D.E.B.S. (2004 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAngela Robinson
Screenplay byAngela Robinson
Based onD.E.B.S.
by Angela Robinson
Produced by
CinematographyM. David Mullen
Edited byAngela Robinson
Music bySteven M. Stern
Distributed bySamuel Goldwyn Films
Release dates
  • January 22, 2004 (2004-01-22) (Sundance)
  • March 25, 2005 (2005-03-25) (United States)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.5 million[2]
Box office$97,446[3]

D.E.B.S. is a 2004 American action comedy film written, edited and directed by Angela Robinson, a feature-length adaptation of her 2003 short film of the same name. D.E.B.S. follows the relationship between spy-in-training Amy Bradshaw and supervillain Lucy Diamond.

Despite mixed critical reviews and underperforming at the box office on its initial release, it went on to become a cult film in the following years.[4]


Embedded in the SAT is a secret test that determines aptitude for espionage. Women who score highly on the test are recruited into D.E.B.S. (Discipline, Energy, Beauty, Strength), a clandestine paramilitary academy. Four D.E.B.S.—squad leader Max, naïve Janet, promiscuous Dominique, and Amy, who dreams of attending art school despite being the academy's top recruit—are tasked by Ms. Petrie and Mr. Phipps, the heads of D.E.B.S., to surveil Lucy Diamond. Diamond is an infamous supercriminal, known for her operations, thefts, an alleged attempt to sink Australia, as well as supposedly killing every agent that goes up against her. Amy in particular is interested in Lucy due to writing a senior thesis about her. It is believed that Lucy is meeting Russian assassin Ninotchka Kaprova. Unbeknownst to them, Lucy is a rather neurotic woman, who has trouble opening up to people. Her meeting with Ninotchka is, in fact, a blind date.

In the meantime, Amy has recently broken up with her pushy and controlling boyfriend, Bobby, a fellow agent. The D.E.B.S. observe Lucy's date with Ninotchka, and are interrupted by Bobby, who is on his own stakeout, with several intelligence agencies also observing Lucy. Lucy has trouble connecting with Ninotchka, and tries to call off the date. Amy gets into an argument with Bobby, demanding answers on their breakup, which catches Lucy's attention. A shootout ensues, during which Max reminds Janet that she has not yet earned her D.E.B.S. stripes, and Lucy flees while being chased by the D.E.B.S. Lucy is caught in a standoff with Amy, but they end up having a friendly conversation. Lucy escapes when Amy's attention wavers, and the D.E.B.S. praise Amy for being the only person to have ever faced Lucy and lived.

Lucy quickly takes a liking to Amy, and against the advice of her friend and henchman, Scud, sneaks into Amy's dorm. Lucy initially says she wants to help Amy on her thesis, but ends up coercing her into joining her at a nightclub, along with Janet, who witnesses Lucy speaking with Amy. During this trip, Lucy and Amy grow closer and have a conversation about their lives and relationships. Lucy even clarifies that the deaths of the agents sent after her were happenstance. Janet and Scud also befriend each other. When the two open up to each other, Lucy and Amy are about to kiss, but are interrupted by Janet.

Later, Amy is promoted to squad leader, replacing Max, much to Max's jealousy. Ms. Petrie plans on using Amy's encounter with Lucy to boost the D.E.B.S. image and reputation. Amy is hesitant to talk about her encounter due to her growing feelings for Lucy. The D.E.B.S. respond to a bank heist orchestrated by Lucy, which she has committed in order to see Amy again. When Lucy and Amy are alone, the two kiss, and Lucy talks Amy into running off with her. The D.E.B.S. assume Amy has been kidnapped and organize a nationwide manhunt to find her. In the meantime, Lucy and Amy enjoy having an actual relationship with one another, while Janet covers for them (and also develops feelings for Scud, whom she has a secret correspondence with).

