Unbreakable (film)
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Unbreakable Film

Movie poster showing the head of a man on the top right looking to the left. At the center of the image is the same man wearing a raincoat, as the film's title overlaps him. At the bottom of the image is the head of another man looking to the right. Cracks are shown across the image. Text at the top and bottom of the image lists the starring roles, the credits, and tagline.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byM. Night Shyamalan
Produced by
Written byM. Night Shyamalan
Music byJames Newton Howard
CinematographyEduardo Serra
Edited byDylan Tichenor
Distributed byBuena Vista Pictures
Release date
  • November 22, 2000 (2000-11-22) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$75 million[1]
Box office$248.1 million[1]

Unbreakable is a 2000 American superhero thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan, and starring Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Wright Penn, Spencer Treat Clark, and Charlayne Woodard. It is the first installment in the Unbreakable film series a.k.a. Eastrail 177 Trilogy. In Unbreakable, a security guard named David Dunn (Willis) survives a horrific train crash with no injuries, leading to him discovering that he harbors superhuman abilities, which in turn introduces him to comic book store owner Elijah Price (Jackson), who uses a wheelchair.

Shyamalan organized the narrative of Unbreakable to parallel a comic book's traditional three-part story structure. After settling on the origin story, Shyamalan wrote the screenplay as a speculative screenplay with Willis already set to star in the film and Jackson in mind to portray Elijah Price. Filming began in April 2000 and was completed in July.

Unbreakable was released on November 22, 2000. It received positive reviews,[2] with critics praising its aesthetics, the performances, the emotional weight of the story, and the score by James Newton Howard. The film has subsequently gained a strong cult following.[3] A deconstruction of the superhero genre,[4] many regard it as one of Shyamalan's best films, and one of the best superhero films. In 2011, Time listed it as one of the top ten superhero films of all time, ranking it number four.[5]Quentin Tarantino also included it on his list of the top 20 films released since 1992.[6]

After years of development on a follow-up film, a thematic sequel, Split, with Willis reprising his role as David Dunn in a cameo role, was released in January 2017. After the financial and critical success of Split, Shyamalan immediately began working on a third film, titled Glass, which was released January 18, 2019,[7] thus making Unbreakable the first installment in the Unbreakable film series.[8][9][10][11][12]


Elijah Price, comic-book art dealer, has brittle bone disease. He develops a theory based on comic book stories that there must be someone "unbreakable" at the opposite extreme.

David Dunn, a former star football quarterback turned security guard, becomes the sole survivor of a train crash which kills 130 others while remaining completely unharmed. After a memorial service for the victims he finds a note on his car windshield asking if he has ever been ill and inviting him to Elijah's art gallery, "Limited Edition". David realizes that he has indeed never been ill, and goes with his young son, Joseph, to meet Elijah. He is unsettled and leaves when Elijah proposes his theory of real-life superheroes, but later, curious, finds he can bench press 350 pounds, well above his expectation. Joseph idolizes his father believing him to be a superhero, although David maintains he is just an ordinary man.

David challenges Elijah's theory with an incident from his childhood when he almost drowned. Elijah suggests that highlights the common convention whereby superheroes have a weakness, contending that David's might be water. David recalls the car accident that ended his athletics career, in which he had been unharmed and ripped off the car door to rescue his girlfriend, Audrey. He had used the accident as an excuse to quit football because Audrey disliked the violence of the sport.

Under Elijah's influence, David realizes that his "natural instinct" for picking out dangerous people during security checks is actually extrasensory perception. Consciously honing this ability, David discovers that touch contact with people permits him visions of criminal acts they have committed. As people bump into him in a crowd he senses crimes they have perpetrated; theft, assault, rape, and he finds one he can act on: a sadistic janitor who has invaded a family home, killed the father, and is now holding the wife and two children captive. He follows the janitor to the victims' house and frees the children. The janitor pushes him into the swimming pool where he nearly drowns as he cannot swim but is rescued by the children. He kills the janitor with a chokehold, but discovers the mother is already dead. The next morning David shows Joseph a newspaper article featuring a sketch of the anonymous hero whom Joseph recognizes as his father, and tearfully promises to keep his secret.

