Manhunter (movie)

1986 film by Michael Mann

Manhunter is an American crime thriller movie. It is the first film with the character Hannibal Lecter, a psychotic killer. It is based on a book by Thomas Harris, called Red Dragon. The movie was written and directed by Michael Mann. It stars William Petersen, Brian Cox, Dennis Farina and Tom Noonan. It tells the story of a serial killer and the detectives who are trying to find him.

Directed byMichael Mann
Screenplay byMichael Mann
Based onRed Dragon
by Thomas Harris
Produced byDino De Laurentiis
Richard A. Roth
StarringBrian Cox
Dennis Farina
Tom Noonan
William Petersen
CinematographyDante Spinotti
Edited byDov Hoenig
Music byMichel Rubini
The Reds
Distributed byDe Laurentiis Entertainment Group
Release date
15 August 1986 (US)
Running time
120 minutes
Box office$8,620,929[1]

Manhunter shows the science that police use to find criminals. This movie was not the only movie made from a book by Thomas Harris. Earlier, Black Sunday had been made, but not with the character of Lector. Later, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising were also made from his books.

Manhunter did not get very good reviews when it came out. It did not make a lot of money in cinemas. It took $15 million to make Manhunter but the movie only made $8.6 million in the United States. Today the movie gets better reviews and is seen by more people. It is thought of as a 'cult movie'.

Will Graham (William Petersen) is an agent who worked for the Federal Bureau of Investigation. He retired after he caught a killer named Hannibal Lecter (Brian Cox). Graham is asked by Jack Crawford (Dennis Farina) to help with a new police case. Crawford is trying to find a killer named "The Tooth Fairy". Graham goes to the house of the killer's victims. He finds The Tooth Fairy's fingerprints there.

Graham goes to a prison to meet Hannibal Lector again. Lector is very good at understanding how other people think. Graham asks him for help. It is clear that Graham is afraid of Lecter. Later on, a prison guard finds a letter that belongs to Lecter. The letter is from The Tooth Fairy. Graham and Crawford find out that The Tooth Fairy is talking to Lecter through advertisements in a newspaper. Graham asks a journalist from the newspaper to write an article despising the Tooth Fairy. They feel sure this will result in another advertisement, and this time they will pick up the code. The journalist is caught by The Tooth Fairy (Tom Noonan) and killed.

The Tooth Fairy, called "Francis Dollarhyde", works in a photographic lab. He is attracted to a woman he works with called Reba McClane. Reba is blind. Dollarhyde drives her home one night. They start a relationship with each other. This stops Dollarhyde from killing more people. One night Dollarhyde sees Reba with another man. He thinks she is having an affair but he is mistaken. Dollarhyde kills the other man and takes Reba to his house.

Graham has found out how The Tooth Fairy finds his victims. The Tooth Fairy uses the home movies brought to his job to pick a family to kill. Now that he knows this, Graham is able to find out who The Tooth Fairy is. He goes to Dollarhyde's house with several policemen. Dollarhyde uses a shotgun to kill some of the policemen. Graham kills Dollarhyde and rescues Reba.



The movie was going to be named Red Dragon because this was the name of the book. The name was changed because it sounded like a karate movie. It was also changed because a movie named "Year of the Dragon" did very badly in cinemas.[2][7][10]

William Petersen worked with policemen in Chicago and with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to learn more about his part.[11] Michael Mann took three years to write the movie,[12] and he also spoke to policemen to learn about their jobs.[2] Because of this, books have said the movie is very true to real life.[13]

Tom Noonan started getting ready for the movie by reading about other serial killers. He did not like this idea when he started. He changed his mind and acted his own way instead. He said he wanted The Tooth Fairy to seem like "he was doing this out of love".[7] Joan Allen played Dollarhyde's blind girlfriend. She went to the New York Institute for the Blind to learn about blind people. She walked with a mask on to learn about being blind.[7]

Actors John Lithgow, Mandy Patinkin, William Friedkin and Brian Dennehy were all asked to play Hannibal Lecktor.[2] Brian Cox played the part instead. Cox read about a Scottish serial killer named Peter Manuel to learn about his part.[7] William Petersen played Will Graham. He was chosen because Michael Mann liked his movie To Live and Die in L.A.. Richard Gere, Mel Gibson and Paul Newman were also asked to play the part.[2] Tom Noonan says he was asked to act his part because Michael Mann thought he was very scary in real life.[2]

Dante Spinotti, who filmed the movie, made use of strong colors. Parts of the movie with Will Graham and his wife use a "romantic blue". Parts that show The Tooth Fairy use an ugly green or purple color.[14]

When the move was being made, Tom Noonan asked that nobody saw him. Those people who could saw him called him "Francis", because he pretended to be his character the whole time. This made the other actors afraid of him. The first time Noonan met William Petersen was when Petersen jumped through a large window while making the last part of the movie.[7][15] At first, actor Tom Noonan wore a fake tattoo of a dragon on his chest. The parts of the movie that showed this were made again without the tattoo. This is because Michael Mann and Tom Noonan thought it did not look right.[2][14]


