A Civil Action

6.61 h 54 min1999PG-13
A lawyer puts his career on the line for the rights of his clients.
Steven Zaillian
John TravoltaRobert DuvallDan Hedaya
English [CC]
Audio languages
EnglishEnglish [Audio Description]
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Supporting actors
Edward HermannKathleen QuinlanJohn Lithgow
Steven ZaillianHenry J. GolasDavid McGiffertRachel PfefferRobert RedfordScott RudinDavid Wisnievitz
Touchstone Pictures
PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)
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4.6 out of 5 stars

2079 global ratings

  1. 74% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 14% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 8% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 2% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 2% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Victoria bushReviewed in the United States on September 5, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Must watch movie
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As with all Travoltas movies well written directed and great acting.
Chad MReviewed in the United States on January 10, 2022
4.0 out of 5 stars
Good movie. Many realistic features mixed nicely with movie drama.
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In the 1970s and 1980s personal injury law expanded into new areas. Cancer lawsuits that tried to link industrial pollution with individual cancer cases like the ones in Woburn MA were big news. This movie focuses on the personal competition between Jan Schlichtman (playbed by John Travolta) and several large law firm attorneys (Jerome Facher, played by Robert Duvall) and does a good job of taking highlights from the non-fiction book by John Harr (many people prefer the book). The large law firm lawyers working for the dry cleaning chemicals company (WR Grace) and the tannery (Beatrice) tried to show that soil and geology near the Woburn's town wells would have blocked toxic chemical pollution. For what was essentially a very technical matter there were many dramatic moments in this film.

The relation of big industry to middle class families is a powerful theme, and part of what makes this movie very good. When law firms mediate between the middle class and Fortune 500 companies the results are mixed. The way lawyers creatively pursue their client's stated goals or legal services contracts is also a good theme, how many financial resources come in play, is both a message of hope and a warning for all sorts of clients, plaintiffs, and defendants.
JackieReviewed in the United States on December 14, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
he then sees "deep pockets" affiliated with the tannery like Beatrice.
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Fascinating film based on a true story. A Civil Action keeps you intrigued from start to finish. You get the inside line on
what some would call "an ambulance chasing" attorney. In the beginning of the film he is on top of the world due to all of
his wins in the court...he is named "Eligible Bachelor of the town"....basically he is at the top of his game. Then he is on a radio
show program and a woman calls in to the show saying that his firm has done nothing on her case which his firm has had for
some time. Once he goes back to his team and office he decides to address the plaintiffs and their case in person...meaning dump
it. He goes to the town of Wooburn and listens to the families who have gathered and who are all plaintiffs in the case. Apparently
a local tannery has been dumping poisonous substances illegally and the towns children and families are dying or affected.
He tells them all he cannot take the case. The woman who called the radio show encourages him to just go out to the site and
"take a look for himself". Grudgingly he does.....he then sees "deep pockets" affiliated with the tannery like Beatrice...que the "cha-thing" sounds in his head and off he goes to the races. He decides to take the case. Now, I will leave this here because you will be amazed by how fast the
starch is knocked out of him and I don't want to tell you too much. You will get a taste of just how cunning corporate lawyers are and you will see just how easily a "David and Goliath" case can be gutted....how crooked indeed. In the end no one wins. Children have died and people's lives have been affected. But in the end what is right triumphs... in a way....you witness the renewal of a mans perspective on life and those that use and abuse the environment and humanity are held to account. The film, to me, seemed to be a sleeper...but a really good one. You have a stellar cast. Travolta is on point and ever the enthusiastic actor. William Macy is phenomenal as the accountant for the firm. Robert Duvall hams it up but he is also very good LOL. You even get to see another side of the late, great James Gandonfini. John Lithgow is the perfect, arrogant judge and Tony Shalhoub is in the cast. Trust me, on a nice quiet, rainy day for movies...this is a great choice. Enjoy.

I can highly recommend this film.
7 people found this helpful
louann kupiecReviewed in the United States on July 11, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Arrived on time
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Great movie
Katrina PowersReviewed in the United States on April 7, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Great for teaching Environmental Science
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I used this video to teach about civil issues concerning water pollution. My students loved watching the movie and they had many questions about water pollution in our own area after.
Dusty RoadsReviewed in the United States on November 2, 2008
5.0 out of 5 stars
I repeat >> snalen "snalen" .................
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I copy and paste >> snalen "snalen" - (another reviewer's commentary here) who expressed it perfectly. "snalen" said:

Jan Schlichtmann (Travolta) is a Boston tort lawyer and something of an ambulance chaser who is initially reluctant to take on an industrial pollution case involving some children dead of leukemia in rural New England. He changes his mind when he realizes the likely defendants are a couple of big companies with particularly deep pockets and smells the possibility of serious money. Over time, however his interest in the case becomes a moral obsession. The cynical becomes a crusader, refusing offers to settle as his company's finances spiral downwards towards bankruptcy.
If you like courtroom dramas, this is highly recommended. It's one of the best specimens of the genre to come out of America since `The Verdict'. It's interesting to compare it to `Erin Brockovich' released a couple of years later. EB is about how a heroic small timer takes on the big boys of corporate America and how her pluck and determination triumphs over all obstacles, something of a legal feelgood movie in other words. Which this, to its great credit, is not. Its central character, for starters, is far more amibivalently likeable: initially just out for a fast buck, moral seriousness has to creep up on him and take him by surprise (perhaps reminding writer/director Zaillian of Oskar Schindler whose story he scripted for Spielberg a few years earlier) and the story's development paints a significantly more ambivalent picture of what pluck and determination can accomplish. It's a highpoint of Travolta's acting career even if he is comprehensively upstaged by Robert Duvall, on brilliant form as his quietly cynical adversary, bigshot lawyer Jerome Facher who knows far better than to look for the truth in a courtroom...

And I add, a VERY entertaining and interesting movie with some redeeming social value, a very provacative movie that should inspire many 'thoughtful' viewers to an enlightened perspective ... that may not have ever been considered before!
2 people found this helpful
Estefania CamposReviewed in the United States on April 24, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Enjoyed it
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It was good and interesting
Frances BReviewed in the United States on April 11, 2022
5.0 out of 5 stars
Well made.
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Good movie.
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