The Accused (1988 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
The Accused
Accused ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Kaplan
Produced by Stanley R. Jaffe
Sherry Lansing
Written by Tom Topor
Music by Brad Fiedel
Cinematography Ralf D. Bode
Edited by O. Nicholas Brown
Gerard B. Greenberg
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • October 14, 1988 (1988-10-14)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $6 million (equivalent to $12.42 million in 2017)
Box office $32.07 million
(equivalent to $66.21 million in 2017)

The Accused is a 1988 American courtroom drama film directed by Jonathan Kaplan from a screenplay written by Tom Topor. The film stars Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis in the lead roles alongwith Bernie Coulson, Leo Rossi, Ann Hearn, Carmen Argenziano, Steve Antin and Tom O'Brien in supporting roles. In the film Sarah Tobias, a young waitress, is gang-raped by three men at a local bar; she and district attorney Kathryn Murphy set out to prosecute the rapists as well as the men who encouraged them.

The film is set in Washington state and was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. It is loosely based on the 1983 gang rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the resulting trial, which received national coverage. It is the only Hollywood film to portray rape graphically. The Accused premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival, where it competed for the Golden Bear. The film was released theatrically on October 14, 1988. Upon release the film received critical acclaim with major appreciation drawn towards Foster's performance and proved to be her breakthrough as an adult actor. The film became a commercial success grossing $32 million against a $6 million budget.

Foster received various accolades for her performance in the film including an Academy Award for Best Actress, Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Drama, National Board of Review Award for Best Actress, David di Donatello Award for Best Foreign Actress, Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress and received nominations for the BAFTA Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role, Chicago Film Critics Association Award for Best Actress and New York Film Critics Circle Award for Best Actress.


On April 18, 1987, at a bar, 24-years old working-class woman Sarah Tobias (Jodie Foster) is gang raped by several drunk bar patrons, while onlookers cheer them on. Assistant district attorney Kathryn Murphy (Kelly McGillis) is assigned to the rape case. Her superior instructs Murphy to offer a plea bargain with the rape defendants that requires some jail time. They make a plea bargain to charges of reckless endangerment, and are sentenced to prison. Sarah is enraged by the deal, as there is no acknowledgment on the record that the men raped her.

Sarah rams a pickup truck after recognizing its driver as one of the patrons from the bar who had been cheering during the rape, and being outraged by his crude proposition of her. Her injuries require hospitalization. After this, Murphy decides to prosecute the men who cheered the rape for criminal solicitation. Sarah's friend Sally, a waitress at the bar where the rape took place, picks three men out of a line-up as those who encouraged the attackers. They get three different defense attorneys for the ensuing trial.

Sarah testifies that she was raped. College student Kenneth Joyce (Bernie Coulson), a friend of one of the rapists, testifies to watching the rape before he made a 911 call to notify police. After Murphy's closing statement and a single summation from the three defense lawyers, the jury deliberates for a long time. They ask several times for Joyce's testimony to be reread to them.

In the end, the jury convicts the three defendants. As the trial provides testimony and evidence that the men raped Sarah, the three men already serving prison time for reckless endangerment are unlikely to be granted parole.




Box Office[edit]

In its opening weekend in North America, The Accused was #1 at the box office, grossing $4,316,369 in 796 theaters. The film grossed a total of $32.07 million domestically against a $6 million budget becoming a major commercial success.[1]

Critical Response[edit]

Jodie Foster received widespread acclaim for her performance as Sarah Tobias thus, marking her breakthrough into adult roles and earned her an Academy Award for Best Actress.

The Accused received highly positive reviews from critics upon release with major acclaim drawn towards Foster's performance. On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 95% with the critical consensus saying : "Simultaneously gut-wrenching and provocative, The Accused provides with a harrowing and haunting rape drama, layered by an outstanding performance by Jodie Foster". On Metacritic, the film has an average score of 70 out of 100 indicating generally favourable reviews.

In a positive review, Writing of the two criminal prosecutions in the film, Roger Ebert finds that the lesson of the trial "may be the most important message this movie has to offer...that verbal sexual harassment, whether crudely in a saloon back room or subtly in an everyday situation, is a form of violence - one that leaves no visible marks but can make its victims feel unable to move freely and casually in society. It is a form of imprisonment."[2]

The film premiered at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival in 1989, where it competed for the Golden Bear .[3]

Amongst various other awards and nominations received, Foster won the Academy Award for Best Actress , the solo nomination for the movie, marking the first occurrence of such an event since 1961 (when Sophia Loren won for Two Women) that the winner of the aforementioned category won for a film with a singular nomination. Her performance in the film is ranked #56 on Premiere's 100 Greatest Film Performances of All Time (2006).

Marjorie Heins, in the 1998 book The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, said that educators worried that the film would "receive V ratings and be subject to at least a presumption against curricular use in many public schools."[4]


Kelly McGillis acknowledged at the time of film release that she had survived an attack and rape. Based on her experience, the actress took the role of the fictional Assistant District Attorney Murphy in the film. McGillis was initially recruited to play the role of Sarah Tobias (the assault victim) but declined, citing her personal experience.[5]

In 1982, McGillis was assaulted, raped, and robbed in her home by Leroy Johnson, a sex offender who had recently escaped from juvenile jail, and his adult accomplice.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Accused (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  2. ^ Roger Ebert (October 14, 1988). "The Accused", Chicago Sun-Times
  3. ^ "Berlinale: 1989 Programme". Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  4. ^ Marjorie Heins, "Three Questions About Television Ratings," in The V-Chip Debate: Content Filtering from Television to the Internet, ed. Monroe E. Price. Mahwah, New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, Publishers (1998): 54
  5. ^ Kelly McGillis, as told to Kristin McMurran (14 November 1988). "Memoir of a Brief Time in Hell". People. Retrieved 18 August 2015. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Aquino, John T. (2005). "Big Dan's Tavern Rape Trial (1983) / Film: The Accused (1988)," in Truth and Lives on Film: The Legal Problems of Depicting Real Persons and Events in a Fictional Medium. McFarland. pp. 140–143. ISBN 0786420448.

External links[edit]