Pitch Black (film)

Pitch Black
Pitch Black poster.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by David Twohy
Screenplay by
Story by
  • Ken and Jim Wheat
Produced by Tom Engelman
Cinematography David Eggby
Edited by Rick Shaine
Music by Graeme Revell
Distributed by USA Films[1]
Release date
  • February 18, 2000 (2000-02-18)
Running time
104 minutes[2]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $23 million[3][4]
Box office $53.2 million[3]

Pitch Black (titled The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black on its DVD re-release) is a 2000 American science fiction action horror film directed by David Twohy and co-written by Twohy and brothers Ken and Jim Wheat from a story conceived by the latter. The film stars Vin Diesel, Radha Mitchell, Cole Hauser, and Keith David. Dangerous criminal Richard B. Riddick (Diesel) is being transported to prison in a spacecraft. When the spaceship is damaged by comet debris and makes an emergency crash landing on an empty desert planet, Riddick escapes. However, when predatory alien creatures begin attacking the survivors, Riddick joins forces with the surviving crew and other passengers to develop a plan to escape the planet.

Pitch Black was the final film credit of PolyGram Filmed Entertainment, which merged with Universal Pictures during production.[citation needed] It was shot on a modest budget of US$23 million. It received mixed reviews from critics, who praised some promising story elements and the look, but criticized the lack of exploration of the alien world and recycled human conflicts, citing it as weaker than Twohy's The Arrival. Despite this, it was a sleeper hit, grossing over $53 million worldwide and developing its own cult following, particularly around the antihero Riddick. A sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick, was released in 2004 by Universal, with Diesel back as the title character and Twohy returning as writer and director. A third film, simply titled Riddick, was released in 2013, with Diesel and Twohy reuniting again.


In the distant future, the spaceship Hunter-Gratzner is transporting passengers in cryostasis. Among those are a Muslim preacher who goes by the title of Imam, accompanied by three young acolytes, traveling to New Mecca; a teenager named Jack; a pair of prospectors named Shazza and Zeke; a merchant named Paris; and a law enforcement officer, William J. Johns, who is escorting the notorious criminal Richard B. Riddick. Riddick has surgically modified eyes that allow him to see in the dark but are highly sensitive to light.

Micrometeoroids from a comet rupture the ship's hull, killing the captain and sending the ship off course. The surviving crew members attempt to land the ship on a nearby planet. As the ship falls apart, docking pilot Carolyn Fry attempts to dump the passenger section to reduce their weight but co-pilot Owens prevents her. During the crash, several passenger compartments are destroyed and Owens is fatally injured.

The group explores their surroundings, noticing that the three suns surrounding the planet keep it in perpetual daylight. They find an abandoned geological research settlement, with a water well and a dropship with drained batteries. Zeke is killed but his body is missing and Riddick is immediately suspected. While searching for Zeke's body, Fry barely escapes from photosensitive aggressive underground creatures. Johns offers Riddick a deal: if he helps them escape the planet, he'll go free.

After the group takes a power cell to the dropship, one of the young acolytes is ambushed and eaten inside one of the buildings, and they realize the geologists were all killed by the creatures. An orrery shows that an eclipse of the entire planet is imminent, meaning the creatures will be free to hunt above ground. Johns informs Fry that Riddick can pilot the dropship and Riddick reveals to Fry that Johns is actually a bounty hunter and a morphine addict.

The group returns to the crash site on a solar-powered sand truck to retrieve more power cells for the dropship before the eclipse, but it begins just as they get there. Creatures pour out of the ground and rip Shazza in half. After regrouping, Riddick agrees to Fry and the others to lead them back to the dropship on foot through the darkness, thanks to his special sight, and the group salvages for any sources of light they can find to scare away the creatures. The trip back to the dropship starts with the power of their light sources getting accidentally cut after Paris is killed and has them cross their tracks. After Riddick reveals to the group Jack is actually female and the scent of her menstrual blood is drawing the attention of the creatures, Johns suggests to Riddick that he use Jack as bait to keep the creatures away from the rest of the group. But Riddick engages Johns in a hand-to-hand fight, wounds him, and leaves him as a distraction instead. The rest of the survivors push on, while Riddick drags the power cells behind him.

