Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer

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Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer
The poster shows four horizontal images from the film, each of a different primary character. From top to bottom: Sarah Jane Morris as Lexy McGuire, Dean Cain as James Wood, Nick Searcy as Mike Cohan, and Michael Beach as Dan Molinari. Between Cain and Searcy is the film's title and tagline in front of a monochrome image of the upper face of Earl Billings as Kermit Gosnell. The tagline of the film reads "He took an oath to protect life not take it".
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNick Searcy
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byAndrew Klavan
Music byBoris Zelkin
CinematographyMark Petersen
Edited byJohn Quinn
Hat Tip Films
Distributed byGVN Releasing
Release date
October 12, 2018
Running time
93 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$4 million[1]
Box office$3.6 million[2]

Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer is a 2018 American drama film about Kermit Gosnell, a physician and abortion provider who was convicted of first degree murder in the deaths of three infants born alive, involuntary manslaughter in the death of a patient undergoing an abortion procedure, 21 felony counts of illegal late-term abortion, and 211 counts of violating a 24-hour informed consent law.[3][4] He was sentenced instead to life in prison without the possibility of parole.[5][6]

The film was announced in 2014. Funds for its production were raised via crowdfunding, in which $2.4 million was raised for the creation of the film.[7][8][9] The film was written by Irish filmmakers Ann McElhinney and Phelim McAleer and directed by Nick Searcy. Andrew Klavan was the screenwriter.[10] It stars Earl Billings and Dean Cain. After difficulties finding a distributor willing to carry the film and a lawsuit by a judge who objected to his portrayal in the film,[11] the producers signed a distribution deal with GVN Releasing.[12] It was released in approximately 650 theaters across the United States on October 12, 2018.[13]


The film focuses on the police investigation and trial of Kermit Gosnell. The film draws from the book Gosnell: The Untold Story of America's Most Prolific Serial Killer.[14][15]



Development and crowdfunding[edit]

The film was announced in 2014, less than a year after Gosnell was tried and sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. The filmmakers sought to raise funds for the production of the film through crowdfunding, but encountered resistance from Kickstarter, which the filmmakers said censored the project from their website.[16][17] According to email exchanges released by McAleer, Kickstarter requested that the phrases "'1000s of babies stabbed to death" and '1000s of babies murdered'...be removed or modified to comply with the spirit of our Community Guidelines."[18][19] Kickstarter's CEO denied that they censored the project and said the filmmakers blew an editorial exchange out of proportion.[20]

The filmmakers switched to Indiegogo and launched their crowdfunding effort on March 28, 2014, with a goal of $2.1 million, which was reached less than two weeks later on April 9, 2014.[21] It quickly became the highest-funded film on Indiegogo, and is currently one of the highest-funded crowdfunding projects of all time.[22]


The film was originally intended to be a made for TV movie, but the filmmakers later decided to make it into a feature film.[23] John Sullivan was announced as the executive producer of the film in December 2014.[23] Nick Searcy was announced as the director of the film in March 2015.[24] Searcy said in a statement, "I am both excited and humbled by the opportunity to have a part in bringing this important American story to the screen. It is a story that many in Hollywood were unwilling to tell, and I am grateful to Ann, Phelim and Magdalena for having the courage to tell it."[24] He also said, "There are three aspects to this story that are fascinating. What happened; why it was allowed to happen; and why no one wanted to talk about it after it happened."[24] Searcy later wrote in a September 2018 op-ed in National Review that he knew taking on a controversial project would cause him to be shunned by some in Hollywood but agreed to direct after reading the script.[25] Searcy says he sought to make a film that "would inform and benefit people on both sides of this issue, no matter how passionate" and that would treat the politics of the case "objectively in an honest and compelling film."[25]

Earl Billings was cast to play Kermit Gosnell, and Dean Cain was cast as Detective James Wood, one of the detectives who investigated Gosnell.

