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Liam Neeson’s 10 Best Movies

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  02 Sep 2015 

The journey between arthouse and IMAX can be a treacherous trip for an actor, but Liam Neeson has navigated it more nimbly than most over the course of his lengthy career, booking major roles in Serious Movies (Schindler’s List) while leaving room for horror (The Haunting), romance (Love Actually), and blockbuster franchises (The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins) — not to mention a recent string of action thrillers that, with A Walk Among the Tombstones, finds Mr. Neeson kicking bad-guy butt one more time. What better way to celebrate his accomplishments than a look at his best-reviewed movies?

actors
10 Five Minutes of Heaven
imdb
rating

6.7

Five Minutes of Heaven (2009)

Crime, Drama, Thriller

Neeson returned to Irish history for 2009’s Five Minutes of Heaven, but instead of a Michael Collins redux, he starred opposite James Nesbitt in a tense, heartbreaking character study that uses “The Troubles” as the backdrop for a meditation on the lasting consequences of violence and the weight of hatred. Neeson’s gift for world-weariness is put to good use in the role of Alistair Little, the real-life former Ulster Volunteer Force soldier who was sent to prison as a young man for murdering a Catholic boy — and who consents to meet his victim’s brother (played by Nesbitt) in an effort to put the past behind them both. Five Minutes wasn’t widely seen, but it enjoyed positive reviews from most critics, including NYC Movie Guru’s Avi Offer, who praised it as “A 90-minute tour de force of suspense and intrigue with outstanding, powerhouse performances by James Nesbitt and Liam Neeson” and called it “one of the most rousing and provocative thrillers of the year.”

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The story of former UVF member Alistair Little. Twenty-five years after Little killed Joe Griffen's brother, the media arrange an auspicious meeting between the two.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Alistair Little   James Nesbitt as Joe Griffin   Anamaria Marinca as Vika   Gerard Jordan as Jim  

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9 Michael Collins
imdb
rating

7.1

Michael Collins (1996)

Drama, Thriller

A biopic about the slain Irish revolutionary Michael Collins enticed filmmakers for years, eluding the grasp of Michael Cimino and Kevin Costner before Neil Jordan was finally able to bring Michael Collins to the screen in 1996. Though a number of critics (and more than a few filmgoers) took issue with the ways Collins diverged from its subject’s real-life story, pretty much everyone agreed that age differences notwithstanding, Neeson was perfect for the central role, and not just because his 6-foot-4 frame lived up to Collins’ nickname “The Big Fellow.” As Mark R. Leeper put it, “Liam Neeson is a big man and plays Collins as a big man, somewhat larger than the people around him. He sweeps into a scene with that large bulk of his and commands it.”

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Michael Collins plays a crucial role in the establishment of the Irish Free State in the 1920s, but becomes vilified by those hoping to create a completely independent Irish republic.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Michael Collins   Aidan Quinn as Harry Roland   Stephen Rea as Ned Broy   Alan Rickman as Eamon de Valera   Julia Roberts as Kitty Kiernan   Ian Hart as Joe O`Reilly   Brendan Gleeson as Liam Tobin   Stuart Graham as Tom Cullen   Michael Dwyer as o. A.   Sean McGinley as Smith   Tom Murphy as Vinny Byrne   Martin Murphy as Captain Lee-Wilson  

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8 The Grey
imdb
rating

6.8

The Grey (2011)

Action, Drama, Thriller

Given the way he’s been reinvented as everyone’s favorite action hero elder statesman, The Grey‘s basic plot description — “Liam Neeson versus wolves” — might have seemed like the absurdly over-the-top culmination of an unlikely chapter in an impressive career. But as viewers soon discovered, writer-director Joe Carnahan had a lot more on his mind than just Neeson and his human co-stars going toe-to-toe with a pack of ravenous beasts; although The Grey certainly doesn’t suffer from any shortage of pulse-pounding action, it also benefits from a surprising amount of thoughtful subtext. As Dana Stevens argued in her review for Slate, “For all its macho standoffs and action set pieces and menacing off-screen howling, The Grey is at heart a simple moral fable about how true heroism consists in helping other human beings to live as long and die as well as they can.”

