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
Music by John Morris
Cinematography Victor J. Kemper
Edited by David Bretherton
Richard Haines
Distributed by Paramount Pictures
Release date
  • December 13, 1985 (1985-12-13)
Running time
97 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15 million
Box office $14.6 million

Clue is a 1985 American ensemble mystery comedy film based on the board game of the same name. 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, the theatrical release included three possible endings, with different theaters receiving one of the three endings. 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 $14.6 million in the United States against its budget of $15 million,[2] though it later developed a cult following.[3]


In 1954, six strangers are invited to a dinner party at Hill House, a secluded New England mansion. They are met by the butler, Wadsworth, who gives each of them a pseudonym, with none of them knowing or being addressed by their real names. The guests – Colonel Mustard, Mrs. White, Mrs. Peacock, Mr. Green, Professor Plum, and Miss Scarlet – are served by Wadsworth and the maid, Yvette.

During dinner, a seventh guest, Mr. Boddy, arrives. Afterwards, Wadsworth reveals the real reason they are there: Mr. Boddy has been blackmailing the other guests (as well as Wadsworth and his now-dead wife, it is later revealed) for some time now. The group is here to confront him and turn him over to the police.

Mr. Boddy, however, reminds them that if he is arrested, their guilty secrets for which he has been blackmailing them will be exposed. He then gives each of the other guests a different weapon as a gift (a candlestick, a dagger, a lead pipe, a revolver, a rope, and a wrench), suggesting that one of them kill Wadsworth instead to avoid exposure and humiliation. When he turns out the lights, a gunshot rings out, and when the lights are turned back on, they find Mr. Boddy apparently dead with no visible trace as to how. Later, the cook Mrs. Ho is found dead, stabbed with the dagger, and Mr. Boddy's body disappears, only to be rediscovered dead again but with new injuries from the candlestick.

Wadsworth locks the weapons in the cupboard and is about to throw the key out when a stranded motorist arrives and is locked in the lounge. Wadsworth then throws the key out onto the blacktop. Colonel Mustard proposes they split into pairs and search the house to make sure no one else is there. While they are searching, the motorist is killed with the wrench by a figure that is presumed to be his former employer. Mustard and Scarlet find his corpse in the locked lounge and Yvette uses the revolver from the now-open cupboard to break the keyhole. A police officer investigating the motorist's abandoned car arrives and comes inside to use the phone. The guests resume their search of the mansion. The electricity is then turned off. Yvette, the cop, and a singing telegram girl are subsequently 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. He proceeds to recreate the events of the night so far as to explain how the murders occurred. He reveals that the other five people who died with Mr. Boddy were his accomplices, who gave him vital information about the different guests. After an evangelist interrupts them, Wadsworth continues and shuts off the electricity again.

In the theatrical showing, at this point audiences would then be shown one of the three following endings after Wadsworth brings the lights back up. In the home media, all three endings were included, with "Ending A" and "Ending B" identified as possible endings but "Ending C" being how the events really occurred.

Ending A[edit]

Yvette murdered the cook and Mr. Boddy under orders from Miss Scarlet, for whom she once worked as a call girl. Miss Scarlet then killed her along with the other murder victims. She wanted to keep her business of extortion safe and now plans to sell the other guests' secrets. She intends to shoot Wadsworth, who asserts there are no more bullets in the gun. Wadsworth then reveals himself to be an undercover FBI agent, takes the gun from Miss Scarlet and apprehends her. The evangelist is revealed to be a police chief, who arrives with cops and agents. To prove that the gun was empty, Wadsworth fires it towards the ceiling. However, it still contained one bullet, and the gunshot brings down the hall chandelier right behind Colonel Mustard, narrowly missing him (again, the first time being when Yvette breaks the keyhole).

Ending B[edit]

Mrs. Peacock killed all the victims to cover up her engagement of bribes from foreign powers. Mrs. Peacock holds the others at gunpoint while she escapes to her car, but she is caught by the chief (the evangelist). Wadsworth reveals he is an undercover FBI agent planted to spy on her activities as to secure her arrest.

Ending C[edit]

Each murder was committed by a different person. Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy, Mrs. Peacock killed the cook, Colonel Mustard killed the motorist (and picked out the key from Wadsworth's pocket), Mrs. White killed Yvette (out of hatred), and Miss Scarlet killed the cop. Mr. Green is therefore accused of killing the singing telegram girl, but Wadsworth reveals he killed her, and that he is, in fact, the real Mr. Boddy (the man Professor Plum killed was his butler). With the witnesses to each of their secret activities dead and the evidence destroyed, Mr. Boddy now plans on continuing to blackmail them all. Mr. Green suddenly pulls out a revolver and kills Mr. Boddy. He reveals himself as an undercover FBI agent who has been on Mr. Boddy's case. He brings in the chief/evangelist to arrest the others.