Musician John Ondrasik, also known by his stage name Five for Fighting, recorded a song entitled "The Song of Innocents" for the end credits of the film.[26]

Distribution difficulties[edit]

Filming was completed in October 2015,[27] and release was expected in 2016,[28][29] but a distribution deal was not secured until June 2018.[12]

The film faced additional delays when, days before a distribution was set to be announced in June 2017, the Philadelphia judge who presided over Gosnell's trial, Jeffrey Minehart, filed a defamation lawsuit against the filmmakers for $50,000, stating the book and film portrayed Minehart "'as a villain in their story of the righteous versus the wicked' when in fact he's a "former prosecutor with an impeccable reputation for honesty, integrity and fairness.'"[30] The lawsuit was settled out of court and the filmmakers were allowed to resume negotiations with distributors.[31]


The film premiered in Hollywood on October 9, 2018 at the Saban Theatre.[32] It was released in approximately 650 theaters across the United States on October 12, 2018.[13]


A Washington Times article reported that the filmmakers were anticipating a lack of interest from the "left-leaning media" and that they would instead utilize social media, word-of-mouth, and reaching out to non-media influencers to garner support for the film.[33] Executive producer John Sullivan said their marketing budget would focus on women 35 and older living within 15 miles of a theater showing the film.[33] Sullivan said they were "not naive" about the increased public conversation about Roe v. Wade sparked by the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the United States Supreme Court and that they would "embrace it in a way and have a discussion about it."[33]

The producers attempted to purchase airtime on National Public Radio (NPR) to promote the film, but NPR responded that the announcements could not use the terms "abortionist" or "abortion doctor." The producers declined to agree to NPR's stipulations and thus did not go through with the purchase.[13][better source needed]


Upon its release, the film received only two reviews from large media sources: the Los Angeles Times and Forbes.[34][13] The Seattle Times noted in its October 12 new-release coverage that no advance press screening was held for the film.[35] Other media such as NBC News[36] and Washington Times[37] reported without a review: focusing on the politics and morals of abortion, or on the relationship between the film and the case it was based on. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film received a "rotten" score of 55%, based on 11 reviews.[38]

In first weekend of release, Gosnell earned $1,162,988 on 673 screens, making it the 12th highest earner by total revenue,[39] although the film’s average performance of $1,728 per screen was only the 27th highest that weekend.[40] In its second weekend, the film dropped to 511 screens and earned $640,283, averaging $1,253 per screen.[41]

The filmmakers alleged that some movie theaters, including 15 multiplexes, dropped the film after its first weekend for political reasons.[42]


