Clue (film)

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Clue Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJonathan Lynn
Screenplay byJonathan Lynn
Story by
Based onCluedo
by Anthony E. Pratt
Produced byDebra Hill
CinematographyVictor J. Kemper
Edited by
Music byJohn Morris
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$15 million
Box office$14.6 million

Clue is a 1985 American black comedy mystery film based on the board game of the same name. Directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and produced by Debra Hill, it stars the ensemble cast of Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, Lesley Ann Warren, and Colleen Camp.

Inspired by the nature of the board game, the film's initial release featured various different endings, with one of three possibilities sent to movie theaters at the time. Home media releases include all three endings presented sequentially. The film initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, grossing $14.6 million in the United States against its budget of $15 million,[2] but later developed a considerable cult following.[3]


In 1954, six strangers arrive by ominous invitation at a secluded New England mansion, despite most of the guests being from the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. Greeted by Wadsworth the butler and Yvette the maid, each guest receives a pseudonym: Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet.

A seventh guest arrives, Mr. Boddy, who Wadsworth reveals has been blackmailing the others: Mrs. Peacock is accused of taking bribes for her husband, a US senator, but denies any wrongdoing and claims she has paid the blackmail to keep the scandal quiet; Mrs. White is suspected in the death of her husband, a nuclear physicist, she denies guilt and states that she does not want the allegations made public; Professor Plum has lost his medical license due to an affair with a patient; Miss Scarlet runs an underground brothel in Washington, D.C.; Colonel Mustard, though initially suspected of being one of Miss Scarlet's clients, is actually a war profiteer who sold plane parts on the black market, resulting in several deaths; Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his job at the State Department if anyone found out.

Wadsworth tells them that the police had been notified and they have approximately 45 minutes before they arrrive. While threatening to expose the guests if he is arrested, Mr. Boddy gives them each a weapon—a candlestick, a knife, a lead pipe, a revolver, a rope, and a wrench and suggests that someone kill Wadsworth, who has the key to the front door and whose death will ensure that "no one but the seven of us will ever know" of their secrets. Mr. Boddy turns out the lights; deathly moans are heard and a gunshot rings out, and when the lights are turned back on to reveal Mr. Boddy he is apparently dead, without any indication at first glance as to how.

As the guests investigate Boddy's death, Wadsworth explains to the guests that his wife had committed suicide due to Mr. Boddy's blackmail because she refused to name friends who were socialists, forcing him to become Boddy's butler and that he has summoned the guests to force a confession out of Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. The group suspects the cook, but they find her dead as well, having been stabbed with the knife. Mr. Boddy's body disappears, but the guests find his now bleeding body in the bathroom, having been struck on the head with the candlestick.

Wadsworth locks the weapons in a cupboard. He attempts to throw the key away, but a stranded motorist arrives, and Wadsworth locks him in the lounge. While the guests search the mansion in pairs, an unknown individual burns the blackmail evidence, unlocks the cupboard and kills the motorist with the wrench. Discovering a secret passage, Colonel Mustard and Miss Scarlet find themselves locked in the lounge with the motorist's corpse until Yvette shoots the door open with the revolver.

A police officer investigating the motorist's abandoned car arrives to use the phone. The mansion receives a call from J. Edgar Hoover, the head of the FBI, which Wadsworth takes alone. After distracting the police officer successfully, the guests resume their search until another unknown person turns off the electricity. Yvette, the police officer, and a singing telegram girl who arrived while the lights were out are murdered with the rope, lead pipe, and revolver, respectively.

Wadsworth and the others regroup after he turns the electricity back on, and he reveals he knows who the murderer is. Recreating the night's events, Wadsworth explains that the five other victims were Mr. Boddy's informants. An evangelist interrupts the gathering, but Mrs. Peacock turns him away by slamming the door, and Wadsworth continues his explanation, with one of three possible outcomes.

