A Scanner Darkly


A Scanner Darkly

Critics Consensus

A faithful adaptation of Philip K. Dick's novel, A Scanner Darkly takes the viewer on a visual and mind-blowing journey into the author's conception of a drug-addled and politically unstable world.



Total Count: 184


Audience Score

User Ratings: 140,024
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Movie Info

Set in a future world where America has lost the war on drugs, an undercover cop, Fred, is one of many agents hooked on the popular drug Substance D, which causes its users to develop split personalities. Fred, for instance, is also Bob, a notorious drug dealer. Along with his superior officers, Fred sets up an elaborate scheme to catch Bob and tear down his operation.


Keanu Reeves
as Bob Arctor
Robert Downey Jr.
as James Barris
Woody Harrelson
as Ernie Luckman
Winona Ryder
as Donna Hawthorne
Rory Cochrane
as Charles Freck
Mitch Baker
as Brown Bear Lodge Host
Melody Chase
as Arctor's Wife
Eliza Stevens
as Arctor's Daughter #1
Sarah Menchaca
as Arctor's Daughter #2
Sean Allen
as Additional Fred Scramble Suit Voice
Cliff Haby
as Voice From Headquarters
Mark Turner
as Additional Hank Scramble Suit Voice
Angela Rawna
as Medical Deputy #1
Chamblee Ferguson
as Medical Deputy #2
Leif Anders
as Freck Suicide Narrator
Turk Pipkin
as Creature
Alex Jones
as Street Prophet
Wilbur Penn
as Medical Officer #1
Ken Webster
as Medical Officer #2
Hugo Perez
as New Path Staff Member #1
Rommel Sulit
as New Path Staff Member #2
Jackson Douglas
as New Path Farm Manager
Leila Plummer
as New Path Resident #2
Jason Douglas
as New Path Farm Manager
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News & Interviews for A Scanner Darkly

Critic Reviews for A Scanner Darkly

All Critics (184) | Top Critics (46) | Fresh (124) | Rotten (60)

  • The coolest thing about the movie version of A Scanner Darkly is how very literally it takes the scanner part of that title.

    Oct 18, 2008 | Full Review…

    Bob Mondello

    Top Critic
  • As A Scanner Darkly proves, Keanu is the Coolness -- passive blankness, leaden line delivery, and all. Let's hear it for the vague blur.

    Sep 23, 2006 | Full Review…

    Dana Stevens

    Top Critic
  • Wondrously attractive, all the more so for the avoidance (with one or two exceptions) of extrovert Waking Life-style set-pieces.

    Aug 17, 2006 | Full Review…

    Ben Walters

    Time Out
    Top Critic
  • It's never less than incredibly beautiful to watch.

    Aug 15, 2006 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

    Paul Arendt

    Top Critic
  • Mr. Linklater emerges once again as the Austin auteur par excellence, even if A Scanner Darkly is set in a ratty precinct of Orange County.

    Jul 27, 2006 | Full Review…

    Andrew Sarris

    Top Critic
  • Linklater's willingness to experiment ... is laudable. But I'm not sure he's reinventing animation here, or even adequately serving that older-than-children animation audience.

    Jul 14, 2006 | Rating: 3/5

Audience Reviews for A Scanner Darkly

  • Sep 27, 2015
    My rating for A Scanner Darkly is probably higher than most. I can easily see it being less for other viewers since the film does not really come together in many respects. It would have been greatly improved by a score to go with the animation. The sound itself is not particularly good (and yet that is one of the more important elements of an animated film). The overall feel to it is very 90s: amusing and silly, then serious. Reeves makes for a somewhat sympathetic main character, a confused and fatigued tragic hero. The main reason why I rate it up is because it is different, the story is oddly compelling, and I am a Robert Downey Jr. fan.
    Robert B Super Reviewer
  • Jun 28, 2015
    Très bizarre. Difficile a regarder par moment. Difficile à suivre aussi. Nouveau style que j'apprécie pas forcément.
    Marc-André B Super Reviewer
  • May 21, 2015
    There's nothing quite like A Scanner Darkly. The effect of the Rotoscope helps add to the eery, whacked-out feeling this drug-centric mystery/drama already bears, and the performances manage to shine through it to present a weird, watch that is somehow still relatable.
    Gimly M Super Reviewer
  • Aug 11, 2012
    Rotoscoping is not a technique I had come across before, or since, so I have nothing to compare it to when reviewing 'A Scanner Darkly'. What can be said for certain however is that the film is beyond anything else beautifully made, and whilst a few shaky performances let it down at times, the underlying message of the film is injected right into the viewer's skulls. Based on the book by Philip K. Dick, his most personal work, examining drug abuse and the way society treats drug addicts, 'A Scanner Darkly' tells the story of undercover cop Keanu Reeves, (hold on hasn't he done this before), as he infiltrates a 'substance D' group, a new drug everyone is addicted to. However as Reeves does so he himself becomes addicted to the drug and begins developing a split personality, forgetting who he really is. Linklater has always and will always remain an indie filmmaker, so its no surprise that 'A Scanner Darkly' did not deliver the goods at the box office, picking up little over five million pounds. But more people need to know about this film and dig it out at their local independent dvd shop, for it is the only place you'll find it, because it is deserving of a viewing for both its visual and storytelling capabilities. Whilst Keanu Reeves plays himself again, this time he does it quite well, whilst Robert Downey Junior and Woody Harrelson bring on the best performances to the piece. The story is difficult to follow, not of course helped by mind bending rotoscoping and confusing sci-fi items such as the suits the undercover police officers wear. However it is a terrific story, like all K. Dick material, which shocks you into considering the big questions in a dystopian yet highly relatable setting. The issues of powerful totalitarian states, drug abuse, drug treatment and general paranoia are examined, never in too much detail, but with the right balance of black humour and seriousness. Whilst I would perhaps like to see this story adapted in real life motion, the rotoscoping does more to add than take away from the material and viewing experience, creating an enjoyable film which hits higher than the average indie drama flick.
    Adam K Super Reviewer

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