Jacob's Ladder

Critics Consensus

Even with its disorienting leaps of logic and structure, Jacob's Ladder is an engrossing, nerve-shattering experience.



Total Count: 64


Audience Score

User Ratings: 52,979
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Movie Info

A tortured man finds himself caught in a middle-ground between hallucination and reality in this supernatural thriller, scripted by Bruce Joel Rubin of Ghost (1990) and My Life (1993). Jacob Singer (Tim Robbins) is a soldier stationed in Vietnam who undergoes a traumatic experience on the battlefield - the nature of which is initially unclear. The film then moves into his post-Vietnam experience in 1970s New York, where he feels consistently traumatized, but can never quite remember exactly what happened to him in Southeast Asia or to free himself from his anxieties over the recent tragic death of his young son (Macaulay Culkin). Though well educated, Jacob works as a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service and has become romantically involved with one of his co-workers, Jezzie (Elizabeth Pena), after divorcing his wife. Soon, Jacob's tenuous hold on reality starts to slip as horrifying events befall him; he is nearly run over by a subway train, pursued by faceless demons in cars, and spots reptilian tails and horns protruding from the bodies of those he encounters. Jacob also suffers severe panic attacks related to the chaos that may be reality, or may exist only in his mind. He seeks counsel from Louis (Danny Aiello), a kindly chiropractor, as his ex-wife Sarah (Patricia Kalember), fellow Vietnam vet Paul (Pruitt Taylor Vince), and enigmatic stranger Michael (Matt Craven) all try to help the tortured soul. Jason Alexander, Ving Rhames and Eriq LaSalle highlight the supporting cast.


Tim Robbins
as Jacob Singer
Matt Craven
as Michael
Elizabeth Abassi
as Hospital Patient
Doug Barron
as Group Leader
Stephanie Berry
as Partygoer
Suzanne Shepherd
as Hospital Receptionist
Lewis Black
as Jacob's Doctor
Nora Burns
as Hospital Patient
Jan Saint
as Santa
John Capodice
as Army Officer
Kisha Skinner
as Street Singer
Scott Cohen
as Resident Doctor
Dion Simmons
as Street Singer
Sam Coppola
as Taxi Driver
John Louis Fischer
as Machine Gunner
Gloria Irizarry
as Mrs. Carmichael
Alison Gordy
as Hospital Patient
Jaime Perry
as Field Medic
Dennis Green
as Attendant
Michael Tomlinson
as Field Doctor
A.M. Marxuach
as Field Doctor
Antonia Rey
as Woman on Subway
Bellina Logan
as Emergency Ward Nurse
Davidson Thomson
as Evil Doctor
Mike Stokie
as Field Sergeant
James Ellis Reynolds
as E.M.T. Bearer
Byron Minns
as Orderly
Arleigh Richards
as Paul's Wife
Joe Quintero
as Street Kid
Alva Williams
as Masked Man
Jessica Roberts
as Hospital Patient
Holly Kennedy
as Hospital Patient
Blanche Irwin Stuart
as Hospital Patient
Perry Lang
as Jacob's Assailant
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News & Interviews for Jacob's Ladder

Critic Reviews for Jacob's Ladder

All Critics (64) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (46) | Rotten (18)

  • It's weird and surreal, but it ends with most of the holes plugged and all but a few of the loose ends tied into a tidy package. Some argue this is a cheat and the film should have been more open ended. That's a personal choice; I like it the way it is.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • For hours and days after you've seen it, you'll still be putting it together in your head. While all of it is gripping, it doesn't come together until the final scene, which is jolting, transcendent, unexpected yet inevitable.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • As long as the movie refuses to commit itself, it is a truly creepy, nerve-jangling experience.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • In the best puzzle movies, the pieces fit -- eventually. But if you try to piece together Jacob's Ladder, all you get for your trouble is more pieces.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Full Review…
  • Without a strongly sympathetic figure at the center of the movie, Jacob's plight seems very remote. Watching this film should feel like being caught in a nightmare, but it feels more like watching someone else who is caught in a nightmare.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Rating: 2/5 | Full Review…
  • [Robbins' and Pena's] scenes together are the highlight of the film, so natural, so bright. That's why we're willing to invest a lot of time in what turns out to be a terribly overwrought plot.

    Aug 23, 2014 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Jacob's Ladder

  • Sep 17, 2015
    One of the most beautiful films ever put to print. Jacob's Ladder is American surrealism in motion, but the aesthetic is not quite supported by its story. There is so much potential here for a true masterpiece, but what we're given, though wholly entertaining, comes just shy of striking distance. The cast is very consistent as is the direction, but the plot offers so much unfulfilled brilliance that what we're left comes out as slightly underwhelming.
    Paris S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 23, 2014
    A great take on the Psychological Horror genre, Jacob's Ladder does almost everything right asides from a mild confusing second act and an unnecessary preachy drug twist at the end. Has great visual madness to spook you, touching moments, great presence by Tim Robbins and an interesting story that grabs your attention right from the start.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer
  • Oct 29, 2013
    One word: mindfuck. This movie is fantastic, though disturbing at times. There are very few movies that made need to know what happens next. I was hooked less than 10 minutes in. I couldn't stop watching. Awesome.
    Stephen S Super Reviewer
  • Oct 03, 2013
    Directors C Super Reviewer

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