Signs (film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by M. Night Shyamalan
Produced by M. Night Shyamalan
Frank Marshall
Kathleen Kennedy
Sam Mercer
Written by M. Night Shyamalan
Starring Mel Gibson
Joaquin Phoenix
Rory Culkin
Abigail Breslin
Music by James Newton Howard
Cinematography Tak Fujimoto
Edited by Barbara Tulliver
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • August 2, 2002 (2002-08-02)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $72 million[1]
Box office $408.2 million[1]

Signs is a 2002 American science fiction thriller film written and directed by M. Night Shyamalan. Executive producers for the film comprised Shyamalan, Frank Marshall, Kathleen Kennedy and Sam Mercer. A joint collective effort to commit to the film's production was made by Blinding Edge Pictures and The Kennedy/Marshall Company. It was commercially distributed by Touchstone Pictures theatrically, and by Touchstone Home Entertainment in home media format.

The story focuses on a former Episcopal priest named Graham Hess, played by Mel Gibson, who discovers a series of crop circles in his cornfield. Hess slowly becomes convinced that the phenomena are a result of extraterrestrial life. It also stars Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. Signs explores faith, kinship, and extraterrestrials.[2]

Following its premiere in theatres nationwide on August 2, 2002, the film grossed $227,966,634 in domestic ticket receipts screening at 3,453 theatres during its widest release. It earned an additional $180,281,283 in business through international release, to top out at a combined $408,247,917 in gross revenue. The film was nominated for multiple awards, including those from the Online Film Critics Society and the Empire Awards. The film also won an award from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

Considering its $72 million budget costs, the film was considered a strong financial success after its theatrical run, and was met with positive reviews from critics, with some praising its atmosphere and story but others criticizing aspects of the script. The high-definition Blu-ray Disc edition of the film featuring the director's audio commentary, the making of the film, and deleted scenes was released in the United States on June 3, 2008. The original motion picture soundtrack, which was composed by James Newton Howard, was released on the opening day by the Hollywood Records label.


Graham Hess (Mel Gibson), a former priest, lives with his asthmatic son, Morgan (Rory Culkin), his daughter Bo (Abigail Breslin) who leaves glasses of water around the house for various reasons, and his younger brother Merrill (Joaquin Phoenix), a failed minor league baseball player, on an isolated farm in Doylestown, Pennsylvania. Hess has lost his faith and gave up his priesthood after his wife, Colleen, died in a traffic accident caused by a town local, Ray Reddy (Shyamalan).

One morning, Graham discovers a crop circle in his field. While investigating the crop circle with the local law enforcement, Morgan is forced to kill one of the family dogs when it turns violent against him and Bo. Graham then learns of animals becoming violent across town. They hear reports of crop circles appearing around the globe, and there are reports of strange lights over Mexico. Later, Graham and Merrill find the farm is being watched by a tall dark figure which disappears into the fields when they give chase. The next day, they hear strange noises over a baby monitor, but cannot find their source. Graham approaches the crop circle but on seeing a green leg sticking out of the cornrows, flees back to the house.

After opening up to Merrill about the death of his wife, noting that her last words were "tell Merrill to swing away", Graham goes to visit Ray, the first time since the incident. When Graham is gone, Merrill and the children watch a news report about footage taken of an alien creature in Brazil, showing that the aliens can blend into their surroundings. Merrill joins the children in wearing tin foil hats, believing the aliens can read their minds. At Ray's, Graham finds Ray is bleeding from an injury but otherwise apologetic for the accident. After Graham accepts his apology, Ray departs for a nearby lake, saying "they" do not like water. Graham finds Ray has trapped one of the aliens in his pantry, and tries to see what the alien looks like using a kitchen knife under the door; the alien grabs at him, and Graham reacts by cutting off its fingers before fleeing. On his return, and hearing news that more lights have been seen across the globe, the Hess family decides to stay at their house instead of leaving for the lake, barricading the doors and windows.

After an emotionally charged dinner, they hear the same noises on the baby monitor before their television signal drops out, and place the final barricades and defenses before they gather together. As the aliens attempt to gain entry into the house, the family discovers they have left the attic door unguarded and quickly retreat to the basement. The aliens assault the basement door and in the subsequent chaos the light goes out as Graham and Merrill prevent their entry. However, Morgan suffers an asthma attack when the aliens attempt to enter by way of an old coal chute. By morning, radio reports claim that the aliens have left Earth as suddenly as they arrived. Graham leaves the basement to locate Morgan's asthma inhaler, the others following him. But they discover an alien, the same that Graham had attacked in Ray's home, is still there, and takes Morgan hostage. Colleen's last words come back to Graham, and he instructs Merrill to "swing away" with a baseball bat. Merrill attacks the alien but not before it attempts to poison Morgan by spraying him with a toxin from its body. Graham recovers his son when the alien drops him and takes Morgan outside with his medication. Merrill continues to attack the alien, causing it to fall onto the ground, knocking over one of the glasses of water Bo had left and splashing it with water. The water reacts like acid on its skin, making it scream in agony. Merrill strikes the alien against furniture where it is doused with water full on its face, and dies. Outside, Graham administers Morgan's medicine and waits for his son to wake up, hoping that due to his lungs being closed from his previous asthma attack he was spared. Then, Morgan wakes up as the family rejoices.