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In Alaska, an oil drilling team struggle to survive after a plane crash strands them in the wild. Hunting the humans are a pack of wolves who see them as intruders.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Ottway   Dallas Roberts as Hendrick   Frank Grillo as John Diaz   Dermot Mulroney as Talget   Nonso Anozie as Burke   Joe Anderson as Flannery   Ben Bray as Hernandez (as Ben Hernandez Bray)   James Badge Dale as Lewenden   Larissa Stadnichuk as Flight Attendant #1   James Bitonti as Ottway's Father   Jonathan Bitonti as Young Ottway   Anne Openshaw as Ottway's Wife   Peter Girges as Company Clerk   Ella Kosor as Talget's Little Girl   Jacob Blair as Cimoski   Lani Gelera as Flight Attendant  

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7 The Bounty
imdb
rating

7.0

The Bounty (1984)

Action, Drama, History

1984’s The Bounty is far from the first film inspired by the 1789 mutiny aboard the H.M.S. Bounty — or even the most well-known — but it might have the most impressive cast. Toplined by Anthony Hopkins as the authoritarian Lieutenant William Bligh and Mel Gibson as Bligh’s former friend and eventual nemesis, Fletcher Christian, The Bounty is rounded out by an array of famous faces from the past (Laurence Olivier as Admiral Hood) and the future (Daniel Day-Lewis plays Fryer, while Neeson appears as Christian’s enforcer, Churchill). Calling Hopkins’ work “one of the most interesting performances of 1984,” Roger Ebert applauded, “The Bounty is a great adventure, a lush romance, and a good movie.”

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The familiar story of Lieutenant Bligh, whose cruelty leads to a mutiny on his ship. This version follows both the efforts of Fletcher Christian to get his men beyond the reach of British retribution, and the epic voyage of Lieutenant Bligh to get his loyalists safely to East Timor in a tiny lifeboat.

actors:
Mel Gibson as Fletcher Christian   Anthony Hopkins as Lieutenant William Bligh   Laurence Olivier as Admiral Hood   Edward Fox as Captain Greetham   Daniel Day-Lewis as John Fryer   Bernard Hill as William Cole   Philip Davis as Edward Young   Liam Neeson as Charles Churchill   Wi Kuki Kaa as König Tynah   Tevaite Vernette as Mauatua   Philip Martin Brown as John Adams   Simon Chandler as David Nelson   Malcolm Terris as Dr. John Huggan   Simon Adams as Thomas Heywood   John Sessions as John Smith   Andrew Wilde as William McCoy   Neil Morrissey as Matthew Quintal   Richard Graham as John Mills   Dexter Fletcher as Thomas Ellison   Pete Lee-Wilson as William Purcell   Jon Gadsby as John Norton   Brendan Conroy as Robert Lamb   Barry Dransfield as Michael Byrne   Steve Fletcher as James Valentine   Jack May as Richter   Mary Kauila as König Tynahs Frau   Sharon Bower as Lieutenant William Blighs Frau   Tavana as König Tynahs Berater  

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6 Darkman
imdb
rating

6.4

Darkman (1990)

Action, Crime, Science Fiction

He earned screen time in a handful of films throughout the ’80s, including The Bounty, The Mission, and the Patrick Swayze masterpiece Next of Kin, but this Sam Raimi love letter to the comics was Neeson’s first opportunity to really carry a picture. He did it, too, despite spending much of Darkman under bandages and heavy makeup as the titular vigilante, burned and left for dead by a ruthless mobster (memorably played by Larry Drake). Critics and audiences greeted Darkman‘s pulpy action with enthusiasm, making it one of the year’s surprise hits and spawning two (regrettably Neeson-free) sequels. Applauding “Raimi’s flair for jazzy visual effects and extravagant action sequences, combined with direction that’s full of punch and energy,” the Chicago Reader’s Jonathan Rosenbaum applauded Darkman as the summer’s “best pop roller-coaster ride around.”

