Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend)


Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend)

Critics Consensus

The American Friend is a slow burning existential thriller that does justice to the Patricia Highsmith source novel.



Total Count: 23


Audience Score

User Ratings: 4,777
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Movie Info

Hamburg denizen Jonathan (Lowell Ganz) is under the impression that he is dying from a blood disease. Jonathan's "American friend," displaced cowboy Ripley (Dennis Hopper), decides to use his illness to his advantage. Ripley introduces him to gangster Minot (Gerard Blain), who proposes to the dying man that he should become an professional mob assassin, assuring a large legacy for his wife and children. Since he is facing death anyway, what has he to lose? Ripley had originally intended to allow Jonathan to do the dirty work that he didn't feel like doing, but has second thoughts when he becomes friends with the doomed man. In the end, it is Ripley who is the loser, even though Jonathan turns out to be right about his days being numbered. Director Wim Wenders based his screenplay for American Friend on one of the many "doppelganger" crime novels by Patricia Highsmith.


Bruno Ganz
as Jonathan Zimmermann
Dennis Hopper
as Tom Ripley
Lisa Kreuzer
as Marianne Zimmermann
Gérard Blain
as Raoul Minot
Nicholas Ray
as Prokasch, aka Derwatt
Samuel Fuller
as The American
Peter Lilienthal
as Marcangelo
Daniel Schmid
as Ingraham
Sandy Whitelaw
as Doctor in Paris
Jean Eustache
as Friendly Man
Lou Castel
as Rodolphe
Wim Wenders
as Bandaged Man
David Blue
as Allan Winter
Stefan Lennert
as Auctioneer
Gerty Molzen
as Old Lady
Adolf Hansen
as Schaffner
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News & Interviews for Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend)

Critic Reviews for Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend)

All Critics (23) | Top Critics (5) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (2)

  • ... only a filmmaker as humane as [director Wim Wenders] could recognize there's no way out of the story's moral corruption.

    Feb 14, 2018 | Full Review…
  • An absorbing but rarefied, introspective variation on traditional thrilleer motifs, it's probably not the synthetis between the personal and traditional that Wenders needs but it's a fascinating compulsively watchable experiment.

    May 5, 2017 | Full Review…
  • Superb adaptation of Patricia Highsmith's novel Ripley's Game, with Hopper as her amiably cynical hero.

    Feb 9, 2006

    Tom Milne

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • There's something cheerfully perverse about filming a thriller and then tossing out the parts that would help it make sense, but Wim Wenders has a certain success with the method.

    Oct 23, 2004 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Gripping 1977 American thriller from Wim Wenders that turns back on itself with deadly European irony.

    Jan 1, 2000 | Full Review…
  • Wim Wenders evinces an extremely refined style that is much more effective here than in his previous films. [Full Review in Spanish]

    Aug 1, 2019 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Der Amerikanische Freund (The American Friend)

  • Feb 19, 2014
    Nice performances, but too slow for me. And unlike others, I didn't find much to savor here. A thriller/mystery this predictable coupled with such a sluggish pacing is not my cup of entertainment.
    familiar s Super Reviewer
  • Nov 27, 2009
    Most audiences were first made familiar with the character of Tom Ripley from the 1999 film The Talented Mr. Ripley, but the character really originated in a series of novels by Patricia Highsmith which date back to 1955. The aforementioned film was an adaptation of the first novel, this 1977 Wim Wenders film is an adaptation of the third novel, Ripley?s Game (which would be adapted again in 2002). The film mostly follows a character named Jonathan Zimmermann (Bruno Ganz, who would go on to play Hitler in Downfall), who has been diagnosed with a terminal blood disease. He encounters and befriends an American named Tom Ripley (Dennis Hopper) who has connection with the criminal underworld. Soon enough, Tom convinces Zimmermann to take part in a pair of crime assassinations in order to pay for his medical bills. This film?s depiction of the Ripley character differs greatly from the depiction in the Anthony Minghella film which I?ve long been fond of. In that film Matt Damon played Ripley as a bit of a dork, albeit a psychotic dork so desperate to be someone more glamorous than he was that he latched onto and eventually murdered an American playboy on vacation in Italy. Here, well? he?s Dennis Hopper, and he takes on most of the mannerisms you expect Dennis Hopper to have. Gone are the goofy, yet oddly disturbing grins and the creepy stares, in their place is? Dennis Hopper, in a cowboy hat. The performance isn?t completely without its charms (I particularly liked a scene where he lays down on a pool table and takes pictures of himself with a Polaroid), but as a whole I found this Ripley significantly less interesting than the one I was used to. It?s kind of like Going back to the movie Manhunter and seeing Brian Cox play Hannibal Lecture after having scene Anthony Hopkins dominate the role in Silence of the Lambs. Really, I have to say I feel the same way about the rest of the movie, it?s a pretty decent thriller but it didn?t strike me as remotely as interesting as The Talented Mr. Ripley. There is sort of a perverse friendship at the center of it all, but for the most part this is less of a psychological thriller and more of a Hitchcockian thriller and it works at its best during a pair of suspenseful set pieces. Wenders handles these scene very well, though I was surprised at just how pedestrian his style was here, this isn?t anything like the lyrical camera work of his more famous works Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas. I also found aspects of the plot fairly confusing, particularly the workings of the crime syndicate that?s trying to make things happen. So overall, this is a nice little movie that I enjoyed watching, but I don?t think it will stay with me.
    MJS M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 28, 2009
    A brilliant art house <i>noir</i> by Wim Wenders, adapted from Patricia Highsmith's <I>Ripley's Game</I>. Bruno Ganz plays Jonathan Zimmermann, a picture framer with an incurable blood disease, whose precariousness of health is manipulated by Dennis Hopper's Tom Ripley, a sociopathic art dealer seeking to recruit a contract killer for a gangland associate. Eager to provide his wife and son with some financial security before his 'imminent' demise, Zimmermann is sucked into the criminal underworld. Wenders' presentation is dazzling enough to prevent us from scrutinising the rather implausible plot too closely. There are a couple of artsy digressions - unfortunate, because Robby Müller's stunning photography ensures that the film would have been just as aesthetically pleasing without them - but, happily, Wenders doesn't let them get in the way of the story. I could have done without some of Hopper's trademark nutty behaviour - he's Dennis Hopper, right! I'll buy the fact that he's crazy sight unseen - but it's fun to see him playing opposite Nicholas Ray, the director who gave him an early break with <I>Rebel Without a Cause</I>. Curiously, the protagonist here is called Zimmerman(n) and the film closes with Ripley mumbling the lyrics to Bob Dylan's <I>I Pity the Poor Immigrant</I>. Coincidence?
    Stephen M Super Reviewer
  • Apr 15, 2008
    Like a lot of Wenders' stuff, I love the way this movie looks, but am still trying to figure out what the fuck was going on in some scenes.
    Tim S Super Reviewer

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