"Alright ladies and gentlemen, listen up. Our fugitive has been on the run for ninety minutes. Average foot speed over uneven ground barring injuries is 4 miles an hour and that gives us a radius of six miles. What I want out of each and every one of you is a hard-target search of every gas station, residence, warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse and doghouse in that area. Checkpoints go up at fifteen miles. Your fugitive's name is Dr. Richard Kimble. Go get him."
— Marshal Sam Gerard
The Fugitive is a 1993 action film based on a 1960s TV showDr. Richard Kimble, a respected Chicago cardiovascular surgeon, returns home one night to find his wife brutally murdered by an intruder, a one-armed man. However, he can't convince the police he's an innocent man as circumstantial evidence makes him look guilty, and he is convicted of his wife's murder.While en route to death row he escapes from custody and returns to his hometown, determined to find the real killer.Kimble also must contend with a dogged team of U.S. Marshals, led by Deputy Samuel Gerard, who pursue him constantly. Both Kimble and Gerard eventually discover that the chase is bigger than the both of them, and that several parties involved actually want to see Kimble dead.The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews (96% on Rotten Tomatoes) and was a smash hit at the box office, spending six weeks as the #1 movie in the United States, and eventually making a total of $369 million worldwide (against a budget of $44 million), ranking as the third highest grossing film of 1993, and is ranked 33 on AFI's "100 Years. . .100 Thrills" list. It also had a sequel in 1998, U.S. Marshals, which featured Gerard and his team pursuing another fugitive.It can be considered quite an influential film in that during the decades prior, films based on TV shows (other than the Star Trek franchise) tended to be sporadic. After the worldwide success of this film, they became far more common.
The Fugitive provides examples of the following tropes:
Abandoned Warehouse: The laundry room, despite being neither abandoned nor a warehouse, functions as this for the finale. Its bare furnishings and industrial aesthetic make it an effective setting for armed folks running around trying to catch each other.
Academy Award: The film itself was nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture. Jones would win the Oscar for Best Supporting Actor.
Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: While Gerard is chasing Kimble at the prison, he yells at the guards to shut the doors in order to stop him. After Kimble narrowly gets through the doors, Gerard yells in exasperation to open the doors.
Badass: Gerard overwhelming style and attitude is evident from the beginning, without firing a shot, when he takes over local law enforcement and gets nicknamed "Wyatt Earp" in the process. His competence as a field agent is beyond doubt by the time he shoots Copeland.
At one point Gerard says "andiamo, bambini." Which is Italian for "Let's go, kids."
Later, Kimble, while walking around the hospital is asked by a nurse if she can help him. He responds "el lugar incorrecto, gracias." This is awkwardly-said (though correct) Spanish for "the wrong place, thanks."
The Polish landlady states "So what do you think? I think he'll like it" when Kimble is looking at the apartment to rent.
Julianne Moore is billed fourth in the film, although she wasn't a well-known star at the time of its release and her character only has a few minutes of total screen time (and zero relevance to the plot). This initially wasn't the case — Moore's character was originally written to have a much larger role as an ally and a love interest for Kimble.
Sela Ward, as the doomed Helen Kimble, doesn't get much more screen time, and she's billed third - though this is justified as her character is also an example of Small Role, Big Impact.
Bittersweet Ending: When all is said and done, Kimble's beloved wife is still dead. And can he ever really rebuild his life after everything he's been through?
Rebuilding his life probably won't be quite that difficult. His wife was rich independent of him (which was one of the reasons he was suspected so strongly), and that money will go to him now that he has been exonerated. He should also be able to make a nice little side job of recounting his story/motivational speaking. And even once the furor dies down, he was a world-renowned surgeon, which are always in high demand.
Book Ends: The movie starts with a shell-shocked Kimble being put into the back of a police car to be taken to the station. It ends much the same way, although this time, it's on a more triumphant note—Kimble has caught those responsible for his wife's murder and taken the first steps towards officially securing his freedom.
Cassandra Truth: The cops' disdain and disbelief for Kimble's bizarre story is obvious from the get-go.
Catapult Nightmare: Happens twice to Kimble. After escaping from the dam, Kimble has a nightmare about the murder of his wife. Sure enough, at the end of the dream, he bolts upright as he wakens. See Red Herring for the second nightmare.
