Judge Dredd (film)

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For the 2012 Judge Dredd film, see Dredd.
Judge Dredd
A headshot picture of Judge Dredd, wearing his helmet.
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Danny Cannon
Produced by Charles Lippincott
Beau E. L. Marks
Screenplay by William Wisher, Jr.
Steven E. de Souza
Story by Michael De Luca
William Wisher, Jr.
Based on Judge Dredd 
by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra
Starring Sylvester Stallone
Armand Assante
Diane Lane
Rob Schneider
Joan Chen
Jürgen Prochnow
Max von Sydow
Narrated by James Earl Jones
Music by Alan Silvestri
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Alex Mackie
Harry Keramidas
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • June 30, 1995 (1995-06-30)[1]
Running time
96 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $70 million
Box office $113.4 million

Judge Dredd is a 1995 American science fiction action film directed by Danny Cannon, and starring Sylvester Stallone, Diane Lane, Rob Schneider, Armand Assante, and Max von Sydow. The film is based on the strip of the same name in the British comic 2000 AD. It was a critical and commercial disappointment.


By the 2080s, much of Earth has become an uninhabitable wasteland. While some humans manage to survive in the wasteland, the majority of humanity resides in huge Mega-Cities with populations of tens of millions, where the traditional justice system has been replaced by a corps of Judges whose role combines those of police officer, judge, jury, and executioner. The most dedicated "Street Judge" in Mega-City One is Joseph Dredd (Sylvester Stallone), who assists rookie Judge Hershey (Diane Lane) in ending a block war. Herman "Fergee" Ferguson (Rob Schneider), a hacker recently released from prison, is caught in the firefight and hides inside a food dispensing robot, only to be arrested by Dredd and again sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

Rico (Armand Assante), a former Judge, escapes from prison with help of Judge Griffin (Jürgen Prochnow), and reclaims his Judge's uniform and "Lawgiver" gun as well as a decommissioned combat robot. A news reporter (Mitch Ryan) critical of Dredd is soon murdered, and Dredd is the chief suspect. Hershey acts as Dredd's defense lawyer in a trial before a tribunal of Council Judges including Dredd's mentor Chief Justice Fargo (Max von Sydow) and Griffon. Dredd is found guilty based on DNA evidence that matches the bullets used to kill the reporter to the unique identifiers of Dredd's Lawgiver.

Shocked by the possibility of Dredd being a murderer, Fargo steps down as Chief Justice, asking as his last request that the Council spare Dredd's life. Dredd is sentenced to life imprisonment while Fargo embarks on his "long walk", in which a retiring Judge ventures into the "Cursed Earth" (wasteland) "to bring law to the lawless". Griffin, who freed Rico to frame Dredd for the murder, becomes Chief Justice and instructs Rico to sow chaos throughout the city.

Dredd, along with Herman and other prisoners, are taken to the Aspen penal colony via airship. While passing over the Cursed Earth. the ship is shot down by the Angel Gang, a family of cannibalistic scavengers who capture Dredd and Herman. A squad of Judges track Dredd to the Angels' camp and a battle ensues. Fargo arrives just in time to save Dredd's life, but is mortally wounded by Mean Machine Angel (Chris Adamson). While dying, Fargo reveals that Dredd and Rico are the result of the Janus project, an experiment in genetic engineering intended to create the perfect Judge using DNA from Council Judges; Dredd deduces Rico framed him for the reporter's murder due to the similarity of their DNA. Fargo concludes that Griffin is trying to reactivate the Janus project, and begs Dredd to stop him before dying.

