Cruel Intentions

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Cruel Intentions
Cruel intentions ver1.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRoger Kumble
Screenplay byRoger Kumble
Based onLes Liaisons dangereuses
by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos
Produced byNeal H. Moritz
CinematographyTheo van de Sande
Edited byRyan Mikel
Jeff Freeman
Music byEdward Shearmur
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • March 5, 1999 (1999-03-05)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
  • English
  • French
Budget$10.5 million[1][2]
Box office$75.9 million[1]

Cruel Intentions is a 1999 American teen romantic drama film written and directed by Roger Kumble and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, Reese Witherspoon, and Selma Blair. The plot adapts the 1782 novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, modernized among wealthy high school teenagers in New York City.[3]

Initially a smaller-budget independent film, it was picked up by Columbia Pictures and widely released March 5, 1999. Despite mixed critical reviews, the performances of Gellar, Philippe, and Witherspoon were praised and Cruel Intentions has since grossed $76 million worldwide. The box office success spawned a prequel in 2000 and sequel in 2004, as well as a jukebox musical in 2015.


In an upscale New York City mansion, wealthy and popular teenager Kathryn Merteuil discusses her prep school with Mrs. Caldwell and her daughter, Cecile. Kathryn promises Mrs. Caldwell that she will look out for the naive Cecile. When Kathryn's stepbrother Sebastian Valmont enters the room, Mrs. Caldwell reacts to him coldly and leaves with Cecile.

Kathryn tells Sebastian that she intends to use Cecile to take revenge on her ex-lover Court Reynolds, who dumped her for Cecile. Kathryn asks Sebastian to seduce Cecile, thereby spoiling her in Court's eyes. Sebastian refuses because he is planning to seduce Annette Hargrove, the headmaster's virgin daughter, who has published an essay in support of chastity until marriage.

After some negotiation, they agree on a wager: if Sebastian fails to seduce Annette, Kathryn gets Sebastian's vintage Jaguar XK140; if he succeeds, Kathryn will have sex with him, suggesting possibility of anal as well, since Kathryn is the only girl Sebastian has failed to bed.

Sebastian's first attempt to seduce Annette fails, as she already knows about his bad reputation. Sebastian discovers that Mrs. Caldwell, Cecile's mother, warned Annette about him. He finally agrees to corrupt Cecile out of revenge.

Meanwhile, Cecile confides in Kathryn about her romance with her older music teacher, Ronald Clifford. Kathryn reveals the romance to Mrs. Caldwell, who orders Cecile to end the relationship, her disapproval arising out of his race. Sebastian lures Cecile to his house, offering a letter from Ronald. He then gets Cecile drunk and blackmails her in order to trick her into allowing him to perform oral sex on her. The next day, Cecile confides in Kathryn, who advises her to be as promiscuous as possible to learn how to please Ronald.

Sebastian begins to truly fall in love with Annette, who returns his feelings but is still hesitant. Sebastian calls her a hypocrite because although she claims to be waiting for her one true love, she resists him when he chooses to love her back. Annette finally relents. But Sebastian, confused about his own feelings, now refuses her. Annette flees to the estate of her friend's parents. Sebastian finds her and professes his love, and they consummate their relationship.

Kathryn offers herself to Sebastian after he wins the 'bet', but he rejects her, because he now only wants Annette, which leaves Kathryn enraged and jealous. Sebastian informs her that he was planning to tell Annette the truth. Kathryn warns him that doing so will destroy both his and Annette's reputations. Sebastian lies to Annette, claiming he just wanted to see what she was like in bed, and that he has no real feelings for her. Devastated, Annette tells him to leave.

Sebastian informs Kathryn that he has broken up with Annette and now wants his reward for winning the bet. Kathryn reveals that he, and not Annette, was the true victim of her scheme: for her own amusement, she manipulated him into abandoning Annette once she realized that he truly loved her. She then dismisses him, telling him that she doesn't sleep with "losers".

Sebastian desperately tries to contact Annette to confess the truth and beg for a second chance, but she refuses to see him. He gives her his journal, in which he has detailed Kathryn's manipulative schemes, their bet, and his true feelings for Annette.

Ronald starts a fist fight with Sebastian after Kathryn tells him that Sebastian hit her and violated Cecile. Annette tries to intervene, but is thrown into traffic; Sebastian is hit by a taxi when he pushes her to safety. Before dying, Sebastian confesses his love for her and Annette tells him she loves him, too. Annette and Ronald kneel in the street to tend to a dying Sebastian.

In her eulogy at Sebastian's funeral, Kathryn says she tried to set an example for her late brother. When people start leaving midway through her speech, Kathryn rushes outside to find Cecile handing out copies of Sebastian's journal. As the details of her manipulations and drug abuse are made public, Kathryn's reputation is finally destroyed. Ronald also writes a detailed confession in how she lied to him about Cecile not being a virgin and how she lied to him about Sebastian hitting her. It is implied that the disapproving headmaster will expel her from the school, especially after finding cocaine hidden in the cross of her rosary.

In the final scene, Annette drives away in Sebastian's car with his journal at her side, recalling their fondest moments together.



Old Westbury Gardens was one of the filming locations.