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)



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. 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.


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] To decorate the interior sets, authentic 18th and 19th century furnishings were rented from private collectors, including the estate of Theodore Roosevelt.[8] 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.[9] Exterior shots of the Pasadena mansion were enhanced with matte paintings to make the house appear much larger, and these were executed by matte artist Syd Dutton, in consultation with Albert Whitlock.

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


The film was released theatrically on December 13, 1985. Theaters received one of the three endings, and some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see.[10]


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.[11] 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 squad car, only to hear the growling of a Doberman Pinscher from the backseat.[12][13]

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.[14] The film was released on DVD in June 2000.[15] and Blu-ray on August 7, 2012.[16]

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 C) being the true one. The Blu-ray and DVD however, gives you 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.[17]


In February 2011, La-La Land Records released John Morris' score for the film as a limited-edition soundtrack CD.[18]


Critical response[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, 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."[20] 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."[20]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times 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."[21] On Siskel & Ebert & the Movies, both agreed that the "A" ending was the best while the "C" ending was the worst.[22]

The film holds a 59% positive rating on the film-critics aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes based on 27 reviews, with an average score of 5.8/10.[23]

Box office[edit]

Clue has grossed $14.6 million in North America, just short of its $15,000,000 budget.[2]


Universal Studios announced in 2011 that a new film based on the game was being developed. The film was initially dropped,[24] then resumed as Hasbro teamed up with Gore Verbinski to produce and direct.[25]

In August 2016, The Tracking Board reports that Hasbro has landed at 20th Century Fox with Josh Feldman producing for Hasbro Studios and Ryan Jones serving as the executive producer while Daria Cercek is overseeing for Fox. The film will be a "worldwide mystery" with action-adventure elements, potentially setting up a possible franchise that could play well internationally.[26] In January 2018, Fox announced that Ryan Reynolds, who had established a three-year first look deal with the studio, would star in a live-action remake of Clue, with Rhett Reese and Paul Wernick, writers for the Reynolds-led Deadpool, its sequel and Life, as scriptwriters.[27]

References 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.[28]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "CLUE". 
  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. ^ 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. 
  5. ^ Matthews, pp. 57-9
  6. ^ Bad Movies We Love: Clue
  7. ^ "Full cast and crew for Clue (1985)". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  8. ^ "80s Rewind, Clue (1985)". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  9. ^ "Photos from Filming Location - 2003". Retrieved 2007-08-15. 
  10. ^ Clue Review - Roger Ebert. December 12, 1985.
  11. ^ Paramount Pictures Presents Clue: The Storybook. Google Books. Retrieved August 12, 2012. 
  12. ^ McDowell, Michael (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue. New York: Fawcett Gold Medal. p. 188. ISBN 0-449-13049-5. 
  13. ^ Matthews, Ann; Lynn, Jonathan; Landis, John (1985). Paramount PIctures Presents Clue: The Storybook. New York: Simon & Schuster. p. 61. ISBN 0-671-61867-9. 
  14. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  15. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  16. ^ "Paramount Teases Four Upcoming Blu-ray Releases". 2012-01-18. Retrieved 2012-07-03. 
  17. ^ Clue Blu-ray, retrieved 2017-12-03 
  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. ^ a b Siskel, Gene (December 13, 1985). "Did The Butler Do It? Clue Offers 3 Answers". The Chicago Tribune. p. A. 
  21. ^ Ebert, Roger (1985). "review", retrieved 2014-06-05
  22. ^ Siskel, Gene; Ebert, Roger (December 1985). "At the Movies with Siskel & Ebert". The best "A"...stay away from the worst which is "C". 
  23. ^ "Clue Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2018-01-02. 
  24. ^ Katey Rich. "Clue Movie Dropped By Universal, But Hasbro Is Still Making It On Their Own". Cinema Blend. Retrieved 2011-08-03. 
  25. ^ Michael Fleming (2009-02-24). "Gore Verbinski to develop 'Clue'". Variety. Retrieved 2009-08-07. 
  27. ^ Dave McNary (January 22, 2018). "Ryan Reynolds Signs First-Look Deal at Fox With 'Clue' Movie in the Works". Variety. Retrieved January 25, 2018. 
  28. ^ McFarland, Kevin (2013-05-28). "Psych: "100 Clues"". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 2014-05-29. 

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