David meets Elijah's mother who explains the difference between villains who fight heroes with physical strength and those who use their intelligence. Elijah asks David to shake his hand, which reveals that Elijah was responsible for numerous high-profile "accidents," including David's train crash, while seeking a superhero rival. An emotional Elijah tells a horrified David "Now that we know who you are, I know who I am", indicating that he is destined to be an archvillain and David's nemesis. He adopts his childhood nickname, "Mr. Glass," as his supervillain moniker. David reports Elijah's criminal attacks to the police, and Elijah is confined to a psychiatric hospital for the criminally insane.


In October 2018, M. Night Shyamalan confirmed a popular fan theory stating that the child and mother who bump into David Dunn outside a stadium, credited as "Five-Year-Old Boy" and "Woman Walking By" and portrayed by Joey Hazinsky and Dianne Cotten Murphy, respectively, were younger versions of the characters Kevin Wendell Crumb and Penelope Crumb from Split, which was confirmed in the 2019 film Glass.[13]


When M. Night Shyamalan conceived the idea for Unbreakable, the outline had a comic book's traditional three-part structure (the superhero's "birth", his struggles against general evil-doers, and the hero's ultimate battle against the "archenemy"). Finding the birth section most interesting, he decided to write Unbreakable as an origin story. During the filming of The Sixth Sense, Shyamalan had already approached Bruce Willis for the lead role of David Dunn.[14] With Willis and Samuel L. Jackson specifically in mind for the two leading characters, Shyamalan began to write Unbreakable as a spec script[15] during post-production on The Sixth Sense.[16] Jackson recalled meeting Willis in a casino in Casablanca while he was on vacation prior to Unbreakables production; Willis told Jackson that he had just finished filming for Shyamalan's The Sixth Sense and told Jackson about the new script that was written for both of them.[17]

With the financial and critical success of The Sixth Sense in August 1999, Shyamalan gave Walt Disney Studios a first-look deal for Unbreakable. In return, Disney purchased Shyamalan's screenplay at a "spec script record" for $5 million. He was also given another $5 million to direct. Disney decided to release Unbreakable under their Touchstone Pictures banner. It also helped Shyamalan establish his own production company, Blinding Edge Pictures.[18]Julianne Moore dropped out of portraying Audrey, David's wife, in favor of her role as Clarice Starling in Hannibal. Robin Wright Penn was cast in her place.[19]Principal photography began on April 25, 2000 and ended that July. The majority of filming took place in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the film's setting.[20]

Shyamalan and cinematographer Eduardo Serra chose several camera angles to simulate the look of a comic book panel. Various visual narrative motifs were also applied. Several scenes relating to the Mr. Glass character involve glass. As a newborn, he is primarily seen reflected in mirrors, and as a young child, he is seen reflected in a blank TV screen. When he leaves his calling card on the windshield of David Dunn's car, he is reflected in a glass frame in his art gallery. Jackson requested his walking stick be made of glass to make his character more menacing. Using purple as Mr. Glass's color to David Dunn's green was also Jackson's idea.[21] Mr. Glass's wig was modeled after Afro-American statesman Frederick Douglass.[14] As he does in his other films, Shyamalan makes a cameo appearance; he plays a man David suspects of dealing drugs inside the stadium.

Shyamalan said that he wanted to market Unbreakable as a comic book movie, but Disney--which had not yet bought Marvel Comics--preferred to advertise it as a supernatural thriller like The Sixth Sense.[22] More than 15 minutes of footage was deleted during post-production of Unbreakable. These scenes are available on the DVD release.[23]

Willis and Jackson had previously worked together on Die Hard with a Vengeance, Pulp Fiction, and Loaded Weapon 1.


