Seven Information

Seven (sometimes stylized as Se7en) is a 1995 American neo noir thriller film written by Andrew Kevin Walker, directed by David Fincher, and distributed by New Line Cinema. It stars Brad Pitt and Morgan Freeman, with Gwyneth Paltrow, R. Lee Ermey, and Kevin Spacey in supporting roles.

The newly transferred David Mills (Pitt) and the soon-to-retire William Somerset (Freeman) are homicide detectives who become deeply involved in the case of a sadistic serial killer whose meticulously planned murders correspond to the seven deadly sins: gluttony, greed, sloth, wrath, pride, lust, and envy.

The film was released in the United States on September 22, 1995. Grossing $327 million at the box office internationally, Seven was a commercial success, and received positive reviews from most critics.


In an unidentified city of near-constant rain and urban decay, the soon-to-be retiring Detective William R. Somerset (Freeman) is partnered with short-tempered Detective David Mills (Pitt) who recently transferred to the department.

The detectives investigate a series of murders relating to the seven deadly sins, such as an obese man who was forced to feed himself to death, representing "Gluttony." They find clues at each crime scene related to other deaths, and believe they are chasing a serial killer. A set of fingerprints found at the scene of the "Greed" murder, the fatal bloodletting of a rich attorney, leads them to an apartment where they find an emaciated man strapped to a bed. Though he initially appears to be dead, it soon is discovered that the man has been kept alive and entirely immobile by the killer for exactly one year to the day; a drug dealer and child molester before his captivity, this victim represents "Sloth". Though unable to learn anything from the insensate victim, the detectives agree that the killer has planned these crimes for more than a year.

Somerset is eventually invited to meet Mills' wife, Tracy (Paltrow), who is unhappy with Mills' recent move to the city. Somerset becomes Tracy's confidante, and she meets with him after the first few murders. Upon learning that she is pregnant but has not told her husband, Somerset confides in her his fear that the city is no place to start a family, and reveals that he had almost gotten married years earlier, but that it had never happened. Somerset advises her to not tell Mills if she plans to have an abortion; otherwise, if she decides to keep the child, "spoil that kid every chance you get".

Using library records, Somerset and Mills track down a man named John Doe (Kevin Spacey), who has frequently checked out books related to the deadly sins. When Doe finds the detectives approaching his apartment, he opens fire on them and flees, chased by Mills. Eventually, Doe gains the upper hand and holds Mills at gunpoint, but then abruptly leaves. Investigation of Doe's apartment finds handwritten volumes of his irrational judgments and clues leading to another potential victim, but no fingerprints. They arrive too late to find their "Lust" victim, a prostitute killed by an unwilling man wearing a bladed S&M device, forced by Doe to simultaneously rape and kill her. Some time later, they investigate the death of a young model whose face had been mutilated. Having chosen to kill herself rather than live with a disfigured face, she is the victim of "Pride".

As they return to the police station, Doe appears to them and offers himself for arrest, with the blood of the model and an unidentified victim on his hands. They find out that he has been cutting the skin off his fingers to avoid leaving fingerprints. Through his lawyer, Doe claims he will lead the two detectives to the last two bodies and confess to the crimes, or otherwise will plead insanity. Though Somerset is worried, Mills agrees to the demand. Doe directs the two detectives to a remote desert area far from the city; along the way, he claims that God told him to punish the wicked and reveal the world for the awful place that it is. He also makes cryptic comments toward Mills, much to his annoyance.

After arriving at the location, a delivery van approaches; Somerset intercepts the driver, leaving Mills and Doe alone. The driver hands over a package he was instructed to deliver at precisely this time and location. While Mills holds Doe at gunpoint, Doe mentions how much he admires him, but does not say why. Somerset opens the package and recoils in horror at the sight of the contents. He races back to warn Mills not to listen to Doe, but the killer reveals that the box contains Tracy's head. Doe claims to represent the sin of "Envy"; he was envious of Mills' normal life, and killed Tracy after failing to "play husband" with her. He then taunts the distraught Mills with the knowledge that Tracy was pregnant. Somerset is unable to contain Mills as he kills Doe by shooting him repeatedly, becoming the embodiment of "Wrath". After Mills is taken away, Somerset is asked where he will be; he replies, "around".

