Fatal Attraction

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Fatal Attraction Movie Poster Image
Adultery-obsession thriller isn't for kids (or bunnies).
  • R
  • 1987
  • 119 minutes

Parents say

age 15+
Based on 1 review

Kids say

age 17+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive messages

Strong message of worst-case-scenario consequences of male adultery and the danger of temptation, even when it seems like a sure thing with no side effects. Many commentators focused -- maybe excessively -- on the ghastly character of Alex as what happens when a single woman concentrates on career instead of family; she becomes a maniac, literally.

Positive role models & representations

Only Beth Gallagher seems to be a thoroughly decent person. Daniel, a family man with a seemingly perfect life, almost loses it all just because he thinks he can get away with a weekend affair.

Violence

Vicious, hand-to-hand fights, including a drowning attempt. A fatal shooting. Knives figure prominently both in attacks and in a bloody suicide attempt (especially in the original, discarded ending). A pet rabbit is found bloody and boiled. A car crash and facial bruising that results.

Sex

Frantic, faintly kinky sex, with bare breasts and behinds, male and female. Alex in revealing bathrobe, lingerie. Daniel's wife in bra and panties. Talk of pregnancy, and of another couple possibly injuring themselves during extreme sex. Alex accuses Dan of being homosexual.

Language

The f-word, the s-word, "a-hole," "slut," "c-k," S-O-B, "faggot," "bastard," "Jesus Christ," and "bitch." Scene of a little child picking up s-word use from a parent.

Consumerism

Car emblems and other household products. A quick, unidentified flash of the Nickelodeon TV kids' show You Can't Do That on Television. The opera Madame Butterfly gets numerous plugs.

Drinking, drugs & smoking

Social drinking, offers of cocktails. Alex smokes cigarettes.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that the raw moments include intense (and, of course, adulterous) sex scenes early on, with kinky overtones since they occur in an elevator, on a kitchen sink, etc. Violence involves bloody suicide attempts, a killing, and an infamous traumatic moment with a pet found killed. There is a considerable amount of swearing. Not only does the "hero" cheat, but he also wants Alex to have an abortion. The common, theatrical version of Fatal Attraction carries an audience-selected ending that just treats Alex as a monster to be slain; look on the DVD and "special editions" for the filmmakers' trickier original ending, in which the traitorous hero pays more dearly for his philandering.

User Reviews

Adult Written bydavispittman May 19, 2018

Classic thriller focuses on obsession and adultery

Fatal attraction is a very well done thriller. The thing that makes this film so great and memorable are the excellent performances. Glenn Close gives this st... Continue reading
Teen, 14 years old Written bySecondSider June 3, 2013

Don't watch it in front of a bunny.

It is a great movie. Fatal Attraction is one of my favourites. The violence and sexuality give the film its R rating. So I don't recommend that anyone 12 a... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written bypetititi May 26, 2017

Modern, Classy, Smart, Sexy, but intense, dark, thrilling, and natural

The intense thriller is adults-only. Glenn Close has the ability to diverse from a good woman to a violent female character. Though it happens in a straightforw... Continue reading

What's the story?

Daniel Gallagher (Michael Douglas), a successful New York corporate lawyer, is happily married and a father, but when his wife, Beth (Anne Archer), takes their daughter on a trip, Daniel seizes the opportunity to enjoy a whirlwind affair with an unattached acquaintance, chic book editor Alex (Glenn Close). But Alex doesn't envision their passionate relationship evaporating when Beth comes back; she wants Daniel all to herself. After a suicide attempt, she badgers Daniel at work, vandalizes his car, and threatens to reveal everything to Beth. Police don't help Daniel (if anything, they're smugly amused at this rich yuppie lawyer's ordeal), and soon unstable Alex is stalking the family, with murder on her deluded mind.

Is it any good?

FATAL ATTRACTION is a grown-up, well-modulated, but deservedly R-rated narrative that builds with relentless force and presents a truly compelling villain in Alex. As nasty as she is, she also clearly articulates the moral code espoused in the movie: Daniel betrayed his marriage vows, and there should be consequences. Daniel is indeed quite a rat, but commentators made less of that than the career-woman-bashing stereotype embodied in Alex, a strong female who has it all together but is actually a ticking time bomb of hormones, hate, and homicide (no trick is missed; Alex has other suitors but ignores them to pursue Daniel). The ending was notoriously switched before release, from an understated twist to violence that pushes this into slasher-horror territory. This movie is definitely not for kids; however, as an anti-infidelity scare flick for adults it still gets the (scarlet) "A."

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about Fatal Attraction's messages -- especially who's more at fault, the obsessed and dangerously deluded Alex, or Dan, who betrays his family by having an affair with her? What would one think of Dan if he had gotten away with his adulterous fling? Does Alex have a point about Dan being selfish?

  • Adultery isn't confined to movie characters. Even actors and entertainers have been unfaithful in their super-glamorous showbiz marriages (believe it or not). Talk about why this happens, and whatever happened to "for better or for worse?"

  • Ask kids if they know of situations like the one in the movie among their peers (Fatal Attraction clones like The Crush and Swimfan did indeed bring this plot to high-school environments). How would young viewers handle obsessive relationships?

Movie details

For kids who love thrillers

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