Film: Judge Dredd

Dredd: You killed innocent people—!
Rico: A means to an end.
Dredd: You started a massacre!
Rico: I caused a revolution!
Dredd: YOU BETRAYED THE LAW!
Rico: LOOOOOAAAW!

A 1995 film adaptation of the comic book of the same name starring Sylvester Stallone and Armand Assante. For the 2012 film adaptation starring Karl Urban, see Dredd.

Following a nuclear war in the late 21st Century, those who survived flocked to the Mega-Cities, large urban landscapes covering hundreds of square miles. The Mega-Cities become overcrowded, giving way to wide-scale, uncontrollable crime and violence. Law and Justice, as we know them, become something of the past. To combat the rampant criminal activity, a new kind of police force is created, one with the power to dispense both justice and punishment, acting as Judge, Jury, and Executioner. They are The Judges.

The most dangerous of the Mega-Cities is Mega-City One, and to combat those dangers is toughest of the Judges. His name is Judge Dredd.

Accused of a crime he didn't commit, Judge Dredd is out to bring justice to the situation which has befallen him as he uncovers the nasty conspiracy surrounding the perfect criminal, Rico.

The film combines characters and major plot points from about five completely separate story arcs in the comics along with other minor elements from the comic's history and tries to blend it all together in a single 96-minute narrative.

Tries being the operative word.

Judge Dredd: The Film Provides examples of:

