Clue (film)

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Clue Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Jonathan Lynn
Produced by Debra Hill
Screenplay by Jonathan Lynn
John Landis
Based on Cluedo 
by Anthony E. Pratt
Starring Eileen Brennan
Tim Curry
Madeline Kahn
Christopher Lloyd
Michael McKean
Martin Mull
Lesley Ann Warren
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by David Bretherton
Richard Haines
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
(National Amusements)
Release dates
  • December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $14,643,997

Clue is a 1985 American mystery comedy film based on the board game of the same name. The film is a murder mystery set in a Gothic Revival mansion, and is styled after Murder by Death (which also featured Clue star Eileen Brennan) and other various murder/dinner parties of mystery, including The Rocky Horror Picture Show, which also starred Tim Curry. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and stars Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. The film was produced by Debra Hill.

In keeping with the nature of the board game, in theatrical release the movie was shown with one of three possible endings, with different theaters receiving each ending. In the film's home video release, all three endings were included. The film initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, ultimately grossing $14,643,997 in the United States,[2] though later it developed a cult following.[3]

Clue was Paramount's first adaptation of a now-current Hasbro property, though at that time Cluedo was owned by Waddingtons and licensed in the United States (as Clue) to Parker Brothers; Hasbro later bought both Waddingtons and Parker Brothers. This predated by 19 years Paramount's deal to distribute other films and television series based on Hasbro properties. Universal Studios announced that a remake was in the works with a release date set for 2013, though the project was later shelved.[4]


In 1954 New England, against a backdrop of McCarthyism, six strangers are invited to a party at a secluded New England mansion. They are met by the house butler Wadsworth, who reminds them that they have been given pseudonyms to protect their true identity. During dinner, the seventh attendee, Mr. Boddy, arrives. After dinner, Wadsworth takes everyone to the study and reveals the true nature of the party: all of the guests are being blackmailed:

Finally, Wadsworth reveals Mr. Boddy's secret: he is the one who has been blackmailing the others. Wadsworth has gathered all the guests together to confront Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. He also reveals this plan is his revenge against Mr. Boddy, who is both his former employer and because Boddy's blackmail had resulted in the suicide of Wadsworth's wife.

Mr. Boddy reminds the guests that he can reveal their secrets in police custody and offers them an alternative proposition: by using weapons he has provided (the wrench, the candlestick, the lead pipe, the knife, the revolver and the rope), they can kill Wadsworth and destroy the evidence, keeping their secrets safe. Escape is not an option as Wadsworth holds the only key to the mansion, and vicious dogs patrol the perimeter. Mr. Boddy turns out the lights in the room, creating a moment of chaos in which someone shoots the revolver. When the lights come back on, Mr. Boddy is pronounced dead by Professor Plum, seemingly murdered by an unknown cause since there is no gunshot wound, just a bullet hole in the wall. Everyone denies killing him, and are later proven right as Mr. Boddy is ultimately found murdered with the candlestick in the hall, but not before Mrs. Ho the cook was killed with the knife in the kitchen. Wadsworth and the guests try to deduce who killed Mr. Boddy by splitting up and searching the house, in case there is someone else inside. During the course of the evening, three others visit the house: a stranded motorist, a police officer investigating the motorist's abandoned car, and a singing telegram girl. They are respectively killed with the wrench in the lounge, with the lead pipe in the library, and with the revolver in the hall. Yvette, the maid, is killed in the billiard room with the rope.

Wadsworth comes to the conclusion that he knows who the murderer is and runs through a frantic re-enactment of the entire evening with the guests in tow. At one point, they are interrupted by an evangelist who is talking about the "Kingdom of Heaven." Wadsworth also points out that the victims were Mr. Boddy's accomplices in blackmail. Each of them had a connection to one of the guests, enabling Mr. Boddy to find out the secrets he later used to blackmail them.

  • The cook had earlier been employed by Mrs. Peacock.
  • The motorist was Colonel Mustard's driver during the war and knew of his involvement with the black market.
  • Yvette had worked for Miss Scarlet and had an affair with Mrs. White's husband. Colonel Mustard's scandalous pictures are of him and Yvette "in flagrante delicto" (caught in the act).
  • The police officer had been on Miss Scarlet's payroll to keep quiet.
  • The singing telegram girl was one of Professor Plum's patients. He once had an affair with her.

In preparation to reveal the murderer of Mr. Boddy, Wadsworth turns off the electricity to the house.