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Dr. Peyton Westlake is on the verge of realizing a major breakthrough in synthetic skin when his laboratory is destroyed by gangsters. Having been burned beyond recognition and forever altered by an experimental medical procedure, Westlake becomes known as Darkman, assuming alternate identities in his quest for revenge and a new life with a former love.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Peyton Westlake / Darkman   Frances McDormand as Julie Hastings   Colin Friels as Louis Strack Jr.   Larry Drake as Robert G. Durant   Nelson Mashita as Yakitito   Rafael H. Robledo as Rudy Guzman   Dan Hicks as Skip   Ted Raimi as Rick   Dan Bell as Smiley   Nicholas Worth as Pauly   Aaron Lustig as Martin Katz   Arsenio 'Sonny' Trinidad as Hung Fat   John Landis as Physician   Bruce Campbell as Final Shemp   William Lustig as Dockworker   Scott Spiegel as Dockworker  

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5 Excalibur
imdb
rating

7.4

Excalibur (1981)

Adventure

Neeson’s first big-screen break came courtesy of Excalibur director John Boorman, who spotted him playing Lennie Small on stage in Of Mice and Men and decided he’d be perfect for the role of Sir Gawain in his sprawling, lusty retelling of the Arthurian legend, Excalibur. Featuring lush visuals and a cast that included Helen Mirren, Patrick Stewart, and Gabriel Bryne, Boorman’s round-tabled epic became a fast late-night cable favorite among adolescent boys — and the critics liked it too, including Cinemaphile’s David Keyes, who called it “one of those great miracles in filmmaking” and said “Its concept of Arthur and the landscape that surrounds him is a benchmark for fantasy as we know it.”

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The myth of King Arthur brought to the screen. Uthur Pendragon is given the mystical sword Excalibur by Merlyn. At his death Uthur buries the sword into a stone, and the next man that can pull it out will be King of England. Years later Arthur, Uthur's bastard son draws Excalibur and becomes king. Arthur's evil half-sister Morgana sires a son with him, who may prove his downfall.

actors:
Nigel Terry as King Arthur   Helen Mirren as Morgana   Nicholas Clay as Lancelot   Cherie Lunghi as Guenevere   Paul Geoffrey as Perceval   Nicol Williamson as Merlin   Robert Addie as Mordred   Gabriel Byrne as Uther Pendragon   Keith Buckley as Uryens   Katrine Boorman as Igrayne   Liam Neeson as Gawain   Corin Redgrave as Cornwall   Patrick Stewart as Leondegrance   Niall O'Brien as Kay  

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4 Batman Begins
imdb
rating

8.3

Batman Begins (2005)

Action, Crime, Drama

Six years after appearing as Obi-Wan Kenobi’s mentor, Qui-Gon Jinn, in Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, Neeson took what seemed at first to be a very similar role in Batman Begins — but of course, Batman‘s Henri Ducard is much more than just a mentor to Bruce Wayne (Christian Bale). Eventually revealed as the dastardly Ra’s al Ghul, Ducard proved a worthy adversary for the Dark Knight in Christopher Nolan’s blockbuster reboot — and gave Neeson a rare opportunity to play the bad guy. His layered performance helped set Batman Begins apart from the increasingly cartoonish tone previous installments in the franchise had taken, lending depth to the film that led Antagony & Ecstasy’s Tim Brayton to proclaim, “There has never yet been a Batman story with quite this kind of psychological trauma. If Ingmar Bergman had ever directed a superhero movie, it would have looked quite a bit like this.”