  • Action Girl: Judge Hershey.
  • Adaptational Villainy: Judge Griffin is one of the bad guys here, filling a similar role to Judge Cal from the comics in framing Dredd and trying to take over the city, but with the insanity toned down and paired up with Rico. Judge Griffin in the comics was one of Dredd's main allies against Cal and served as a decent Chief Judge for some time afterwards.
  • Affably Evil: Rico will joke around with you like an old friend, and will keep chuckling even as he puts a bullet between your eyes.
  • The Alleged Car:
    • The prototype Lawmaster with a hovering function which Dredd demonstrates to a class of cadets.
    • The Lawmaster props were this in Real Life. The tyres were so big, they were incredibly difficult to steer properly.
  • Almost Dead Guy: Former Chief Justice Fargo after being wounded by Mean Machine Angel.
  • Artistic License Gun Safety: In the beginning, Judge Dredd makes three major mistakes in regards to the rioters firing down on him and the other Judges.
    • First, he describes the mix of weapons fired on them as if they all share the same characteristics. Even guns that fire the same ammunition can differ in how they handle accuracy and recoil, but there's no reason to assume they all had the same range.
    • Second, the idea of an effective lethal range. Calculation of effective range has more to do with the expectation that a shooter can actually hit who they are aiming at. The reason why it's not presented as lethal range is because bullets only need a relatively low amount of force to wound or kill because of their penetration.
    • Third, the shooters were firing down. Their aim may be terrible, but the bullets are going to keep heading in that direction regardless because of gravity. In an example of both this point and number two above, people have been killed before by someone firing into the air because bullets come back down with enough force from gravity alone to kill someone.
  • Award Bait Song: Dredd Song by The Cure.
  • Bad Omen Anecdote: Dredd and Fergie are trying to get back into Mega City.
    Dredd: There is a way in. Six years ago, two refugees figured it out. It's a vent to the city's incinerator. There's a burst twice a minute. That means somebody could run through that tube and have 30 seconds before it flames again.
    Fergie: And these, these refugees, they made it through, right?
    Dredd: Actually, they were roasted. But the theory's sound.
  • Bait-and-Switch Gunshot: Former Chief Justice Fargo to a Capture Team member who was about to shoot Dredd.
  • Berserk Button: Although Dredd tried to remain stoic and even blamed the guy for his incompetence, you could tell he was pissed when a thug committed first degree murder on a street judge. As well as the satisfaction, that the punishment for such a crime was death.
  • BFG: For part of the second half of the film, Dredd ends up using Fargo's really huge shotgun.
  • Big Guy Rodeo: Rob Schneider does this to Rico's ABC robot.
  • Big "NO!": Twice. Dredd exclaims this when former Chief Justice Fargo is mortally wounded, and Judge Griffin lets one out just before the ABC robot rips his limbs off.
  • Bond One-Liner: After Dredd executes a perp who committed a crime punishable by death, he says, "Court's adjourned."
  • Born as an Adult: An intended occurrence for the new Janus Project clones, but Rico lets them out a little early.
  • Brick Joke: During his teaching stint, Dredd offers any cadet the Lawmaster prototype if they can get it to work. He end up using it as part of his escape.
  • Briefcase Blaster: The gun Rico uses to shoot the prison warden in the throat.
  • Bumbling Sidekick: An action movie from The '90s, featuring Rob Schneider. Hmm...
  • Butt Monkey: Fergie.
  • Cain and Abel: Rico and Joseph Dredd.
  • The Caligula: Judge Griffin is seemingly based on Judge Cal from the original comics. His actions as Chief Judge and overall demeanor suggest he is actually insane.
  • Catch Phrase: Dredd has a few lines which he repeats on a few occasions.
    • "I knew you'd say that."
    • "I am the law!"
    • "Court's adjourned."
  • Cavalry Betrayal: The Aspen Penal Colony transport pilot thinks the Capture Team will rescue him.
  • Chekhov's Gun: The signal flare function on the Lawgiver pistol.
  • Chronic Backstabbing Disorder: Rico turns on Griffin the first chance he gets, replacing the DNA that was in the Janus programme with his own.
  • Clear My Name: Dredd, accused of an unlawful murder, must expose the true culprits and reattain his status as a Judge.
  • Clear Their Name: To a lesser extent, Fergie expects Dredd to let Justice Department know of Fergie's innocence and let him off the hook. Leads to a few humorous moments, such as Dredd winding up in a shootout in the Hall of Justice and, upon bumping into Fergie again, being asked if he told them Fergie can go free.
  • Cloning Blues: Rico and Dredd are revealed to be genetically engineered by Justice Department in the Back Story. The restart of these genetic experiments makes up a major portion of the rest of the plot.