With the sun setting over the desert, Somerset quotes Ernest Hemingway's For Whom the Bell Tolls: The world is a fine place and worth fighting for.' I agree with the second part."


  • Brad Pitt as Detective David Mills
  • Morgan Freeman as Detective Lt. William Somerset
  • Gwyneth Paltrow as Theresa "Tracy" Mills
  • Richard Roundtree as Dist. Atty. Martin Talbot
  • Richard Schiff as Mark Swarr, John Doe's attorney
  • R. Lee Ermey as Police Captain
  • John C. McGinley as California, SWAT team leader
  • Kevin Spacey as John Doe
  • Julie Araskog as Mrs. Gould
  • Mark Boone Junior as Greasy FBI Man
  • John Cassini as Officer Davis
  • Reg E. Cathey as Coroner
  • Peter Crombie as Dr. O'Neill
  • Hawthorne James as George, library night guard
  • Michael Massee as Man in Massage Parlour Booth
  • Leland Orser as Crazed Man in Massage Parlour
  • Richard Portnow as Dr. Beardsley
  • Daniel Zacapa as Detective Taylor
  • Alfonso Freeman as Fingerprint Tech
  • Harris Savides as 911 Operator
  • Andy Walker as Dead Man
  • Richmond Arquette as Delivery Man
  • Charles S. Dutton (uncredited) as Cop



The primary influence for the film's screenplay came from Andrew Kevin Walker's time spent in New York City while trying to make it as a screenwriter. "I didn't like my time in New York, but it's true that if I hadn't lived there I probably wouldn't have written Seven." He envisioned actor William Hurt as Somerset and named the character after his favorite author, W. Somerset Maugham.

Jeremiah Chechik was attached to direct at one point. During pre-production, Al Pacino was considered for the Somerset role, but he decided to do City Hall.

The ending of the screenplay, with the head in the box, was originally part of an earlier draft that New Line had rejected, instead opting for an ending that involved more traditional elements of a detective thriller film with more action-oriented elements. But when New Line sent David Fincher the screenplay to review for his interest in the project, they accidentally sent him the original screenplay with the head-in-the-box ending. At the time, Fincher had not read a script for a year and a half since after the frustrating experience of making Alien 3; he said, "I thought I'd rather die of colon cancer than do another movie". Fincher eventually agreed to direct Seven because he was drawn to the script, which he found to be a "connect-the-dots movie that delivers about inhumanity. It's psychologically violent. It implies so much, not about why you did but how you did it". He found it more a "mediation on evil" rather than a "police procedural".

When New Line realized that they had sent Fincher the wrong draft, the President of Production, Michael De Luca, met with Fincher and noted that there was internal pressure to retain the revised version; De Luca stated that if Fincher promised to produce the movie, they would be able to stay with the head-in-a-box ending. Despite this, producer Kopelson refused to allow the film to include the head-in-a-box scene. Actor Pitt joined Fincher in arguing for keeping this original scene, noting that his previous film Legends of the Fall had its emotional ending cut after negative feedback from test audiences, and refusing to do Seven unless the head-in-the-box scene remained.


Filming took place in Los Angeles, California.

Fincher approached making Seven like a "tiny genre movie, the kind of movie Friedkin might have made after The Exorcist." He worked with cinematographer Darius Khondji and adopted a simple approach to the camerawork, which was influenced by the television show COPS, "how the camera is in the backseat peering over people's shoulder". Fincher allowed Walker on the set while filming for on-the-set rewrites. According to the director, "Seven is the first time I got to carry through certain things about the camera " and about what movies are or can be".

The crowded urban streets filled with noisy denizens and an oppressive rain that always seems to fall without respite were integral parts of the film, as Fincher wanted to show a city that was "dirty, violent, polluted, often depressing. Visually and stylistically, that's how we wanted to portray this world. Everything needed to be as authentic and raw as possible." To this end, Fincher turned to production designer Arthur Max to create a dismal world that often eerily mirrors its inhabitants. "We created a setting that reflects the moral decay of the people in it", says Max. "Everything is falling apart, and nothing is working properly." The film's brooding, dark look was achieved through a chemical process called bleach bypass, wherein the silver in the film stock was not removed, which in turn deepened the dark, shadowy images in the film and increased its overall tonal quality.