In Mega-City One, Rico creates panic by assassinating 108 Judges in two days. Griffin uses this to convince the Council Judges to unlock the Janus files, hoping to create an army of perfect Judges from his DNA to take control of Mega City-One. The other Judges agree, but soon change their minds when they realize what Janus could be used for. Before they can relock the files, Griffon has Rico kill the remaining Council Judges. Dredd and Herman sneak back into Mega-City and meet with Hershey, who had also discovered the Janus project through further investigation, and leads them to the Statue of Liberty where the Janus laboratories are, finding them protected by Rico's sentry robot. Rico betrays Griffin and replaces the DNA for the Janus clones with his own. Herman uses his hacking skills to save Dredd and Hershey from the robot. Rico orders his clones activated prematurely, but they fail to stop Dredd. Dredd pursues Rico to the top of the statue, and a final struggle sends Rico falling to his death. Central, the city's controlling supercomputer, has recorded the entire event and broadcasts the information, clearing Dredd's name. The remaining Judges ask him to become the new Chief Justice, but Dredd refuses and prefers to remain a street judge.



The costumes used in the film were designed by Gianni Versace.[2]

Film composer David Arnold was originally set to score the film, having collaborated with director Danny Cannon on his previous film The Young Americans. Eventually, Arnold was replaced by film composing veteran Jerry Goldsmith, but as post-production dates fell further and further behind, Goldsmith was forced to drop out of the project as well, due to prior commitments to score other films (First Knight and Congo). Prior to leaving the project, Goldsmith composed and recorded a short piece of music that would eventually be used for the film's trailers and advertising campaigns. In the end, Alan Silvestri was selected as the new composer and would go on to score the final film. The end credits song for the film, "Dredd Song", was written and performed by the English alternative rock band The Cure. The song appears on disc three of their 2004 rarities box set Join the Dots: B-Sides & Rarities 1978–2001 (The Fiction Years) as well as on the film's soundtrack album. The song "Judge Yr'self" by the Manic Street Preachers was originally going to be on the soundtrack. Their guitarist Richey Edwards disappeared in early 1995, and since the song was the last written with him in the band, it never made it to the final soundtrack listing. The song was not released until 2003, when the band released Lipstick Traces (A Secret History of Manic Street Preachers).

Prior to production, the producer Edward Pressman had the script rewritten by Walon Green, Rene Balcer and Michael S. Chernuchin.[3]

According to interview with writer Steven E. de Souza for Den Of Geek web site in December 2013, original cut of Judge Dredd was rated NC-17 and had to be re-cut and submitted to the MPAA five times in order to get an R rating. This was before Stallone and studio tried to cut the movie even further to get PG-13 rating. Example, scene where Rico kills news reporter Hammond and his wife was originally longer and it showed two of them getting hit by bullets in slow-mo. Scene where ABC Warrior robot kills Judge Griffin by ripping his arms and legs off while Griffin screams was also deleted for these reasons. This scene was not to be shown onscreen but director Danny Cannon wanted to make the movie more and more violent (just like original comic was, which he was a fan of) despite the fact that studio and Stallone wanted for movie to be PG-13 with more focus on humour.[4] Probably the most infamous deleted sequence is one where Dredd fights and shoots clones Judges during the ending. This scene was deleted for unknown reasons, however some promotional stills show parts of it, clones waking up and Dredd shooting one of them. There was also a Megazine article about this deleted sequence.[5] Some of the other parts of the movie got cut out as well by Stallone and studio. Director Danny Cannon was so disheartened over his constant creative disputes with Stallone that he swore he would never again work with another big-name actor. He also claimed that the final version was completely different from the script, due to the changes Stallone demanded. In later interviews, Stallone said he felt the film was supposed to be a comedy/action film, and demanded rewrites to make it even more comedic. The director and screenwriter, however, had intended a darker, more satirical approach, which led to many difficulties behind the scenes.


The film received negative reviews upon its release. Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a score of 18% based on reviews from 51 critics, with an average rating of 3.7/10; the site's critical consensus is "Judge Dredd wants to be both a legitimate violent action flick and a parody of one, but director Danny Cannon fails to find the necessary balance to make it work."[6]

The film was considered to be a flop in the United States as it grossed only $34.7 million in the North American domestic box office receipts. It did a better internationally with over $78.8 million around the world reaching a total of $113.5 million worldwide.[7]

Judge Dredd earned a Golden Raspberry Award nomination for Sylvester Stallone as Worst Actor.[citation needed]

Gene Siskel voted Judge Dredd one of the worst motion pictures of 1995 as part of his 'Worst of 1995' review on Siskel and Ebert.