How It Might Have Happened[edit]

Yvette murdered the cook and Mr. Boddy on orders from Miss Scarlet, for whom she once worked as a call girl. Scarlet then killed Yvette and the other victims. Planning to sell the guests' secrets, Scarlet prepares to shoot Wadsworth, who asserts there are no more bullets, causing them to bicker over how many shots there have been, and disarms Scarlet as law enforcement raid the house. The evangelist, revealed to be the police chief, congratulates Wadsworth – an undercover FBI agent. Wadsworth attempts to demonstrate the revolver was empty, but a remaining bullet brings down a chandelier, narrowly missing Colonel Mustard whilst Miss Scarlet laughs about being correct.

How About This?[edit]

Mrs. Peacock killed all the victims to conceal her taking bribes from foreign powers. She holds the others at gunpoint as they allow her to leave. Wadsworth reveals he is an undercover FBI agent sent to investigate her. While escaping to her car, Mrs. Peacock is surprised by the evangelist, who is revealed to be the police chief, as the police raid the property. After the police chief assures her arrest, Wadsworth asks if anyone would care for some fruit or dessert.

What Really Happened[edit]

Apart from Mr. Green, everyone has killed at least one person: Professor Plum missed Mr. Boddy with the revolver but later killed him with the candlestick; Mrs. Peacock stabbed the cook, her former employee; Colonel Mustard bludgeoned the motorist, who was his driver during World War II; Mrs. White throttled Yvette out of jealousy and hatred for the latter's affair with her husband, whom she had also killed; and Miss Scarlet clubbed the cop, whom she was bribing. Wadsworth reveals that he shot the singing telegram girl (the patient Professor Plum had the affair with) and that he is the real Mr. Boddy; the person that Professor Plum killed was Mr. Boddy's butler. With his spies and informants disposed of, he plans to continue blackmailing the guests. Mr. Green then draws his own revolver, kills Wadsworth, and reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent and that the earlier phone call from J. Edgar Hoover was for him. Green then opens the front door, bringing in the authorities to arrest the others as the evangelist is revealed to be the police chief. After telling the police chief they all did it, but he has killed Mr. Boddy in the hall with the revolver, Mr. Green says: "Okay, Chief, take 'em away! I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife!"


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)



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.'"[4] In the unused fourth ending, Wadsworth committed all of the murders. He was motivated by his desire for perfection. Having failed to be either the perfect husband or the perfect butler, he decided to be the perfect murderer instead. Wadsworth reports that he poisoned the champagne the guests had drunk earlier so they would soon die, leaving no witnesses. The police and the FBI arrive and Wadsworth is arrested. He breaks free and steals a police car, but his escape is thwarted when three police dogs lunge from the back seat. This ending is documented in Clue: The Storybook, a tie-in book released in conjunction with the film.[5]


Carrie Fisher was originally contracted to portray Miss Scarlet, but withdrew to enter treatment for drug and alcohol addiction.[6] Jonathan Lynn's first choice for the role of Wadsworth was Leonard Rossiter, but he died before filming commenced.[7] The second choice was Rowan Atkinson, but it was decided that he wasn't well known enough at the time, so Tim Curry was eventually cast.[7]


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.[8] To decorate the interior sets, authentic 18th- and 19th-century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt.[9] After completion, the set was bought by the producers of Dynasty, who used it as the fictional hotel The Carlton.

All interior scenes were filmed at the Paramount lot, with the exception of the ballroom scene. The ballroom, as well as the driveway gate exteriors, were filmed on location at a mansion located in South Pasadena, California. This site was destroyed in a fire on October 5, 2005.[10] Exterior shots of the Pasadena mansion were enhanced with matte paintings to make the house appear much larger; these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton in consultation with Albert Whitlock.