  • Clone Degeneration: This is the implied reason why Rico not only looks nothing like Dredd and became Ax-Crazy. It was more clearly seen when Rico hatches the first set of clones early.
  • Collapsing Lair: No real reason is given as to why the cloning facility starts falling apart in huge showers of sparks and falling equipment during the film's climax. It doesn't actually collapse, but it clearly sustains massive and mounting damage, which somehow doesn't feel appropriate considering all it gets are a few shots to the walls.
  • Cool Gun: The lawgiver.
  • Crime of Self-Defense: Dredds' arrest of Fergie as he tries to escape by hiding in the food-vendor droid and receives a five-year sentence:. Amusingly enough, that is one area where Judge Dredd is less strict than Real Life, where attempted suicide is sometimes a crime depending on the state.
    Fergie: Five years!? No! I had no choice!
    Dredd: You could've gone out the window.
    Fergie: Forty floors?! That's suicide!
    Dredd: Maybe... but it's legal.
  • Dark Action Girl: Dr. Hayden.
  • Death by Adaptation: Judge Griffin dies at the hands of Rico. In the comics he lived past the story arc that the movie is mainly based on and didn't die until the Apocalypse War arc years later.
  • Deathbed Confession: After Judge Fargo is mortally wounded, he confesses to the title character that both Dredd and Rico were genetically engineered and are actually brothers (of a sort).
  • Designated Girl Fight: Hayden vs Hershey.
  • Disney Villain Death: Rico, courtesy of Dredd.
  • Disproportionate Retribution
    • Dredd sentences Fergie to a five-year stint in the Aspen penal colony for hacking a food dispenser droid to save himself during a block war in his new neighborhood, Dredd reasoning that Fergie is a habitual criminal (having only just returned from a six month stay in Aspen). His fellow Judge even questions the sentence.
    • When coming across a DUI, Dredd shoots the offender's car. With a Hi-Ex round.
  • Dramatic Gun Cock: When Dredd picks up Fargo's shotgun, he does this.
  • Dressing as the Enemy: While Dredd is on the run from the law and infiltrating the Justice Department headquarters, he knocks out a Judge and steals his uniform.
  • Enemy Rising Behind: Rico does this while in a body bag and kills an unsuspecting technician.
  • Establishing Character Moment: The first thing Dredd says in the film is the memetically hammy "I AM THE LAW".
  • Evil Is Hammy: The one person in the entire movie who manages to out-ham Sylvester Stallone's Dredd is Armand Assante's Rico.
  • Eyes Never Lie: Dredd has been arrested for murder with all the evidence against him. His mentor Chief Justice Fargo goes to see him to ask if he did it. The only thing Dredd does is ask (repeatedly) if Fargo believes the accusation. In the end Fargo says, "I just wanted to see it in your eyes."
  • Faceless Goons: The Grand Court guardsmen dressed in shiny black armor. In the Comic, Dredd himself is a faceless goon, as he never takes off his helmet and is a loyal agent of the Judge System.
  • The Family That Slays Together: The Angel Family. As part of this adaptation, they're also a Cannibal Clan.
  • Five-Bad Band:
  • Future Food Is Artificial: Perhaps the one thing that best reflects the original tone of the comics, a droid promoting "recycled food", proclaiming, "Eat recycled food. It's good for the environment and okay for you!"
  • Future Slang: Some dude screams "HOLY DROKK!!!" after seeing that a Judge's gun is rigged to electrocute anyone other than a Judge. Given its use in the original comic, this counts as a Precision F-Strike.
  • Future Spandex: Judges wear a lycra/spandex bodysuit undergarment under their body armor.
  • Gaia's Lament: A public service robot goes about proclaiming how good recycled food is for the environment, or what's left of it.
  • A God Am I: Metaphorically. Rico being a product of a genetic engineering project, sees himself as being above humanity and wishes to rule over Mega-City One.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Dredd vs. Rico
    Dredd: You betrayed the law!
  • Hand Blast: The ABC Warrior robot was armed with machine guns built into its hands.
  • Hand Cannon: The Lawgiver II gun used by the Judges.
  • Hollywood Genetics: Dredd is convicted of murder because bullets from a Lawgiver pistol are tagged with the DNA of the Judge who fired them, and forensic examination revealed the tag to match up with Dredd ( and were actually from his twin brother Rico. It doesn't seem like the DNA should match to begin with, as Rico is clearly not an identical twin of Dredd, which is the only case where they'd have the same DNA.
  • Hook Hand: Mean Machine Angel has an artificial arm with several hook and blade attachments.
  • Hurricane of Puns: All of them having to do with law/police terms.