  1. ^ "Thorner: Sneak Preview of Gosnell Film Stirs Anticipation of Nationwide October 2018 Release". Illinois Review. Retrieved October 12, 2018.
  2. ^ "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer (2018)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 13, 2018.
  3. ^ Dennis, Brady (13 May 2013). "Abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell convicted of murder in deaths of three infants". The Washington Post. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  4. ^ "Doctor Kermit Gosnell found guilty of murdering infants in late-term abortions". Fox News. 13 May 2013. Retrieved 12 May 2014.
  5. ^ Hoye, Sarah (May 15, 2013). "Abortion doctor convicted of murder waives appeal, avoids death sentence". CNN. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  6. ^ Hurdle, Jon (13 May 2013). "Philadelphia Abortion Doctor Guilty of Murder in Late-Term Procedures". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 May 2014.
  7. ^ Gosnell Movie, Indiegogo, April 4, 2014.
  8. ^ O'Brien, Cortney. Gosnell Movie Campaign Earns $300,000 in Just Five Days, Townhall.com, April 3, 2014.
  9. ^ Eichel, Molly. Filmmakers crowd-fund a TV movie about Kermit Gosnell, Philadelphia Inquirer, April 3, 2014.
  10. ^ Bond, Paul (September 2, 2014). "Writer Hired for Project About Convicted Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell". The Hollywood Reporter. Los Angeles, California. Retrieved September 30, 2014.
  11. ^ 'Gosnell' Abortion Doctor Movie Releases Trailer The Hollywood Reporter
  12. ^ a b 'Gosnell' Abortion Doctor Movie Gets Distribution Deal, Hollywood Reporter, June 26, 2018.
  13. ^ a b c d Riley, Jason L., "‘Gosnell,’ Like Its Namesake, Faces a Media Blackout", Wall Street Journal, October 16, 2018; Heldt, Brianna, "Media Ignores Big Opening and Critical Acclaim for 'Gosnell' Movie", Townhall, October 16, 2018
  14. ^ 2015 (14 June 2015). "'Gosnell' Producers to Write Book for Release With Movie".
  15. ^ McElhinney, Ann; McAleer, Phelim (24 January 2017). "Gosnell". Regnery Publishing, Incorporated, An Eagle Publishing Company – via Google Books.
  16. ^ "Filmmaker Accuses Kickstarter of Censoring 'Gosnell' Abortion Movie".
  17. ^ "Gosnell abortion film too much for Kickstarter's 'diverse' censors". 8 April 2014.
  18. ^ Weigel, David (3 April 2014). "Anti-Abortion Filmmakers Say They Were Censored by Kickstarter" – via Slate.
  19. ^ "Gosnell Movie Snubbed by Kickstarter".
  20. ^ "Kickstarter CEO Responds to Gosnell Filmmakers - National Review". 11 April 2014.
  21. ^ "Abortion Doctor Kermit Gosnell TV Movie Hits $2.1 Million Crowdfunding Goal".
  22. ^ Busch, Anita (17 April 2014). "'Gosnell' Becomes Most-Funded Film To Date On Indiegogo; Crosses $1M".
  23. ^ a b "'Gosnell' Movie Adds '2016' Co-Director John Sullivan as Executive Producer (Exclusive)".
  24. ^ a b c "Anti-Abortion Movie Gosnell Will Be Directed By Justified Actor". 18 March 2015.
  25. ^ a b Why I Directed Gosnell National Review
  26. ^ "Five for Fighting talks live album, tour, 'Song of the Innocents' (Includes interview)". 19 September 2018.
  27. ^ "Brief: Indiegogo Alum "Gosnell Movie" Finishes Filming (Video) - Crowdfund Insider". www.crowdfundinsider.com.
  28. ^ O'Brien, Cortney. "Hollywood Not Interested in the 'Controversial' Gosnell Movie".
  29. ^ "Kathie Lee Gifford Calls Kermit Gosnell's Abortion Mill a 'War on Women' - National Review". 20 January 2016.
  30. ^ "Judge in Murder Case Sues 'Gosnell' Filmmakers Over Depiction".
  31. ^ "Pa. Judge Settles Defamation Suit Over Abortion Doc Book - Law360". www.law360.com.
  32. ^ "Snap: Anti-abortion movie premieres at Hollywood theater of Clinton donor". 4 October 2018.
  33. ^ a b c "Kermit Gosnell 'serial killer' film tackles abortion mindset". The Washington Times.
  34. ^ "Review: 'Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer,' a none-too-subtle take on real-life courtroom drama". latimes.com. 2018-10-11. Retrieved 2018-10-22.
  35. ^ "'First Man' and 8 other movies open Oct. 12; our reviewers weigh in". The Seattle Times. October 12, 2018. Retrieved October 20, 2018.
  36. ^ "Opinion - New pro-life movie vilifies abortion, but shows what a post-Roe world looks like".
  37. ^ http://www.washingtontimes.com, The Washington Times. "Pro-life film on the trial of Kermit Gosnell defies the odds with ratings triumph".
  38. ^ "Gosnell: The Trial of America's Biggest Serial Killer".
  39. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for Oct. 12-14". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  40. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for Oct. 12-14 (Average)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  41. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for Oct. 19-21". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved October 25, 2018.
  42. ^ "Exclusive: 'Gosnell' Being Dropped From Movie Theaters Despite Solid Performance". Daily Wire. 2018-10-19. Retrieved 2018-10-22.

External links[edit]