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Gataca Movie Poster B.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Andrew Niccol
Produced by Danny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
Gail Lyon
Written by Andrew Niccol
Narrated by Ethan Hawke
Starring Ethan Hawke
Uma Thurman
Music by Michael Nyman
Cinematography Slawomir Idziak
Editing by Lisa Zeno Churgin
Studio Jersey Films
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • October 24, 1997 (1997-10-24)
Running time 106 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $36 million
Box office $12,532,777

Gattaca is a 1997 American science fiction film written and directed by Andrew Niccol. It stars Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, with Jude Law, Loren Dean, Ernest Borgnine, Gore Vidal, and Alan Arkin appearing in supporting roles. The film presents a biopunk vision of a future society driven by eugenics where potential children are conceived through genetic manipulation to ensure they possess the best hereditary traits of their parents.[1] The film centers on Vincent Freeman, played by Hawke, who was conceived outside the eugenics program and struggles to overcome genetic discrimination to realize his dream of traveling into space.

The movie draws on concerns over reproductive technologies which facilitate eugenics, and the possible consequences of such technological developments for society. It also explores the idea of destiny and the ways in which it can and does govern lives. Characters in Gattaca continually battle both with society and with themselves to find their place in the world and who they are destined to be according to their genes.

The film's title is based on the first letters of guanine, adenine, thymine, and cytosine, the four nucleobases of DNA. It was a 1997 nominee for the Academy Award for Best Art Direction and the Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.


In "the not-too-distant future", eugenics (in the form of conceiving "improved" children by genetic manipulation) is common, and DNA plays the primary role in determining social class. A genetic registry database uses biometrics to instantly identify and classify those so created as "valids" while those conceived by traditional means and more susceptible to genetic disorders are derisively known as "in-valids". Genetic discrimination is forbidden by law, but in practice genotype profiling is used to identify valids to qualify for professional employment while in-valids are relegated to menial jobs.

Vincent Freeman is conceived naturally without the aid of genetic selection; immediately after his birth, his DNA is tested and indicates he has high probability of developing mental disorders, will be myopic, has a heart defect, and his projected life expectancy is only 30.2 years. His parents regret their decision, and their next son Anton is conceived with the aid of genetic selection. Anton surpasses his older brother in many aspects including in a game that they call "chicken": both swim out to sea, and the first to give up and swim back to shore is the loser. Anton always wins due to his superior physical stamina. Vincent dreams of a career in space but is constantly reminded of his genetic inferiority. Later as young adults Vincent challenges Anton to the game of chicken. This time it is Vincent who pulls ahead while Anton runs into trouble and begins to drown. Vincent saves him, then leaves home shortly thereafter.

Due to frequent screening, Vincent faces genetic discrimination and prejudice. The only way he can achieve his dream of becoming an astronaut is to become a "borrowed ladder", a person who impersonates a "valid" with a superior genetic profile.[2] He assumes the identity of Jerome Eugene Morrow, a former swimming star with a genetic profile "second to none", who had been injured in a car accident, leaving him paralyzed from the waist down. Vincent "buys" Jerome's identity and uses his "valid" DNA in blood, hair, tissue, and urine samples to pass screening. To keep his identity hidden, he must meticulously groom and scrub down daily to remove his own genetic material.

With Jerome's genetic profile Vincent gets accepted into the Gattaca Aerospace Corporation, the most prestigious spaceflight conglomerate, with a DNA test being the entire interview process. He becomes Gattaca's top celestial navigator and is selected for a manned spaceflight to Saturn's moon Titan. A week before Vincent is to leave on the one-year mission, one of Gattaca's administrators is found bludgeoned to death in his office. Police discover an eyelash of the real Vincent on the premises, making him the prime suspect. A paper cup used by Vincent is also found after he gave it to Caesar the cleaner.