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Driven by tragedy, billionaire Bruce Wayne dedicates his life to uncovering and defeating the corruption that plagues his home, Gotham City. Unable to work within the system, he instead creates a new identity, a symbol of fear for the criminal underworld - The Batman.

actors:
Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne / Batman   Michael Caine as Alfred Pennyworth   Liam Neeson as Henri Ducard   Katie Holmes as Rachel Dawes   Gary Oldman as Jim Gordon   Cillian Murphy as Dr. Jonathan Crane / The Scarecrow   Tom Wilkinson as Carmine Falcone   Morgan Freeman as Lucius Fox   Rutger Hauer as Earle   Ken Watanabe as Ra's Al Ghul   Mark Boone Junior as Flass   Linus Roache as Thomas Wayne   Larry Holden as Finch   Sara Stewart as Martha Wayne   Colin McFarlane as Loeb   Gus Lewis as Bruce Wayne - age 8   Jack Gleeson as Little Boy   Gerard Murphy as Judge Faden   Richard Brake as Joe Chill   Emma Lockhart as Rachel Dawes - age 8   Tenzin Clive Ball as Himalayan Child   Tim Booth as Victor Zsasz   Rena Sofer as    Alexandra Bastedo as Gotham Society Dame   Jordan Shaw as African Boy in Rags   Rade Šerbedžija as Homeless Man   Christine Adams as Jessica   Catherine Porter as Blonde Female Reporter / Assassin   John Nolan as Fredericks   Karen Shenaz David as Courthouse Reporter #1   Jonathan D. Ellis as Courthouse Reporter #2   Tamer Hassan as Faden's Limo Driver   Ronan Leahy as Uniformed Policeman #1   Vincent Wong as Old Asian Prisoner   Tom Wu as Bhutanese Prison Guard #1   Mark Chiu as Bhutanese Prison Guard #2   Turbo Kong as Enormous Prisoner   Sai-Kit Yung as Chinese Police Officer   Chike Chan as Chinese Police Officer   Tenzin Gyurme as Old Himalayan Man   Jamie Hayden as Stocky Chinese Man   David Murray as Jumpy Thug   John Kazek as Dock Thug #2   Darragh Kelly as Dock Thug #3   Joseph Rye as Dock Cop #2   Kwaku Ankomah as Dock Cop #3   Charles Edwards as Wayne Enterprises Executive   Lucy Russell as Female Restaurant Guest   Timothy Deenihan as Male Restaurant Guest   David Bedella as Maitre D   Flavia Masetto as Restaurant Blonde #1   Emily Steven-Daly as Restaurant Blonde #2   Martin McDougall as Gotham Dock Employee   Noah Lee Margetts as Arkham Thug #1   Joe Hanley as Arkham Thug #2   Karl Shiels as Arkham Thug #3   Roger Griffiths as Arkham Uniformed Policeman   Stephen Walters as Arkham Lunatic   Richard Laing as Arkham Chase Cop   Matt Miller as Gotham Car Cop #3   Risteard Cooper as Captain Simonson   Shane Rimmer as Older Gotham Water Board Technician   Jeremy Theobald as Younger Gotham Water Board Technician   Soo Hee Ding as Farmer   Conn Horgan as Monorail Driver   Phill Curr as Transit Cop   John Judd as Narrows Bridge Cop   Sarah Wateridge as Mrs. Dawes   Charlie Kranz as Basement Club Manager   Cedric Young as Liquor Store Owner   Tom Nolan as Valet   Leon Delroy Williams as Pedestrian   Roger Yuan as Hazmat Technician   Joe Sargent as Narrows Teenager #1   Mel Taylor as Narrows Resident   Andrew Pleavin as Uniformed Policeman #2   Jeff Christian as Driving Cop   John Burke as Arkham Lunatic Cell Mate   Earlene Bentley as Arkham Asylum Nurse   Alex Moggridge as Arkham Asylum Orderly   Jay Buozzi as Asian Man - Ra's Al Ghul Decoy   Omar Mustafa as Falafel Stand Vendor   Patrick Pond as Opera Performer #1 Faust- Bass   Poppy Tierney as Opera Performer #2 Margaret - Soprano   Rory Campbell as Opera Performer #3 Mefistofele - Tenor   Fabio Cardascia as Caterer   Spencer Wilding as League of Shadows Warriors   Mark Rhino Smith as League of Shadows Warriors   Khan Bonfils as League of Shadows Warriors   Dave Legeno as League of Shadows Warriors   Ruben Halse as League of Shadows Warriors   Rodney Ryan as League of Shadows Warriors   Dominic Burgess as Narrows Cop   Mark Straker as Male Restaurant Guest #2   T.J. Ramini as Crane Thug #1   Kieran Hurley as Crane Thug #2   Emmanuel Idowu as Narrows Teenager #2   Jeff Tanner as Bridge Cop   Dean Alexandrou as League of Shadows Warriors (uncredited)   Joey Ansah as League of Shadows Warriors (uncredited)   Anoushka Arden as Juror (uncredited)   Alex Argenti as Countess at the Opera (uncredited)   Morne Botes as Party Animal (uncredited)   Kimber Closson as Extra (uncredited)   Thomas D. Craven as Thug (uncredited)   Ray Donn as Gotham Police Officer (uncredited)   James Embree as Fighting Shadow Warrior (uncredited)   Tommy Gunn as Shadow Warrior (uncredited)   Philip Harvey as Victor Zsasz Attorney (uncredited)   Adam Hawkes as Gotham Police Officer (uncredited)   Gil Kolirin as Narrows Person (uncredited)   Jeff Lipman as Falcone Bodyguard (uncredited)   Emil Martirossian as League of Shadows Warriors (uncredited)   Jane Osborn as Dancer in Opera (uncredited)   Ernest Pierce as Swat Team Member (uncredited)   Abdul Popoola as Court Reporter (uncredited)   Marc Radz as Gotham Swat (uncredited)   Mike Savva as Arkham Cop (uncredited)   Michael Stailey as Driver (uncredited)   Mark Strange as League of Shadow Warriors (uncredited)   Chuen Tsou as Shadow Warrior (uncredited)  

