Jacob's Ladder (1990) - Rotten Tomatoes

Jacob's Ladder (1990)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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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.

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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
John Capodice
as Army Officer
Jan Saint
as Santa
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
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Jacob's Ladder

All Critics (61) | Top Critics (14)

As long as the movie refuses to commit itself, it is a truly creepy, nerve-jangling experience.

August 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.

August 23, 2014 | 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.

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

There's a word for a movie that dresses up the usual cheap tricks with real human suffering and a bogus patina of truth: offensive.

August 23, 2014

Jacob's Ladder is the nightmare as Rube Goldberg machine. Lyne bombards us with omens and portents, but they aren't rooted in anything, and so the audience remains in a state of arbitrary, floating anxiety.

September 7, 2011 | Rating: C- | Full Review…

Despite all the confusion, it's a simple case of the script being too ambitious. It may emulate a man experiencing flashbacks, but it doesn't help the audience.

March 27, 2009 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Jacob's Ladder


Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer


This is good psychological horror toying with the possibility of being great psychological horror. It never quite gets there, but it comes very, very close.

Randy Tippy
Randy Tippy

Super Reviewer

Jacob's Ladder is one of the best psychological horror films that I have seen. Supported by a great cast, Jacob's Ladder is a creepy film. A man suffers from hallucinations after returning from the Vietnam war. The film is haunting and powerful and is a different type of horror film that blends elements of the supernatural. Jacob's Ladder is a superbly crafted film that is one intense ride through one mans conscience. Superbly acted by Tim Robbins, Jacob's Ladder successfully makes the audience uncomfortable as we see the main character, Jacob Singer go through these eerie hallucinations. Jacob's Ladder is an accomplished film with a powerful story and a strong cast. The film is not your typical horror as it is a psychological horror film. The films delivers the chills it promises and the story is well developed with well defined characters. Overall this is solid filmmaking Adrian Lyne has crafted the psychological horror film to see. This film is far better than any other genre film that came after it and it delivers a creepy vibe that you won't easily forget. Jacob's Ladder is the film that defined the term psychological horror, and it does it by delivering something an audience has never seen before. Jacob's Ladder is a film not to miss. This is one of Tim Robbin's best performances along with The Shawshank Redemption. Jacob's Ladder redefined and reinvented the horror genre, and by watching it, you'll understand why.

Alex roy
Alex roy

Super Reviewer

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