At this point, the story proceeds to one of three endings: A, B, or C. In the film's initial theatrical run, some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see.[5] In the VHS home video and releases, and most television broadcasts (including on Netflix), the three endings are shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings, but ending C being the true one. The DVD home release also provides the option of a random single ending.

Ending A[edit]

Having used her former call girl Yvette to murder Mr. Boddy and the cook, Miss Scarlet killed Yvette and the others to keep her true business of "secrets" safe, planning on using the information learned tonight for her own benefit. While Miss Scarlet holds the group at gunpoint with the revolver, Wadsworth tries to tell her that she used up all the bullets in the gun, but unbeknownst to Miss Scarlet, Wadsworth and all the guests, she still has one left and threatens to kill him. Wadsworth reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent and arrests Miss Scarlet as police arrive and secure the house. The evangelist is revealed to be J. Edgar Hoover. Although insisting to Miss Scarlet the revolver is empty, Wadsworth realizes she was right when he accidentally fires the last bullet into the air, hitting a chandelier and causing it to crash closely behind Colonel Mustard.

Ending B[edit]

Mrs. Peacock is revealed as the murderer of all the victims and escapes after holding the others at gunpoint. However, Wadsworth reveals himself as an FBI agent with the night's activities set up to spy on Mrs. Peacock's activities, believing her to be taking bribes by foreign powers. As Mrs. Peacock makes her way to her car, she is captured by the police, and the evangelist is revealed to be J. Edgar Hoover.

Ending C[edit]

Each murder was committed by a different person: Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy (knowing he was still alive all along), Mrs. Peacock killed the cook, Colonel Mustard killed the motorist (after locking the remaining weapons in a cupboard, the group attempts to get rid of the key, but Mustard takes it, sneaks off, unlocks the cupboard, takes the wrench from it and gets into the lounge using a secret passage in the conservatory), Mrs. White killed Yvette out of a strong hatred (she turned off the power to lure Yvette downstairs and she admits she killed her husband), and Ms. Scarlet killed the cop. Mr. Green is then accused of killing the singing telegram, but insists he didn't do it. Wadsworth then reveals not only did he shoot her himself, but that he is in fact the real Mr. Boddy (Professor Plum actually killed his butler). He had brought the other victims (his accomplices in the blackmail scheme) to the house to be killed by the guests and thus plans to continue blackmailing them now that there is no evidence against him. Mr. Green then draws a revolver and kills the blackmailer in the hall. Mr. Green reveals to the others that he's actually an undercover FBI agent and the whole evening was merely a set-up to catch the criminals. The police and FBI arrive and arrest all the guests for murder as the evangelist is revealed to be J. Edgar Hoover. When asked who "done it," Green acknowledges that all of the guests are guilty of murder now, but that he killed Mr. Boddy "in the hall...with the revolver" in reference to the original game. His final line in the movie, "I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife,"[6] keeps ambiguous whether his cover as a homosexual was a ruse, or if he's still hiding his homosexuality with overt references to heterosexuality.


left to right: Miss Scarlet (Lesley Ann Warren), Colonel Mustard (Martin Mull), Mrs. White (Madeline Kahn), Mr. Green (Michael McKean), Wadsworth (Tim Curry), Professor Plum (Christopher Lloyd), and Mrs. Peacock (Eileen Brennan)


Clue was filmed on sound stages at the Paramount Pictures film studios in Hollywood. The set design is credited to Les Gobruegge, Gene Nollmanwas, and William B. Majorand, with set decoration by Thomas L. Roysden.[7] After completion, the set was bought by the producers of Dynasty, who used it as the fictional hotel The Carlton.

The multiple-ending concept was developed by John Landis, who claimed in an interview to have invited playwright Tom Stoppard, writer and composer Stephen Sondheim and actor Anthony Perkins to write the screenplay. The script was ultimately finished by director Jonathan Lynn.[3] A fourth ending was filmed, but Lynn removed it because, as he later stated, "it really wasn't very good. I looked at it, and I thought, 'No, no, no, we’ve got to get rid of that.'"[8]

Carrie Fisher was originally contracted to portray Miss Scarlet, but withdrew to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.[9]

All scenes were filmed within the studio lot, with the exception of the ballroom scene and the driveway gate scene, which were filmed on location at a mansion located in South Pasadena, California. Exterior shots of the mansion were enhanced with matte paintings by matte artist Syd Dutton, in consultation with Albert Whitlock. This site was destroyed in a fire on October 5, 2005.[10] To decorate the set, authentic 18th and 19th century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt.[11]

The color of each character's car is the same color as their playing piece from the original board game.

