The Onion Field (1979) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Onion Field1979

The Onion Field (1979)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

The Onion Field Photos

Movie Info

This film is based on an actual 1963 case. L.A. plainclothesmen John Savage and Ted Danson routinely investigate a pair of suspicious types. Unexpectedly, one of the men kills Danson in cold blood. Savage manages to escape and the men are arrested. But that is not that.


John Savage
as Karl Hettinger
James Woods
as Gregory Ulas Powell
Franklyn Seales
as Jimmy Smith
Ted Danson
as Ian Campbell
Ronny Cox
as Sgt. Pierce Brooks
David Huffman
as District Attorney Phil
Diane Hull
as Helen Hettinger
Priscilla Pointer
as Chrissie Campbell
Beege Barkett
as Greg's Woman
Richard Herd
as Beat Cop
Le Tari
as Emmanuel McFadden
Richard Venture
as Glenn Bates
Phillip R. Allen
as District Attorney Marshall Schulman
Pat Corley
as Jimmy's 1st Lawyer
K Callan
as Mrs. Powell
Sandy McPeak
as Mr. Powell
Ned Wilson
as LAPD Captain
Jack Rader
as IAD Captain
Raleigh Bond
as 2nd Judge
Bradford English
as Redhaired Cop
Stanley Grover
as Greg's 2nd Lawyer
Michael Pataki
as District Attorney Dino Fulgoni
Steve Conte
as 1st Prison Guard
Phillip Richard Allen
as District Attorney Marshall Schulman
View All

Critic Reviews for The Onion Field

All Critics (14) | Top Critics (5)

The Onion Field is a serious and most uncompromising movie. It lacks, however, the sort of disciplined craft that might have made it a powerful and affecting one.

September 10, 2011 | Full Review…

James Woods as the near-psychotic Powell is chillingly effective, creating a flakiness in the character that exudes the danger of a live wire near a puddle.

March 26, 2009 | Full Review…

It's the usual heavy Wambaugh brew: police procedure closely observed without a trace of romanticism, suggesting simply that life in the force is psychological hell.

January 26, 2006 | Full Review…

The film is generally crisp and at times exciting, but it's also full of incidents that are only sketchily explained, and minus the all-important narrative thread that might have provided a clear point of view.

May 9, 2005 | Rating: 2.5/5

Thoughtful trial movie with a disturbing edge.

January 1, 2000 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

It's a very downbeat film in that '70s realist mode, but absolutely arresting (heh!) nonetheless.

September 19, 2021 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Onion Field

"The Onion Field" features a complex narrative and well-developed characters, but ultimately, it never goes anywhere. The scenes that are meant to provoke emotion fall flat, the final twenty minutes or so are unnecessary, and the pacing is slow and unbalanced. James Woods delivers a strong performance, but that's about it. There's nothing noteworthy about this film other than that.

Stephen Earnest
Stephen Earnest

Super Reviewer

The Onion Field has real potential to be a very compelling film. There are tons of great character pieces with a complex plot, but it all somehow just doesn't go anywhere. This film is based on true events, but I'm wondering if the actual events were portrayed as is, and if so, did they need to be so true to them? I'm not going to spoil the entirety of the film, nor am I going to get into a discussion on dramatic character development and satisfactory story, but it basically winds down to nothing. Dramatic tension tries its hardest to kick in at times with little to no pay-off. This, to me, seemed more suited to be a Broadway production rather than a film. Two hours of complex plot and emotionally unsatisfying events make for a very dull film, despite the talent behind it.

Tim Salmons
Tim Salmons

Super Reviewer


A fantastic crime/prison movie, the story is really incredible, and the actors are great. The only problem is that it's a little too long. Other than that I loved it.

Aj V
Aj V

Super Reviewer

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