Ransom (1996 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Screenplay by
Based onRansom! 1956 movie
Fearful Decision 1954 TV play
by Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum
Produced by
CinematographyPiotr Sobociński
Edited by
Music byJames Horner
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution[1]
Release date
  • November 8, 1996 (1996-11-08)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$70 million[3]
Box office$309.5 million[4]

Ransom is a 1996 American action thriller film[5] directed by Ron Howard from a screenplay by Richard Price and Alexander Ignon. The film stars Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Delroy Lindo, Lili Taylor, Brawley Nolte, Liev Schreiber, Donnie Wahlberg and Evan Handler. 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 Cyril Hume and Richard Maibaum into the feature film, Ransom!, starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, and Leslie Nielsen.


While multi-billionaire Tom Mullen and his wife Kate attend a science fair, their son Sean is kidnapped, having left their sight unexpectedly. Sean is taken to an apartment by Maris Conner, a caterer working for the Mullens; brothers Clark and Cubby Barnes; and tech expert Miles Roberts. A NYPD Detective, Jimmy Shaker, Maris' boyfriend, is later revealed to be the mastermind behind the kidnapping. The kidnappers send Tom and Kate an e-mail with a video of Sean demanding $2 million. Tom calls the FBI, despite the kidnappers instructions on not to contact the authorities, with the threat of killing Sean, who operate 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 Tom's business scandals, may be behind it. They visit Brown in prison, but he denies any involvement before striking Tom.

Tom agrees to the FBI's plan for delivering the ransom. Receiving a phone call from Shaker, who electronically disguises his voice, Tom follows his instructions. He meets Cubby in a New Jersey quarry but refuses to hand over the money when Cubby fails to give him Shaker's promised directions to Sean. During an ensuing fight, the FBI intervenes and shoot Cubby, who dies before revealing Sean's location. Tom realizes there is no guarantee Sean will be returned alive. Shaker arranges another drop-off, but although Tom initially agrees to take the money alone, he instead appears on television and offers the ransom as a bounty on the kidnappers, dead or alive, but promises to withdraw the bounty and drop all charges if the kidnappers return Sean alive and unharmed, making it clear he will not pay the ransom.

Despite Kate and Agent Hawkins' pleadings, Tom sticks to his plan, believing it is the best chance for Sean's return. Shaker lures Kate to a meeting where he assaults her and presents Sean's blood-stained t-shirt as a warning to pay the ransom. Tom responds by doubling the bounty to $4 million. Shaker calls Tom and gives him one final warning to pay, 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 requests backup, kills both Clark and Miles, and makes it look like Miles shot first. When Maris shoots him in the arm from behind, he kills her, too. The NYPD arrives and find Shaker with a badly beaten Sean, whom they believe Shaker rescued. Hawkins informs Tom and Kate, and they are reunited with Sean while Shaker is hospitalized.

Shaker arrives at Tom's penthouse to claim the reward; he intends to immediately leave the country before his connection to Maris is discovered. When Sean and Tom both recognize Shaker's voice and expressions as the kidnapper, Shaker realizes his cover is blown. Shaker plans to kill everyone in the apartment, but Tom persuades him to accompany him to the bank to gain the money and leave peacefully. Shaker attempts to force Tom to wire the money from the house via phone, but Tom stands his ground and warns him that whether he receives his money or not, Shaker will be exposed and hunted citywide. Shaker reluctantly agrees to go to the bank, threatening to rekidnap and execute Sean should Tom attempt a double-cross. On the way, 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 attempt to detain Shaker, but Shaker shoots them. Tom knocks Shaker to the ground and the two struggle. Tom hurls Shaker through the window of a lamp store. Tom picks up Shaker's dropped gun and points it at him. Hawkins and other police officers demand that Tom drop the gun and walk away. In desperation, Shaker draws another gun but is shot dead by Tom and Hawkins. As Tom drops the gun, police rush in to arrest him, but Hawkins orders them to stand down and Tom is allowed to leave the scene with Kate.



Ransom has a 74% rating from Rotten Tomatoes based on 74 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."[6] Metacritic gave the film a score of 60 based on 21 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[7] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[8]

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."[9]

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 d "Ransom (1996)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  2. ^ "Imagine Entertainment Ransom".
  3. ^ "Ransom". The-Numbers.com. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  4. ^ "Ransom". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  5. ^ "10 Best Ron Howard Movies, Ranked (According To Rotten Tomatoes)". Screen Rant. 21 April 2020.
  6. ^ Ransom Rotten Tomatoes, Retrieved 8/02/10
  7. ^ "Ransom Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom. Archived from the original on 12 November 2020. Retrieved 24 January 2024.
  8. ^ "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  9. ^ Ransom Roger Ebert, Retrieved 2010-08-02
  10. ^ "GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS". Variety. 1996-12-19. Retrieved 2018-01-19.

External links[edit]