After Imam's last follower is killed and rainfall starts putting out their Molotov torches, the group, down to Riddick, Fry, Jack and Imam, finds shelter in a small cave not far from the settlement. Riddick leaves them there and takes the power cells to the dropship. Inside the cave, they discover bio-luminescent worms, which they stuff in the empty bottles to use as light. Fry leaves the cave and finds Riddick powering up the ship, ready to leave without them. She pleads with him to help her rescue the others, but he offers to take just her with him. Fry refuses and demands that Riddick join her in going back to save Imam and Jack. Riddick agrees out of sheer fascination with this decision. They find Imam and Jack, and while returning to the ship Riddick is separated from the group and wounded by the creatures; Fry goes back to help Riddick but is speared and carried off by a creature after attempting to save him. Riddick makes it to the ship and waits until the last possible moment before engaging the engines to incinerate as many creatures as possible. While leaving the planet, Jack asks Riddick what they should tell the authorities about him; he tells her to say that Riddick died on the planet.


  • Vin Diesel as Richard B. Riddick. A former mercenary, soldier and pilot, and an infamous criminal and murderer, he was captured by Johns and placed in suspended animation along with Johns, who is bringing him to prison to collect a bounty. He has surgically altered eyes that allow him to see in the dark but needs protection from daylight.
  • Radha Mitchell as Carolyn Fry, a docking pilot for the commercial transport ship Hunter-Gratzner. She has a moment of moral weakness during the emergency landing attempt, intending to sacrifice the ship's passenger section to save herself. A relationship develops between Fry and Johns until she finds out who he really is.
  • Cole Hauser as William J. Johns, a morphine-addicted bounty hunter and war veteran who is transporting Riddick to high-security prison to collect a large bounty on him. When the ship crashes, he presents himself as an intergalactic police officer and spreads the story about Riddick being a serial killer so he could capture him for himself.
  • Rhiana Griffith as Jack, a young girl who is travelling to a distant planet for unknown reasons, posing as a boy to avoid attention.
  • Keith David as Abu 'Imam' al-Walid, a Muslim preacher who is travelling to New Mecca, and is stranded with the others when the ship crashes. He is travelling with three young boys.
  • Lewis Fitz-Gerald as Paris P. Ogilvie, an intergalactic arts dealer selling weaponry and art from Earth and other planets. He also provides the others with alcohol.
  • Claudia Black as Sharon 'Shazza' Montgomery, a free settler who is travelling across the universe looking for a new home.
  • John Moore as John 'Zeke' Ezekiel, a free settler like Shazza, looking for a home.
  • Simon Burke as Greg Owens, co-pilot. During the emergency landing, Owens stops Fry from dumping the passenger section of the ship, which would have resulted in their immediate deaths. He dies during the emergency crash landing of the Hunter-Gratzner on the uninhabited desert planet.
  • Les Chantery as Suleiman
  • Sam Sari as Hassan
  • Firass Dirani as Ali
  • Ric Anderson as Total Stranger
  • Vic Wilson as Captain Tom Mitchell
  • Angela Moore as Dead Crew Member


According to Ken and Jim Wheat, the idea of Pitch Black was suggested by David Madden during his tenure in Interscope Communications, where “[t]ravelers visit a planet where multiple suns mean perpetual daylight, but when an eclipse brings darkness, ghosts emerge.” The ghost part only survived the first draft.[5]


Pitch Black opened in 1,832 theaters on 18 February 2000, grossing $11,577,688 over its opening weekend and ranking 4th at the box office. The film has a domestic gross of $39,240,659 and an international gross of $13,947,000, giving it a worldwide total of $53,187,659.[3]

Critical response

At review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes, it has a 60% approval rating based on 112 reviews, with an average rating of 5.70/10. The site's consensus reads: "Despite an interesting premise (and a starmaking turn from Vin Diesel), Pitch Black is too derivative and formulaic to fully recommend to sci-fi or action fans".[6] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 49 out of 100, based on 29 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".

