Fatal Attraction is a 1987 American psychological thriller film directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Michael Douglas, Glenn Close, and Anne Archer. The film centers on a married Manhattan man who has a weekend affair with a woman who refuses to allow it to end, resulting in her becoming obsessed with him. The film was adapted by James Dearden and Nicholas Meyer from Diversion, an earlier 1980 short film by Dearden for British television.
After its release, Fatal Attraction engendered much discussion of the potential consequences of infidelity. Some feminists, meanwhile, did not appreciate what they felt was the depiction of a strong career woman who is at the same time psychopathic.Feminist Susan Faludi discussed the film in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, arguing that major changes had been made to the original plot in order to make Alex wholly negative, while Dan’s carelessness and the lack of compassion and responsibility raised no discussion, except for a small number of fundamentalist men’s groups who said that Dan was eventually forced to own up to his irresponsibility in that “everyone pays the piper”.
The film has also left an indelible impression on male viewers. Close was quoted in 2008 as saying, “Men still come up to me and say, ‘You scared the shit out of me.’ Sometimes they say, ‘You saved my marriage.'”
The film spent eight weeks at #1 in the U.S. and eventually grossed $156.6 million domestically, making the film the second highest-grossing film of 1987 in the U.S. behind Three Men and a Baby. It also grossed $163.5 million overseas for a total gross of $320.1 million, making it the biggest film of 1987 worldwide. This in turn led to several similarly themed psychological thrillers being made throughout the late 1980s and 1990s.
Overall, the film received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 78% based on reviews from 46 critics, with the site’s consensus “A potboiler in the finest sense, Fatal Attraction is a sultry, juicy thriller that’s hard to look away from once it gets going.” On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 67/100 based on reviews from 16 critics.
This was a magnificent thriller – Douglas was great, Close was marvelous, but Ann Archer was the greatest. Great concept, excellent filming, perfectly executed acting. What more could one desire? Definite edge-of-the-seat pace – NOT a waste of time to see. I own the video, and I do not own many videos; this was the perfect see-it-over-and-over film. Even now, at age 50+, there are scenes that are the best I have ever witnessed in a movie. Douglas portrayed many men who finds his lover pregnant, though perhaps a bit more understanding in his initial attempt to support the woman. Close portrayed the unexpressed emotions of many women who have been in this situation, anger personified and vengeance motivated. The fact that her mental makeup was destroyed prior to her affair makes no difference in the expression of emotions, until, of course, she takes her emotions out on the family. Men, take notice! This could happen to you if you choose to have an affair. 🙂
Justifiably one of the most talked-about movies ever
Author: moviefan08 (firstname.lastname@example.org)
7 December 2003
There are a handful of movies out there that have become so ingrained in our collective dialogue as an American society, it’s practically a crime to have not seen them. If you haven’t experienced the joy of Casablanca, you probably haven’t seen from where “Here’s looking at you, kid” originally came. Ever heard someone make jokes about quarter pounders with cheese in France? That’s Pulp Fiction, ladies and gentlemen. Ever have anyone make you an “offer you can’t refure?” Well, that person’s seen The Godfather. Ever had a former one-night stand try to inflict long-running physical and psychological pain on you and your family? Err…probably not, but if you haven’t seen 1987’s Fatal Attraction, you’re missing out on one of the biggest pop-culture phenomenons of recent decades.
Because of Swimfan and other subpar (but, in Swimfan’s case, guiltily entertaining) efforts of tribute and homage, the plot of Fatal Attraction (and maybe even its ending) is obvious before the movie even starts. Adrian Lyne’s (last year’s magnificent Unfaithful) film is about Dan Gallagher (Michael Douglas), a New York lawyer with an attractive wife (Anne Archer) and little girl who takes a walk on the wild side one weekend and has a passionate liason with an originally casual acquaintance, Alex Forrest (Glenn Close). Dan wants it all to be over right afterwards, but Alex doesn’t let him cut it off that quickly. Dan begins being harrassed by Alex in mounting forms of revenge that eventually reach his family – and become deadly (cheesy writing, huh?). Alex’s continual acts of vengeance aren’t easy to fight back against, though, for Dan must try to keep his secret from his wife and deal with the moral and legal implications that become increasingly complicated.