Character Development: In the beginning, Gerard is the only one willing to hunt down Kimble. Towards the end, he becomes the only one willing to protect him.
Chekhov's Keys: At the beginning of the movie, watch carefully or you'll miss it: Dr. Nichols returns Kimble's keys to him, and thanks him for lending him his car. Then during Kimble's trial, Detective Kelly (Ron Dean) states that there was no evidence of a break-in or robbery, making him suspicious of Kimble's story of an intruder. They're blink-and-you-miss-it moments that seem completely insignificant and unrelated until the end, when Gerard realizes (and tells Kimble) that Nichols must have used the keys to let Sykes into Kimble's home—"No forced entry, Richard".
Clear My Name: The premise of the movie, Dr. Kimble has been found guilty of killing his wife and seeks to demonstrate his innocence.
Climbing Climax: Kimble heads to the high-rise Chicago Hilton to confront Nichols, effectively guaranteeing that he will be recaptured.
Convenient Eclipse: The St. Patrick's Day Parade in Chicago happened to be happening at the time that The Fugitive was scheduled to be filmed. Permission was granted for the producers to film the parade.
Cool Guns: Gerard and his ever-present Glock 17, which was issued to US Marshalls at the time in real life. It was replaced with the Glock 22 by the time of U.S. Marshalls.
Cop Killer: Richard Kimble is believed to have killed a Chicago policeman (actually it was the one-armed man). Gerard knows that he has to get to Kimble before the Chicago cops do because they will be shooting to kill.
Crusading Widower: Kimble's efforts to find his wife's killer are just as much about avenging her as they are about clearing his name.
The Determinator: Applies to both Kimble, in his effort to clear his name and find his wife's killer, which gets lampshaded by his pursuers, and to Gerard, in his non-stop pursuit of Kimble.
Lampshaded by Nichols.
Nichols: You never give up Richard, YOU NEVER GIVE UP!!!
Dirty Cop: Sykes used to be one. Now he's a hired gun masquerading as "security" for pharmaceutical executives.
Dirty Coward: The guard who releases Kimble's chains on the bus jumps out the window to save his own ass while Kimble stays behind and rescues his injured partner. When Kimble asks for help, he says "To hell with you!" before diving to safety. Then later, when questioned by the police about the crash, he claims he pulled his partner out. "He woulda done the same for me." Obviously. Gerard, upon finding Kimble's unhooked and empty chains nearby wonders if the guard wants to change his "bullshit story" in light of the evidence.
Dye or Die: This is what Kimble appears to be trying to do when he dyes his hair.
Enhance Button: An audio tape is enhanced until a voice on a PA system in the background can be clearly heard saying the name of a train station.
Freudian Slip: When Dr. Charles Nichols is giving a speech at a conference, he says as he notices Kimble has arrived to confront him:
Dr. Charles Nichols: [Provasic] was developed in cooperation, not competition, with Chicago Memorial Hospital, in what we hope will be the model for a continued dishonest... excuse me, honest open joint venture.
He leaves his jacket behind in one sluice tunnel, then hightails it the opposite direction. Gerard doesn't fall for it; he simply splits up his team and checks both tunnels.
Knowing his lawyer's office is probably wiretapped, he lies about being in St. Louis. The marshals, listening in, make out a Chicago 'L' train conductor voice saying "Next Stop: Merchandise Mart".
Good Versus Good: There's US Marshal Sam Gerard, whose job is to capture murder suspect Richard Kimble. Richard Kimble is innocent, however, and his job is to find the real murderer and clear his own name.
GPS Evidence: Henry insists Kimble has to be in a city with an elevated train after he claims to hear one in the background of a wiretap recording. Another deputy agrees with him, pointing out that he lived under an 'L' for many years. Use of the Enhance Button provides a precise location - a payphone off the Wells Street Bridge.
Had to Come to Prison to Be a Crook: In the novelization of the film, after stealing a workman's uniform, Kimble notes the irony of the fact that his wrongful murder conviction has resulted in him committing a crime for the first time in his life.
Hand Signals: Gerard does it at least four times and Cosmo does it once.
