Cruel Intentions

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Cruel Intentions
Cruel intentions ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Roger Kumble
Produced by Neal H. Moritz
Written by Choderlos de Laclos (Novel)
Roger Kumble
Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar
Ryan Phillippe
Reese Witherspoon
Selma Blair
Music by Edward Shearmur
Cinematography Theo van de Sande
Editing by Jeff Freeman
Studio Original Film
Newmarket Capital Group
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release dates
  • March 5, 1999 (1999-03-05)
Running time 97 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $10.5 million[1]
Box office $75,902,208[1]

Cruel Intentions is a 1999 American drama film starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair. The film is a loose adaptation of Les Liaisons dangereuses, written by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos in 1782, but set among wealthy teenagers attending high school in modern New York City.

The film started as an independent film with a small budget, and was later picked up by Columbia Pictures. It was released on March 5, 1999 and was followed by two direct-to-video films: a prequel, Cruel Intentions 2, and a sequel, Cruel Intentions 3.


The film opens with a scene of Sebastian Valmont in a therapist's office. He claims to his therapist, Dr. Greenbaum (Swoosie Kurtz), that she has helped him to resolve his issues with sex and that he will no longer be a womanizer. As he leaves, Dr. Greenbaum receives a call from her daughter (Tara Reid), who is hysterical. The girl's boyfriend dumped her, and she soon discovered that he had posted a nude picture of her (with captions referring to her mother's recent bestseller on child-rearing) online. Greenbaum realizes that Sebastian is the culprit. She screams at him from her office window, but he feigns obliviousness--using the attention Greenbaum drew to chat with an attractive young woman.

The next scene occurs in the sitting room of a very upscale New York City mansion. The wealthy and popular Kathryn Merteuil (Gellar) is discussing her prep school with Mrs. Caldwell (Christine Baranski) and Caldwell's daughter Cecile (Selma Blair). Kathryn promises Mrs. Caldwell that she will take the sheltered and naive Cecile Caldwell under her wing, assuring the mother that Kathryn's guidance will turn Cecile into a model student. Sebastian enters and Mrs. Caldwell reacts to him coldly. He makes a sexual innuendo to Cecile, who is ignorant of his meaning. Incensed, Mrs. Caldwell leaves with the girl. Kathryn reveals that her real intention is to use Cecile to indirectly take revenge on Court Reynolds, her ex-lover, who had dumped her for Cecile. Kathryn asks her step-brother Sebastian to seduce Cecile; he refuses as he is planning to seduce virgin Annette Hargrove (Witherspoon), the daughter of their school's upcoming headmaster. Annette is a 'paradigm of chastity and virtue' who has been temporarily staying with Helen Rosemond, Sebastian's aunt. Bedding Annette would be a coup as a teen magazine had recently published an essay she wrote about saving herself for marriage. Doubting Sebastian's chance of success, they make a wager: If Kathryn wins, she gets Sebastian's vintage 1956 Jaguar XK140 roadster; if Sebastian wins, Kathryn will allow him to "put it anywhere" (an oblique reference to anal sex). Sebastian agrees. It is mentioned that Sebastian keeps a journal detailing his conquests.

Sebastian's seduction of Annette fails, as she had already been told of his bad reputation. He vents his frustrations to his friend and classmate Blaine (Joshua Jackson), who suggests that the informant might be Blaine's current lover, Annette's ex-boyfriend Greg (Eric Mabius). Sebastian then conspires with Blaine to blackmail the closeted jock. When Sebastian confronts Greg (and has photographic evidence of Greg's homosexuality), the boy denies that he warned Annette. Greg agrees to find out who did, and Sebastian also orders him to laud Sebastian as a misunderstood but truly virtuous young man. Later Greg and Annette go to the beach, where he gushes about Sebastian and--under the guise of looking out for his admirable friend--discovers the culprit. Cecile's mother, Mrs. Caldwell, who met Annette at her school, has already warned Annette of Sebastian's reputation for womanizing. Wanting revenge on the Caldwells, Sebastian tells Kathryn he will now seduce Cecile.