If it sounds like a ‘typical’ movie of that sort, it is. Why? Because it was the prototype for all the rest of them to come. One can’t really dock the movie for being the typical “affair goes dead wrong” movie, because it was the first one of its kind that truly perfected the formula. It’d be like saying Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew is WAAAAY too much like 10 Things I Hate About You. The thing is, Fatal Attraction really defied the expectations that I had set for it. The movie starts out kind of like Lyne began last year’s Unfaithful – happy family together, and the parents getting ready to go out to a soiree. At that evening’s party, Dan, while away from his wife, runs into Alex for the first time, and the sparks begin to fly. Now, the movie’s title kind of gives away the fact that the woman is going to go completely nuts on him later, but James Dearden’s screenplay, and Glenn Close’s careful rendering of her character makes Alex a decent person to begin with. I was immediately impressed that Alex isn’t some creepy, eccentric vixen that looks like bad news to begin with.
The inevitable begins, and Dan’s wife and child must go away for the weekend. Alex turns up at a meeting at Dan’s law firm, and shortly thereafter the affair begins. Right before they engage in some of the most protracted and unintentionally funny sex in film history, Lyne gives us an exquisite little scene in a restaurant between Dan and Alex. This is one of the crucial scenes in the film, for it sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Unlike Unfaithful, the two don’t spend an increasingly longer amount of time with each other and then hastily have sex. Their dialogue right before their first tryst is direct. Like consenting adults, they simply agree that they’re going to do it. No dancing around his apartment to sexy jazz music, no braille cookbook seduction. They simply sign a verbal agreement and then go at it on the kitchen sink, complete with running water and Douglas’s odd obsession with having Close’s breast in his mouth. The rest of their weekend consists of sex, more sex, and even more sex, with the obligatory ‘funny scene where they almost get caught doing it in public.’ The movie really takes off on it’s nail-biting, visceral course when Dan decides he must leave.
The woman goes nuts, and that’s an understatement. Calls and unexpected visits occur. Alex calls the house, but just stays silent when Dan’s wife answers. Family pets are murdered. The tension mounts unbearably. The whole section of the film leading up to its exciting conclusion really makes an amazing impact. I had a huge list of expectations for what certain things would happen, but most of them didn’t. This may be the prototypical erotic revenge thriller, but it certainly jumps over some of its own limitations. Anne Archer, Dan’s wife, is an interestingly written character, for she is unsuspecting of it all until, well, until Dan must break down and confess. There is no bra discovered that isn’t hers, no story that doesn’t check out with someone else, no ‘why have you been so distant since that one weekend when I left you completely alone?’ All of the tension in the movie lies with what Alex will do next to remind Dan that he can’t just let her go.
The movie throws out another convention by actually letting Alex meet Dan and his wife in an incredibly uncomfortable scene where Alex slyly obtains their phone number after it has been changed. Fatal Attraction, along with its incredible building suspense, becomes less and less of the cookie-cutter genre film that it’s been categorized as. This is in part thanks to amazing work by Close. As the movie’s ‘villain,’ she radiates a dangerous sexuality and inital vulnerability that makes a great combination. Once she goes apes**t on Dan, she’s simply a blast to watch. In that ‘please let me never cross paths with a woman like her’ sense, of course.
I love Fatal Attraction for much of the same reason that I loved Unfaithful. Hidden carefully beneath the movie’s “thriller” facade is actually an excellent morality fable. This is hinted at when Alex is introduced as a likeable, sympathetic character, but fully fleshed-out once Dan must go back to his family.
Sure, the woman’s a freak, but Dan was the one that had the affair with her, so he’s somewhat responsible. He told her that things would have to end, but no affair can just be extinguished like that. When he nicely tells her that it can’t continue, I actually kind of felt bad for Alex. Sex has an emotional attachment to it that Dan tried to put behind him, but Alex couldn’t. There is a crucial plot twist introduced into the film nearly halfway through that I won’t reveal here, but it adds most importantly to the whole idea of Dan’s moral quandry. At times, I was torn. For a while, Alex is simply a fling that’s hanging on and one actually feels sympathy for her somewhat. Sure, it’s all dispelled by the end of the film, but for a while the movie really turns the preconceived notions of its characters upside-down. Dan is trying to get back to his family, but isn’t he somewhat of a creep for screwing around in the first place? That’s the rocky terrain of infidelity, and Lyne’s film explores it with an underlying expertise that can be seen through all the knife-weilding and bunny-boiling.