Happily Married: Though we only see their relationship in brief flashbacks, it's obvious this applies to Helen and Richard Kimble (a notable difference from the series).
He Knows Too Much: Kimble ran afoul of the pharmaceutical company after he noticed liver damage in their test group.
Heroic BSOD: Kimble is in this throughout the film, but it's especially bad in the opening sequence. No surprise, given what's happened.
Hey, Wait!: Kimble, disguised in hospital clothing, walks past an Illinois State Police trooper sent to the local hospital to be on the lookout for him, holding his wanted poster. Just when he thinks he's safe, the cop calls to him... only to gesture to him that his fly is down.
Hollywood Law: Helen Kimble's 911 call starts with her saying "There's somebody in my house", and her last words before dying, "Richard... he's trying to kill me...", is treated as the most damning piece of evidence against Kimble. Helen was calling to her husband and begging for help, not identifying him as the killer. Richard knows this. If his lawyer couldn't convince the jury of it, or at least instill reasonable doubt, he's so shockingly incompetent he should be disbarred. Of course, going on the lam doesn't help, plus he commits lots of crimes along the way prior to his exoneration that could still put him in prison for a very long time-see the Wrongful Accusation Insurance entry below about that.
There was a lot more evidence than just the 911 call though. His skin under her fingernails, the lack of forced entry into the house (the intruder had keys), a financial motive (his wife was independantly wealthy and left everything to him, including a sizeable life insurance policy), and so on. Certainly enough to convict.
Inspector Javert: Samuel Gerard. He is the Javert to Kimble's Valjean. The name Gerard itself was picked because it's French. It's his job to bring back Kimble; the truth of Kimble's conviction is not his business. The chase through the storm drains is also a pretty blatant reference to Les MisÚrables, which has a similar scene towards the end of the book.
Kimble:I didn't kill my wife! Gerard: I don't care!
Marquee Alter Ego: At the beginning of the movie Kimble has a beard. As part of Kimble's attempt to disguise himself, he shaves off the beard and looks more like the Harrison Ford that audiences are accustomed to.
Mistaken Confession: "Richard. . .he's trying to kill me." Helen Kimble's final words, interpreted by the prosecution as her naming her husband as her assailant, when in fact she was calling to him, begging for help.
Mood Whiplash: In-universe. The flashbacks to the night of Helen's murder show that the couple had a lovely time at the hospital fundraiser as well as strongly implying that the two were going to enjoy a romantic evening once Richard returned home. Only for him to find her near death and her killer still in the house intending to finish him off as well.
Motive Equals Conclusive Evidence: The fact that Kimble had something to gain from his wife's death (money, even if he was already the richest surgeon in Chicago) is the crowner of the barrage of (circumstantial) evidence the Chicago Police use to arrest Kimble and call it quits.
The Mountains of Illinois: When Kimble steals the ambulance and gets chased to the dam, we see a pretty literal depiction of this trope. (Most of the film's location shooting was done in the Great Smoky Mountains of North Carolina; the train wreck set is still there on the scenic railroad; a sign for Murphy, North Carolina can be seen during the car chase leading up to the dam, and a real hospital near where the train crash scene was filmed is referred to by its actual name.)
Mr. Fanservice: Harrison Ford as Dr. Richard Kimble. Not just in looks, but in personality. During an interview, Ford speculated that women were drawn to the film because they were so moved by the emotional undercurrent of Kimble's unrelenting grief for his wife.
Murder Is the Best Solution: Dr. Nichols is going to an awful lot a trouble to protect RDU-90. The fact that his drug is poisonous will come out eventually; killing everyone involved with it won't change that but it will allow him to make a great deal of money off sales which would be impossible if the drug never is released. The fines a company pays are never as much as the profits they make from bad drugs.
Also, there's "I bet he pulled a Casey Jones" at the site of the train wreck.
Phone-Trace Race: When Kimble calls Gerard from Sykes' home, the Marshals trace the call. Kimble is aware of this and makes a point of leaving the phone off the hook when he leaves the building so that Gerard will come to Sykes' house.