On the basis of a tip from a jealous Ninotchka, the D.E.B.S. and Bobby discover Amy and Lucy while they are having sex. When Amy returns to the academy, Ms. Petrie prepares to exile Amy, but Max convinces her to claim that Amy was kidnapped and brainwashed in order to protect their reputation. Amy becomes depressive when forced to go along with the story, and Bobby tries to coerce Amy into getting back together with him. When Lucy tries to see Amy again, Amy is forced to reject her. In the meantime, Lucy comes to realize she is not happy with her life of crime. In an attempt to win Amy back, Lucy returns everything she has ever stolen, and publicly turns over a new leaf.

At the time of the D.E.B.S. year-end dance, Amy is to be made D.E.B. of the year and deliver a speech where she is to denounce Lucy. Janet talks with Dominique and Max, who start to realize how unhappy Amy actually is. Lucy infiltrates the academy during the dance. When Bobby discovers this, he plans to track her down and kill her. Lucy evades Bobby only to hear Amy's speech about her experience as Lucy's captive. When Amy and Lucy meet eyes, Amy retracts her entire speech, and runs off-stage to be with Lucy. Petrie, Bobby and the rest of the academy try to track them down, when Lucy and Amy are cornered by Max, Janet, and Dominique. When Amy reminds Max of her promise to always be her friend, they give their blessings to Lucy and Amy, and allow them to make their escape. Max finally awards Janet her D.E.B.S. stripes, and Janet and Scud begin a relationship. Lucy and Amy ride off into the night, heads on one another's shoulders.


Ritchie was the only cast member from the short film to reprise her role in the expansion.


Inception [edit]

Director, writer, and editor Angela Robinson began to draw comics about the D.E.B.S. in college as a sideline to her writing.[5] She received a $20,000 grant from POWER UP to make an 11-minute short based on the concept, which toured a number of film festivals, including the Sundance Film Festival.[6][7] Clint Culpepper, then president of Screen Gems, liked the short and gave the green light to develop it into a feature film.[7][8]


Box office[edit]

D.E.B.S. was released in 45 theaters. Over 21 days, it grossed $97,446.[3]

Critical response[edit]

D.E.B.S. received a 42% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes based on 64 reviews. The website's critics consensus reads, "Lacking enough material for a full-length movie, D.E.B.S. is short on both plot and laughs."[9] On Metacritic, it has a weighted average score of 42% based on reviews from 21 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[10]

In a positive review, Stephen Hunter of The Washington Post praised the film for poking fun at various tropes in spy films and not taking itself too seriously, saying “much of the fun of the innocent little thing is the riffs that [Angela] Robinson plays on familiar genre strokes. A gunfight in a nightclub, with sparks flying, guns blasting, glasses busting, shooters diving, has all the hallmarks of John Woo-style mayhem in full bloom.”[11] He added the film “arrives with sparkly production values and extreme confidence in every scene. It's so spoofy it's difficult to call it ‘good’ or even ‘bad’; just say it's smooth.”[11] Hunter further discussed how the film presents queerness in a normalized way, saying the film is “not gay in that in-your-face, zealous manner of so many films more interested in advocacy than art or commerce. It's gay in what might be called a homo-normative way. That is, it accepts same-sex attraction as a norm, something not at all ‘unusual’ or strange but something so a part of the landscape it doesn't require comment.”[11]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave a one-star rating and said, "You might think there's no downside to a movie that peeks up the skirts of babes in micro-minis, but writer-director Angela Robinson's dimwitted satire is libido-killing proof to the contrary."[12]

A positive reaction from a producer at a film festival screening led to Robinson making a deal to direct the 2005 Disney remake Herbie: Fully Loaded.[11]


Year Festival Award Recipients Result
2004 Berlin International Film Festival Reader Jury of the "Siegessäule" Angela Robinson Won
2005 Black Movie Awards Outstanding Achievement in Writing Angela Robinson Nominated
2005 Black Movie Awards Outstanding Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role Meagan Good Nominated


