Apt Pupil (1998)

Drinking Game

Take a Drink: for symbolism

Take a Drink: whenever Renfro says something sociopathic

Take a Drink: for described atrocities

Take a Drink: for basketball

Take a Drink: for swastikas

Take a Drink: whenever McKellan is spryer than an 80 year old

Do a Shot: for animal cruelty

Do a Shot: for shower scenes

Community Review


Movie Review

By: Henry J. Fromage (Five Beers) –

Bryan Singer roared back to the top of the box office this year with his winning formula of troubled, nubile young men, Ian McKellan + Nazis, and senseless murder. Ah, and superheroes, I guess.


I mean, some people dig them, right?

His first go-round with that combo (minus the superheroes, but plus Stephen King, so pretty much the same) was Apt Pupil, which wasn’t so successful. In it a young man (Brad Renfro) discovers there’s an elderly Nazi war criminal (Ian McKellan) living in his small town, and blackmails him into sharing the sordid details of his deeds with him. A battle of wills and wits ensues.

A Toast

Fresh off The Usual Suspects, it’s little doubt that Singer was full of filmmaking ideas, and he coupled with DP Thomas Sigel and editor/composer John Ottman create a technically adept film, full of magic hour and filter-happy cinematography and inventive and nerve-racking edits with perfectly-timed music cues. The acting is also generally good, with McKellan as great as always as this 85 year old… wait, he was 59 when this film was shot? He’s like a reverse Highlander- elderly, British, and full of gravitas for eternity.


He was a strange child.

Brad Renfro’s performance leaves me torn, but its one-note nature might be the fault of script and direction as much as his and he certainly radiates creepiness like a boss. Also- David Schwimmer’s mustache.


Isn’t it just the best thing you’ve ever seen?

Beer Two

Then again, Renfro only has one expression on his face throughout the film. Again, maybe not his fault, but it’s so full of punch-me snootiness that it actually made me root for a Nazi. Shit.

Beer Three

Apt Pupil is more on the nose than Sarah Jessica’s witch wart (note to self, verify assumption she has a witch wart). The film begins with a teacher erasing a blackboard with a pie chart of the Holocaust’s victims. The camera zooms in on the last thing he erases- the word “Jews”. Later, McKellan tries to put a cat in the oven. Yeah…

Beer Four

In interviews, Singer and King (whose story this is based off of) seem to think Apt Pupil is about the infectiousness of evil and a teacher/pupil metaphor with psychopathy as the syllabus, but from minute one Renfro’s arguably a bigger sociopath than even the former concentration camp superintendent, so… so much for that.


Beer Five

Since there’s no growth, positive or negative, in the film, Apt Pupil becomes an exercise in sadism. It’s hard to care who prevails, but since the film is structured like a conventional protagonist vs. antagonist flick, apparently we’re supposed to. Personally, I kept hoping the cat would come back and emasculate them both.


Uggh. The more I think about this undercooked parable of evil, the dumber I find it. Looks good, though.


About Henry J. Fromage

Movieboozer is a humor website and drinking games are intended for entertainment purposes only, please drink responsibly.


  1. My favorite Stephen King novel has always been his collection of short stories called ‘Different Seasons’, from which the story ‘Apt Pupil’ was gotten from. It was a rather dark story, and often it left quite a distaste whenever I read it. The fact that it was sandwiched between ‘Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption’ and ‘The Body’ (the story that was later adapted to the classic coming-of-age movie “Stand By Me”), means I couldn’t skip not reading it. To me, the story of ‘Apt Pupil’ was much telegraphed and Bryan SInger hardly brought anything new that wasn’t already enhanced in the short story, and makes me wonder why he ever thought of directing it. A well directed movie, I agree with your review, but a waste of time, as you clearly stated. Ian McKellan’s performance was what stood out, reminding me a lot of his villainous role in ‘Richard III’.

    • Thanks for your kind words, and I like how you sum it up. I haven’t read any of that collection as of yet, but it doesn’t surprise me that Apt Pupil ends up being the slight (ly rotten?) banana in the bunch. McKellan is a treasure, and gives it his all, but yeah, that’s not entirely enough of a reason for it to exist. Incredible how he ages up for the role, though.

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