James Newton Howard was approached by Shyamalan to work on Unbreakable immediately after scoring The Sixth Sense. "He sat there and storyboarded the whole movie for me", Howard said. "I've never had a director do that for me."[24] Shyamalan wanted a "singularity" tone for the music. "He wanted something that was very different, very distinctive, that immediately evoked the movie when people heard it,"[24] Howard explained. Howard and Shyamalan chose to simplify the score, and minimized the number of instruments (strings, trumpets and piano), with limited orchestrations. Some compositions were recorded in a converted church in London. "You could have recorded the same music in a studio in Los Angeles, and it would have been great, but there is something about the sound of that church studio," Howard remarked. "It's definitely more misterioso."[24]

Unbreakable (Original Motion Picture Score)
Film score by
ReleasedNovember 21, 2000
LabelHollywood Records
2."Reflection of Elijah"4:08
5."Falling Down"2:27
8."The Wreck"3:46
9."Second Date"1:31
10."School Nurse"1:22
12."The Orange Man"2:29
13."Carrying Audrey"2:36
14."Mr. Glass/End Titles"7:40
Total length:45:23

Comic book references

Filmmaker and comic book writer Kevin Smith felt Unbreakable was briefly similar to a comic book titled Mage: The Hero Discovered, written and illustrated by Matt Wagner.[25]

As in comic books, the main characters have their identified color schemes and aliases. David's are green and "Security" or "Hero", while Elijah's are purple and "Mr. Glass". The colors show up in their clothes, the wallpaper and bed sheets in their houses, Elijah's note to David, and various personal items.[14] The people whose bad deeds are sensed by David are identified by an article of clothing in a single bright color (red, orange), to contrast them with the dark and dreary color scheme typical of the rest of the movie (but not of most comic books). Several scenes also depict characters through reflections or doorways, as if framing them in a picture similar to comic books.[14]


Box office

Unbreakable was released in the United States on November 22, 2000, in 2,708 theaters and grossed $30.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing second at the box office. The film ended up earning $95 million domestically and $153.1 million internationally for a total of $248.1 million, against its $75 million production budget.[26]

Critical response

Unbreakable received generally positive reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 70% based on 172 reviews, with an average rating of 6.35/10. The website's critical consensus states, "With a weaker ending, Unbreakable is not as good as The Sixth Sense. However, it is a quietly suspenseful film that intrigues and engages, taking the audience through unpredictable twists and turns along the way."[27] On Metacritic the film has a score of 62 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[28] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "C" on an A+ to F scale.[29]

Roger Ebert, who gave Unbreakable 3 out of 4 stars, largely enjoyed the film, but was disappointed with the ending. Ebert believed that Willis' "subtle acting" was positively different from the actor's usual work in "brainless action movies".[30]Richard Corliss of Time opined that Unbreakable continued Shyamalan's previous approach of "balancing sophistication and horror in all of his movies".[31]Desson Thomson from The Washington Post wrote that "just as he did in The Sixth Sense, writer-director M. Night Shyamalan leads you into a fascinating labyrinth, an alternative universe that lurks right under our noses. In this case, it's the mythological world and, in these modern times, the secret design to that labyrinth, the key to the path, is contained in comic books."[32]

Kenneth Turan, writing in Los Angeles Times, gave a negative review, arguing that Unbreakable had no originality. "Whether it means to or not, the shadow of The Sixth Sense hangs over Unbreakable," Turan reasoned. "If The Sixth Sense hadn't been as big a success as it was, this story might have been assigned to oblivion, or at least to rewrite."[33] Todd McCarthy of Variety mostly criticized Shyamalan's writing and the performances given by the actors. He did praise Dylan Tichenor's editing and James Newton Howard's music composition.[34]