Playing Drunk: While Gerard and Newman are approaching Copeland's hideout, they pretend to be drunken bums to avoid arousing the suspicion of the neighbors. Gerard even says, "Be drunk, Newman." Newman looks like he's having trouble acting the part.
The Chicago Police Department comes off looking pretty stupid in this movie. By the end, it looks even worse than that; since it turns out the one-armed man was a former cop, there's at least a possibility that they might have arrested Kimble to cover for one of their own.
Subverted with Gerard and his team of marshals, who are not the least bit incompetent, even if they are technically wrong in their pursuit of Kimble. In fact, given that they ultimately become his allies in proving his innocence and protecting him from the CPD, this might go as far as averting this trope.
Red Herring: Kimble splits up with Copeland after the train derailment. After his dive off the dam, Kimble is seen walking down a road at night. A woman stops and offers to give him a ride. Kimble climbs in and the car drives off. We cut to the U.S. Marshal's office in Downtown Chicago:
Cosmo Renfro: Yes! All right, Sammy, we've got him - shacked up with some babe over in Whiting. Deputy Poole: She left work tonight and took him home.
The dialogue is phrased in such a way that it is meant to make you think that Gerard and his men have received a tip about Kimble's whereabouts. Surprise — it's Copeland, who is shot by Gerard after resisting arrest.
Later, Kimble is having another dream about his wife when he wakes up hearing cars coming to a stop outside and doors opening. He looks out and sees the police advancing on the house. He panics as the tactical assault officers circle the house, and announce themselves. Curiously, we never see them come in through the basement. Kimble follows noises he hears overhead. He breathes a sigh of relief when he realizes that the police have actually come to arrest two drug dealers.
There's also the moment where Kimble, a convicted and wanted felon (even if he is innocent), manages to temporarily gain a headway by sticking some cops on Gerard, a U.S. Marshal, by warning them about "a man in a blue topcoat waving a gun and screaming". The cops comply when Gerard comes around the corner.
Rewind, Replay, Repeat: While Gerard and his subordinates are listening to Kimble's phone call to his lawyer, Gerard asks for part of it to be enhanced and repeated so they can hear it clearly. They eventually use it to find a hidden "Next stop, Merchandise Mart" train announcement in the message and determine that Kimble is actually in Chicago.
Roaring Rampage of Revenge: During the final minutes of the film, after Kimble has discovered Dr. Nichols' duplicity and sets out to find him, so angry that he doesn't give a second thought to the fact that he's out in public where someone could—and does—easily recognize him. Unlike most examples of this trope, his rage is limited to one person (or rather, two, counting Sykes).
Rooting For The Fugitive: Invoked by the press, who halfway through the film start to question whether or not Kimble was falsely convicted, given so far, the so-called "murderer" has done nothing malicious and gone out of his way to save several lives. Naturally, Gerard is not amused by this. And CPD outright dismisses the possibility, simply because Richard is convicted.
In addition to Kimble's "Every time I look in the mirror, pal, except for the beard of course," moment at the rural hospital, Sykes gets one while being interviewed by Gerard who asks him if Kimble would have any reason to be after him. Sykes says, "Hell yeah! I have a prosthetic arm! I must've murdered his wife, right?"
Saying Too Much: A subtle version, in the same interview Gerard has with Sykes: When Gerard asks off-handedly whether Kimble had been present on a company sponsored fishing trip, Sykes angrily retorts, "You don't see him in the pictures, do you!?", a rather specific answer for a man claiming to be a total stranger, tipping Gerard's suspicion that Sykes is lying through his teeth.
Scary Black Man: Copeland, the only other convict who survives the train wreck with Kimble. That scene where he holds Newman hostage with a gun while screaming is proof of this.
Originally, the script actually had Copeland holding a knife to Newman's throat instead of Newman's own weapon, but still ended with Gerard shooting Copeland at point-blank range and Newman being temporarily deafened.
Shoot The Hostage Taker: When Gerard's team tracks down Copeland to a suburban house in Whiting, Indiana, Copeland takes Newman hostage with his own gun. Gerard shoots Copeland at close range, leaving Newman temporarily deaf from the gunshot but still alive.
Smug Snake: Non-villainous example. The prosecution lawyer sports a arrogant smile and attitude when presenting the "facts" how Kimble killed Helen.