Vincent must evade increasing security measures as his launch date approaches. Simultaneously, he becomes close to one of his co-workers, Irene Cassini. Although she is a "valid", Irene knows she will only ever be picked for lesser missions due to slightly elevated risk of heart failure. Romantically attracted to Vincent, she clandestinely has what she thinks is his DNA analyzed. The results confirm that he is out of her league, leaving her wistful, but Vincent makes it plain that he does not care about her genetics. Jerome (generally known as Eugene) also suffers from the burden of his genetic perfection; when he won only a silver medal in an important competition, he became increasingly depressed. While intoxicated, Jerome confesses that he did not have a car accident, but rather, had attempted suicide by jumping in front of a car, but only paralyzed himself from the waist down.

After numerous close calls, Vincent's identity is revealed to a shocked Irene. Yet Irene comes to see Vincent for who he is and accepts him. The murder investigation abruptly comes to a close with Mission Director Josef under arrest. The director reveals that he murdered the administrator because the victim was trying to cancel the Titan mission. As Vincent appears to be in the clear he is confronted by the youthful chief detective, who is revealed to be Anton. Anton accuses Vincent of fraud and asserts that Vincent is unworthy of his place at Gattaca. Vincent reminds Anton of how he has made it thus far solo and that it was Anton who needed saving before, not himself. Having rationalized the competition he lost, Anton challenges Vincent again. They swim out, where Anton asks Vincent how he beat him before. Vincent explains that he never saved anything for the swim back. Anton turns back first but loses his way and Vincent again rescues him, this time by celestial navigation.

As the day of the launch arrives, Jerome bids Vincent farewell. He reveals that he has stored enough genetic samples to last Vincent two lifetimes. Overwhelmed and grateful, Vincent thanks Jerome, but Jerome replies that it is he who should be grateful, since Vincent lent Jerome his dreams. Jerome gives Vincent a card but asks him not to open it until he reaches space. As Vincent moves through the Gattaca complex to the launch site, he is caught out by an unexpected last urine test. However Lamar, the doctor, is unperturbed. He tells Vincent about his son, who is a great fan of Vincent's and wants to apply to Gattaca. Lamar goes on to say the boy "wasn't all they promised; but who knows what he could do". He then ignores the test result, and tells Vincent to make his flight.

Jerome climbs inside his home incinerator, puts on his silver medal and lights the fire. The rocket lifts off with Vincent, and he opens the card from Jerome to find no words—just a hair sample. He is saddened to leave, despite never having a place in the world. He muses, "They say every atom in our bodies was once a part of a star. Maybe I'm not leaving; maybe I'm going home."



CLA Building complex

The exteriors (including the roof scene), and some of the interior shots, of the Gattaca complex were filmed at Frank Lloyd Wright's 1960 Marin County Civic Center in San Rafael, California.[3] The parking lot scenes were shot at the Otis College of Art and Design, distinguished by its punchcard-like windows, located near LAX in Los Angeles. The exterior of Vincent Freeman's house was shot at the CLA Building on the campus of California State Polytechnic University, Pomona (Cal Poly Pomona). Another exterior shot was done at the bottom of the spillway of the Sepulveda Dam. The solar power plant mirrors sequence was filmed at the Kramer Junction Solar Electric Generating Station.


The film borrows many design and thematic ideas from the film noir genre,[4] making the film a notable example of tech noir. The movie uses a swimming treadmill in the opening minutes to punctuate the swimming and futuristic themes.[5] The futuristic turbine cars are based on 1960s car models like Rover P6, Citroën DS19 and Studebaker Avanti,[6] and futuristic buildings represent modern architecture of the 1950s.


Gattaca was released in theaters on October 24, 1997, and opened at number 5 at the box office; trailing I Know What You Did Last Summer, The Devil's Advocate, Kiss the Girls, and Seven Years in Tibet.[7] Over the first weekend the film brought in $4.3 million. It ended its theatrical run with a domestic total of $12.5 million against a reported production budget of $36 million.[8]

Home media[edit]

Gattaca was released on DVD on July 1, 1998,[9] and was also released on Superbit DVD.[10] Special Edition DVD and Blu-ray versions were released on March 11, 2008.[11][12] Both editions contain a deleted scene featuring historical figures like Einstein, Lincoln, etc., who according to the texts are supposed to be genetically deficient.[8]

Critical reception[edit]