Professor Plum reveals that he works for UNO, the United Nations Organization, in a branch called WHO, the World Health Organization. This means he works for UNOWHO (You Know Who).


The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. The novelization was written by Michael McDowell based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn. There was also a children's adaptation entitled, Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook written by Landis, Lynn, and Ann Matthews. Both adaptations were published in 1985, and differ from the movie in that they feature a fourth ending cut from the final film.[12] In this ending, Wadsworth, after pretending to be dead,[clarification needed] says that he killed Boddy as well as the other victims, and then reveals to the guests that he has poisoned them all so that there will be no witnesses and he will have committed the perfect crime. As he runs through the house to disable the phones and lock the doors, the chief detective – who had earlier been posing as an evangelist (Howard Hesseman) – returns, followed by the police, who disarm Wadsworth. Wadsworth then repeats the confession that he had given earlier to the guests, physically acting out each scene himself. When he arrives at the part about meeting Colonel Mustard at the door, he steps through the door, closes it, and locks it, leaving all the guests trapped inside. The police and guests escape through a window, while Wadsworth attempts to make a getaway in a police squad car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.[13][14]

In 1986, it was released on VHS in Canada and the U.S. In other countries, it was released on VHS on February 11, 1991.[15] The film was released on DVD in June 2000[16] and Blu-ray on August 7, 2012.[17] In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris' score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.[18]

Box office[edit]

Clue was released on December 13, 1985 and ultimately grossed $14,643,997 domestically, just short of its $15,000,000 budget.[2]

Critical reception[edit]

The film was initially received with mixed reviews. Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote negatively of the film and stated that the beginning "is the only part of the film that is remotely engaging. After that, it begins to drag."[19] Similarly, Roger Ebert gave the film a 2 out of 4 stars review, writing that despite a "promising" cast, the film's "screenplay is so very, very thin that [the actors] spend most of their time looking frustrated, as if they'd just been cut off right before they were about to say something interesting."[20]

The film holds a 62% positive rating on the film-critics aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 5.8 out of 10.[21]


Universal Studios announced in 2011 that a new film based on the game was being developed. The film was initially dropped,[22] then resumed as Hasbro teamed up with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct.[23] As of 2014, the planned remake remains in development hell.

In other media[edit]

The episode of Psych entitled "100 Clues" features Clue stars Martin Mull, Christopher Lloyd, and Lesley Ann Warren as suspects in a series of murders at a mansion. The episode, in addition to many jokes and themes in homage to the film, includes multiple endings in which the audience (separately for east and west coast viewership) decides who is the real killer. The episode was dedicated to the memory of Madeline Kahn.[24]


  1. ^
  2. ^ a b "Clue (1985)". 1988-07-05. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  3. ^ a b "'Something Terrible Has Happened Here': The Crazy Story of How 'Clue' Went from Forgotten Flop to Cult Triumph". 2013-09-02. Retrieved 2013-10-12. 
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ Clue Review - Roger Ebert. December 12, 1985.
  6. ^ "Clue - The Movie Guide". Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  7. ^ "Full cast and crew for Clue (1985)". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  8. ^ Farr, Nick (2012-03-13). "Abnormal Interviews: My Cousin Vinny Director Jonathan Lynn". Abnormal Use: An Unreasonably Dangerous Products Liability Blog. Gallivan, White & Boyd, P.A. Retrieved June 8, 2012. 
  9. ^ Bad Movies We Love: Clue
  10. ^ "Photos from Filming Location - 2003". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  11. ^ "80s Rewind, Clue (1985)". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  12. ^ Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook. Google Books. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  13. ^ McDowell, Michael (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal. p. 188. ISBN 0-449-13049-5. 
  14. ^ Matthews, Lynn, Landis, Ann, Jonathan, John (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue: The Storybook. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 61. ISBN 0-671-61867-9. 
  15. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  17. ^ "Paramount Teases Four Upcoming Blu-ray Releases". 2012-01-18. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  18. ^ "La-La Land Records Clue Soundtrack". La-La Land Records. Retrieved 2011-02-22. 
  19. ^ "'Clue,' from Game to Film". The New York Times. December 13, 1985. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  20. ^ Ebert, Roger (1985). "review", retrieved 2014-06-05
  21. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2012-12-31. 
  22. ^ Katey Rich. "Clue Movie Dropped By Universal, But Hasbro Is Still Making It On Their Own". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  23. ^ Michael Fleming (2009-02-24). "Gore Verbinski to develop 'Clue'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  24. ^ McFarland, Kevin (2013-05-28). "Psych: “100 Clues”". A.V. Club. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 

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