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Malice (1993 film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byHarold Becker
Screenplay byAaron Sorkin
Scott Frank
Story byAaron Sorkin
Jonas McCord
Produced byHarold Becker
Charles Mulvehill
Rachel Pfeffer
CinematographyGordon Willis
Edited byDavid Bretherton
Music byJerry Goldsmith
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 1, 1993 (1993-10-01)
Running time
107 minutes[1]
Budget$20 million
Box office$61 million[4]

Malice is a 1993 neo-noir[5] thriller film directed by Harold Becker, written by Aaron Sorkin and Scott Frank, and starring Alec Baldwin, Nicole Kidman, Bill Pullman, Anne Bancroft and George C. Scott. Adapted from a story by Jonas McCord, the plot follows Andy and Tracy Safian, a newlywed couple whose lives are upturned after they rent part of their Victorian home to Jed, a cavalier surgeon; things are further complicated when he removes Tracy's ovaries during an emergency surgery to save her life. The film features supporting performances from Bebe Neuwirth, Peter Gallagher, and Tobin Bell, with minor appearances from Gwyneth Paltrow and Brenda Strong.

An international co-production between the United States and Canada and released in the fall of 1993, Malice grossed a total of $61 million worldwide and received mixed reviews from critics. It proved successful in the video rental market, becoming one of the top 20 rented films in the United States for 1994.[6]



In a Massachusetts college town, newlyweds Andy and Tracy Safian are having sex when they notice the young boy next door at his window, seemingly watching them.

Andy is an Associate Dean at a women's college. When a student on campus is wounded by a serial rapist, Dr. Jed Hill, a newly arrived surgeon at the local hospital, operates and saves her life. Meeting Jed, Andy realizes that they attended high school together. Money is tight, so Andy invites Jed, who is looking for an apartment, to rent the third floor of their Victorian home to finance new plumbing.

Andy finds the body of one of his students, murdered by the rapist. Interviewing Andy as a possible suspect, Police detective Dana Harris requests a semen sample. While leaving the station, Andy learns that Tracy was hospitalized for severe abdominal pain and Jed is operating on her. While removing one of her ovaries, ruptured due to a cyst, Jed discovers Tracy is pregnant, but the surgery causes the fetus to abort. Another doctor notices that Tracy's other ovary is torsed and appears necrotic. Jed advises Andy to agree to the removal of Tracy's second ovary, rather than risk her life. Andy painfully agrees, since Tracy will become infertile. Overruling the protests of other doctors that the other ovary might still be healthy, Jed removes it. After removal, the ovary is found healthy. Blaming Andy for his consent and her infertility, Tracy leaves him and sues Jed for malpractice.

During a deposition in which Jed is accused of having a God complex, he declares himself above reproach as a surgeon, asserting, "I am God," due to his ability to heal patients, before storming out. Tracy's lawyer reveals that Jed was drinking the night of the operation. Fearful of negative publicity from a civil trial, the hospital and Jed's insurance company settle with Tracy for $20 million.

Andy discovers that the rapist is Earl, a handyman at the college. After a struggle, Andy subdues Earl, who is arrested. In the aftermath, Dana informs Andy that his semen sample indicates he is sterile, thus he was not the father of Tracy’s aborted child. When Andy accuses Tracy's lawyer, Dennis Riley, of having impregnated Tracy, Riley asserts his innocence but refuses to break attorney–client privilege. Riley suggests, however, that Tracy's mother—who supposedly died 12 years previously—can answer his questions, advising Andy to take a bottle of Scotch to her.

Andy tracks down Tracy's mother, a resentful alcoholic who reveals Tracy as a lifelong con artist and declares Andy an easy mark. Previously, Tracy had an affair with a wealthy man, who paid for her to have an abortion. Tracy began her career as a con woman by keeping the money and having the abortion at a clinic. Tracy next took up with a “Dr. Lilienfield”. Following up these leads, Andy learns that “Lilienfield” is Jed and that he and Tracy set Andy up so Jed could move into the house, injecting her with pergonal, which causes ovarian cysts in overdose. Confronting Tracy, Andy demands half the settlement money. Pointedly, he tells her that his will directs police to their 10-year-old next-door neighbor as a witness to her and Jed's crimes.

