Eye of the Needle (film)

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For the 1962 comedy-drama film, see The Eye of the Needle (film).
Eye of the Needle
Eye of the Needle.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Richard Marquand
Produced by Stephen J. Friedman
Screenplay by Stanley Mann
Based on Eye of the Needle 
by Ken Follett
Music by Miklós Rózsa
Cinematography Alan Hume
Kings Road Entertainment
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • July 24, 1981 (1981-07-24) (USA)
Running time
118 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $17.5 million

Eye of the Needle is a 1981 American spy film directed by Richard Marquand and starring Donald Sutherland and Kate Nelligan. Based on the novel of the same title by Ken Follett, the film is about a German spy in England during World War II who discovers vital information about the upcoming D-Day invasion. In his attempt to return to Germany with the information, he travels to the isolated Storm Island off the coast of Scotland to rendezvous with a U-boat, but his plans are thwarted by a young woman resident.


A man calling himself Henry Faber is actually a German spy nicknamed "the Needle" because of his preferred method of assassination, the stiletto. He is a coldly calculating sociopath, emotionlessly focused on the task at hand, whether the task is to signal a U-boat or to gut a witness to avoid exposure.

In England, he has obtained critical information on the Allies' invasion plans. Trying to make his way to Germany, he is stranded by a fierce storm on Storm Island, occupied only by a woman named Lucy (Kate Nelligan), her disabled husband David, their son, and their shepherd, Tom. A romance develops between the woman and the spy, due to an estrangement between Lucy and her husband, whose accident has rendered him emotionally crippled as well.

When David discovers their guest's true identity, a struggle ensues, ending with the Needle throwing him off a cliff. Lucy realizes that her lover has been lying after she chances upon her husband's dead body. "The Needle" must get to Tom's radio to report to his superiors the exact location of the D-Day invasion. Lucy is the Allies' last chance. He is reluctant to harm her, but she has no such qualms and shoots him as he tries to escape in a boat.

Additional footage tells of Faber's activities four years before, and of David's accident, while another ending finds Lucy receiving help from British Intelligence.



The Storm Island scenes were shot over eight weeks on the Isle of Mull in the Inner Hebrides.[1] Some of the location filming was shot at Blackbushe Airport Yateley.


Roger Ebert "admired the movie," stating it "resembles nothing so much as one of those downbeat, plodding, quietly horrifying, and sometimes grimly funny war movies that used to be made by the British film industry, back when there was a British film industry."[2] On Rotten Tomatoes, 85% of critics gave the film positive reviews.


The DKW Munga vehicle shown on the island was not built until the 1950s. The enclosed-cabin helicopter that is briefly shown toward the end of the film is also an anachronism.


  1. ^ Hume, Alan; Owen, Gareth (2004). A Life Through the Lens: Memoirs of a Film Cameraman. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. p. 130. ISBN 9780786418039. 
  2. ^ Roger Ebert (January 1, 1981). "Eye of the Needle". Retrieved February 27, 2015. 

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