The 'head in a box' ending continued to worry the studio after filming was completed. After the first cut of the film was shown to the studio, they attempted to mitigate the bleakness of the ending by replacing Mills' wife's head with that of a dog, or by not having Mills fire on John Doe. However, both Fincher and Pitt continued to fight for the original ending. The final scenes of Mills being taken away and Somerset's quote from Ernest Hemingway were filmed by Fincher after initial filming was complete as a way to placate the studio (the original intention was for the film to suddenly end after Mills shot John Doe).

Title sequence

On the film's title sequence, Fincher has said: </ref> }}

Alternative versions

The US laserdisc adds a few scenes deleted from theatrical release as a bonus at the end of the program, including a prologue wherein Somerset is going to buy a country house. He uses his switchblade (seen many times in the final cut, but not explained) to cut out a small piece of wallpaper. In an extended scene at the Mills', when David is playing with his dogs, Somerset talks to Tracy. He tells her about the house and shows her the wallpaper. She tells him that it would not be such a good idea to show it to David, saying, "He wouldn't understand". These two scenes establish Somerset's character better, and the second one helps the viewer understand why the wife chooses Somerset to talk to when she gets pregnant. She knows that Somerset is much more sensitive than her husband, and will understand her. The second one, however, was probably dumped earlier since it is included among the dailies and outtakes and the first one appears as a deleted scene.

In the English version, Tracy calls her husband at the office and asks to speak to Detective Somerset. However, Tracy's voice is very quiet and only Detective Mills and Somerset can clearly be heard. When Somerset hangs up, he explains to Mills that his wife has invited him over for dinner. In the Italian version, Tracy's dialogue has been dubbed over the soundtrack, letting the audience easily hear her talking on the phone and making the invitation.

In the Platinum Series DVD released by New Line in 2000, Mills has a line just as Somerset runs up to him in the climactic scene. The line is supposed to be, "What the fuck's he talking about?" Clearly audible on the Criterion laserdisc, this line is obscured on the new DVD because the director, while remastering the sound for the new release, thought the character should be whispering the line to himself rather than yelling it, as it was on the Criterion laserdisc. The song used for the opening credit sequence is a remix of "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. It was credited as "Closer (Precursor) (Remix)" by Nine Inch Nails on the Criterion laserdisc, but the new DVD simply credits the song as "Closer" by Nine Inch Nails. The song title differs on these prints. Note: The Criterion laserdisc release also moved a few seconds of Howard Shore's score for its last side break so as to keep the entire music cue intact. The cue plays as originally shot on the new DVD.

Some of the 2,500 first-run prints released theatrically were created using a silver retention process from Deluxe called Color Contrast Enhancement (CCE). With silver retention, the silver leached out during conventional film processing is rebonded to the print, thus greatly increasing luminosity in the light portions of the image and the density of the dark tones. New Line's Platinum Series DVD was made using one of the CCE silver retention process prints as the Criterion laserdisc was, while the previous New Line VHS, laserdisc and DVD releases used one of the regular theatrical prints.

The writer, Andrew Kevin Walker, completed two separate drafts of the ending. The first was used in the final edition of the film. In the second, John Doe is killed by Somerset instead of Mills. This alternate ending sequence was storyboarded and is included in the published script, but never filmed.

The version shown on BBC TV in the United Kingdom was heavily cut. All uses of the word "fuck" were removed, as were some of the more grisly images in the various murder scenes. Most notable cuts were to the autopsy of the "Gluttony" victim (shots of the victim's full body as well as the removed stomach are missing) and the interrogation after the "Lust" murder (in which the picture of the instrument used in the murder is removed).