Manhunter (Music from the Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
LabelMCA Records

Manhunter's soundtrack album came out in 1986. It could be bought on cassette, tape and vinyl record but not on CD.[16] In March 2010, the soundtrack came out on CD for the first time. One more song, named "Jogger's Stakeout" by The Reds, was on the CD.[17]

No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Strong as I Am"  The Prime Movers 4:37
2. "Coelocanth"  Shriekback 4:19
3. "This Big Hush"  Shriekback 6:13
4. "Graham's Theme"  Michel Rubini 4:00
5. "Evaporation"  Shriekback 3:18
6. "Heartbeat"  Red 7 3:52
7. "Lector's Cell"  The Reds 1:48
8. "Jogger's Stakeout"  The Reds 2:05
9. "Leed's House"  The Reds 4:32
10. "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida"  Iron Butterfly 8:20
Total length:

Music in the film's screen credits which are not listed above included:

No. TitleWriter(s) Length
1. "Freeze"  Klaus Schulze 6:42
2. "Seiun"  Kitarō 8:00
Total length:



Books written about the movie discuss the relationship between Graham and The Tooth Fairy. They make a comparison between the characters and how they both live.[18][19][20] It has also been said that movie gives the idea that to catch a killer you must think like one.[21]



Box office


Manhunter came out in the United States on 15 August 1986. It earned $8,620,929 in the United States. Its budget was $15 million, so it did not make as much money as it cost.[1] It was shown in November 1987 during the London Film Festival[22] and came out in the United Kingdom on 24 February 1989.[23] In France, the movie was shown on 9 April 1987 at the Cognac Festival du Film Policier. It won the Critics Prize at this festival.[24] It was also shown at the 2009 Camerimage Film Festival in Łódź, Poland.[25] On 19 March 2011, the movie was showne at Grauman's Egyptian Theatre in Hollywood for its 25th anniversary. Michael Mann answered questions at this event.[26]

Home media


Manhunter came out on laserdisc in 1986.[27] It also came out on VHS several times.[28][29] It came out on DVD first in 2000. This DVD was made by Anchor Bay Entertainment and it could be bought with one disc or two discs. A different DVD also came out in 2003.[30] In 2004, MGM also made a DVD of the movie.[31] In 2007, The Hannibal Lecter Collection came out. This was a collection of Manhunter, The Silence of the Lambs and Hannibal.[31][32] The Hannibal Lector Collection also came out on Blu-ray in September 2009.[30][33]



When Manhunter came out, its reviews were not very good.[34][35][36]

Reviews thought that the music and the color effects were not very good.[11] William Petersen's acting was also thought of negatively.[34][35][36] The New York Times thought the movie was very bad,[34] and so did the Chicago Tribune.[36] The Los Angeles Times said the movie was too much like Michael Mann's television program Miami Vice;[35][37] and so did Film Threat, who thought that was why the movie did not do very well.[38] The San Francisco Chronicle did not like the movie's acting.[37] On the other hand, Time magazine liked the movie. It called Manhunter "bold" and "intelligent."[39] Leonard Maltin liked the movie, and called it "gripping".[40]

Today, the reviews for the movie are much better. says it is the best Hannibal movie.[41] Slate magazine also thought it was very good, and said it inspired television programs like Millennium and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation.[42] The Independent,[43] Film4,[44] Sky Movies,[45] BBC,[46] Total Film' magazine[47] and Empire magazine[48] have all praised the movie as being very good. Television channel Bravo put the movie in a program named 30 Even Scarier Movie Moments in 2007.[49] The website UGO Networks thought that Tom Noonan's acting in Manhunter was the best he has done.[50]

Today, Manhunter is more popular. It is thought of as a 'cult movie'.[51][52][53] This new popularity might be because of the other Hannibal movies doing very well.[52][53] The websites Metacritic and Rotten Tomatoes compare the modern reviews of the movie and give an average review. Metacritic used ten reviews to give Manhunter a score of 78 out of 100.[54] Rotten Tomatoes used 33 reviews to give the movie a score of 94 out of 100.[55]

Effects of the movie


Manhunter shows how police use forensic science to catch criminals. This has inspired other movies and television programs.[42][56] These include CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,[57] Millennium, John Doe, Profiler,[42] and The X-Files;[20] as well as movies such as Copycat, Switchback,[56] The Bone Collector, Seven and Fallen.[58]

The Silence of the Lambs came out in 1991. It was based on a different book by Thomas Harris. It earned many awards, including the Academy Award for Best Picture. It is one of only three movies that have won the Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor and Actress, and Best Screenplay.[59] After The Silence of the Lambs, three more Hannibal movies came out. These were Hannibal, Red Dragon and Hannibal Rising.

The 2002 movie Red Dragon was based on the same book as Manhunter. It made much more money than Manhunter did. It earned $209,196,298 and it cost $78 million to film it.[60] Rotten Tomatoes used 183 reviews to give Red Dragon a score of 68 out of 100.[61] Metacritic used 36 reviews to give it a score of 60 out of 100.[62] The same man, Dante Spinotti, did the filming for both movies.[63]


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