Ransom (1996 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music by
CinematographyPiotr Sobociński
Edited by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • November 8, 1996 (1996-11-08)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$70 million[2]
Box office$309.5 million[3]

Ransom is a 1996 American action thriller film[4] directed by Ron Howard and written by Richard Price and Alexander Ignon. The film stars Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Brawley Nolte, Delroy Lindo, Liev Schreiber, Evan Handler, Donnie Wahlberg, and Lili Taylor. Gibson was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The film was the 5th highest-grossing film of 1996 in the United States. The original story came from a 1954 episode of The United States Steel Hour titled "Fearful Decision". In 1956, it was adapted by Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume into the feature film Ransom!, starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, and Leslie Nielsen. The film was also influenced by Ed McBain's police procedural novel King's Ransom.


While multi-millionaire Tom Mullen and his wife Kate attend a science fair, their son Sean is kidnapped. Sean is taken to an apartment by Maris Conner, a caterer for the Mullens, along with brothers Clark and Cubby Barnes, and Miles Roberts, and Detective Jimmy Shaker, Maris' boyfriend and the mastermind behind the kidnapping. Tom and Kate receive an e-mail from the kidnappers demanding $2,000,000. Tom calls the FBI, who begin operating from his New York City penthouse under Special Agent Lonnie Hawkins. In private, Tom voices his belief that a union machinist, Jackie Brown, who is in prison following one of Mullen's business scandals, may have been behind it. They visit Brown in prison, but he angrily denies any involvement with the kidnapping.

Tom agrees to the FBI's instructions for delivering the ransom. Receiving a phone call from Shaker, who is electronically disguising his voice, Tom follows his instructions. He meets Cubby in a New Jersey quarry but refuses to hand the money over when Cubby fails to give him the directions Shaker had promised him. A fight ensues and the FBI intervene and shoot Cubby. He dies before he can reveal Sean's location. Shaker later arranges another drop off. While Tom initially agrees to take the money alone, he realizes there is no guarantee Sean will be returned alive and instead appears on television to offer the ransom as a bounty on the kidnappers' heads, promising to withdraw the bounty and drop all charges if the kidnappers return Sean alive and unharmed.

Despite the pleadings of Kate and Agent Hawkins, Tom sticks to his plan, believing it is the best chance of having Sean returned. Shaker lures Kate to a meeting where he tells her to pay the ransom or Sean will die before ditching Sean's blood stained t-shirt. Tom responds by increasing the bounty to $4,000,000. Shaker calls Tom and demands to be paid, but Tom still refuses, and Shaker fires a gunshot after Tom hears Sean scream for help, leading Tom and Kate to believe Sean is dead. Clark and Miles attempt to abandon the plan and flee, but Shaker calls in the NYPD to request backup and kills both Clark and Miles while making it look like Miles shot first, and kills Maris after she shoots him in the arm from behind. The NYPD arrive and find Shaker with Sean, believing Shaker found and rescued Sean. Hawkins informs Tom and Kate and they are reunited with Sean while Shaker is hospitalized. Tom also recognizes Maris.

Shaker later pays Tom a visit to claim the reward and leave the country before investigators discover his connection with Maris. Tom and Sean, however, recognize Shaker as the kidnapper, and Shaker realizes this. Though his initial plan is to kill everyone in the apartment, Tom persuades him to accompany him to the bank to gain the money and leave peacefully. On the way, however, Tom discreetly alerts Hawkins and the police and FBI converge on Tom and Shaker outside the bank. As soon as Tom and Shaker exit the bank, two police officers (who greeted Shaker and Tom before entering the bank) inform Shaker that he is going to be detained, causing Shaker to go berserk and shoot them down, before Tom knocks him to the ground, after which a chase ensues in which Tom and Shaker grapple furiously before falling through a shop window, severely injuring both and impaling Shaker through the neck. Tom picks up a hidden pistol (that Shaker pulled out during the scuffle) and points at Shaker before Hawkins and other police officers keep demanding that he drop the gun and walk away. In desperation, Shaker draws another hidden gun, but is shot dead by Tom and Hawkins. Tom finally drops the gun and police rush in to arrest Tom, but Hawkins tells them to hold as it was self-defense, allowing Tom and Kate to leave the scene.



The movie has a 75% rating from Rotten Tomatoes based on 72 reviews, with its consensus stating: "Directed with propulsive intensity by Ron Howard, Ransom is a fiery thriller packed with hot-blooded performances and jolting twists".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "Gibson gives an interesting performance, showing a man trying to think his way out of a crisis, and Sinise makes a good foil: Here are two smart men playing a game with deadly stakes."[7]

Awards and nominations[edit]

1997 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Won - Top Box Office Film

1997 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards)

1997 Golden Globe Awards

1997 Image Awards

1997 Young Artist Awards

  • Nominated - Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor — Brawley Nolte


  1. ^ a b c "Ransom (1996)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  2. ^ "Ransom". The-Numbers.com. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  3. ^ "Ransom". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  4. ^ "10 Best Ron Howard Movies, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes)". Screen Rant.
  5. ^ Ransom Rotten Tomatoes, Retrieved 8/02/10
  6. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  7. ^ Ransom Roger Ebert, Retrieved 2010-08-02
  8. ^ "GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS". Variety. 1996-12-19. Retrieved 2018-01-19.

External links[edit]