Stallone's view of the film[edit]

Thirteen years after the release of Judge Dredd, Sylvester Stallone discussed his feelings about the movie in an issue of Uncut magazine in 2008:

I loved that property when I read it, because it took a genre that I love, what you could term the 'action morality film' and made it a bit more sophisticated. It had political overtones. It showed how if we don't curb the way we run our judicial system, the police may end up running our lives. It dealt with archaic governments; it dealt with cloning and all kinds of things that could happen in the future. It was also bigger than any film I've done in its physical stature and the way it was designed. All the people were dwarfed by the system and the architecture; it shows how insignificant human beings could be in the future. There's a lot of action in the movie and some great acting, too. It just wasn't balls to the wall. But I do look back on Judge Dredd as a real missed opportunity. It seemed that lots of fans had a problem with Dredd removing his helmet, because he never does in the comic books. But for me it is more about wasting such great potential there was in that idea; just think of all the opportunities there were to do interesting stuff with the Cursed Earth scenes. It didn't live up to what it could have been. It probably should have been much more comic, really humorous, and fun. What I learned out of that experience was that we shouldn't have tried to make it Hamlet; it's more Hamlet and Eggs[8]

He later elaborated:

From what I recall, the whole project was troubled from the beginning. The philosophy of the film was not set in stone – by that I mean “Is this going to be a serious drama or with comic overtones” like other science fiction films that were successful? So a lotta pieces just didn’t fit smoothly. It was sort of like a feathered fish. Some of the design work on it was fantastic and the sets were incredibly real, even standing two feet away, but there was just no communication. I knew we were in for a long shoot when, for no explainable reason Danny Cannon, who’s rather diminutive, jumped down from his director’s chair and yelled to everyone within earshot, “FEAR me! Everyone should FEAR me!” then jumped back up to his chair as if nothing happened. The British crew was taking bets on his life expectancy.[9]

Wagner's view of the film[edit]

John Wagner, the creator of the comic character on which the film was based, said when interviewed by Empire in 2012: "the story had nothing to do with Judge Dredd, and Judge Dredd wasn’t really Judge Dredd even though Stallone was perfect for the part."[10]

In an interview with Total Film he said that the film had "tried to do too much" and "told the wrong story".[11]

Novelization and graphic novel[edit]

Two novels and a graphic novel were based on the movie:[12]


The trailer had specially composed music by Jerry Goldsmith, who had originally been attached to score the film; the film's music was composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri. Initially recorded with the Sinfonia of London, following changes made to the film in post-production Silvestri made extensive adjustments to the score that were recorded in Hollywood, although some of the music from the London sessions remains in the finished film.[14]

1995 album[edit]

The soundtrack album was released by Epic Records, featuring seven tracks from Silvestri's score (all performed by the Sinfonia of London, but most of which aren't the versions used in the film) and songs by The Cure, The The, White Zombie, Cocteau Twins, Leftfield, and on the UK edition only Ryo Aska and Worldbeaters with Youssou N'Dour (only the first two songs are heard in the film over the end credits).

2015 album[edit]

In 2015 Intrada Records issued a greatly-expanded two disc limited edition album, featuring all the music Silvestri recorded for the film. The album also includes Jerry Goldsmith's trailer music, conducted by the composer (a re-recording was previously released on the Varese Sarabande compilation Hollywood '95, conducted by Joel McNeely).[15]

See also[edit]


Further reading[edit]

  • The Making of Judge Dredd (by Jane Killick, David Chute, and Charles M. Lippincott, 192 pages, Hyperion Books, 1995, ISBN 0-7868-8106-2)
  • Knowing Audiences: "Judge Dredd" - Its Friends, Fan and Foes (by Martin Barker and Kate Brooks, 256 pages, University of Luton Press, 1998, ISBN 1-86020-549-6)
  • The Art of Judge Dredd the Movie (by David Chute, 160 pages, Boxtree, 1995, ISBN 0-7522-0666-4)

External links[edit]