Signs is a 2002 American science fiction thriller film written, produced, and directed by M. Night Shyamalan and starring Mel Gibson, Joaquin Phoenix, Rory Culkin, and Abigail Breslin. It was released by Touchstone Pictures.

The film begins with Graham Hess, a former priest who lost his faith after the death of his wife, finding a crop circle in his cornfield. As the film progresses, crop circles are discovered to be appearing all over the world as is other phenomenon such as lights in the sky. Graham slowly becomes convinced that the crop circles are the result of aliens and he and his family must prepare to survive the imminent invasion. Although the plot revolves around aliens and crop circles, producer Frank Marshall said, “It’s really about human emotions set in motion by a supernatural event.”

Shyamalan started the script for Signs after he had finished work on his previous film, Unbreakable (2000) and shooting for Signs started on September 12 2001. Most shooting for the film took place in Pennsylvania, where the film was set.

Released in the United States on August 2 2002 and on September 13 in the United Kingdom, Signs grossed $408,247,917 at the worldwide box office, making it the 7th highest grossing film of 2002. It was designated with a PG-13 rating in the United States for ‘some frightening moments’. Signs received generally positive reviews from critics, with a 74% favorable rating at the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes.


Joaquin Phoenix replaced Mark Ruffalo, who had to pull out of the film due to a brain tumor. It was later found to be benign.

This film was shot in Newtown, PA. The scene which takes place in “2 Aldo’s Pizzeria” is really a family-run pizzeria called “Mom’s Bake at Home Pizza”.

The film was shot on the property of an agricultural school, Delaware Valley College, where two areas of corn were already growing at different stages. The corn grown for the film was naturally further behind the other two areas of corn, so it was not a planned element.

The production used a new watering technique to make the corn grow faster which the Delaware Valley agricultural college was then very keen to adopt for themselves.

Mel Gibson didn’t realize that his director was playing the vet until the day that they came to shoot their scenes together.

Rather unusually, James Newton Howard started scoring the film before it had been shot, as he was able to work from M. Night Shyamalan’s detailed storyboards.

Director Trademark: [M. Night Shyamalan] [Acting in his own film] .

Director Trademark: [M. Night Shyamalan] [Home Invasion] .

M. Night Shyamalan insisted that the film posters be released without showing Mel Gibson’s face, as it is an ensemble piece, and that it didn’t refer to The Sixth Sense (1999), as it’s an entirely different movie.

Graham Hess was originally written as an older character. Paul Newman was offered the role but turned it down, as did Clint Eastwood.

The artwork in the book about extraterrestrials was actually done by Saleka Shyamalan, director M. Night Shyamalan’s daughter.

Composer James Newton Howard was asked to purposely reference classic film scores from similar genres, such as Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and Psycho (1960). The opening music and main three-note motif is strikingly similar (a probable reference) to both the theme of Psycho (1960) and the theme of “Twilight Zone” (1959).

The stories of the children’s birth are actually the stories of M. Night Shyamalan’s two children.

Only the scenes in the bookstore and the pizza shop were filmed in Newtown (Bucks County), Pennsylvania. The scenes of the house and cornfields were filmed on 40 acres that were leased to the film company by Delaware Valley College (an agriculture college) of Doylestown (Bucks County), Pennsylvania. After filming, the film company donated all the corn grown to the college’s vegetable and fruit market. The house was built on the grounds and torn down after filming. Delaware Valley College is acknowledged in the credits at the end of the film. The drugstore scene was filmed in Morrisville (Bucks County), PA.

The scene in which Graham has his last conversation with his wife was scheduled for 12 September 2001, and was filmed after a cast and crew candlelight vigil.

In the part of the “Brazilian Video” the anchorwoman says the video was taped in Passo Fundo city that means “Deep Step”, and what the boy’s saying all the time is “It’s behind that garage”.

Just after the DVD is inserted into the player, and immediately after the Touchstone logo, a dark, fuzzy image appears in black and white, very quickly. It is a movie still with Merrill, Morgan and Bo sitting on the couch with the aluminum hats on their heads. The picture is shown even faster when “Play” is selected.

Mel Gibson’s name was listed on the call sheet as “Lem Nosbig” to throw off any non-crew members wanting to know what days he’d be on the set.

The Hess family hides in the basement, which Graham Hess says was once used for coal storage. In H.G. Wells’s “The War of the Worlds”, the main character hides from the aliens in a coal shed.

Johnny Depp was originally approached to star.

When Joaquin Phoenix is looking at a poster at the military enrolment office, he’s looking at a movie poster of one of his own films (Buffalo Soldiers (2001)).

Director Trademark: [M. Night Shyamalan] [things reflected on television screens] .

The crop circles are real as M. Night Shyamalan doesn’t particularly like using CGI.

The “Brazilian Video” was shot with a household camcorder by M. Night Shyamalan himself.

Director Trademark: [M. Night Shyamalan] [car accident] Graham’s wife died in a car accident.

Director M. Night Shyamalan cites The Birds (1963), Night of the Living Dead (1968), and Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) as the influences for this film.

M. Night Shyamalan’s scene in which he talks to Hess about the death of his wife was shot a day after a member of Shyamalan’s family died.

The “Brazilian Video” scene was actually shot in Miami, but the children were all Brazilians. A Portuguese couple was also brought to play their parents, but Shyamalan decided not use them because he noticed that their accent was totally different.

Filed under: GoreMaster 100 Films

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