Shyamalan admitted he was disappointed by the reaction Unbreakable received from the public and critics.[35] Shyamalan also disliked Touchstone Pictures' marketing campaign. He wanted to promote Unbreakable as a comic book movie, but Touchstone insisted on portraying it as a psychological thriller, similar to The Sixth Sense.[36]

In 2009, filmmaker Quentin Tarantino praised Unbreakable, and included it on his list of the top 20 films released since 1992, the year he became a director. Tarantino praised the film as a "brilliant retelling of the Superman mythology", and said it contains what he considers to be Bruce Willis' best performance. He also criticized the way the film was marketed upon release, stating he felt that it would have been far more effective if the film's advertising simply posed the question of "what if Superman was here on earth, and didn't know he was Superman?"[6] In 2011, Time ranked the film at No. 4 in its list of top ten superhero movies of all time, describing it as one of the best superhero origin stories and as a "relatively quiet, subtle and realistic look at the pressures that come with being a superhero."[5] In 2018, The Hollywood Reporter called it a "deconstruction of the American superhero/villain complex" that is "more prescient than ever."[4]

Home media

The film released on DVD and VHS in 2001. The DVD sold 2.3 million units in the United States, and was the top DVD video rental of 2001. It grossed a total of $123.11 million from DVD sales and DVD/VHS rentals in the United States. The film thus had a combined global box office and U.S. home video revenue of $371,028,653, with a 495% return on investment. In 2008, the movie was released on Blu-Ray Disc which had all the bonus features of the Special Edition on DVD "Vista Series".[37]


Award Category Recipient(s) Result Ref(s)
Saturn Award Best Action/Adventure/Thriller Film Nominated [38]
Black Reel Award Best Film Poster Nominated [39]
Golden Trailer Award Best Horror/Thriller Film Won [40]
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Actor - Suspense Bruce Willis Nominated []
Samuel L. Jackson Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actor - Suspense Spencer Treat Clark Nominated
Favorite Supporting Actress - Suspense Robin Wright Penn Nominated
Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay M. Night Shayamalan Nominated []
Nebula Award Best Script Nominated [41]
International Horror Guild Award Best Film Nominated [42]
Bogey Awards Bogey Award in Silver Won [39]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards Best Score James Newton Howard Nominated [39]
Online Film & Television Association Best Cinematography Eduardo Serra Nominated
Best Official Film Website Nominated [39]


After the film's release, rumors of possible sequels began circulating in different interviews and in film fansites. In 2000, Bruce Willis was quoted as hoping for an Unbreakable trilogy.[43] In December 2000, Shyamalan denied rumors he wrote Unbreakable as the first installment of a trilogy, saying he was not even thinking about it.[43] In August 2001, Shyamalan stated that, because of successful DVD sales, he had approached Touchstone Pictures about an Unbreakable sequel, an idea Shyamalan said the studio originally turned down because of the film's disappointing box office performance.[44] In a September 2008 article, Shyamalan and Samuel L. Jackson said there was some discussion of a sequel when the film was being made, but that it mostly died with the disappointing box office. Jackson said he was still interested in a sequel but Shyamalan was non-committal.[45] In February 2010, Willis said that Shyamalan was "still thinking about doing the fight movie between me and Sam that we were going to do", and stated that as long as Jackson was able to participate he would be "up for it".[46]


In September 2010, Shyamalan revealed that the second planned villain from the first film was moved to the planned sequel, but that character had now been used for an upcoming film that he will write and produce.

Shyamalan's horror thriller film Split has been described as a thematic sequel to Unbreakable,[47] and was released on January 20, 2017. It is revealed that Split actually takes place in the same fictional storyline, with Bruce Willis's character appearing in a final reveal, directly referencing Mr. Glass when discussing the film's villain, "The Horde".

