6.6/10
26,087
185 user 119 critic

A Civil Action (1998)

PG-13 | | Drama | 8 January 1999 (USA)
Trailer
0:58 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Prime Video

ON DISC
A tenacious lawyer takes on a case involving a major company responsible for causing several people to be diagnosed with leukemia due to the town's water supply being contaminated, at the risk of bankrupting his firm and career.

Director:

Steven Zaillian

Writers:

Jonathan Harr (book), Steven Zaillian (screenplay)
Nominated for 2 Oscars. Another 5 wins & 8 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Learn more

More Like This 

Mad City (1997)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

A disgruntled security guard holds a school trip group hostage, while a news reporter forms a bond with him.

Director: Costa-Gavras
Stars: John Travolta, Dustin Hoffman, Alan Alda
Comedy | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

A man joins the political campaign of a smooth-operator candidate for president of the USA.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: John Travolta, Emma Thompson, Kathy Bates
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

When the daughter of a well-known and well-respected base commander is murdered, an undercover detective is summoned to look into the matter and finds a slew of cover-ups at West Point.

Director: Simon West
Stars: John Travolta, Madeleine Stowe, James Cromwell
Phenomenon (1996)
Drama | Fantasy | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.4/10 X  

An ordinary man sees a bright light descend from the sky, and discovers he now has super-intelligence and telekinesis.

Director: Jon Turteltaub
Stars: John Travolta, Kyra Sedgwick, Forest Whitaker
Michael (1996)
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.7/10 X  

Two tabloid reporters checking out a report of the Archangel Michael living with an old woman find that it's true. But that's not the only surprise.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Andie MacDowell, William Hurt
Crime | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.6/10 X  

When Danny witnesses his stepfather Rick murder a man, Danny's father Frank has to protect his son from the greatest danger.

Director: Harold Becker
Stars: John Travolta, Nick Loren, James Lashly
Broken Arrow (1996)
Action | Adventure | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6/10 X  

Terrorists steal nuclear warheads from the U.S. military but don't count on a pilot and park ranger spoiling their plans.

Director: John Woo
Stars: John Travolta, Christian Slater, Samantha Mathis
Get Shorty (1995)
Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A mobster travels to Hollywood to collect a debt, and discovers that the movie business is much the same as his current job.

Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, Danny DeVito
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5.3/10 X  

In an alternative America where African-Americans and White Americans have reversed cultural roles, a white factory worker kidnaps a black factory owner for dismissing him over perceived disdain.

Director: Desmond Nakano
Stars: John Travolta, Harry Belafonte, Kelly Lynch
Basic (2003)
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A D.E.A. Agent investigates the disappearance of a legendary Army Ranger Drill Sergeant and several of his cadets during a training exercise gone severely awry.

Director: John McTiernan
Stars: John Travolta, Samuel L. Jackson, Connie Nielsen
Lucky Numbers (2000)
Comedy | Crime
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 5/10 X  

A television weatherman scams a local lottery.

Director: Nora Ephron
Stars: John Travolta, Lisa Kudrow, Tim Roth
Ladder 49 (2004)
Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.5/10 X  

A firefighter, injured and trapped in a burning building, has flashbacks of his life as he drifts in and out of consciousness. Meanwhile, fellow firefighters led by the Chief attempt to rescue him.

Director: Jay Russell
Stars: Joaquin Phoenix, John Travolta, Jacinda Barrett
Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Travolta ... Jan Schlichtmann
Robert Duvall ... Jerome Facher
Tony Shalhoub ... Kevin Conway
William H. Macy ... James Gordon
Zeljko Ivanek ... Bill Crowley
Bruce Norris Bruce Norris ... William Cheeseman
John Lithgow ... Judge Walter J. Skinner
Kathleen Quinlan ... Anne Anderson
Peter Jacobson ... Neil Jacobs
Mary Mara ... Kathy Boyer
James Gandolfini ... Al Love
Stephen Fry ... Pinder
Dan Hedaya ... John Riley
David Thornton ... Richard Aufiero
Sydney Pollack ... Al Eustis
Edit

