A young boy attempts to make the world a better place after his teacher gives him that chance.


Mimi Leder


Catherine Ryan Hyde (book), Leslie Dixon (screenplay)
4,862 ( 153)
1 win & 4 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Kevin Spacey ... Eugene Simonet
Helen Hunt ... Arlene McKinney
Haley Joel Osment ... Trevor McKinney
Jay Mohr ... Chris Chandler
Jim Caviezel ... Jerry (as James Caviezel)
Jon Bon Jovi ... Ricky McKinney
Angie Dickinson ... Grace
David Ramsey ... Sidney Parker
Gary Werntz Gary Werntz ... Mr. Thorsen
Colleen Flynn ... Woman on Bridge
Marc Donato ... Adam
Kathleen Wilhoite ... Bonnie
Liza Snyder ... Michelle
Jeannetta Arnette ... Nurse
Hannah Leder ... Thorsen's Daughter (as Hannah Werntz)


Young Trevor McKinney, troubled by his mother's alcoholism and fears of his abusive but absent father, is caught up by an intriguing assignment from his new social studies teacher, Mr. Simonet. The assignment: think of something to change the world and put it into action. Trevor conjures the notion of paying a favor not back, but forward--repaying good deeds not with payback, but with new good deeds done to three new people. Trevor's efforts to make good on his idea bring a revolution not only in the lives of himself, his mother and his physically and emotionally scarred teacher, but in those of an ever-widening circle of people completely unknown to him. Written by Jim Beaver <jumblejim@prodigy.net>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Like some other kids, 12-year-old Trevor McKinney believed in the goodness of human nature. Like many other kids, he was determined to change the world for the better. Unlike most other kids, he succeeded. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated PG-13 for mature thematic elements including substance abuse/recovery, some sexual situations, language and brief violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The song "New" by No Doubt plays as Trevor walks into school. This song was featured in the movie "Go" which also features Jay Mohr. See more »


When Trevor is eating breakfast in the kitchen with his friend, the contents of his breakfast bowl and glass change between shots. See more »


[Arlene, and then Eugene, feeling very emotional, have left the room in which Trevor was being interviewed by Chris for television. Trevor admits that he thinks "pay it forward" will not work, because people are too afraid]
Eugene: Arlene, I don't want to be one of those people he's talking about. And I've become one. I don't want to spend another second of wasted air. Please, don't make me stay trapped in here forever.
See more »


Referenced in Cougar Club (2007) See more »


Broken Home
by Papa Roach
See more »

User Reviews

" Knowing the right thing is easy, doing the right thing is a bit harder "
19 January 2010 | by thinker1691See all my reviews

The world is a pretty awful place if one sees only the bad which is usually all around us. Occasionally when there is a disaster, people from all walks of life, suddenly forget who they are and step forward to help out and for a moment, the world becomes a place where all mankind can share in that one brief pause, called Humanity. This is one such film. It's called " Pay it Forward. " The name strikes an immediate note of confusion at first, until one thinks about it. Too often when someone does a good deed, most of us feel we should try and Pay it back. This is the original concept, except in the film a young student named Trevor McKinney (Haley Joel Osment) designed it so a person who receives a favor, is then told to pay it forwards to three other people. The idea first began as a school assignment given by his teacher Eugene Simonet (Kevin Spacey) and encouraged by the boy's mother Arlene. (Helen Hunt) It is not that often when such a simple idea can have such a profound effect and reminds the rest of us, that simplicity is the key to our basic nature. With two academy award winners in the forefront of this film, I fail to see how it was not nominated for an award of some magnitude. ****

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Release Date:

20 October 2000 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Pay It Forward See more »


Box Office


$40,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,631,359, 22 October 2000

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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