The film has since gained a cult following in the LGBT community and continues to be screened at specialty theaters.[4][13] Anna Govert of Paste wrote "in the 20 years since this film debuted, there is still a distinct lack of lesbian films (let alone lesbian rom-coms) that are as effortlessly queer, undeniably heartfelt and innately rewatchable" and that "D.E.B.S. remains a cornerstone of lesbian cinema, and a cult classic always worth revisiting".[14] Maddy Myers, for Polygon, commented that the film "feels like a movie that teenage-me, a queer kid who adored screwball comedies, was meant to watch a billion times. I have to make up for lost time as an adult, and you might, too. Sadly, it isn't streaming anywhere, but don't let that stop you".[15]

Academic Claire Hines, in her article "The Queer Female Action Spy Hero in Post-Millennial American Cinema", highlighted that "when D.E.B.S. was released the queer press responded positively to the film as part of a wider breakthrough" and that the film "is also recognized by action scholars as significant in the development of the female action hero".[16] Hines commented that "the use of camp is especially important to the challenges that D.E.B.S. makes to the heteronormative codes and conventions of spy action. [...] D.E.B.S. makes a strong statement about the female action hero as a queer figure, the (guilty) pleasures of spy action and teen romantic comedy and is intentionally playful with the secret identity trope".[16]


  1. ^ "D.E.B.S. (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. August 30, 2004. Archived from the original on August 22, 2023. Retrieved August 21, 2023.
  2. ^ "D.E.B.S. – Box Office". IMDb. Archived from the original on April 26, 2022. Retrieved April 30, 2022.
  3. ^ a b "D.E.B.S. (2004)". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved July 18, 2007.
  4. ^ a b Knegt, Peter (April 1, 2005). "D.E.B.S." Exclaim!. Archived from the original on April 17, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  5. ^ Robinson, Angela, et al. "Infiltrating the D.E.B.S." (Featurette) DVD. Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, D.E.B.S. UPC/EAN: 0043396111301, 7 June 2005.
  6. ^ Warn, Sarah (June 2003). "D.E.B.S. the Movie: Will the Lesbians Stay in the Picture?". AfterEllen.com. Archived from the original on July 16, 2012. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  7. ^ a b "5 Questions for "D.E.B.S." director Angela Robinson". IndieWire. June 13, 2005. Archived from the original on April 25, 2022. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  8. ^ "Angela Robinson gets feature deal for D.E.B.S." The Advocate. January 25, 2003. Archived from the original on January 31, 2023. Retrieved April 25, 2022.
  9. ^ "D.E.B.S. (2004)". Rotten Tomatoes. Archived from the original on January 16, 2021. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  10. ^ "D.E.B.S. (2004)". Metacritic. Archived from the original on April 24, 2018. Retrieved December 24, 2018.
  11. ^ a b c d Hunter, Stephen (March 25, 2005). "'D.E.B.S.': High School Confidential Agents". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 25, 2020. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  12. ^ Travers, Peter (March 24, 2005). "D.E.B.S." Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on April 23, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  13. ^ "Classic movies in SoCal: 'Dredd,' 'Diva,' 'D.E.B.S.,' 'Deliverance,' 'Dancer in the Dark'". Los Angeles Times. March 3, 2022. Archived from the original on April 16, 2022. Retrieved April 17, 2022.
  14. ^ "20 Years On, D.E.B.S.' Campy Lesbian Romance Is Still a Delight to Behold". Paste Magazine. January 22, 2024. Archived from the original on January 22, 2024. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  15. ^ Myers, Maddy (January 22, 2024). "DEBS, the gay Charlie's Angels movie, is still too obscure". Polygon. Archived from the original on January 22, 2024. Retrieved January 23, 2024.
  16. ^ a b Hines, Claire (January 1, 2022), Gerrard, Steven; Middlemost, Renée (eds.), "The Queer Female Action Spy Hero in Post-millennial American Cinema", Gender and Action Films 2000 and Beyond, Emerald Studies in Popular Culture and Gender, Emerald Publishing Limited, pp. 147–159, doi:10.1108/978-1-80117-518-020221016, ISBN 978-1-80117-518-0, retrieved January 23, 2024

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