Ransom (1996 film)

Ransom is a 1996 American crime thriller film directed by Ron Howard and written by Richard Price and Alexander Ignon. The film stars Mel Gibson, Rene Russo, Gary Sinise, Brawley Nolte, Delroy Lindo, Liev Schreiber, Evan Handler, Donnie Wahlberg, and Lili Taylor. Gibson was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor. The film was the 6th highest-grossing film of 1996 in the United States. The original story came from a 1954 episode of The United States Steel Hour titled "Fearful Decision". In 1956, it was adapted by Richard Maibaum and Cyril Hume into the feature film Ransom!, starring Glenn Ford, Donna Reed, and Leslie Nielsen. The film was also influenced by Ed McBain's police procedural novel King's Ransom.

Theatrical release poster
Directed byRon Howard
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story by
Music byJames Horner
CinematographyPiotr Sobociński
Edited by
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures Distribution
Release date
  • November 8, 1996 (1996-11-08)
Running time
121 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[1]
Budget$70 million[2]
Box office$309.5 million[3]


While multi-millionaire Tom Mullen and his wife Kate attend a science fair, their son Sean is kidnapped. Sean is taken to an apartment by Maris, a caterer for the Mullens, along with criminals Clark, Cubby, and Miles, and Detective Jimmy Shaker, Maris's boyfriend and the mastermind behind the kidnapping. Tom and Kate receive an e-mail from the kidnappers demanding $2,000,000. Tom calls the FBI, who begin operating from his New York City penthouse under Special Agent Lonnie Hawkins. In private, Tom voices his belief that a union machinist, Jackie Brown, who is in prison following one of the former's business scandals, may have been behind it. They visit Brown in prison, but he angrily denies any involvement with the kidnapping.

Tom agrees to the FBI's instructions for delivering the ransom. Receiving a phone call from Jimmy, who is electronically disguising his voice, Tom follows his instructions. He meets Cubby in a New Jersey quarry but refuses to hand the money over when Cubby fails to give him the directions Jimmy had promised him. A fight ensues and the FBI intervene and shoot Cubby. He dies before he can reveal Sean's location. Jimmy later arranges another drop off. While Tom initially agrees to take the money alone, he realizes there is no guarantee Sean will be returned alive and instead appears on television to offer the ransom as a bounty on the kidnappers' heads, promising to withdraw the bounty and drop all charges if the kidnappers return his son alive and unharmed.

Despite the pleas of Kate and Lonnie, Tom sticks to his plan, believing it is the best chance of having Sean returned. Jimmy lures Kate to a meeting where he brutally attacks her and tells her to pay the ransom or Sean will die before ditching the boy's blood stained t-shirt. Tom responds by increasing the bounty to $4,000,000. Jimmy calls Tom and demands to be paid, but Tom still refuses. Jimmy fires his gun after Tom hears Sean scream for help, leading Tom and Kate to believe their son is dead. Clark and Miles attempt to abandon the plan and flee, but Jimmy calls in the NYPD to request backup and kills both of his men while making it look like Miles shot first, and kills Maris after she shoots him in the arm from behind. The NYPD arrive and find Jimmy with a severely beaten Sean, believing the detective found and rescued the boy. Tom and Kate are reunited with their injured son while Jimmy is hospitalized. Tom also recognizes Maris.

Jimmy later visits Tom to claim the reward and leave the country before investigators discover his connection with Maris. However, Sean eavesdrops on the meeting and recognizes Jimmy’s voice as the kidnapper. Tom notices his son has wet his pants after hearing the detective, and starts to realize Jimmy is the kidnapper. His suspicions are confirmed when Jimmy uses a phrase the kidnapper used; subsequently, Jimmy quickly realizes that Tom is onto him. Though his initial plan is to kill everyone in the mansion, Tom persuades Jimmy to accompany him to the bank to gain the money and leave peacefully. On the way, however, Tom discreetly alerts Lonnie and the authorities converge on Tom and Jimmy outside the bank.

Tom and Jimmy exit the bank. Two officers (who greeted the men before entering the bank) inform Jimmy that he is going to be detained. Jimmy shoots them before Tom knocks him to the ground. The two grapple with each other before falling through a shop window, injuring both and impaling Jimmy through the neck. Tom picks up a hidden pistol that Jimmy pulled out during the scuffle and aims at Jimmy before Lonnie and other police officers arrive, repeatedly demanding that Tom drop the gun, walk away, and let them deal with Jimmy. Just as Tom begins to comply, the corrupt detective draws another hidden gun, but is shot dead by Lonnie and Tom. Tom drops the gun, and the police move in to arrest him, but Lonnie tells them to hold off, allowing Tom and Kate to leave the scene.


Production notes

During filming, Mel Gibson had appendicitis and had to have an operation.[4]


The movie has a 75% rating from Rotten Tomatoes based on 72 reviews, with its consensus stating: "Directed with propulsive intensity by Ron Howard, Ransom is a fiery thriller packed with hot-blooded performances and jolting twists".[5] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale.[6]

Critic Roger Ebert gave the film three stars out of four and wrote, "Gibson gives an interesting performance, showing a man trying to think his way out of a crisis, and Sinise makes a good foil: Here are two smart men playing a game with deadly stakes."[7]

Awards and nominations

1997 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Won - Top Box Office Film

1997 Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (Saturn Awards)

1997 Golden Globe Awards

1997 Image Awards

1997 Young Artist Awards

  • Nominated - Best Performance in a Feature Film - Supporting Young Actor — Brawley Nolte


  1. "Ransom (1996)". AFI Catalog of Feature Films. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  2. "Ransom". The-Numbers.com. Retrieved 2018-02-19.
  3. "Ransom". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
  4. Furse, Jane (1996-03-12). "Emergency Appendix Surgery for Mel Gibson". New York Daily News. Retrieved 2017-04-01.
  5. Ransom Rotten Tomatoes, Retrieved 8/02/10
  6. "CinemaScore". cinemascore.com.
  7. Ransom Roger Ebert, Retrieved 2010-08-02
  8. "GOLDEN GLOBE NOMINATIONS". Variety. 1996-12-19. Retrieved 2018-01-19.
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