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3 Kinsey
imdb
rating

7.1

Kinsey (2004)

Drama

A movie about a sex professor? Sounds like an ’80s teen comedy (and for all we know, it probably was), but in reality, Alfred Kinsey did some groundbreaking, important work in the study of human sexual behavior, including the development of the Kinsey scale, which found a broad middle ground between strict heterosexuality and homosexuality. Of course, he also had a very busy sex life of his own, not to mention health issues and a drug problem — all of which means Kinsey had all the raw materials for a pretty salacious biopic. In less sensitive hands, it probably would have been, but with Bill Condon directing — and Neeson, Laura Linney , and Peter Sarsgaard in front of the cameras, Kinsey was an award-winning critical smash. While some writers thought it let Professor Kinsey off too easy — and some hastened to blame his studies for the relaxed moral standards of the last 40 years — most reviews echoed the sentiments of Cole Smithey, who called Kinsey “a sex education movie that uses historical fact and personal stories to articulate things that statistics can’t reveal, like the uniqueness of every individual’s imagination.”

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Kinsey is a portrait of researcher Alfred Kinsey, driven to uncover the most private secrets of a nation. What begins for Kinsey as a scientific endeavor soon takes on an intensely personal relevance, ultimately becoming an unexpected journey into the mystery of human behavior.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Alfred Kinsey   Laura Linney as Clara McMillen   Chris O'Donnell as Wardell Pomeroy   Peter Sarsgaard as Clyde Martin   Timothy Hutton as Paul Gebhard   John Lithgow as Alfred Seguine Kinsey   Tim Curry as Thurman Rice   Dagmara Dominczyk as Agnes Gebhard   Dylan Baker as Alan Gregg   Julianne Nicholson as Alice Martin   William Sadler as Kenneth Braun   John McMartin as Huntington Hartford   Veronica Cartwright as Sara Kinsey   Kathleen Chalfant as Barbara Merkle   Heather Goldenhersh as Martha Pomeroy   Oliver Platt as Herman Wells  

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2 Schindler's List
imdb
rating

8.9

Schindler's List (1993)