  • Hypocritical Humor: When Fergie restates his innocence to Dredd while on the transport to the Aspen Penal Colony and calls his sentencing a mistake, Dredd responds, "The Law doesn't make mistakes", to which Fergie asks Dredd to otherwise explain how he's being shipped to the penal colony, as well.
  • I'm a Humanitarian:
    Fergie:I'm free, you're toast!
    Judge Dredd: Actually, you're toast. I forgot to mention it. Your new friends [The Angel Family]? They're cannibals!
  • I Will Tear Your Arms Off: Rico orders his ABC robot to rip off Griffin's limbs (and save the head for last) when he doesn't approve of Rico's takeover of the Janus project and threatens to do the same for Judge Hershey if Dredd refuses to join him.
  • Intrepid Reporter: Vartis Hammond, who is very critical of Judge Dredd and the Justice Dept.
  • Ironic Name: Heavenly Haven is the name of the shithole of a block where the Block War takes place.
  • It Works Better with Bullets: When Rico's lawgiver runs dry of standard rounds, Dredd simply disarms him and switches to signal flare.
  • Judge, Jury, and Executioner
  • Lantern Jaw of Justice: Love him or hate him for removing the helmet, but Stallone had the perfect jaw for this role.
  • Large Ham: Ham permeates the entire movie and even makes it pretty enjoyable. Armand Assante and Sylvester Stallone particuarly wallow in Ham and Cheese and Stallone, when asked about the movie, actually said they should have made it even Hammier.
  • Leave No Witnesses: Chief Judge Griffin is quite insistent that Dredd's shuttle crash killed everyone aboard, so insistent that when a recovery team finds survivors, Griffin gives an implicit order to kill them.
  • Left Stuck After Attack: The titular hero tricks a body-horrific cannibal cyborg into driving his Swiss Army Appendage into a wall, rips a power cable off, lets out a bunch of catchphrases and electrocutes him.
  • Loyal Phlebotinum: The Judges' guns record the shooter's DNA whenever a shot is fired, so each death can be traced back to the relevant Judge and trial. They also store palmprint records, so if a non-Judge tries to use the weapon, it delivers an incapacitating shocknote 
  • Luke, I Am Your Father: Fargo tells Dredd of his true lineage as a clone just before he dies.
  • Mask of Power: Dredd is arguably at his most Badass when his helmet is on (mostly in the opening scene, where he deals with a block war single-handed). Whenever it's off, he seems to suffer from Badass Decay.
  • Monumental Battle: Inside the Statue of Liberty.
  • Moral Dissonance: For being the ultimate, bred-for-the-purpose Judge with justice and fairness at the top of his moral code, Dredd sure doesn't seem to consider it particularly troubling to shotgun a few completely innocent guards who just happened to be unlucky enough to have a crooked master, or to cause others following him on hoverbikes to crash into the scenery. Or to crash one of said hoverbikes into a building (presumably containing at least some innocent people) and exploding several floors of it.
  • Mugged for Disguise: After being removed from the force, Dredd jumps a fellow Judge for his uniform so he could better infiltrate the Hall of Justice.
  • Mythology Gag: The smiley face graffiti seen on the Statue of Liberty is a reference to the original comic's story "Un-American Graffiti", in which this was a signature part of a character's graffiti tag.
  • Names to Run Away From Really Fast: Judge Dredd.
  • Neck Lift: The ABC robot does it to Judge Hershey.
  • No More Lies: Chief Judge Fargo told Dredd that his family was killed when he was a child. Just before his death Fargo tells Dredd the truth: Dredd was created in a lab, and so was Rico.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Fergie's new home, Heavenly Haven, turns out to be an utter shithole that's in the middle of a block war.
  • The Obi-Wan: Chief Justice Fargo mentored Judge Dredd.
  • Offhand Backhand: Dredd to another Judge who was trying to arrest him.
  • Offered the Crown: Dredd is asked to become the new Chief Justice, but turns this down because he prefers paroling the city streets.
  • One Riot, One Ranger: At the beginning the movie, two young Judges get caught in a shootout and call for backup. They get Dredd. Just Dredd. It's enough.
    Judge Dredd: [standing tall amidst random fire] What are you doing down there, Judge Hershey?
    Judge Hershey: [crouched] Waiting for back-up.
    Judge Dredd: It's here.
  • Opening Monologue: James Earl Jones picked up a paycheck to apply his distinctive voice to explaining the setting for the movie.
  • Operator Incompatibility: The fact that a Judge's weapon can only be used by that particular Judge or someone sharing that Judge's DNA becomes a plot point.
  • Opposite-Sex Clone: There are both men and women among the Rico clones.
  • Outrun the Fireball: Dredd and Fergie must do this when they infiltrate the city via an incinerator vent which spews out a fireball every thirty seconds.
  • Outscare the Enemy: The way Block Warlord deals with one of his underlings considering surrendering to Dredd.
