The Accused (1988 film)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, 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
Box office $32 million

The Accused is a 1988 American drama film written by Tom Topor and directed by Jonathan Kaplan. It stars Jodie Foster and Kelly McGillis. The film is set in Washington state and was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The film was loosely based on the 1983 gang rape of Cheryl Araujo in New Bedford, Massachusetts, and the resulting trial, which received national coverage. This film was one of the first Hollywood films to portray rape graphically.[citation needed]

The film was well received. Jodie Foster portrayed Sarah Tobias, the victim, earning the Academy Award for Best Actress, the film's sole nomination. This was the first time since 1962 that the lead actress won the Best Actress Academy Award without the film being nominated in any other category; Sophia Loren had won Best Actress for her performance in Two Women.[1]


One night at a bar, working-class woman Sarah Tobias (Foster) is gang raped by several drunk bar patrons, while onlookers cheer them on. Assistant district attorney Kathryn Murphy (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 witnesses from the bar, 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 (Ann Hearn), 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.



Reception and awards[edit]

The film grossed a total of $32,078,318.[2]

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."[3]

The film played in competition at the 39th Berlin International Film Festival in 1989.[4]

Jodie Foster won an Academy Award as Best Actress for her performance; the film received no other nominations for Academy Awards. (It was the first time this had occurred since 1961, when Sophia Loren won Best Actress for her performance in Two Women.)

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."[5]


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.[6]

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. ^ "La ciociara". Retrieved 1 September 2017. 
  2. ^ "The Accused (1988)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 13, 2012.
  3. ^ Roger Ebert (October 14, 1988). "The Accused", Chicago Sun-Times
  4. ^ "Berlinale: 1989 Programme". Retrieved 2011-03-09. 
  5. ^ 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
  6. ^ 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]