The movie has a handful of truly exciting, somewhat violent scenes that add an extra punch to its escalating progress. At one point, Dan breaks into Alex’s apartment and has a violent encounter with her as he tells her to quit messing with his family. Alex enacts schemes of such raw cruelty, it’s easy to understand why Dan is scared to death of her. Nothing compares to the movie’s violent, bloody finale that has become a movie thriller landmark (one word, guys: catfight). It’s truly one of the most well-done and exciting action scenes in film, and it’s a bravura closer to a movie that deserves nothing less. Sure, it may not do anything creative to tie up the ends of the movie, but I’m glad Lyne used such an explosive scene. On the Special Edition DVD, an alternate ending can be viewed, and I was disappointed – it may be more creative and mean more in the context of the film (and may be technically better), but I’ll stick with punches, guns, and knives for my revenge flick finales any day.
Fatal Attraction is and always will be one of the most exciting, nail-bitingly intense, and entertaining movies of all time. It got six Academy Award nominations in 1987, including nods to Glenn Close and Anne Archer AND Best Picture. That’s a testament to how much of a phenomenon it was then, but the fact that it stands up so well even today says so much more. GRADE: A-
An unforgettable movie
Author: Kristine (email@example.com) from Chicago, Illinois
13 February 2004
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
One of the most talked about films of all time, Fatal Attraction, where married men learned a very valuable lesson: keep the pants zipped. I don’t think there was a more talked about film in the 80’s than Fatal Attraction, it made so many people think.
It was a very intelligent thriller with great characters and a terrifying story. How many women get rejected by a man and haven’t fantasized about just ruining their lives as revenge? Alex Forrest was the woman who didn’t just fantasize, but lived it. How many men have a woman who won’t let go of them no matter what they do? Even vice versa, but this was the movie that scared men right back into their wife’s arms.
Dan Gallagher is a successful, happily-married attorney living in Manhattan when he meets Alex Forrest. While his wife, Beth, and daughter are out of town for the weekend, he has a passionate affair with Alex. Though he thought it was understood to be a simple fling, she begins clinging to him. Dan explains that he must go home and Alex cuts her wrists in a suicide attempt. He thinks the affair is forgotten, but she shows up at various places to see him. She continues to call until he tells his secretary that he will no longer take her calls. She then phones his home at all hours, and then confronts him saying that she is pregnant and plans to keep the baby. Although he wants nothing to do with her, she argues that he must take responsibility. She will do anything at this point to make him be with her, even if it means destroying his family.
Glenn Close who had only played the nice girl roles blew everyone’s mind when she played Alex Forrest. What passion she put into the role and part of you couldn’t really hate her. She brings up a great point to Dan “Because I won’t allow you to treat me like some slut you can just bang a couple of times and throw in the garbage?”. Your heart does break for her but at the same time you want to scream at her to let go of Dan and not hurt his family. Michael Douglas as Dan plays the role extremely well. He gives Dan a sense of realism, he’s not a major jerk who just looks for random women, he makes a mistake and owns up to it. He’s still very smart, but very frightened and rightfully so when he learns what Alex can do to him. You believe that he loves his family, he made a bad choice and don’t we all? The consequences were a bit extreme this time.
Ann Archer as Beth was not only beautiful, classy, but incredibly intelligent. She makes Beth so real and I loved her line that I found out was improvised when Dan tells her that he cheated “What is the matter with you?!”, how many women or men have screamed that when getting hurt? Ellen Hamilton Latzen as Ellen, their daughter, is one of the best child actors you could imagine. She doesn’t make her character annoying and when she sees her parents crying, she breaks down and you just want to hold her so badly. What talent at such a young age. Fatal Attraction was made so well and the reason why I think it holds up is because it is a very intelligent movie with great characters. You could relate in one way or another. Just a side note, I do wish they stuck with the original ending since it would have made more sense with Alex’s character, I won’t give it away, but it also would have been ironic with her and Dan’s love for “Madame Butterfly”. But people wanted to see Alex get what she had coming after her being named a “bunny boiler”. But trust me when I say this is one of the best movies to come out of the 80’s and I still love watching it.
Made me squirm
Author: Ralpho from United States
9 September 2001
Although I found myself checking the elapsed time during this movie to get some idea of when it would end, the final scenes made me squirm with sympathetic fright for the characters.