    "You want to be afraid of somebody, be afraid of ME!"
  • Penal Colony: Mega City 1's criminals were sent to Aspen Penal Colony to serve out their sentences.
  • Percussive Maintenance: When the new Lawmaster prototype isn't starting, Dredd gives it a solid thump and it comes online. It failed again eventually, but by that time Dredd was able to jack one of the more reliable models.
  • Precious Photo: Hershey finds two in Dredd's locker. One of Dredd as a baby with his parents, which turns out to be fake and one of Dredd and Rico.
  • Pre-Mortem One-Liner: "Court's adjourned." (In a separate instance)
  • The Purge: Rico and Ilsa manage to massacre more than a hundred street Judges due to Griffin's knowledge of Judge procedures, security measures and scrambled radio frequencies.
  • Put Down Your Gun and Step Away: Rico's orders to Dredd after the ABC robot grabs Judge Hershey.
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The ABC robot.
  • The Reveal: Not only was Rico a Judge, but he's also Dredd's twin brother whom Dredd judged years ago.
  • Sentry Gun: Several of these are kept trained on Rico in his cell in the Aspen Penal Colony.
  • Shoot the Money: Despite one of Dredd's most famous traits being that he has never taken off his helmet or shown his face (At least not when he wasn't disguised, injured or bandaged to the point where you can't actually see his face) in the more than 30-year history of the comic, the producers were paying for a big name star so Stallone went helmetless about 20 minutes into the movie and stayed that way.
  • The Starscream: Rico ultimately turns on Chief Judge Griffin when he no longer needs him.
  • Stupid Statement Dance Mix: Done to the page quote, c/o Attack of the Show!. Roll that beautiful ham footage.
  • Suddenly Always Knew That: At the story's climax Dr. Ilsa Hayden shows skill in martial arts, despite not having shown or explained to have possessed combat training in the first place. But really, it should have been obvious.
  • Tailor-Made Prison: Rico's prison cell keeps him behind a force field with automated guns trained on him at all times.
  • Take My Hand: Judge Hershey to Dredd, while he's hanging from the top of the Statue of Liberty.
  • Take the Wheel: Dredd to Fergie during the aerial chase as he's about to jump to another vehicle.
  • Tap on the Head: Dredd renders another Judge unconscious in such a manner in a locker room.
  • Terrorists Without a Cause: The criminals perpetrating the block war don't really seem to have any good reason for doing so. They even start shooting at the other guys completely out of the blue, spurred simply by Fergie's arrival.
  • There Should Be a LAAAAAAWW:
    Dredd: Emotions, there oughta be a law against them.
  • This Is for Emphasis, Bitch!: "That's Judge Bitch!"
  • Too Dumb to Live: The rookie street Judge who recklessly charges into a room with armed thugs and gets killed for it at the beginning.
  • Truth in Television: Despite sharing identical DNA, Fargo, Dredd and Rico look nothing alike, besides skin and hair (for Dredd and Rico anyway) colour. In reality, clones tend not to resemble their "parent" too much, since your appearance is determined only partially by your DNA, it's also determined by the life you lead and the conditions you're exposed to in the womb. Of course, the real reason is that it would have been too difficult to have Stallone play three characters, one in heavy age makeup, all of which have face-to-face interaction, and also, having them all look the same would have tipped viewers off to The Reveal that Dredd and Rico were Fargo's clones way too early. This is handwaved by Fargo stating that DNA was taken from all the members of the council, not just himself.
  • Unkempt Beauty: Hershey after she survives the destruction of her Lawmaster. It's one of the few things in this film that the fandom doesn't seem to have any real problem with.
  • Un-Person: "Let him be stricken from our hearts and our memory... forever."
  • We Can Rule Together: Rico offers Dredd the chance to be head of the council under his rule to control his Clone Army.
  • Well-Intentioned Extremist: Griffin's motivation is simply to restart the Janus project so that he can build up Justice Department to cope with the massive crime rate. However, his actions (forcing Fargo out, getting Dredd out of the way, his choice of dragon and murdering of the council) are essentially evil.
  • World of Ham: Nearly everyone seems to enjoy shouting their lines in the cheesiest and most over-the-top way possible.
  • Wretched Hive: Mega-City One boasts extraordinarily high unemployment and crime rates.
  • Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Dredd guns down scores of the black-armored officers while trying to take out Rico. However, given these same officers were willing to kill in cold blood on Griffin's order, they clearly were at least somewhat corrupt.
  • You Owe Me: Hershey keeps a running tally in regards to Dredd.