Some time later, the Hess family has recovered from the incident and they appear to be doing much better than before. In the final scene, Graham is shown returning to his priestly duties, apparently having regained his faith.




All music was composed by James Newton Howard.[3] The score was conducted by Pete Anthony and performed by the Hollywood Studio Symphony.

Film score by James Newton Howard
Released July 30, 2002 (2002-07-30)
Recorded Todd Scoring Stage (Studio City, Los Angeles)
JHN Studios (Santa Monica, California)
Genre Orchestral
Length 45:34
Label Hollywood
Producer James Newton Howard, Thomas Drescher, Tom Drescher
Professional ratings
Review scores

Track listing

1."Main Titles"  1:45
2."First Crop Circles"  3:15
3."Roof Intruder"  2:20
4."Brazilian Video"  1:56
5."In the Cornfield"  5:40
6."Baby Monitor"  1:07
7."Recruiting Office"  2:07
8."Throwing a Stone"  5:47
9."Boarding Up the House"  3:00
10."Into the Basement"  5:23
11."Asthma Attack"  3:42
12."The Hand of Fate (Part 1)"  5:32
13."The Hand of Fate (Part 2)"  3:47

Critical reception for soundtrack

The soundtrack generally received positive reviews. William Ruhlmann of Allmusic stated in his review that:

With Signs, composer James Newton Howard again joins director M. Night Shyamalan for their third collaboration following The Sixth Sense and Unbreakable, and clearly the film presents another thrilling encounter with the supernatural. From his opening "Main Theme," Howard ratchets up the tension, and his music thereafter alternates only between the ominous and the suspenseful. He overloads his lower tones, employing eight basses, five percussionists, and even a tuba, but also uses a large string section for short, fast, repetitive figures meant to keep viewers on the edges of their seats. This is not particularly imaginative music, just good old Saturday afternoon scary movie fare, the only distinguishing characteristic about it -- consistent with Shyamalan's style -- that it is so relentless. There's just no let up; dread pervades every moment of the director's films, to the point of emotional exhaustion for some, and the score has to have the same uncompromising approach, which can make it a little hard to take when listened to all the way through.


Critical response

Signs has received positive reviews from film critics. Rotten Tomatoes reported that 74% gave positive appraisals based on 225 reviews, ranking it "Certified Fresh".[5] At Metacritic, which assigns a normalized rating out of 100 to reviews from mainstream critics, the film scored a 59 based on 36 reviews, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[6]

Roger Ebert gave the film four stars, writing "M. Night Shyamalan's Signs is the work of a born filmmaker, able to summon apprehension out of thin air. When it is over, we think not how little has been decided, but how much has been experienced ... At the end of the film, I had to smile, recognizing how Shyamalan has essentially ditched a payoff. He knows, as we all sense, that payoffs have grown boring."[7] Nell Minow of Common Sense Media gave the film four out of five stars; she highly praised the casting and Shyamalan's direction, saying his "only flaw was not leaving anything to the audience's imagination".[8]

Mike LaSalle of the San Francisco Chronicle gave the film one star out of four, thinking that the film had "few thoughts and no thrills."[9] Variety's Todd McCarthy criticised the film for its lack of originality, writing "After the overwrought Unbreakable and now the meager Signs, it's fair to speculate whether Shyamalan's persistence in replicating the otherworldly formula of The Sixth Sense might not be a futile and self-defeating exercise."[10]

In 2004, the film was listed as No. 77 on Bravo's 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the Brazilian birthday party scene.

Box office

Signs grossed $227,966,634 domestically and $180,281,283 internationally, which would total up to $408,247,917 worldwide[1] at the box office, ranking only behind The Sixth Sense in Shyamalan's box office success and grossing more than The Village and Unbreakable.

Home media

On the DVD, there are some deleted scenes:

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 "Signs (2002)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2011-02-01.
  2. Shyamalan, M. Night (Director). (2002). Signs [Motion picture]. United States: Touchstone Pictures.
  3. 10 of the Most Underrated Horror Scores!. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  4. Ruhlmann, William. James Newton Howard: Signs [Original Motion Picture Score] at AllMusic. Retrieved 1 March 2012.
  5. "Signs Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. IGN Entertainment, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  6. "Signs Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. CNET Networks, Inc. Retrieved 2010-05-05.
  7. "Signs :: :: Reviews". Chicago Sun-Times. 2002-08-02. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
  8. "Signs - Movie Review". 2003-05-18. Retrieved 2012-11-15.
  9. Lasalle, Mick (2002-08-02). "'Signs' of distress / Shyamalan's puzzling plot circles go flat quickly". The San Francisco Chronicle.
  10. McCarthy, Todd (2002-07-29). "Signs Movie Review". Variety. Retrieved 2011-02-21.
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