Unbreakable is the first part of the Unbreakable trilogy; the follow-up film Split was made as a "back door sequel". While Split was filmed substantially as a standalone film, Shyamalan included the David Dunn character from Unbreakable in the last portion of the film, thus putting the two films in the same universe. Additionally, Shyamalan has stated the orange-suited villain portrayed by Chance Kelly in Unbreakable was initially going to be the character "The Horde".[48] However, features of The Horde were dropped to make the character simpler, for reasons of balance. The fuller character was realized in Split.[49][50]


Shyamalan expressed hope for a third installment following Split, saying, "I hope [a third Unbreakable film happens]. The answer is yes. I'm just such a wimp sometimes. I don't know what's going to happen when I go off in my room, a week after this film opens, to write the script. But I'm going to start writing. [I have] a really robust outline, which is pretty intricate. But now the standards for my outlines are higher. I need to know I've won already. I'm almost there but I'm not quite there."[51] In April 2017, Shyamalan announced the official title, release date, and returning actors for the third movie. The film, titled Glass, was released on January 18, 2019 and features Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Anya Taylor-Joy, and James McAvoy returning to their respective roles in the series.[7]

See also


  1. ^ a b c "Unbreakable". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008.
  2. ^ "Unbreakable:Review". Metacritic. Retrieved 2010.
  3. ^ "Unbreakable - An Oral History". Entertainment Weekly. July 10, 2015. Retrieved 2015.
  4. ^ a b "'Glass' Looks Like M. Night Shyamalan's Most Complex Film Yet". The Hollywood Reporter. July 21, 2018.
  5. ^ a b Cruz, Gilbert (June 3, 2011). "Top 10 Superhero Movies: 4. Unbreakable (2000)". Time. Retrieved 2011.
  6. ^ a b "Tarantino's Top 20 Movies Since 1992". Spike (TV channel). Archived from the original on August 20, 2009. Retrieved 2009.
  7. ^ a b "The Unbreakable And Split Crossover Movie Reveals Official Title And Four Stars". CINEMABLEND. April 26, 2017. Retrieved 2019.
  8. ^ Cox, James (April 27, 2018). "Details emerge about the sequel to Split, 'Glass'". Buzz.ie.
  9. ^ Busch, Caitlin (November 20, 2017). "Samuel L. Jackson Has Finished the 'Split' Sequel, But It's Not Over Yet". Inverse.com.
  10. ^ Murray, Emily (April 25, 2018). "Split Sequel Footage Debuts at CinemaCon". Unilad.
  11. ^ Flint, Hanna (June 12, 2018). "Toni Collette wont be popping up in M Night Shyalamans Glass Movie Exclusive". Yahoo Movies UK.
  12. ^ Mithaiwala, Mansoor (February 14, 2018). "What role is Thomas Hayden Church playing?". Screen Rant.
  13. ^ Total Film -- November 2018 -- "Rule of Crumb" -- JF
  14. ^ a b c d e M. Night Shyamalan, Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson, Barry Mendel, Sam Mercer, Eduardo Serra, James Newton Howard, The Making of Unbreakable, 2001, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  15. ^ Christopher John Farley (November 27, 2000). "A New Day Dawns For Night". Time. Retrieved 2008.
  16. ^ "Movie Preview: Nov. 22". Entertainment Weekly. August 11, 2000. Retrieved 2008.
  17. ^ Stayton, Nichalos (July 23, 2018). "Glass Cast Tells Conan How An Unlikely Superhero Trilogy Came To Be". Syfy Wire. Retrieved 2018.
  18. ^ Chen, Angelina; Fleming, Michael (December 15, 1999). "Deal makes 'Sense'". Variety. Retrieved 2008.
  19. ^ "Inside Moves". Variety. March 2, 2000. Retrieved 2008.
  20. ^ Charles Lyons (January 14, 2000). "Moore gets 'Break'". Variety. Retrieved 2008.
