Gorillas in the Mist (1988)

gorillas in the mist poster 1988 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Good Fossey casting, realistic apes

Simplified story for PG-13 audience

Movie Info

Movie Name:   Gorillas in the Mist

Studio:   Universal Pictures

Genre(s):   Drama

Release Date(s):   September 23, 1988

MPAA Rating:   PG-13

gorillas in the mist dian fossey sigourney wevaer special effects

Just hanging out with my favorite “people”

Teacher Dian Fossey (Sigourney Weaver) set her eyes on something and set out to get it.  That something was a position to study the mountain gorillas of the Congo and Rwanda.  As an agent of Louis Leakey (Iain Cuthbertson), Fossey had to learn how to first find the apes and then gain their trust.  Photographed by National Geographic photographer Bob Campbell (Bryan Brown), led to fame for Fossey, but fame doesn’t always mean success…poachers and the government continued to stand in Fossey’s way but Fossey wasn’t going to sit down.

Directed by Michael Apted, Gorillas in the Mist is a biopic drama of Dian Fossey (January 16, 1932-December 26, 1985).  The screenplay was adapted from Dian Fossey’s book and articles by Alex Shoumatoff and Harold T.P. Hayes.  It received Academy Award nominations for Best Actress (Weaver), Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound, Best Film Editing, and Best Original Score.

I can remember the videos of Fossey growing up and wanting to see Gorillas in the Mist when it was released in theaters.  With an interest in nature photography, the idea of getting to live among the apes was appealing…and Gorillas in the Mist does a great job giving an idea what that would have been like for Fossey.

gorillas in the mist dian fossey mask poachers sigourney weaver

Someone say Mardi Gras!!!

The story is oversimplified like many biopic stories.  Some events are sped up, some events are slowed down, and some events are glazed over or out and out made up.  The movie actually allegedly softens Fossey a little in her war against poachers using fictitious attacks.  Some have accused the real Fossey of using stinging nettles on the captured poachers’ genitals…for some reason, the filmmakers didn’t think that would fly in a PG-13.  However, the spirit of Fossey’s studies is still here and the importance of the work she was doing.

Sigourney Weaver was a really good choice for Fossey.  Weaver had already proven that she could hold her own against aliens and standing up (or being submissive) to a giant gorilla seems feasible for the character.  Jessica Lange was considered for the role (she already faced a big gorilla in King Kong) but turned it down due to her being pregnant.  Bryan Brown plays the real life photographer/love interest of Fossey Bob Campbell, and Julie Harris is Roz Carr who was known for her work in the region.  John Omirah Miluwi is also memorable as Sembagare who is actually based on Roz Carr’s house boy Sembagare Munyamboneza.

gorillas in the mist bob campbell dian fossey sigourney weaver bryan brown

I feel like animals are always coming between us…

What stands out about Gorillas in the Mist are the gorillas themselves.  The movie combined a mixing of real gorilla footage and costume gorillas which show how far special effects and costumes have come.  The movie also featured some baby chimpanzees made up to look like gorillas due to the danger of having actual baby gorillas on set.

Gorillas in the Mist is a look at woman who had a life more interesting than most people.  It is a little dramatized (though it doesn’t need to be), but it remains rather faithful from all reports to the spirit of Dian Fossey…good and bad.  Fossey often sided with gorillas and disparaged the African people around her which does draw into question where does the line need to be drawn?  It is nice to remember Fossey’s last journal entry before her death “When you realize the value of all life, you dwell less on what is past and concentrate more on the preservation of the future.”

Related Links:

The 60th Academy Award Nominations

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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