Gattaca received positive reviews from critics; the film received an 82% "fresh" rating from Rotten Tomatoes, based on 55 reviews, with a rating average of 7.1/10. The critical consensus states that "Intelligent and scientifically provocative, Gattaca is an absorbing sci fi drama that poses important interesting ethical questions about the nature of science." [13] On Metacritic, the film received "generally favorable reviews" with a score of 64 out of 100.[14] Roger Ebert stated, "This is one of the smartest and most provocative of science fiction films, a thriller with ideas."[15] James Berardinelli praised it for "energy and tautness" and its "thought-provoking script and thematic richness."[16]

Despite critical acclaim, Gattaca was not a box office success but it is said to have crystallized the debate over tampering with human genetics.[17][18][19] The film's dystopian depiction of "genoism" has been cited by many bioethicists and laymen in support of their hesitancy about, or opposition to, eugenics and the societal acceptance of the genetic-determinist ideology that may frame it.[20] In a 1997 review of the film for the journal Nature Genetics, molecular biologist Lee M. Silver stated that "Gattaca is a film that all geneticists should see if for no other reason than to understand the perception of our trade held by so many of the public-at-large".[21]

In 2004, bioethicist James Hughes criticized the premise and influence of the film Gattaca,[22] arguing that:

  1. Astronaut-training programs are entirely justified in attempting to screen out people with heart problems for safety reasons;
  2. In the United States, people are already discriminated against by insurance companies on the basis of their propensities to disease despite the fact that genetic enhancement is not yet available;
  3. Rather than banning genetic testing or genetic enhancement, society needs genetic information privacy laws that allow justified forms of genetic testing and data aggregation, but forbid those that are judged to result in genetic discrimination (such as the U.S. Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act signed into law on May 21, 2008). Citizens should then be able to make a complaint to the appropriate authority if they believe they have been discriminated against because of their genotype.


Award Category Name Outcome
Academy Awards Best Art Direction Jan Roelfs
Nancy Nye
Art Directors Guild Award Excellence in Production Design Jan Roelfs
Sarah Knowles
Natalie Richards
Bogey Awards Bogey Award Won
Gérardmer Film Festival Special Jury Prize Andrew Niccol Won
Fun Trophy Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Score Michael Nyman Nominated
Hugo Awards Best Dramatic Presentation Andrew Niccol Nominated
London Film Critics' Circle Awards Best Screenwriter of the Year Andrew Niccol Won
Paris Film Festival Grand Prix Nominated
Satellite Awards Best Art Direction and Production Design Jan Roelfs Nominated
Saturn Awards Best Costume Coleen Atwood Nominated
Best Music Michael Nyman Nominated
Best Home Video Release Nominated
Sitges - Catalonian International Film Festival Best Motion Picture Andrew Niccols Won
Best Original Soundtrack Michael Nyman Won


Soundtrack album by Michael Nyman
Released October 21, 1997 (1997-10-21)
Genre Contemporary classical music, film scores, minimalism
Length 54:55
Label Virgin Records America
Producer Michael Nyman
Michael Nyman chronology
The Suit and the Photograph
From the Gattaca soundtrack by Michael Nyman

Problems playing this file? See media help.

The score for Gattaca was composed by Michael Nyman, and the original soundtrack was released on October 21, 1997.[23]

Track listing[24]
  1. "The Morrow" – 3:13
  2. "God's Hands" – 1:42
  3. "The One Moment" – 1:40
  4. "Traces" – 1:00
  5. "The Arrival" – 3:53
  6. "Becoming Jerome" – 1:06
  7. "Call Me Eugene" – 1:24
  8. "A Borrowed Ladder" – 1:47
  9. "Further and Further" – 2:43
  10. "Not the Only One" – 2:14
  11. "Second Morrow" – 2:24
  12. "Impromptu for 12 Fingers" – 2:55 (from Franz Schubert's "Impromptu in G-flat Major, Op. 90, No. 3")
  13. "The Crossing" – 1:24
  14. "It Must Be the Light" – 1:23
  15. "Only a Matter of Time" – 1:07
  16. "I Thought You Wanted to Dance" – 1:13
  17. "Irene's Theme" – 1:09
  18. "Yourself for the Day" – 2:20
  19. "Up Stairs" – 2:02
  20. "Now That You're Here" – 2:44
  21. "The Truth" – 2:13
  22. "The Other Side" – 3:44
  23. "The Departure" – 3:51
  24. "Irene & the Morrow" – 5:44


