8mm is a 1999 mystery/thriller film, directed by Joel Schumacher, about a private investigator Tom Welles (Nicolas Cage) who is hired to research the authenticity of an alleged snuff film found in the vault of a recently deceased billionaire, which takes him to some sleazy environments.
Nicolas Cage plays private investigator Tom Welles, who normally caters to a high society crowd such as socialites and politicians. He lives an unexciting but mostly happy life with his wife Amy (Catherine Keener) and their infant daughter Cindy, and his usually non-dangerous job typically requires him to tail adulterers.
One day Tom is contacted by Daniel Longdale (Anthony Heald), the attorney of wealthy widow Mrs. Christian (Myra Carter) whose husband has recently died. While going through the contents of her husband's safe, she and Longdale find an 8 mm film depicting what appears to be the brutal murder of a teenage girl by a hulking man in a mask. Tom believes the film, though ghastly, is fake, but Mrs. Christian wants him to verify this for certain.
After looking through missing persons files, Tom discovers the girl's name is Mary Ann Mathews (Jenny Powell). He visits the home of her distraught mother Janet (Amy Morton) and after searching the house finds Mary Ann's hidden diary, in which she explains that she ran away to Hollywood to become a movie star. Before he leaves he asks Mrs. Mathews what she would choose: if she could go on thinking that Mary Ann is living a happy life, but not know for sure, or if she would have to know the truth even if it were the worst thing possible. Mrs. Mathews responds that she would have to know.
Armed with this information, Tom flies to Hollywood, where, with the help of a local named Max California (Joaquin Phoenix), he penetrates the underworld of illegal pornography, trying to discover who made the snuff film. Contact with a sleazy "talent scout" named Eddie Poole (James Gandolfini) leads Tom and Max to a shady movie director named Dino Velvet (Peter Stormare), whose violent pornographic films star a masked man named "Machine" (Chris Bauer) who is identical to the man in the film from Mr. Christian's safe.
Hoping to expose Velvet and Machine, Tom pretends to be a client interested in commissioning an original, hardcore bondage film directed by Velvet and starring Machine. Velvet agrees and arranges for him and Machine to meet Tom at an abandoned warehouse in New York City. At the meeting, however Machine turns against him and disarms Tom, then Longdale appears unexpectedly and explains that Mr. Christian had contracted him to procure the snuff film. Longdale also reveals that he had informed Velvet ahead of time that Tom might come looking for them. Tom finally realizes that the film was authentic.
Velvet and Machine then produce a bound and beaten Max California whom they have abducted in order to force Tom to bring them the film. After Tom brings back the film, they burn it and kill Max. They are about to kill Tom when Tom shares information he learned from Mrs. Christian: that her husband had paid $1,000,000 for the film. Apparently Velvet, Poole, and Machine all received considerably less, thus making them realize that Longdale took most of the money for himself. In the ensuing fight, Velvet and Longdale are both killed, and while they are distracted Tom escapes after wounding Machine.
After fleeing, Tom informs Mrs. Christian over the phone that the film was real and that Longdale was involved. He says that they must go to the police and Mrs. Christian agrees to meet, but when he arrives at the Christian estate he is informed by the doorman that Mrs. Christian took her own life after hearing the news. She left one envelope for the girl's family and one for Tom, the latter of which contains the rest of his money and a note reading, "Try to forget us." With the film destroyed and no remaining witnesses to its existence, Tom decides to track down the remaining people involved himself, saying, "There's no one left to finish this but me."
He tracks down Poole and takes him back to the shooting location of the film. He tries to kill Poole but cannot bring himself to do it. He then calls Mrs. Mathews and tells her the truth about what happened to her daughter, simultaneously asking for her permission to hurt the men responsible. He gets what he needs and immediately returns - pistol whipping Poole to death and burning his body along with the pornography in Tom's car. Then he traces Machine back to his home by using hospital records and the fact that Tom wounded Machine during his escape from the warehouse. Machine's and Tom's fight ends with Machine being killed, but not before he is unmasked, revealing a rather unremarkable looking, overweight, bespectacled bald man who asks Tom: 'What did you expect? A monster?'
After Tom returns to his family, he receives a letter from Mrs. Mathews. She thanks him for the money he sent and ends by saying, "I hated you for telling me the truth, but now I realize you and I are probably the only people that ever really cared about Mary Ann."
- When Tom Welles is watching the tapes of Velvet's work, the second tape plays the song Come To Daddy by Aphex Twin. When Tom and Max meet Velvet, the music video for the same song is seen on a TV as they enter the room. The song is later played again on Machine's vinyl player when Tom is in his house.
- By mixing and associating the topics of snuff movies, kidnapping, rape and sadomasochism the movie has been repeatedly criticized by BDSM groups worldwide as discrediting. Its initial screenings were accompanied by several demonstrations in the US.
- Tom carries a Sig Sauer P230 handgun with a silver slide, and is also seen with a silencer attached when he is in Machine's house.
- The movie was loosely adapted from the Spanish film Tesis.
- Nicolas Cage as Tom Welles
- Joaquin Phoenix as Max California
- James Gandolfini as Eddie Poole
- Peter Stormare as Dino Velvet
- Anthony Heald as Daniel Longdale
- Chris Bauer as George Anthony Higgins a.k.a. Machine
- Catherine Keener as Amy Welles
- Myra Carter as Mrs. Christian
- Amy Morton as Janet Mathews
- Jenny Powell as Mary Ann Mathews
- "The Projector" (1:20)
- "The House" (2:05)
- "The Call" (1:44)
- "The Film" (1:10)
- "Cindy" (0:56)
- "Missing Persons" (4:46)
- "What Would You Choose" (3:11)
- "Hollywood" (2:51)
- "Unsee" (1:20)
- "Dance With the Devil" (5:36)
- "The Third Man" (1:14)
- "Loft" (1:56)
- "No Answer" (1:47)
- "I Know All About..." (1:41)
- "366 Hoyt Ave." (1:46)
- "Scene of the Crime" (5:52)
- "Machine" (3:30)
- "Rainstorm" (3:49)
- "Home" (1:32)
- "Dear Mr. Wells" (1:54)