The DVD contains an alternate ending, which features alternate takes of some scenes. It shows the delivery guy also hand Somerset the truck registration. Afterwards, a wide shot of Mills is shown when John Doe reveals Mills' wife was pregnant, instead of the close up. There is no quick flash of Gwyneth Paltrow's face before Mills shoots Doe, and only one shot to the head is fired. There are no additional shots fired at Doe afterwards.

The US television print is heavily edited for language and violence. Also, there is an alternate shot when John Doe takes the gun away from Mills' head. In the original film, we see a shot of Mills' head with the gun to it, and John Doe's arm. Then the gun is quickly whisked away. In the television edit, we're still looking up the barrel of the gun as it is slowly taken away.


Seven was released on September 22, 1995, in 2,441 theaters where it grossed US$13.9 million on its opening weekend. It went on to gross $100.1 million in North America and $227.1 million in the rest of the world for a total of $327.3 million, making Seven the seventh-highest grossing film in 1995.

The film was highly acclaimed by critics and currently has an 84% rating at Rotten Tomatoes. Gary Arnold, in The Washington Times, praised the cast: "The film's ace in the hole is the personal appeal generated by Mr. Freeman as the mature, cerebral cop and Mr. Pitt as the young, headstrong cop. Not that the contrast is inspired or believable in itself. What gets to you is the prowess of the co-stars as they fill out sketchy character profiles". Sheila Johnston, in her review for The Independent, praised Freeman's performance: "the film belongs to Freeman and his quiet, carefully detailed portrayal of the jaded older man who learns not to give up the fight". In his review for Sight and Sound, John Wrathall wrote, "Seven has the scariest ending since George Sluizer's original The Vanishing...and stands as the most complex and disturbing entry in the serial killer genre since Manhunter". Film critic Roger Ebert gave the film 3 1/2 stars in his 1995 review of it and, in 2011, added it to his "Great Movies" list.


New Line Cinema re-released Seven in Westwood, California on Christmas Day and in New York City on December 29, 1995, in an attempt to generate Academy Award nominations for Freeman, Pitt, Fincher, and Walker.

Walker received a BAFTA Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay. Film editor Richard Francis-Bruce was nominated for an Academy Award for Film Editing, and Director of Photography Darius Khondji's extensive use of silver retention film processing has since been noted as a major influence on contemporary cinematographic technique, especially in the late 1990s. The film was given an MTV Movie Award as best movie.

American Film Institute lists

  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills - Nominated
  • AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains
    • John Doe - Nominated Villain
  • AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Mystery Film

Home media

For the DVD release, Seven was remastered and presented in the widescreen format, preserving the 2.40:1 aspect ratio of its original theatrical exhibition. Audio options include Dolby Digital EX 5.1, DTS ES Discrete 6.1, and Stereo Surround Sound.

The Seven DVD features four newly recorded, feature-length audio commentaries featuring the stars and other key contributors to the film, who talk about their experiences making Seven.

This DVD is also compatible with DVD-ROM drives. Disc One features a printable screenplay with links to the film. The Blu-ray Disc was released September 14, 2010.


In 1995, a novel with the same title was written by Anthony Bruno based on the original film.


The opening credit music is a spliced sample of an uncredited remix of the Nine Inch Nails song "Closer", available as "Closer (Precursor)", remixed by Coil, on the "Closer" single. The song during the end credits is David Bowie's song "The Hearts Filthy Lesson", found on his album Outside. The film's original score is by Howard Shore.

  1. "In the Beginning" " The Statler Brothers
  2. "Guilty" " Gravity Kills
  3. "Trouble Man" " Marvin Gaye
  4. "Speaking of Happiness" " Gloria Lynne " written by Buddy Scott & Jimmy Radcliffe
  5. "Suite No. 3 in D Major, BWV 1068 Air" " written by Johann Sebastian Bach, performed by Stuttgarter Kammerorchester / Karl Münchinger
  6. "Love Plus One" " Haircut One Hundred
  7. "I Cover the Waterfront" " Billie Holiday
  8. "Now's the Time" " Charlie Parker
  9. "Straight, No Chaser" " Thelonious Monk (Taken from Monk in Tokyo)
  10. "Portrait of John Doe" " Howard Shore
  11. "Suite from Seven" " Howard Shore

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