Drama, History, War

Steven Spielberg circled Schindler’s List for years, concerned he didn’t have the skills or maturity necessary to dramatize the story of Oskar Schindler, the Nazi Party member who used his position as a German industrialist to save nearly 1,200 Jews during World War II. After trying to give the project away more than once (Spielberg’s candidates for his own replacement included Roman Polanski and Martin Scorsese), he finally started filmin in early 1993 — and the result is one of the most widely acclaimed movies of the ’90s, and the crowning achievement of Spielberg’s career. Neeson, who was nominated for a Best Actor Academy Award, anchors the film as Schindler, lending depth and nuance to the portrayal of a man who started the war as a profiteer and ended it wracked with guilt over the lives he’d failed to spare, despite risking his life — and losing his fortune — to prevent the deaths of so many. It may have taken Spielberg time to feel he was up to the challenge of Schindler’s List, but in the end, he had nothing to worry about; as Janet Maslin of the New York Times wrote, “Rising brilliantly to the challenge of this material and displaying an electrifying creative intelligence, Mr. Spielberg has made sure that neither he nor the Holocaust will ever be thought of in the same way again.”

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Told from the perspective of businessman Oskar Schindler who saved over a thousand Jewish lives from the Nazis while they worked as slaves in his factory. Schindler’s List is based on a true story, illustrated in black and white and controversially filmed in many original locations.

actors:
Liam Neeson as Oskar Schindler   Ben Kingsley as Itzhak Stern   Ralph Fiennes as Amon Goeth   Caroline Goodall as Emilie Schindler   Jonathan Sagall as Poldek Pfefferberg   Embeth Davidtz as Helen Hirsch   Malgoscha Gebel as Victoria Klonowska   Shmuel Levy as Wilek Chilowicz   Mark Ivanir as Marcel Goldberg   Béatrice Macola as Ingrid   Andrzej Seweryn as Julian Scherner   Friedrich von Thun as Rolf Czurda   Krzysztof Luft as Herman Toffel   Harry Nehring as Leo John   Norbert Weisser as Albert Hujar   Adi Nitzan as Mila Pfefferberg   Michael Schneider as Juda Dresner   Miri Fabian as Chaja Dresner   Anna Mucha as Danka Dresner   Albert Misak as Mordecai Wulkan   Michael Gordon as Mr. Nussbaum   Aldona Grochal as Mrs. Nussbaum   Jacek Wójcicki as Henry Rosner   Beata Paluch as Manci Rosner   Piotr Polk as Leo Rosner   Ezra Dagan as Rabbi Menasha Lewartow   Uri Avrahami as Chaim Nowak   Elina Löwensohn as Diana Reiter  

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1 Husbands and Wives
imdb
rating

7.6

Husbands and Wives (1992)

Drama, Romance

Overshadowed by the scandal and recrimination surrounding the end of Woody Allen and Mia Farrow’s relationship, Husbands and Wives is actually a quite sharply written, albeit sometimes uncomfortably bitter, examination of the hidden stresses and selfishness that can lurk beneath even the strongest-looking romantic bonds. Neeson appeared as part of an ensemble cast that also included Allen, Farrow, Sydney Pollack, and Judy Davis — playing, for a change, a man who’s not only an ordinary modern-day guy, but who gets to peel off a few darkly comic lines before the movie’s through. “With its relationship angst and Lolita temptations,” wrote the Washington Post’s Desson Thomson, “Husbands and Wives hits embarrassingly close to Allen’s home. But it also hits its comic target.”

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When Jack and Sally announce that they're splitting up, this comes as a shock to their best friends Gabe and Judy. Maybe mostly because they also are drifting apart and are now being made aware of it. So while Jack and Sally try to go on and meet new people, the marriage of Gabe and Judy gets more and more strained, and they begin to find themselves being attracted to other people.

actors:
Mia Farrow as Judy Roth   Woody Allen as Prof. Gabriel 'Gabe' Roth   Sydney Pollack as Jack   Liam Neeson as Michael Gates   Juliette Lewis as Rain   Judy Davis as Sally   Lysette Anthony as Sam, amie de Jack   Cristi Conaway as Shawn Grainger - Call Girl   Timothy Jerome as Paul, le rendez-vous de Sally  

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