport Waitress

as State Trooper

as Swat Man

as Atlanta Detective

as Child on Plane

as Helicopter Pilot

as Lear Jet Technician

as Mr. Sherman

as Mr. Jacobi

as Mrs. Jacobi

as Lloyd Bowman

as Dr. Dominick Princi

as The Runner

as Jacobi Boy

as Leeds Children

as Leeds Children

as Leeds Children
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Manhunter

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Critic Reviews for Manhunter

All Critics (34) | Top Critics (6)

Manhunter ushered in the age of empathy for the devil.

Full Review… | February 7, 2007
Top Critic

I'm intrigued by that stylistic envelope: simultaneously hypnotic and enervating, meditative and empty.

Full Review… | February 7, 2007
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

One of the most impressive American thrillers of the late '80s.

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

The movie drives along with such intensity for much of the time that you can just let it work on your senses without worrying about whether it makes sense.

Full Review… | August 30, 2004
New York Times
Top Critic

An unpleasantly gripping thriller that rubs one's nose in a sick criminal mentality for two hours.

Full Review… | February 13, 2001
Top Critic

Cox's Hannibal is a masterclass in moderation.

Full Review… | October 4, 2011
Eye for Film

Audience Reviews for Manhunter

Granted the ensemble, award-winning cast of 'Red Dragon' squarely surpasses the B-list actors of this film and the neon-green font credits insinuate a hip vibe (although the blue filters would certainly substantiate that misconception), but 'Manhunter' is a supremely haunting adaptation of Thomas Harris first Hannibal Lecter novel. The discrepancies between 'Manhunter' and 'Red Dragon' are paramount at the beginning with the recruitment interaction between Crawford and Graham on the beach. In 'Red Dragon', the heinous crimes and retirement status of Graham are explicitly detailed whereas 'Manhunter' is more elliptical in the dialogue and more moody in the bleak tone ala a David Mamet screenplay. Before he reigned in 'CSI', Petersen starred in two of the most pulse-pounding movies of the 80's, 'Manhunter' and 'To Live and Die in L.A.'. Petersen is the tenacious moral compass who must venture into the brooding recesses of his psyche to entrap his prey. For example, he bellows at the Leeds' home videos as if he was Dolarhyde's accomplice. The verbal byplay between Graham and Lecter is almost verbatim, but 'Manhunter' really exploits the sociopathic symbiosis further such as when Graham races out of the prison hyperventilating when Lecter exhorts that "they are very much alike". Michael Mann bathes the terrifically meditative 'Mahunter' in lustrous, nocturnal fluorescence and he burrows deep within the vicarious, pathological rush of investigators who must tap into their demons for civic duty.

Cory Taylor
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer


William Petersen carries the film with a brave and ambivalent portrayal of a disturbed detective obsessed with the psychopath he must catch . Mann's atmospheric storytelling helps to feel the heat, anguish and horror in the minds of the duellists. The sinister Tom Noonan is the counterpart of the deadly game,

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer


This is the first film adaptation of one of Thomas Harris's Hannibal novels, as well as the only one (so far) to have a remake. This version of Red Dragon strays quite far from the source material, and even changes character names to Lektor and Dollarhyde, but as a police procedural and a tense psychological thriller/killer film, it is absolutely wonderful.

Brett Ratner's Red Dragon followed the book far closer, and had a lot of good things about it, but let's be honest, it just feels very warmed over unremarkable. Plus, Mann is a far better director, hands down.

That's what really makes this film work. For those who don't know the plot: Will Graham is a retired FBI profiler who reluctantly gets back into the game to help hunt down an emerging killer known as the "Tooth Fairy". In order to get inside his head and get a better grasp on the man Graham seeks the aid of another serial killer named Hannibal Lektor, a man Graham had previously captured and almost lost his life in the process.

This is a really gripping and absorbing thriller that is intelligently written, wonderfully acted, and brilliantly shot, scored, and directed. The film gives a finely observed portrait of the forensic investigation process, and the emotional and psychological toll it can take. I love how the film is also very subtle and patient, heightening the tension and suspense, and causing a continually lingering feeling of unease.

All of this of course comes through with the things I mentioned above. I'm not really big on synth based music (barrign a few exceptions), but it fits perfectly here, despite somewhat dating the film. The use of Iron Butterfly's "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" is absolutely brilliant and ranks as one of the two best uses of it in popular culture. Frequent Mann collaborator Dante Spinotti once again does an excellent job with the cinematography with some excellent uses of light, framing, and angles to heighten the mood and themes.

You should really give this film a chance. It's a tightly plotted and engaging thriller with brains and a high level of artistic competantcy. Willima Petersen gives a great performance as the determined and haunted Graham, Tom Noonan is very creepy and chilling as the "Tooth Fairy" Francis Dollarhyde, Dennis Farina puts in good work as Graham's superior Jack Crawford, Stephen Lang is effectively scuzzy as a mangy tabloid journalist, and Brian Cox does a fanatastic and nicely nuanced and subtle job of playing Lektor. It's a more grounded performance than the one Anthony Hopkins would later give, but it's just as chilling if not more so.

Again, give this a shot. It's some tremendous stuff and a great reminder of why, even though he's gone a bit downhill as of late, Michael Mann is one of the best and most important directors of the past 50 years.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Manhunter Quotes

– Submitted by Sam G (13 months ago)
– Submitted by David M (18 months ago)
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– Submitted by Dark Lord D (4 years ago)

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