One of the filming locations was Old Westbury Gardens in Nassau County, New York, as well as the Harry F. Sinclair House in New York City.[4] In a 2016 interview, Sarah Michelle Gellar revealed that the original title of the movie was to be "Cruel Inventions".[5]


Cruel Intentions received mixed reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a score of 55%, based on reviews from 115 critics, with an average score of 5.3/10. The site's consensus stated: "This darkly comic drama and its attractive young cast are easy on the eyes, but uneven performances and an uninspired script conspire to foil Cruel Intentions."[6] Metacritic gave the film an average score of 56% based on reviews from 24 critics.[7] 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."[8] Stephen Holden of 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."[9] Despite this, Roger Ebert, a noted film critic for The Chicago Sun-Times, praised Cruel Intentions and gave the film three out of four stars in his review, stating that it was "smart and merciless in the tradition of the original story."[10] Cruel Intentions was a commercial success, grossing $13,020,565 in its opening weekend, ranking #2 behind Analyze This; released in 2,312 theaters, the movie raked in $76.3 worldwide against a $10.5 million budget.[1][11]

The movie was nominated for Worst Remake at the 1999 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards, but lost to The Haunting.[12]


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 Choice Drama Movie Won
Choice Movie Actor (Ryan Phillippe) Nominated
Choice Movie Actress (Reese Witherspoon) Nominated
Choice Love Scene (Reese Witherspoon, Ryan Phillippe) Nominated
Choice Movie Villain (Sarah Michelle Gellar) Won
Choice Movie Soundtrack Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Remake Nominated


The Cruel Intentions soundtrack is a compilation soundtrack released on March 9, 1999, by Arista/Virgin Records. It reached number 60 on the Billboard chart.[13] The lead track for the film was "Bitter Sweet Symphony" by rock band The Verve.

Subsequent media[edit]

Direct-to-video films[edit]

Cruel Intentions 2 was released direct-to-video in 2001, written and directed by Roger Kumble, assembled from three episodes filmed for Manchester Prep, a prequel series scrapped by Fox. The story features younger versions of Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil played by Robin Dunne and Amy Adams.

Cruel Intentions 3 followed in 2004, directed by Scott Ziehl, starring Kerr Smith and Kristina Anapau, as Cassidy Merteuil, cousin to Kathryn.

Planned revival series[edit]

NBC announced in October 2015 that they had picked up a television pilot for a continuation of the film's storyline, which was to be written by Kumble, Jordan Ross and Lindsey Rosin, with Sebastian Valmont and Annette Hargrove's son being the main character.[14] In February 2016, Taylor John Smith and Samantha Logan were cast, with Smith playing the male lead role of Bash Casey, Sebastian Valmont and Annette Hargrove's son.[15] Gellar reached a deal with producers to reprise her role as the female lead, Kathryn Merteuil.[16] In March, Kate Levering was cast in the role of Annette Hargrove.[17] On October 31, 2016, NBC announced the series would not go forward.[18] In October 2021, it was announced a new adaptation of Cruel Intentions was in development for IMDb TV.[19]


A 1990s jukebox musical by Kumble, Rosin, and Ross, was first staged in 2015. After two runs in Los Angeles and a pop-up engagement in New York, Cruel Intentions: The '90s Musical made its Off-Broadway debut at the Greenwich Village nightclub Le Poisson Rouge in November 2017 and ran through April 2018. Set to pop and rock hits of the 1990s and songs from the film's soundtrack, the plot follows the manipulations of Sebastian Valmont and Kathryn Merteuil, out to destroy anyone who gets in their way.[20]


  1. ^ a b c "Cruel Intentions (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  2. ^ "The Fault in Our Stars (2014)". The Numbers. Nash Information Services, LLC. Archived from the original on September 18, 2016. Retrieved August 10, 2016.
  3. ^ White, Adam (August 21, 2017). "The cult of Cruel Intentions: how a debauched teen movie seduced a generation". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  4. ^ "Cruel Intentions – 1999". Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  5. ^ "Sarah Michelle Gellar reveals original title of 'Cruel Intentions' movie". The Indian Express. February 27, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  6. ^ "Cruel Intentions". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved February 10, 2021.
  7. ^ "Cruel Intentions Reviews, Ratings, Credits". Metacritic. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  8. ^ Taylor, Charles. (March 5, 1999). "Cruel Intentions". Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  9. ^ Holden, Stephen. (March 5, 1999). "'Cruel Intentions': Back to Their Old Tricks, but a Whole Lot Younger". The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  10. ^ "Cruel Intentions Movie Review (1999)". March 5, 1999. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  11. ^ Keating, Shannon. "It's Been 20 Years Since "Cruel Intentions," And There's Never Been Another Movie Quite Like It". Buzzfeed News. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  12. ^ "Press Release – Stinkers 1999 Winners". February 17, 2002. Archived from the original on February 17, 2002.
  13. ^ "Billboard 200 – The Week of March 27, 1999". Billboard. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  14. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 2, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions' Reboot Gets NBC Pilot Order". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  15. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 23, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Taylor John Smith Set As the Male Lead, Samantha Logan Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  16. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 24, 2016). "Sarah Michelle Gellar To Reprise 'Cruel Intentions' Role In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  17. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Kate Levering To Play Reese Witherspoon's Annette In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  18. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (October 31, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions' Not Going Forward At NBC, To Be Shopped Elsewhere By Sony". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  19. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (October 1, 2021). "'Cruel Intentions' Series Reboot In Works at IMDb TV".
  20. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy. "Cruel Intentions Musical Extends Off-Broadway Run for Third & Final Time",, February 20, 2018

External links[edit]