Storyline

Jan Schlichtmann, a tenacious lawyer, is addressed by a group of families. When investigating the seemingly non-profiting case, he finds it to be a major environmental issue that has a lot of impact potential. A leather production company could be responsible for several deadly cases of leukemia, but also is the main employer for the area. Schlichtmann and his three colleagues set out to have the company forced to decontaminate the affected areas, and of course to sue for a major sum of compensation. But the lawyers of the leather company's mother company are not easy to get to, and soon Schlichtmann and his friends find themselves in a battle of mere survival. Written by Julian Reischl <julianreischl@mac.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

Justice has its price.

Genres:

Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for some strong language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 January 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Una acción civil See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$75,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$70,079, 27 December 1998

Gross USA:

$56,709,981

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$56,709,981
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

Will Smith was first choice to play the lead. See more »

Goofs

Towards the end of the movie, the newspaper that Anne is holding flips over and back again between shots. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Jan Schlichtmann: [narrating] It's like this. A dead plaintiff is rarely worth as much as a living, severely-maimed plaintiff. However, if it's a long slow agonizing death, as opposed to a quick drowning or car wreck, the value can rise considerably. A dead adult in his 20s is generally worth less than one who is middle aged. A dead woman less than a dead man. A single adult less than one who's married. Black less than white. Poor less than rich. The perfect victim is a white male professional, 40 ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The producers wish to thank the people of Boston, Waltham, Northbridge, Charlestown, Dedham, Brimfield and Palmer, MA. See more »

Connections

Referenced in A Civil Action: In Pusuit of Justice (1998) See more »

Soundtracks

Hard Workin' Man
(1978)
Music by Jack Nitzsche
Lyrics by Jack Nitzsche, Ry Cooder, Paul Schrader
Performed by Don Van Vliet (as Captain Beefheart)
Courtesy of MCA Records
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

Good film – but what happened to the case!
8 June 2002 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Personal injury lawyer Jan Schlichtmann is approached by a group of families who believe they are being poisoned by a toxic waste dump near their water supply as many of their children have developed leukemia. Two of America's biggest law firms defend the case which stretches over 9 years and threatens to bankrupt Schlichtmann's firm and all it's staff.

I approached this film with firm expectations. I work as an environmental consultant and in part of my law training I was advised to read the book as it was a good case study (albeit a 500 page case study) on a environmental case. The book was fascinating if a little heavy in detail. For the film I knew that much of it was going to be trimmed but I didn't realize how much. The `trimmed' bit is the whole case! There is none of the trial instead any court room scenes are more focused on the characters than the case.

As a film this still plays well and is entertaining if not enlightening or interesting. It still carries the mantle of being `true' but without any of the book's case detail it is never more than a Grisham-esque drama despite having a better ending.

The cast are great – easily turning out for a worthy film and they are rewarded because the characters get much better treatment than the facts. Travolta does well but doesn't manage to be as real as the book's portrayal of Schlichtmann. Duvall is good while the rest of the cast are very much support but manage to be deep. When names like William H Macy, Shalhoub, John Lithgow, Kathleen Quinlan, Stephen Fry, Dan Hedaya and James Gandolfini are all in support then you rightly expect it to be a very worthy film.

Overall this is a good film that is entertaining. There is a more powerful, more interesting and moving captivating story at it's heart – anyone wanting that story should read the book.


33 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 185 user reviews »

Contribute to This Page

Phoebe Waller-Bridge Had 'No Expectations' for Emmys

"Fleabag" had a huge night at the Emmys, winning four awards including Outstanding Comedy Series. The creator and cast shared their feelings on the big night and the power of love.

Watch now

Stream Popular Action and Adventure Titles With Prime Video

Explore popular action and adventure titles available to stream with Prime Video.

Start your free trial



Recently Viewed