Jacob's Ladder (1990) - Adrian Lyne

Rating: 87/100 (Watch It!)

Tags: Psychological, Horror, Thriller, War, Twist, PTSD

Director: Adrian Lyne

Producer: Alan Marshall

Writer: Bruce Joel Rubin

Starring: Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Peña, Danny Aiello
Country: USA

MPAA Rating: R

Studio: Carolco Pictures

Budget: $25 Million

Release: November 2nd, 1990

Relevant Tastes: Black Mirror, Twilight Zone, Shutter Island

Did Ya Know: Did ya know: Director Adrian Lyne’s first choice for the lead was Tom Hanks. It would have been interesting to see him in a movie like this one.

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This is one of those movies I had seen in the video rental stores, but never actually watched. Jacob’s Ladder is an American psychological thriller directed by Adrian Lyne and produced by Alan Marshall. It was written by Bruce Joel Rubin, the screenwriter for Ghost. This production is from Carolco Pictures, and it was released on November 2nd, 1990 to quick success, but ultimate disappointment. The film stars Tim Robbins, Elizabeth Pena, and Danny Aiello.


Jacob Singer is a Post Office worker and Vietnam veteran suffering from PTSD. He has been trying to hold his life together since the death of his son. Plagued by flashbacks and deadly hallucinations. Jacob is trying to adjust while things seem to literally change and fall-apart around him. Not to mention the demons following him. He struggles to keep it together with the help of his family and friends.


This is a deeply horrifying psychological thriller. And it should be. It’s a horror movie that’s basing its fear on a Veterans Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. It needs to dwell deep inside the darkest parts of your mind. Dealing with the atrocities of the Vietnam War, our protagonist, Jacob, is tortured and haunted by his past.

It’s a beautiful picture that captures New York during that gritty and grimy era that I miss so much. I love the look of the city in these late eighties/early nineties films. It’s a believable backdrop for a graphic picture that doesn’t hold anything back. It pushes the envelope to keep you on the edge of my seat.

Tim Robbins’ acting drives the picture. He blows it away. There is a decent enough supporting cast. But they ultimately fail to bring the quality that Robbins does. Elizabeth Pena is the best-supporting-actor that pairs really well with Robbins, making their relationship seem realistic and familiar for a lot of viewers. Also, Pruitt Taylor Vince gives a great performance in a criminally short time.

It’s really the writing from Bruce Joel Rubin that makes this movie so good. He was inspired by a lot of different mediums like The Tibetan Book of the Dead and the Twilight Zone episode, An Occurrence at Owl Street Bridge. He creates a very detailed universe that makes proper use of fractured timelines and hallucinations.


Jacob’s Ladder is cinematic fine art. It’s a dramatic and bizarre path that takes you on a journey through the mind and into the afterlife. It’s layers of various realities, both spiritual and metaphysical, masterfully delivered. The kind of film you can look at and interpret in your own unique fashion. I found myself very appreciative of the psychological elements, and found myself both frightened and entertained. It’s a great film that I am going to highly recommend. It’s a must watch!