Cecile's music teacher, Ronald Clifford (Sean Patrick Thomas) is in love with her. Cecile confesses this to Kathryn. Kathryn tells Cecile's mother about Ronald and Cecile's romance and Mrs. Caldwell intervenes in her daughter's relationship. Sebastian, in turn, calls Cecile to his house, ostensibly to give her a letter from Ronald. Sebastian blackmails Cecile and performs oral sex on her. The next day, Cecile confides in Kathryn, who advises her to learn the art of sex from Sebastian so that she can make Ronald happy in bed.

Sebastian falls in love with Annette, who returns his feelings but still resists him. Sebastian calls her a hypocrite because she claims to be waiting for her one true love, but when her one true love chooses to love her back, she resists. She relents, but Sebastian refuses her, confused about his feelings colliding with his stolid sexuality. Annette flees to her friend's parents' estate. Sebastian tracks her down, professes his love, and makes love to her. As he has won the bet, Kathryn offers herself to Sebastian the next day, but he refuses; he now wants Annette only. Kathryn taunts him and threatens to ruin Annette's reputation, so Sebastian pretends indifference to Annette and coldly breaks up with her.

After Sebastian tells Kathryn that he has broken up with Annette and arranged for Cecile and Ronald to be together, Kathryn reveals that she has known all along that he was truly in love with Annette and manipulated him into giving her up. She then rejects him. Sebastian leaves, and Kathryn calls Ronald to (falsely) inform him that Sebastian had hit her. Sebastian confronts Annette, but she refuses his apologies; he sends her his journal, in which he has detailed all of Kathryn's maneuvers and written his true feelings for Annette. When Sebastian starts heading home, Ronald confronts him in the middle of the street and a fight ensues. Annette runs out and tries to stop it. She is thrown into the way of an oncoming cab. Sebastian pushes her to safety and is hit by the speeding cab himself. Before he dies, Sebastian and Annette profess their love for each other.

At Sebastian's funeral, Cecile distributes copies of Sebastian's journal, made into a book by Annette, titled "Cruel Intentions". Kathryn is humiliated and rejected by her former friends, and she is defamed for the drugs hidden in her cross necklace. Annette drives away in Sebastian's Jaguar with his journal at her side as fond memories of Sebastian play through her head.[2]



Cruel Intentions received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 48% based on reviews from 77 critics, or an average score of 5.3/10, with the site's consensus stating; "Even in a slick package and an attractive cast, the movie succumbs to bad acting and a bad script."[3] Metacritic gave the film an average score of 56% based on reviews from 24 critics.[4] However, the film has gained somewhat of a cult following. Charles Taylor of described the film as "The Dirtiest-minded American movie in recent memory - and an honestly corrupt entertaining picture is never anything to sneeze at."[5] Stephen Holden The New York Times stated, "You have the queasy sense that the whole thing is just an elaborate stunt, and in this case an exploitative one."[6]

Cruel Intentions was a commercial success. The film grossed $13,020,565 in its opening weekend, ranking #2 behind Analyze This; released in 2,312 theaters, the movie raked in $75,902,208 worldwide.[1]


The film received the following awards and nominations:

Year Ceremony Category Result
2000 Blockbuster Entertainment Awards Favorite Supporting Actress (Reese Witherspoon) Won
Golden Slate Awards Best Original Score Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Nominated
Best Movie Nominated
Best Movie Soundtrack Won
Best Teen Movie Nominated
MTV Movie Awards Best Female Performance (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Won
Best Kiss (Sarah Michelle Gellar, Selma Blair) Won
Best Male Performance (Ryan Phillippe) Nominated
Best Villain (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Nominated
Teen Choice Awards Best Film – Drama Won
Best Actor (Ryan Phillippe) Nominated
Best Actress (Reese Witherspoon) Nominated
Sexiest Love Scene (Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe) Nominated


The Cruel Intentions soundtrack is a compilation soundtrack released on March 9, 1999 by Arista/Virgin Records. It reached number 60 on Billboard chart.[citation needed]

The lead track for the film was "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by rock band The Verve.


  1. ^ a b c "Cruel Intentions (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  2. ^ KrystelClaire. "Cruel Intentions (1999): Synopsis". IMDB. Retrieved 29 January 2014. 
  3. ^ "Cruel Intentions". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  4. ^ "Cruel Intentions Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  5. ^ Taylor, Charles. (1999-03-05). "Cruel Intentions". Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  6. ^ Holden, Stephen. (1999-03-05). "'Cruel Intentions': Back to Their Old Tricks, but a Whole Lot Younger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-30.

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