  21. ^ Unrelated to this film, Jackson asked George Lucas for a purple lightsaber in Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones. "Samuel L. Jackson". Inside the Actors Studio. Bravo. June 2, 2002.
  22. ^ Hiatt, Brian (December 20, 2018). "The Fall and Rise of M. Night Shyamalan". Rolling Stone.
  23. ^ Deleted Scenes With M. Night Shyamalan, 2001, Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
  24. ^ a b c Lyman, Rick (November 24, 2000). "At The Movies: A Full Plate For the Holidays". The New York Times.
  25. ^ Scott Brown (December 6, 2000). "Comic Belief". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008.
  26. ^ "Unbreakable (2000) - Box Office Mojo".
  27. ^ "Unbreakable (2000)". Rotten Tomatoes. n.d. Retrieved 2020.
  28. ^ "Unbreakable Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved 2018.
  29. ^ "Unbreakable". CinemaScore. Retrieved 2018.
  30. ^ Roger Ebert (November 22, 2000). "Unbreakable". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 2008.
  31. ^ Richard Corliss (August 2, 2004). "Scary And Smart". Time. Retrieved 2008.
  32. ^ Desson Thomson (November 24, 2000). "'Unbreakable': Unrelentingly Gripping". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008.
  33. ^ Kenneth Turan (November 21, 2000). "An 'Unbreakable' Sense of Déjà Vu". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on June 22, 2008. Retrieved 2008.
  34. ^ Todd McCarthy (November 20, 2000). "Unbreakable". Variety. Retrieved 2008.
  35. ^ Daniel Fierman (August 2, 2002). "Night of the Living Dread". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2008.
  36. ^ Weiner, Allison Hope (June 2, 2008). "Shyamalan's Hollywood Horror Story". The New York Times. Retrieved 2009.
  37. ^ "Unbreakable (2000)". JP's Box Office. Retrieved 2018.
  38. ^ "Sci-fi Noms". ABC News. February 1, 2002. Retrieved 2017.
  39. ^ a b c d https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0217869/awards
  40. ^ "GTA2 NOMINEES (2001)". Golden Trailer Awards. n.d. Retrieved 2017.
  41. ^ "Nebula Awards Nominees and Winners: Best Script". Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. n.d. Retrieved 2017.
  42. ^ "IHG Award Recipients". International Horror Guild. n.d. Retrieved 2017.
  43. ^ a b Brian Linder (December 5, 2000). "Willis' Unbreakable Trilogy Hopes Shattered". IGN. Retrieved 2008.
  44. ^ Olly Richards (August 1, 2001). "An Unbreakable Sequel?". Empire (film magazine). Retrieved 2008.
  45. ^ Casey Seijas (September 18, 2008). "Samuel L. Jackson, M. Night Shyamalan On The 'Unbreakable' Sequel That Never Was, But Might Be". MTV News. Archived from the original on January 15, 2009. Retrieved 2008.
  46. ^ Marshall, Rick (February 22, 2010). "Bruce Willis Says M. Night Shyamalan 'Still Thinking' About 'Unbreakable 2'". MTV News. Archived from the original on April 25, 2010. Retrieved 2010.
    Gibron, Bill (February 24, 2010). "'Unbreakable 2' on the Horizon?". PopMatters. Retrieved 2010.
  47. ^ Britt Hayes (September 26, 2016). "'Split' Review: M. Night Shyamalan's Best Film in Years Is a Surprisingly Poignant Thriller". Retrieved 2016.
  48. ^ Hewitt, Chris. "M Night Shyamalan Talks Split". January 24, 2017
  49. ^ Mendelson, Scott "How M Night Shyamalan's "Glass" takes the right lessons from the Avengers" Forbes, May 14, 2017
  50. ^ Couch, Aaron (January 22, 2017). "'Split': M. Night Shyamalan Explains an Ending Years in the Making". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2017.
  51. ^ Joe McGovern (January 20, 2017). "Split spoiler: M. Night Shyamalan breaks down film's shock ending". Retrieved 2017.

External links

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