Soft Glass: Averted. Kimble kicks out the glass window of a stalled Chicago 'L' train, but he's clearly seen limping afterwards, so it obviously wasn't as easy as most movies usually make it seem. (Reality Subtext: Harrison Ford was also sporting a sprained knee from shooting another scene)
Soft Water: Kimble's leap from the dam, which should have killed him or at least broken every bone in his body.
Maybe (very maybe) justified. We see that he definitely fell into one of the spouts of water, and it is possible that the force of this water carried him safely away from the wall of the dam. Also, it is possible that this same spout made his impact softer than it would have otherwise been.
Sympathetic Inspector Antagonist: Strictly speaking, Gerard doesn't fit this trope, as Kimble is actually innocent of the crime for which he was condemned — although he is guilty of fleeing custody, which is why Gerard is after him. Hence, Gerard arguably skirts this role, as he is a determined hunter who Kimble and the audience must respect.
Team Dad: Gerard's response to an unseen superior who's apparently upset that Copeland wasn't brought in alive: "What can I tell you, sir? Mr. Copeland was a bad man. He was gonna kill one of my kids.[beat] Well sir, you can blame me, I mean I'm the one who shot him. [hangs up] "
Token Romance: Averted. The writers wanted to give Kimble a romance with the doctor played by Julianne Moore - while he was avenging his wife's recent death, mind - but test audiences hated it.
Try And Follow: Kimble, when "cornered" by Gerard on the dam, suddenly makes a suicidal jump into the turbulent waters.
Unfortunate Implications: An in-universe example. Since Sykes was a former cop, it's going to look to the public like the Chicago Police Department deliberately framed Kimble to protect one of their own. This is implied in a scene at the very end where the cops, having rather smugly dismissed any hints of Kimble's innocence in an earlier press conference, are clearly fielding some rather awkward questions from the media at that point.
Gerard: Richard, I know you're innocent! I know about Frederick Sykes! I know about Dr. Charles Nichols! Richard, he borrowed your car the night of your wife's murder, he had your keys! No forced entry, Richard! He telephoned Sykes from your car, Richard! Richard, give it up! Richard, I'm either lying or I'm gonna shoot you, what do you think? Give it up Richard, it's time to stop running!!!
What the Hell, Hero?: Richard gives a public one to Nichols when he finds out not only was he responsible for Helen's death, but also because the entire ploy was in an attempt to have a dangerous pharmaceutical drug approved by the FDA
The Windy City: Provides most of the action of the second half of the story.
Wrongful Accusation Insurance: Played with; Dr. Kimble commits multiple crimes in the course of proving that he didn't murder his wife, beginning with his original escape from custody, which is illegal whether or not you are innocent of the crime you are accused or convicted of. Notably, however, the film ends with him in the custody of the US Marshals who were pursuing him throughout the movie, and while he's cleared himself of the original murder, there's no indication that all the other stuff is going to be let slide automatically (it can be argued that he's got good grounds for defense; the point is that his righteousness is not taken for granted.)
It's almost guaranteed he would not be charged with anything. The District Attorney and Chicago police would be already hard-pressed to explain why an innocent man was convicted of capital murder and was essentially forced to find the real killer himself. On top of it, as the real killer is a former Chicago cop, the CPD would already be looking like they framed Kimble to cover for one of their own. There's also the small matter of them instituting a 'shoot-to-kill' policy on Kimble (albeit under the assumption that he's a cop-killer) to the point where a federal marshal caught in the middle vocally expressed a fear for his life — which, in light of the above, could be easily spun by any half-decent lawyer or public relations official as the CPD trying to silence a potential witness to police corruption. The Chicago authorities are already facing a lot of awkward questions about this mess when the dust settles; the only way they could make themselves look worse would be to charge Kimble with anything else.
And clearly, even if Kimble were convicted of some of these things, it still beats the lethal injection he was otherwise facing. The most likely outcome would be prosecutors agreeing to drop charges in exchange for time served, that is, the time Kimble spent incarcerated before and during his trial, sentencing and transport, and perhaps a token period on probation, perhaps in return for him not suing them into oblivion for wrongful imprisonment, not to mention trying to kill him.