Witness Movie Poster Image




Taut drama has a few moments of intense violence.
  • Review Date: June 9, 2013
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1985
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Honesty is always best, but it's not always easy. There's an appreciation for the slower life the Amish lead, though the ultimate message is that violence is necessary in certain circumstances.

Positive role models

John Book is an honest cop trying to protect a young boy from a group of corrupt fellow officers. He risks his life to do the right thing.


There are just a few violent scenes, but they're pretty intense. A young boy witnesses a murder, and after the thugs slit the victim's throat in a public bathroom, they decide to check on every stall and almost discover the terrified witness. Later, the murderers hunt the boy to a farm, where he's being protected by a police officer who takes on the gang even though he's unarmed, and finds a way to pick them off one by one. In another scene, a group of local toughs intimidate several Amish farmers who are devoted to their nonviolent beliefs. The punks get a big surprise from someone who looks like the other Amish, but definitely doesn't share their views on confrontations. 


A cop and a single mother flirt and kiss. In one scene he watches her bathe, with her breasts visible during a long shot brimming with sexual tension, but it doesn't go any further.


Occasional swearing, including "a--hole," "Goddamn," and "f--k."

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking
Not applicable

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that Witness has just a couple scenes of intense violence, including a murder where the victim's throat is cut while a young boy watches. There is also some sexual tension between a man and woman with an extended scene of the woman bathing where her breasts are visible. A bit of strong language, including "f--k," pops up during confrontations between the clearly distinguished "good" and "bad" guys.

What's the story?

While visiting Philadelphia, a young Amish boy become a WITNESS to a murder, and the killers want to find a way to silence him, permanently. Officer John Book (Harrison Ford) becomes the protector, but when the bad guys decide to target him as well, he decides that the best place to hide out is the child's family farm. Book soon learns to relax among the Amish, a people who stay away from violence and most types of modern life, including electricity and cars. But the peaceful setting is disrupted when the gang shows up.

Is it any good?


Witness is a well made fish-out-of-water story, contrasting the violence and complications of the big city with the simpler lifestyle of the Amish, who decline modern technology. Book is initially perplexed by their choices, but gradually comes to appreciate their quiet ways. However, it's clear he doesn't fit in, especially when a gang of prejudiced punks insult his hosts and the hot-headed cop is unable to turn the other cheek. Nor is there any way that the spark between Book and the young witness' widowed mother (Kelly McGillis) could ever become a real relationship, and they both know it.

The main reason he's there is to watch over the boy, and Ford is best in this film when he's playing protector. His sense of outrage is palpable, as is his determination to see that justice is done. The Amish don't condone his methods, but in the end they realize that the cop's way -- the violent way -- is the only way to ensure their safety. Everyone grows a bit more tolerant of others here.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the difference between John Book's and the Amish people's approach to conflict resolution. Which do you think the movie supports? How can you tell?

  • Are there ever movies without a love interest or some kind of romantic tension? What does romance add to a movie?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:February 8, 1985
DVD release date:June 29, 1999
Cast:Danny Glover, Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis
Director:Peter Weir
Studio:Paramount Pictures
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:R

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Learning ratings

  • Best: Really engaging; great learning approach.
  • Very Good: Engaging; good learning approach.
  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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Parent Written byJenijumpo123654 May 7, 2014


Watch it!
What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Adult Written bysarge123 September 22, 2015

Peter Weir's masterpiece contains bloody violence, nudity and language. 15+

What other families should know
Great messages
Great role models
Too much violence
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Adult Written byartist April 18, 2015

Excellent film is very violent. Female Nudity.

What other families should know
Too much violence
Too much sex


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