Mrs. White's famous "Flames" speech was improvised by Madeline Kahn.[3]


The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. Each theater received one of the three endings, and some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see.[11]


The novelization was written by Michael McDowell based on the screenplay by Jonathan Lynn. There is a children's adaptation titled 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 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 car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.[13][14]

Home media[edit]

The movie was released to home video in VHS format in Canada and the United States in 1986 and, on February 11, 1991, to other countries.[15] The film was released on DVD in June 2000[16] and Blu-ray on August 7, 2012.[17]

The home video, television broadcasts, and on-demand streaming by services such as Netflix include all three endings shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings but the third (Ending A) being the true one. The Blu-ray and DVD however, gives viewers the option to watch the endings separately (chosen randomly by the player), as well as the "home entertainment version" ending with all three of them stitched together.[18]


In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris's score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.[19] In 2015, to mark the film's 30th anniversary, Mondo issued a limited-edition vinyl pressed on six different colored 180 Gram Vinyl colors for each of the suspects.[20]


Critical response[edit]

The film initially received 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".[21] Similarly, Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film 2.5 out of 4 stars, writing, "Clue offers a few big laughs early on followed by a lot of characters running around on a treadmill to nowhere."[22] Siskel particularly criticized the decision to release the film to theaters with three separate endings, calling it a "gimmick" that would distract audiences from the rest of the film, concluding that "Clue is a movie that needs three different middles rather than three different endings."[22]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film a 2 out of 4 stars review, writing that it has a "promising" cast, but 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."[23] On Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, both agreed that the "A" ending was the best while the "C" ending was the worst.[24]

The film-critics aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reported that 68% of critics have given the film a positive review based on 34 reviews, with an average score of 6.3/10. The critics consensus reads: "A robust ensemble of game actors elevate Clue above its schematic source material, but this farce's reliance on novelty over organic wit makes its entertainment value a roll of the dice."[25] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 39 out of 100 based on 11 critics, indicating "generally unfavorable reviews".[26]

Box office[edit]

Clue has grossed $14.6 million in North America, just short of its $15 million budget.[2]


Universal Studios announced in 2011 that a new film based on the game was being developed. The film was initially dropped,[27] then resumed as Hasbro teamed up with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct.[28]

In August 2016, The Tracking Board reported that Hasbro had landed at 20th Century Fox with Josh Feldman producing for Hasbro, Ryan Jones serving as the executive producer and Daria Cercek overseeing the project. The film will be a "worldwide mystery" with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally.[29] In January 2018, 20th Century Fox announced that Ryan Reynolds, who had established a three-year first-look deal with the studio, would star in the remake, with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick —writers for the Reynolds-led Deadpool, its sequel, and Life— as scriptwriters.[30] In September 2019, The Wrap reported that Jason Bateman was in talks to direct and star in the film, but was rejected shortly after.[31] In February 2020, Deadline Hollywood reported that James Bobin was in talks with 20th Century Studios to direct the film.[32]

In other media[edit]

  • The episode of Psych titled "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.[33]
  • Warren guest starred on a 2019 episode of Mull's sitcom The Cool Kids as a love interest for his character. At the time her role was announced in November 2018, it was largely touted by the press as a Clue reunion, though it features only Mull and Warren.[34]
  • The Family Guy episode "And Then There Were Fewer" is based on the movie along with Agatha Christie's And Then There Were None.
  • Who Done It: The Clue Documentary was announced in production in 2018, covering the making of the film, its rise to cult status, and interviews with many key people.[35]
  • The episode "No Clue" of the 2020 SyFy series Vagrant Queen draws heavily on the movie, and the game to a lesser extent.
  • The episode "Clue: SI" of the series CSI: NY makes several references to the movie and game.
  • Jenny Lorenzo of the Latin-American YouTube series Mitú re-enacted and re-imagined the plot of the movie in a style satirizing the telenovela genre.[36]


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  18. ^ Clue Blu-ray, archived from the original on June 19, 2019, retrieved December 3, 2017
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  29. ^ Lyons, Josh (August 16, 2016). "20TH CENTURY FOX GETS A "CLUE" AND WILL PRODUCE CLASSIC BOARD GAME REMAKE WITH HASBRO (EXCLUSIVE)". The Tracking Board. Archived from the original on November 28, 2020. Retrieved November 29, 2020.
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