Last Updated on: October 18th, 2023

Instinct (Touchstone Movie)

“Instinct” is a psychological thriller film released in 1999, directed by Jon Turteltaub and starring Anthony Hopkins and Cuba Gooding Jr. The film is based on the novel “Ishmael” by Daniel Quinn.

The story revolves around Dr. Ethan Powell (played by Anthony Hopkins), a renowned anthropologist who disappears while studying mountain gorillas in Rwanda. He is later found living among the gorillas, having abandoned his previous life as a human.

Dr. Theo Caulder (played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a young psychiatrist assigned to evaluate Powell’s mental state and determine whether he is fit to stand trial for the murders of two park rangers. As Caulder spends time with Powell, he becomes intrigued by the man’s unconventional and deep connection with the gorillas.

As the film progresses, the audience learns more about Powell’s past and the traumatic experiences that led him to seek refuge among the gorillas. Caulder must grapple with the ethical dilemmas of his profession and confront his own personal demons as he tries to understand Powell’s mindset and motivations.

“Instinct” delves into themes of nature versus nurture, the impact of civilization on the human psyche, and the parallels between human behavior and animal instincts. It raises questions about the boundaries between human and animal, and whether true freedom lies in embracing our primal nature or adhering to societal norms.

Anthony Hopkins delivers a compelling and powerful performance as Dr. Ethan Powell, portraying the character’s internal conflict and emotional depth. Cuba Gooding Jr. also shines as Dr. Theo Caulder, showcasing his character’s evolution from a skeptical psychiatrist to someone who begins to question the constraints of modern society.

The film’s cinematography and locations contribute to its atmospheric tone, particularly the scenes shot in Rwanda, which offer breathtaking views of the natural world and the gorillas’ habitat.

“Instinct” received mixed reviews from critics, with praise for the performances and thought-provoking themes, but some criticism for its uneven pacing and narrative execution. Nevertheless, the film remains a gripping exploration of human nature, the complexities of the human mind, and the eternal struggle between civilization and the call of the wild.


Additional Details


  • Anthony Hopkins: Dr. Ethan Powell
  • Cuba Gooding Jr.: Dr. Theo Caulder
  • Donald Sutherland: Professor Ben Hillard
  • Maura Tierney: Lynn Powell
  • George Dzundza: Dr. John Murray
  • John Ashton: Guard Dacks


  • Director: Jon Turteltaub
  • Producers: Michael Taylor and Barbara Boyle
  • Screenplay: Gerald Di Pego
  • Music: Danny Elfman

Movie Trailer:

About the Author

Craig Smith
I am founder and editor of My passion for all things Disney goes pretty far back to my first trip to Walt Disney World in the mid-80's. I have since returned to the magical place more than 20 times. I started this site when I came to the realization that I spent a significant portion of my day reading articles about Disney and watching Disney content with my 8-year old, so it made sense that I would start sharing some of what I read and see and building a little community around it. Other interests include 80's nostalgia, vintage toys, video games, LEGO, Star Wars and tech gadgets. Other sites include DMR and