James Berardinelli of ReelViews gave the film 3 out of 4 stars and stated, "It's not an especially challenging part, but Diesel handles it with aplomb."[7] BBC.com gave the film 3 out of 5 stars and stated it as "an entertainment and quite a good one too."[8] Peter Bradshaw of Guardian gave the film a positive review and stated that the film "undoubtedly has something interesting about it, and that something can be summarized in two words: Vin Diesel."[9] Nathan Rabin of A.V. Club gave the film a positive review and stated that the film "falters a bit in its last half-hour" and "reduces Diesel to delivering a pithy one-liner-but for the most part, it's terrific."[10]

San Francisco Chronicle gave the film 0 out of 4 stars and called the film "a tiresome experience."[11] Austin Chronicle gave the film 2 out of 5 stars and called the film "a very streamlined exercise in interplanetary mayhem and the logistics of the body count."[12] Roger Ebert of Chicago Sun-Times gave the film 2 out of 4 stars and stated that "how sad it is that humans travel countless light years away from Earth, only to find themselves inhabiting the same tired generic conventions."[13]


Year Award Category Recipient Result[14]
2000 Saturn Award Best Science Fiction Film Pitch Black Nominated
2001 Australian Cinematographers Society Award Cinematographer of the Year David Eggby Won
Golden Tripod Won
Blockbuster Entertainment Award Favorite Actor - Horror Vin Diesel Nominated
Bram Stoker Award Best Screenplay David Twohy, Jim Wheat and Ken Wheat Nominated
International Horror Guild Award Best Movie Pitch Black Nominated

Home media

Pitch Black was released on VHS and DVD on October 10, 2000. It was re-released on DVD in 2004 as The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black. It was released on HD DVD on July 11, 2006, and on Blu-ray on March 31, 2009. The disc contains the theatrical edition and an unrated director's cut edition, containing 3 more minutes of extra material.[15][16] A LaserDisc release was also planned, but cancelled by mid-2001 due to waning support for that format.[17]



The movie's sequel, The Chronicles of Riddick (2004), was also directed by David Twohy. To tie in with the sequel, the film was novelized under the name The Chronicles of Riddick: Pitch Black, which was written by Frank Lauria.

A short animated movie released the same year, The Chronicles of Riddick: Dark Fury (2004), was directed by Peter Chung. Dark Fury bridges the gap between Pitch Black and Chronicles of Riddick.

Riddick, a live-action sequel to The Chronicles of Riddick, opened on September 6, 2013, with both David Twohy and Vin Diesel attached. The sequel ties in more closely to the original Pitch Black.[18]


In 2000, a prequel to Pitch Black was released named Into Pitch Black, which was supposed to be a documentary film.

Video games

The Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, a game for the Xbox and the PC, was also released in 2004 to critical acclaim. A remake of Butcher Bay, including a new campaign, was released for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 and PC on 7 April 2009, under the title The Chronicles of Riddick: Assault on Dark Athena.

See also


  1. ^ a b "Pitch Black". American Film Institute. Retrieved May 29, 2020.
  2. ^ "Pitch Black (1999)". BBFC. Retrieved 2018-07-24.
  3. ^ a b c "Pitch Black (2000)". Box Office Mojo.
  4. ^ "Pitch Black (2000) - Financial Information".
  5. ^ "Every Picture Tells A Story - Screenwriting article by William C. Martell". www.scriptsecrets.net. Retrieved 2021-11-25.
  6. ^ Pitch Black at Rotten Tomatoes
  7. ^ Berardinelli, James. "Pitch Black". Reelviews Movie Reviews. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  8. ^ "BBC - Films - review - Pitch Black". www.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  9. ^ "Pitch Black | Reviews | guardian.co.uk Film". www.theguardian.com. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  10. ^ "Pitch Black". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  11. ^ Writer, Bob Graham, Chronicle Senior (2000-02-18). "`Pitch Black' Stumbles Around in the Dark / Style, substance nowhere to be found in oddball sci-fi film". SFGATE. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  12. ^ "Movie Review: Pitch Black". www.austinchronicle.com. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger. "Pitch Black movie review & film summary (2000) | Roger Ebert". www.rogerebert.com/. Retrieved 2021-08-17.
  14. ^ "Pitch Black (2000) - Awards". IMDb. Retrieved 2013-04-14.
  15. ^ "Pitch Black Blu-ray: Theatrical & Unrated Director's Cut". Blu-ray.com.
  16. ^ Silver, LJ (April 30, 2008). "Pitch Black - Detailed Comparison: Theatrical Cut vs Director´s Cut". Movie-Censorship. Retrieved August 12, 2015.
  17. ^ "LaserDisc Database - Pitch Black [LD 35701-WS]". LaserDisc Database. Retrieved November 25, 2018.
  18. ^ Curtis, Amy (2011-8-12). "Amped Up Riddick Sequel Underway." wegotthiscovered.com.

External links