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Best Seller (1987)

A hitman approachs a writer to help him create the next best seller on his career, but the violent world he was a part of has other plans.


John Flynn


Larry Cohen
2 nominations. See more awards »


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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Woods ... Cleve
Brian Dennehy ... Dennis Meechum
Victoria Tennant ... Roberta Gillian
Allison Balson ... Holly Meechum
Paul Shenar ... David Madlock
George Coe ... Graham
Anne Pitoniak Anne Pitoniak ... Mrs. Foster
Mary Carver ... Cleve's Mother
Sully Boyar ... Monks
Kathleen Lloyd ... Annie
Charles Tyner ... Cleve's Father (as Harold Tyner)
E. Brian Dean E. Brian Dean ... Taxi Driver
Jeffrey Josephson Jeffrey Josephson ... Pearlman
Edward Blackoff Edward Blackoff ... Thorn
Branscombe Richmond ... Longshoreman #1


Hit man Cleve approaches writer/cop Dennis about a story for his next book: How Cleve made a living, working for one of the most powerful politicians in the country. To get the story right, they travel around the country to gather statements and evidence, while strong forces use any means they can to keep the story untold. Written by Lars Skogan <si2_ls92362@debet.nhh.no>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


If words could kill... See more »


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

25 September 1987 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Hard Cover See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$905,399, 27 September 1987

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Hemdale See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In an interview with Harvey F. Chartrand for the article "John Flynn: Out for Action", director John Flynn said of this film: "There is no Watergate connection. I rewrote the script. The Writers Guild adjudicated against me and I received no credit, as they decided I hadn't written at least 51% of the script. Once Larry Cohen and I overcame that conflict, we became good friends and he sent me other scripts over the years. The original story was called 'Hard Cover'. We changed the title to 'Best Seller' in post-production, as 'Hard Cover' didn't test well with preview audiences. Then a woman sued us all--me, Larry Cohen, James Woods, and producer Carter DeHaven. This woman claimed we had stolen the plot of a book she wrote called 'Best Seller'. We went on to prove that this could not be the case, because Larry Cohen had submitted a treatment to Columbia prior to the copyright of this book. It's amazing, though, because there were plot similarities. Her book was about a killer who writes a best seller incriminating the people who hired him. Turns out this lady didn't want money. She asked for a three-picture deal with Hemdale Films". See more »


After the taxi was blown up, mere blocks from the World Trade Center, both main characters chase after the taxi driver. The next cut is this foot chase, which is clearly in the Times Square/Midtown area of Manhattan, quite a long way away from the WTC down in the Financial District. Unless they're all gods of fitness, it is not believable that the foot chase covered this much ground. See more »


Cleve: That was the second time you've embarassed me, now try to control yourself, please.
See more »


Written by Claude Debussy
See more »

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User Reviews

Solid if unspectacular thriller
15 March 2007 | by bob the mooSee all my reviews

Since the loss of his wife to cancer, cop-turned-author Dennis Meechum has been struggling to even get passed a chapter of any new project. So when the shadowy Cleve approaches him with an offer, he at least listens. Cleve suggests that he has been a hit-man for years on behalf of a large corporation and wants to use the book to hit back at his former employers. Dennis is convinced after an attempt on Cleve's life and begins to spend time with Cleve to interview him and get material for the book, however the relationship is never an easy one.

Kudos to the film for trying to have a talky character driven script at its core but sadly it never really works. The central character dynamic is interesting but never really convincing because I didn't feel that the characters had sufficient drawn between them to counter the repulsion (and using Dennis' debts was a lazy device in my opinion). This leaves the following relationship on a level that is never much better than "solid" although as such I did still find it engaging. Not as interesting as I would have liked though, which did somewhat take away from the tension at the end of the film because I didn't get the feeling that there was a head of steam built up. The action sections also undermine it; they are not that well done but nor do they fit into the narrative that well and they just seem to be another force holding the film from being smarter than it was.

The central performances don't really help much either, although they are both good enough to hold the interest. Woods occasionally suggests he will go deeper into his character but mostly he is happy with hit-man cool with a touch of twisted humanity in him. As per normal Dennehy gives a solid rock of a performance but never does anything that remarkable or interesting with it. Small supporting roles for Tennant and Shenar don't really do much and the film is carried in the safe hands of the lead pair.

Overall then a solid enough film that is distracting. Occasionally it seems to have the chance to do more but then it never really does, settling instead just for an average approach that is OK but nothing that memorable.

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