Cruel Intentions Movie Poster Image

Cruel Intentions

Dangerous Liaisons among rich NYC teens.
  • Rated: R
  • Genre: Drama
  • Release Year: 1999
  • Running Time: 97 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

Many examples of manipulative and cruel behavior.

Not applicable

One explicit sex scene, several highly suggestive ones (including the suggestion of sex between stepbrother and stepsister), and kissing between both opposite-sex and same-sex couples.


Very strong language.

Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

One character takes cocaine, several drink alcohol, one to drunkenness.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that this film contains quite a lot of sex, most of it not shown explicitly, but all of it highly suggestive. There is liberal use of the usual four-letter words, and many examples of manipulative and cruel behavior.

What's the story?

Based on the novel Dangerous Liaisons, CRUEL INTENTIONS centers on step-siblings Kathryn (Sarah Michelle Geller) and Sebastian (Ryan Phillippe), rich New York City teens who amuse themselves by manipulating and betraying other people. Kathryn has been rejected by her latest flame in favor of Cecile (Selma Blair), and she concocts an elaborate plan for revenge. Sebastian has his sights set on Annette (Reese Witherspoon), who has declared that she will remain a virgin until marriage. The film documents the outcomes of these schemes, with some unintended, and dire, consequences.

Is it any good?


The novel on which Cruel Intentions is based has been filmed several times, but it took a special stroke of genius to re-set it in the particularly malicious world of wealthy Upper East Side teens. The performances are generally quite good, and the contemporary setting suits the story perfectly. Filmed in settings of dizzying opulence, the atmosphere of indolent wealth is very strong and very real throughout.

The story exposes the dark side of people who appear good on the surface, and mature viewers will enjoy both the thrill of the badness and a sense of superiority over these very depraved characters. It's definitely not for tweens and young teens, but its themes of love, betrayal, manipulation, and cruelty will ring true for older teenagers. If you do decide to let your younger teen watch it, keep in mind they might need some guidance to unweave the subtleties of the story. In the end, though, the worst of the evil is punished and good prevails.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about why the characters behave the way they do –- why is Kathryn so cruel? Why is Sebastian so unconcerned about the feelings of the women he takes advantage of? Is their social status a factor? What about their parents? There are also questions about the film's resolution –- is Sebastian sincere in what he tells Annette? Is what Annette does justified?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:March 5, 1999
DVD/Streaming release date:August 3, 1999
Cast:Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe, Sarah Michelle Gellar
Director:Roger Kumble
Studio:Columbia Tristar
Run time:97 minutes
MPAA rating:R
MPAA explanation:language and explicit sexual situations

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Parent of a 4, 5, and 6 year old Written byQueen Laura January 29, 2010
This movie is a great commentary on so many things that go on in the lives of high schoolers. Parents preach one thing while doing another. Kids are a lot smarter than we give them credit for. This movie is eye opening as to how kids respond to the hypocrisy that is so rife in the adult world.
Adult Written by90210fan February 1, 2011

for teens

Love it if u let ur teens watch prime time soaps let them watch this
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
Teen, 15 years old Written byredtaylib March 19, 2014

Gossip Girl the movie!

I thought that this movie was great, hilarious, and also had a great soundtrack. I was not a big fan of the tragic ending, but I think that it had a great story overall. There was frequent sexual dialogue and innuendo, alcohol, and language-- but none that a typical teen hasn't seen before. To me, it was like Gossip Girl the movie, but with different people and a much different ending. Try it out, you might like what you see!
What other families should know
Too much sex
Too much swearing
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking