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Cruel Intentions

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Cruel Intentions
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 by
  • 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]
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 film is a modern retelling of Pierre Choderlos de Laclos' 1782 novel Les Liaisons dangereuses, set in New York City among rich high schoolers.[2]

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

Since its release the film has become regarded as a cult classic.[3][4]


In New York City, wealthy teenager Sebastian Valmont regularly manipulates and seduces women, but wants to find someone who poses a challenge to his charm. He settles on Annette Hargrove, the daughter of his new school headmaster, who is staunchly opposed to sex before falling in love. Sebastian and his equally manipulative step sister, the intelligent and popular Kathryn Merteuil, agree to a bet: if Sebastian fails to seduce Annette then Kathryn gets his vintage Jaguar XK140; if he wins Kathryn will finally have sex with him. Kathryn tries to recruit Sebastian into her own scheme to take revenge on her ex-boyfriend Court Reynolds, who left her because of her promiscuity and began dating the naive and innocent Cecile Caldwell.

Sebastian's initial efforts to seduce Annette fail as she has been informed of his reputation. He suspects Annette's friend Greg, a popular footballer and closeted homosexual, and blackmails him into convincing Annette he is a good person. Sebastian also learns that it was Cecile's mother that warned Annette and agrees to corrupt Cecile as revenge. Kathryn notices romantic tension between Cecile and her young music teacher Ronald Clifford and reveals this to Cecile's mother, who fires Ronald. Sebastian and Kathryn convince Ronald to fight for Cecile by writing her a love letter which Sebastian uses to lure Cecile to his bedroom, where he blackmails her into receiving oral sex from him. The next day, Kathryn advises Cecile to have sex with Sebastian and be as promiscuous as possible so she can please Ronald.

Spending time with Annette, Sebastian develops genuine feelings for her, attracted to her honesty and ability to make the normally stoic Sebastian laugh. He kisses Annette but she resists because she also has feelings for him and fears she cannot restrain herself around him. Sebastian calls her a hypocrite for rejecting the opportunity for true love and she finally relents and begins undressing, but Sebastian, confused about his own feelings, declines to have sex with her. Annette leaves the following day but Sebastian finds her, professes his feelings, and they have sex.

A jealous Kathryn tries to seduce Sebastian, but is frustrated that her hold over him has been broken by his feelings for Annette, and she convinces him that he cannot change his true nature. Sebastian plans to tell Annette the truth about the bet but Kathryn warns him that he will only destroy both his and Annette's reputations. He meets with Annette and lies to her, claiming he only wanted to have sex with her and has no real feelings for her. Devastated, Annette tells him to leave. Sebastian tells Kathryn that he has broken up with Annette and now wants his reward for winning the bet but she dismisses him. Kathryn reveals that he was the true target of her scheme and that she manipulated him into feeling shame over his love for Annette for her own amusement.

Sebastian 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. Seeking revenge, Kathryn calls Ronald, claiming that Sebastian hurt her and slept with Cecile. Ronald violently confronts Sebastian, and the ensuing fight migrates to the middle of the street. Annette tries to intervene but is thrown into traffic and though Sebastian pushes her to safety, he is struck by a taxi. Sebastian and Annette confess their love for each other before he dies.

At Sebastian's funeral, Kathryn, unmoved by Sebastian's death, delivers a eulogy, but people start leaving while she is still speaking. Kathryn rushes outside to find Cecile handing out copies of Sebastian's journal, titled Cruel Intentions. As the details of her manipulations, promiscuity, and drug abuse are made public, Kathryn weeps as her reputation and good-girl persona are destroyed. Annette drives down a highway in Sebastian's car while wearing his sunglasses and 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.[5] In a 2016 interview, Sarah Michelle Gellar revealed that the original title of the movie was to be "Cruel Inventions".[6]


Cruel Intentions received mixed reviews from critics. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval score of 54% based on reviews from 114 critics, with an average rating of 5.20/10. The site's consensus states: "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".[7] Metacritic gave the film an average score of 56 out of 100 based on reviews from 24 critics.[8]

Charles Taylor of Salon.com described the film as "the dirtiest-minded American movie in recent memory – and an honestly corrupt entertaining picture is never anything to sneeze at".[9] Stephen Holden of The New York Times wrote: "You have the queasy sense that the whole thing is just an elaborate stunt and, in this case, an exploitative one."[10] Roger Ebert of 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".[11]

Box office[edit]

Cruel Intentions was a commercial success, grossing $13,020,565 in its opening weekend, ranking No. 2 behind Analyze This; released in 2,312 theaters, the movie raked in $76.3 worldwide against a $10.5 million budget.[1][12]

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Blockbuster Entertainment Awards[13] Favorite Supporting Actress – Drama/Romance Reese Witherspoon Won
Csapnivalo Awards Best Movie Nominated
Best Teen Movie Nominated
Best Movie Soundtrack Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Sarah Michelle Gellar Nominated
Best Original Score Edward Shearmur Won
Golden Trailer Awards[14] Trashiest Trailer Won
MTV Movie Awards[15] Best Male Performance Ryan Phillippe Nominated
Best Female Performance Sarah Michelle Gellar Won
Best Breakthrough Female Performance Selma Blair Nominated
Best Villain Sarah Michelle Gellar Nominated
Best Kiss Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair Won
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Remake Nominated
Teen Choice Awards[16] Choice Drama Movie Won
Choice Movie Actor Ryan Phillippe Nominated
Choice Movie Actress Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Choice Movie Sleazebag Sarah Michelle Gellar Won
Ryan Phillippe Nominated
Choice Movie Hissy Fit Nominated
Choice Sexiest Love Scene Ryan Phillippe and Reese Witherspoon Nominated
Choice Movie Soundtrack Cruel Intentions Nominated
Vega Digital Awards Social Campaigns Won


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.[17] 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.

None of the cast from the original appeared in the sequels.

Canceled sequel series[edit]

NBC picked up a television pilot for a continuation of the film's storyline in October 2015. The pilot was set seventeen years after the events of the film and sees Bash Casey, son of Sebastian Valmont and Annette Hargrove, discover his late father's journal. Upon discovering this he is thrown into a world of lies, sex and power. The potential series was to have Kathryn Merteuil, Bash's step-aunt, attempt to gain power of Valmont International.[18]

Four months later in February, 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.[19] Gellar reached a deal with producers to reprise her role as the female lead, Kathryn Merteuil.[20] In March, Kate Levering was cast to replace Witherspoon for the role of Annette Hargrove.[21]

Several months later, on October 31, NBC passed on the project and the series did not go forward.[22]

Planned reboot series[edit]

As of October 2021, a television series reboot of Cruel Intentions was in development for IMDb TV (now Amazon Freevee).[23][24][25] In April 2023, the reboot was given a series order.[26]


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.[27]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Cruel Intentions (1999)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on May 10, 2013. Retrieved March 27, 2019.
  2. ^ White, Adam (August 21, 2017). "The cult of Cruel Intentions: how a debauched teen movie seduced a generation". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved February 18, 2019.
  3. ^ Brackett, Charmain (April 17, 2019). "Cruel Intentions is cult classic now made for stage". The Augusta Chronicle. Archived from the original on August 12, 2023. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  4. ^ Heller, Corinne; Lubitz, Spencer (September 18, 2021). "How Ryan Phillippe Really Feels About His Kids Watching Cruel Intentions". E!. Archived from the original on August 12, 2023. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  5. ^ "Cruel Intentions – 1999". movie-locations.com. Archived from the original on December 4, 2020. Retrieved January 30, 2019.
  6. ^ "Sarah Michelle Gellar reveals original title of 'Cruel Intentions' movie". The Indian Express. February 27, 2016. Archived from the original on February 28, 2016. Retrieved November 16, 2020.
  7. ^ "Cruel Intentions" Archived June 6, 2024, at the Wayback Machine. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved March 30, 2022.
  8. ^ "Cruel Intentions Reviews, Ratings, Credits" Archived December 24, 2021, at the Wayback Machine. Metacritic. Retrieved June 30, 2011.
  9. ^ Taylor, Charles. (March 5, 1999). "Cruel Intentions" Archived November 25, 2020, at the Wayback Machine. Salon.com. Retrieved 2014-06-14.
  10. ^ Holden, Stephen. (March 5, 1999). "'Cruel Intentions': Back to Their Old Tricks, but a Whole Lot Younger" Archived June 26, 2017, at the Wayback Machine. The New York Times. Retrieved 2011-06-30.
  11. ^ "Cruel Intentions Movie Review (1999)". RogerEbert.com. March 5, 1999. Archived from the original on January 25, 2021. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  12. ^ Keating, Shannon (March 5, 2019). "It's Been 20 Years Since "Cruel Intentions", And There's Never Been Another Movie Quite Like It". BuzzFeed News. Archived from the original on March 6, 2019. Retrieved March 7, 2019.
  13. ^ "Blockbuster Entertainment Award winners". Variety. May 9, 2000. Archived from the original on March 3, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  14. ^ "1st Golden Trailer Awards". Golden Trailer Awards. Archived from the original on November 4, 2016. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  15. ^ "2000 MTV Movie Awards". MTV. Archived from the original on October 6, 2001. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  16. ^ Passero, Laura (August 12, 1999). "Funky Categories Set Teen Choice Awards Apart". Hartford Courant. Archived from the original on August 22, 2015. Retrieved September 28, 2023.
  17. ^ "Billboard 200 – The Week of March 27, 1999". Billboard. January 2, 2013. Archived from the original on March 24, 2019. Retrieved June 18, 2019.
  18. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 2, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions' Reboot Gets NBC Pilot Order". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 4, 2016. Retrieved February 5, 2016.
  19. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 23, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Taylor John Smith Set As the Male Lead, Samantha Logan Cast". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 6, 2024. Retrieved February 23, 2016.
  20. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 24, 2016). "Sarah Michelle Gellar To Reprise 'Cruel Intentions' Role In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on February 25, 2016. Retrieved February 25, 2016.
  21. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (March 1, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions': Kate Levering To Play Reese Witherspoon's Annette In NBC Pilot". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 4, 2016. Retrieved April 4, 2016.
  22. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (October 31, 2016). "'Cruel Intentions' Not Going Forward At NBC, To Be Shopped Elsewhere By Sony". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on November 1, 2016. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
  23. ^ Lutkin, Aimee (October 2, 2021). "Cruel Intentions Is Rebooting as a TV Show In the Scandalous World of Politics". Elle. Archived from the original on April 9, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  24. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (October 1, 2021). "Cruel Intentions Series Reboot In Works at IMDb TV". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on April 12, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  25. ^ Waite, Thom (October 2, 2021). "Cruel Intentions is set to be rebooted as a TV series set in Washington DC". Dazed. Archived from the original on April 9, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  26. ^ Ausiello, Michael (April 4, 2023). "Cruel Intentions TV Adaptation Ordered to Series (Finally!) at Amazon". TVLine. Archived from the original on April 5, 2023. Retrieved April 5, 2023.
  27. ^ Lefkowitz, Andy (February 20, 2018). "Cruel Intentions Musical Extends Off-Broadway Run for Third & Final Time". Broadway.com. Archived from the original on December 24, 2021.
  28. ^ Page-Kirby, Kristin. "The battle of the blondes (and the brunettes)". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 13, 2019. Retrieved April 28, 2023.

External links[edit]