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Cape Fear

Still of Robert De Niro and Nick Nolte in Cape FearStill of Robert De Niro in Cape FearStill of Nick Nolte and Jessica Lange in Cape FearStill of Martin Scorsese in Cape FearStill of Robert Mitchum in Cape FearStill of Illeana Douglas in Cape Fear


A convicted rapist, released from prison after serving a 14 year sentence, stalks the family of the lawyer who originally defended him.

Release Year: 1991

Rating: 7.3/10 (64,171 voted)

Critic's Score: 73/100

Martin Scorsese

Stars: Robert De Niro, Nick Nolte, Jessica Lange

Sam Bowden is a small-town corporate attorney/"Leave It to Beaver"-esque family-man. Max Cady is a tattooed, cigar-smoking, bible-quoting, psychotic rapist. What do they have in common? Fourteen years, ago Sam was a public defender assigned to Max Cady's rape trial, and he made a serious error: he hid a document from his illiterate client that could have gotten him acquitted. Now, the cagey, bibliophile Cady has been released, and he intends to teach Sam Bowden and his family a thing or two about loss.

Writers: John D. MacDonald, James R. Webb


Robert De Niro

Max Cady

Nick Nolte

Sam Bowden

Jessica Lange

Leigh Bowden

Juliette Lewis

Danielle Bowden

Joe Don Baker

Claude Kersek

Robert Mitchum

Lieutenant Elgart

Gregory Peck

Lee Heller

Martin Balsam


Illeana Douglas

Lori Davis

Fred Dalton Thompson

Tom Broadbent

Zully Montero


Craig Henne


Forest Burton


Edgar Allan Poe IV


Rod Ball


Sam Bowden has always provided for his family's future. But the past is coming back to haunt them.

Release Date: 13 November 1991

Filming Locations: Florida, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $35,000,000


Gross: $182,300,000

Technical Specs


Did You Know?


Lori, talking with Max, says, "Now weren't I the bozo on this bus!" – a reference to the 1971 album by The Firesign Theatre called "I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus". A reference like this may seem against period, but Martin Scorsese, like the Firesign Theatre players, was part of the counter-culture scene of the '60s and early '70s. Considered with other elements in the script, such as the lax attitude toward marijuana, this doesn't seem so out of character.


Factual errors:
At the end of the film, Sam Bowden says that he had to go to hearings before the American Bar Association as a result of his criminal actions toward Cady. But the ABA doesn't license lawyers, nor does it have the authority to disbar them. It is a lobbying group. Bowden would have had to go before the Georgia Bar Association, given that the crime occurred in that state.


[first lines]

My reminiscence. I always thought that for such a lovely river the name is mystifying: "Cape Fear". When the only thing to fear on those enchanted summer nights was that the magic would end and real life would come crashing in.

User Review

Not Scorcese's best, but pretty good!

Rating: 8/10

Martin Scorcese's filmography as director is one of the most accomplished in
modern film history. While Cape Fear can't even hold a candle next to "Taxi
Driver", "Raging Bull" and "Goodfellas", it is still a fabulous remake of
the 1962 noir classic and it keeps the viewer on the edge right through
until the closing credits.

Robert De Niro (in yet another brilliant teaming with Scorcese behind the
camera) plays Max Cady, a psychopathic rapist who was sent to jail 14 years
earlier for such crimes. He leaves prison with vengeance. Not for his
victims or his prosecutor, but his defence councillor, Sam J. Bowden, played
by Nick Nolte. It seems Bowden did not defend Cady to the best of his
ability. Cady knows this and wants some payback.

Cady's initial return into Bowden's life could not have come at a worse
time. Bowden has been forced to move his family to Florida after his
infidelities threatened his marriage and career. His wife is distrustful
and worst of all, Bowden is on the verge of beginning another affair with a
female workmate. Added to that, his daughter is at the difficult age of 15.

Almost by ozmosis, Cady understands these problems in the Bowden household
and acts on them. He begins terrorising Bowden and his whole family, taking
it from one extreme to the next.

What makes Cape Fear such a good film is the rapidly increasing sense of
claustrophobia. Scorcese makes a point of using almost only close up shots
towards the end of the film. It is a great touch that makes the viewer that
much more scared as the film goes on.

Along with that, Robert De Niro is superb as Cady. Only occasionally does
the role slip into parody. Mostly he is expertly evil.

Nick Nolte is good if not great, the same for Jessica Lange as Leigh Bowden.
It seems as if they were void of any great lines in this film, which is
unfortunate given their immense talent. Julliette Lewis is absolutely
brilliant as the young daughter, Danielle. She slips effortlessly between
curious sexual awakenings, rebellious teen and straight thinking woman. Add
in small roles for Robert Mitchum and Gregory Peck (the leads of the 1962
version) and you have a great ensemble cast.

So not the best Scorcese film ever, but some tight editing, great
camerawork, a haunting theme and devilishly over-the-top acting help make
this a frighteningly fun movie to watch. Strongly recommended.