Best Seller

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This article is about the 1987 movie. For other uses, see Bestseller (disambiguation).
Best Seller
Best seller poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by John Flynn
Produced by Carter De Haven
Written by Larry Cohen
Music by Jay Ferguson
Cinematography Fred Murphy
Edited by David Rosenbloom
Distributed by Orion Pictures
Release dates
  • September 25, 1987 (1987-09-25)
Running time
95 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $4,278,150

Best Seller is a 1987 crime film written by Larry Cohen, directed by John Flynn and starring James Woods and Brian Dennehy. The film tells the story of Cleve (Woods), a career hitman, who wants to turn his life story into a book written by Dennis Meechum (Dennehy), a veteran police officer and best-selling author.


The movie opens in 1972 as a group of gunmen wearing Richard Nixon Halloween masks steal evidence from a police evidence storage unit, killing several officers in the process. Officer Dennis Meechum (Brian Dennehy) is seriously wounded after stabbing one of the robbers. He survives and publishes a book titled Inside Job based on his experience. Years later, Meechum, who by now has become an acclaimed author and a much decorated Detective, is working on his next novel. He now suffers from writer's block, and is a widowed father raising his daughter, Holly (Allison Balson).

On a case at the docks, a suspect runs as Meechum gives chase. A man named Cleve (James Woods) joins the chase. The suspect hides in an overhead crane and attempts to shoot Meechum, but Cleve kills the man, then mysteriously disappears.

Cleve arranges a meeting with Meechum, and tries to convince to write a book about his history as a paid assassin for a corporate empire, Kappa International. Cleve intimidates Kappa's founder, David Madlock (Paul Shenar) about Meechum's next book, and promises Meechum to show evidence to back up his claims. They proceed to take trips to New York and Texas where Cleve tries to convince Meechum of his history of hits. While they are in Texas, it is revealed that Cleve was the injured masked gunmen that Meechum had stabbed years earlier. Madlock, through his legal representatives, tries to bribe Meechum but fails.

When an enforcer tries to steal a manuscript of Meechum's novel and attempt to kill Holly, Cleve intervenes by killing him. When Cleve attempts to keep Holly safe by sending her to Meechum's agent, Roberta Gillian (Victoria Tennant). Madlock, however, manages to kidnap Holly. Meechum decides to have a meeting with Madlock at the latter's oceanfront estate. Cleve storms into the house, and guns down all of Madlock's bodyguards. Cleve then sacrifices his own life to save Holly from Madlock. Meechum arrests Madlock, before comforting a dying Cleve. Cleve reminds Meechum about the book and says "Remember I'm the hero". At the end of the film, it is revealed that Meechum has published the book titled Retribution: The Fall of David Madlock and Kappa International and it has had 28 weeks on the best seller list.



John Flynn says he substantially rewrote the script which was originally called Hard Cover.[1]


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