Television series[edit]

On October 30, 2009, Variety reported that Sony Pictures was developing a television adaptation of the feature film as a one-hour police procedural set in the future. The show was to be written by Gil Grant, who has written for 24 and NCIS.[25]

Political references[edit]

American senator Rand Paul (R-KY) used near-verbatim portions of the plot summary from the Wikipedia entry on Gattaca in a speech at Liberty University on October 28, 2013 supporting Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli's campaign for Governor of Virginia. Sen. Paul accused pro-choice politicians of advocating eugenics in a manner similar to the events in Gattaca.[26][27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "NEUROETHICS | The Narrative Perspectives". Archived from the original on 2008-05-31. Retrieved 2008-11-28. 
  2. ^ "Gattaca — Movie Review". Metro times. Retrieved 2008-06-01. 
  3. ^ "Gattaca a Not-So-Perfect Specimen", Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle, Friday, October 24, 1997, URL retrieved 19th February 2009
  4. ^ "Review of Gattaca". 2004-02-25. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  5. ^ "Endless Pools in the Press". Retrieved 2012-09-07. 
  6. ^ ""Gattaca, 1997": cars, bikes, trucks and other vehicles". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  7. ^ "US Movie Box Office Chart Weekend of October 24, 1997". The Numbers. 1997-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  8. ^ a b "Movie Gattaca - Box Office Data, News, Cast Information". The Numbers. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  9. ^ " Gattaca (1997)". ASIN 0767805712. 
  10. ^ " Gattaca (Superbit Collection) (1997)". Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  11. ^ " Gattaca (Special Edition) (1997)". Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  12. ^ " Gattaca [Blu-ray] (1997)". Retrieved April 7, 2013. 
  13. ^ "Gattaca (1997)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-01. 
  14. ^ "Gattaca reviews at". Retrieved 2011-10-05. 
  15. ^ "Gattaca :: :: Reviews". 1997-10-24. Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  16. ^ "Review: Gattaca". Retrieved 2009-10-10. 
  17. ^ Brown, Evan (2007). Gattaca Now! The sequel to the 10-year-old classic science fiction film is in real-life science labs. Archived from the original on June 6, 2008. Retrieved 2008-08-02. 
  18. ^ Darnovsky, Marcy (2008). Are We Headed for a Sci-Fi Dystopia?. Retrieved 2008-03-23. 
  19. ^ Pope, Marcia; McRoberts, Richard (2003). Cambridge Wizard Student Guide Gattaca. Cambridge University press. ISBN 0-521-53615-4. 
  20. ^ Kirby, D.A. (2000). The New Eugenics in Cinema: Genetic Determinism and Gene Therapy in GATTACA. Science Fiction Studies, 27: 193-215. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  21. ^ Silver, Lee M. (1997). "Genetics Goes to Hollywood". Nature Genetics 17 (3): 260. doi:10.1038/ng1197-260. Retrieved 2008-01-08. 
  22. ^ Hughes, James (2004). Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future. Westview Press. ISBN 0-8133-4198-1. 
  23. ^ "Gattaca soundtrack overview". Allmusic. Retrieved 2008-10-30. 
  24. ^ "Gattaca soundtrack". SoundtrackNet, LLC. Retrieved 2008-09-06. 
  25. ^ Schneider, Michael (2009-10-29). "Apostle preps for post-'Rescue' life". Archived from the original on 2010-01-06. 
  26. ^ Carroll, James R. (October 28, 2013). "Senator: Scientific advances could bring back eugenics". The Courier-Journal (USA Today). Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  27. ^ Kopan, Tal (October 28, 2013). "Rachel Maddow: Rand Paul ripped off Wikipedia". Politico (Sinclair Broadcast Group). Retrieved October 29, 2013. 

External links[edit]