Roger Ebert says the filmmakers ruined a perfectly good psychological thriller by attaching a “Friday the 13th” ending. The IMDb Trivia page says the movie originally had a different ending in which Glenn Close’s character commits suicide and Michael Douglas’ character is arrested for her murder. Ebert and most serious film lovers would likely have preferred that ending. But making profitable movies sometimes means making them unpalatable for highbrow students of film.
Nevertheless, the “flawed” film resonated with women. I have vague memories of female friends and acquaintances in the late ’80s seeing “Fatal Attraction” as an example of what SHOULD happen to any man who cheats on his wife. The movie found a place in our culture for a while, and the title was a euphemism for similar happenings in real life.
One wonders how much this movie had to do with the near universal creation of “stalker laws” in the 1990s.
Why I Became A Philosopher
Author: Light Sword Of The Protector from Kneeling In The Light
7 August 2015
I detested Flashdance, 9 and a half weeks and Jacob’s Ladder was painful. It is hard to believe the same man made this very scary movie.
Renowned for its pop out scares and surprises, that I will not spoil for you, suffice to say, if you are eating during the movie, have a good grip on your food. Full of Death symbolism, she: wears black constantly, lives near a slaughterhouse, everyone she knew is dead, there are allusions that she is some kind of supernatural force. Apart from this, they meet, have fun and he cannot shake her. There are hints that she did something to that older man in her past. The movie is quite linear, Alex starts as a minor annoyance in Dan’s life; the degrees of crazy that she begins evincing give the movie its suspense. She turns from a jilted lover to a potential mass murdering maniac. The progression is believable and well written. It moves just like real life, yet, she will surprise you with little pop outs of just how nuts she really is. No movie is perfect, especially an Adrian Lyne movie. Fat boy and wife, Dan’s friends are quite annoying and inappropriate. It kills the intensity of the movie. Pankin was a big star on an HBO comedy show at this time. His scenes have not aged well. Imagine how good this would be and how much higher the intensity without a bad stand up comic as the couple’s friends.
Douglas seems to know this, given his experience. Look at the pained look on his face when Fat Boy takes over the movie with his unfunny routine. The same flaw as Flashdance with hamburger boy who also killed the intensity with bad humor. This could have been a masterpiece if the couple’s friends weren’t a bad comic and his wife. Yet, it will scare you: I guarantee it. The movie plays with you; the old she is gone forever and we are safe now trick. The movie was attacked in 1987 for showing a child in danger; this had already been broken the year before, in 1986, with Aliens. The movie has graphic violence and is quite intense. Close does a very believable psychotic sociopath. This is not for children. While the violence is tame, by today’s standards, the intensity remains. It also has lots of nudity and wild kitchen sex which are mild by today’s depravations. A monster hit in 1987, it shot Lyne to the stars, Jacob’s Ladder took care of that.
The ending is one of the scariest and most controversial. Feminists may be offended by his actions. He could have shot her in the legs; the death shot was justified by the charge she made at him. It was attacked as misogynistic and gratuitous in the name of scaring the crap out of people. I never had a problem with it. She charges and gives him little choice. The stresses that infidelity puts on a marriage will evoke laughter within this Zeitgeist. Lyne spends some time showing the devastation of Beth at learning of Dan’s affair and the impact on the little girl. This is now quite anachronistic; it will seem odd to today’s viewer. Our culture has little or no taboo on affairs like they was in 1987. The movie is slow at the beginning but once it gets going, there is no stopping until the terrifying ending. The Only Adrian Lyne Movie Worth Owning.
the norms of an affair
Author: annabegins1883 from rochester ny
9 October 2001
Fatal Attraction is a movie that plays on your preconcieved notions about relationships and affairs and then makes you question why things should be the way you expect they should. The movie is about a family man(Michael Douglas) who has a weekend affair with Glen Close’s character while his wife and daughter are away. He expects that the affair is a one time deal just for that weekend but she hounds him at the office and home and turns into an obsessive stalker. At first I was sympathetic to the man but then I wound up asking myself why should the women not be allowed to be treated with respect? why should the man not be expected to handle his responsibility? The movie left me questioning why I was so ready to recognize the woman as crazy and made me wonder about reasonable ramifications of affairs. This movie is more than a simple scarry movie about a psychostalker, it tests people ideas of what the normal and acceptable role af men and women is.