Tracy asks Jed to murder the boy, but Jed refuses to kill for her, telling Tracy to give Andy what he wants so they can leave the country. During a quarrel, Jed blames Tracy’s greed for exposing Andy’s infertility by getting pregnant to increase the settlement, and Tracy murders Jed. She then slips into the neighbor's house and attempts to suffocate the boy, only to find a dummy in his place. Enraged, Tracy attacks Andy after he walks in on her. Struggling, they fall down a stair landing from the second floor, but survive. Detective Harris appears and arrests Tracy, revealing that the boy's ability to testify against her was part of a sting operation to catch her in the act of attempted murder.

As Tracy is led away in handcuffs to a police cruiser, the boy and his mother return home, and Tracy notices that he is blind. Andy leaves with Dana to have a drink of Scotch.





Malice was shot on location in Boston, Amherst, Holyoke, and Northampton in Massachusetts.[1] Smith College was the setting used for Andy's college.[1] Michael Hirsh and Patrick Loubert, two of the co-founders of Canadian animation studio Nelvana, worked as executive producers on the film.[7] Aaron Sorkin expressed his disappointment with the film in 2017, saying, "Early on in my career, I wrote a movie that I’m not very proud of at all, it just turned into a mess." He recounted how Harold Becker asked Sorkin to write a "steamy" sex scene between Alec Baldwin and Nicole Kidman's characters, which he refused: “I said, ‘Are you out of your mind?’ First of all, I just did a movie with her husband [Tom Cruise]. And second of all, no, I'm not going to write down what I'd like to see Nicole do and then hand the pages out to the crew and Nicole.”[8] The scene was eventually created and filmed without the help of Sorkin.



Malice had its world premiere in Los Angeles on September 29, 1993,[9] and opened on 1,431 screens in the U.S. on October 1, 1993 and grossed $9,232,650 during its opening weekend, ranking number 1 at the US box office. It eventually grossed a total of $46,405,336 in the U.S. and Canada and $15.2 million internationally for a worldwide total of $61.6 million,[10][4]

Critical reception


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a 57% approval rating based on 30 reviews.[11] On Metacritic it has a score of 52% based on reviews from 17 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[12] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[13]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times called the film "one of the busiest movies I've ever seen, a film jampacked with characters and incidents and blind alleys and red herrings. Offhand, this is the only movie I can recall in which an entire subplot about a serial killer is thrown in simply for atmosphere." He added, "I can't go into detail without revealing vital secrets. Yet after the movie is over and you try to think through those secrets, you get into really deep molasses . . . Malice was directed by Harold Becker, whose credits include the splendid films The Onion Field and Sea of Love, and he milks this material for a great deal more than it is worth."[14]

Peter Travers of Rolling Stone observed, "Goaded on by writer Aaron Sorkin, who could run a red-herring factory, the actors work to keep you guessing long after you've caught on. No one shows any shame about going over the top, especially Anne Bancroft in an Oscar-begging cameo as Tracy's mother. Perhaps director Harold Becker thought flashy acting could distract us from the gaping plot holes. Becker gets so intent on confusing us, he forgets to give us characters to care about . . . It's got suspense but no staying power."[15] Vincent Canby of The New York Times wrote: "No matter how wild the plot reversals, there's always a slightly madder one to come."[16]

Timothy M. Gray of Variety said, "The immaculately crafted Malice is a virtual scrapbook of elements borrowed from other suspense pix, but no less enjoyable for being so familiar. [It] should tickle audiences who want to be entertained without being challenged . . . Some of the plotting gets plodding . . . but on the whole, the script does what it set out to do, and if the filmmakers didn't worry about these things, neither should you . . . After listless performances in such pics as Days of Thunder and Far and Away, Aussie Kidman, who here uses a flawless American accent, proves her strengths as an actress, and Baldwin mixes menace, sex and humor in another terrific performance."[17]


In the 30 Rock episode "St. Valentine's Day", Jack Donaghy, portrayed by Baldwin, confesses to a priest that he once said "I am God" during a deposition. This is a reference to a famous line by Jed Hill, Baldwin's character in this film.[18]

In the episode "Terms of Endearment" of the animated television series Drawn Together, the character Wooldoor Sockbat recites the closing lines of Baldwin's speech verbatim.[19]

See also



  1. ^ a b c "Malice". AFI Catalog of Feature Films.
  2. ^ "Malice". BFI. Archived from the original on October 13, 2017. Retrieved 16 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Malice (1993)". Kinorium. Retrieved 12 December 2023.
  4. ^ a b "Top 100 grossers worldwide, '93-94". Variety. October 17, 1994. p. M-56.
  5. ^ Hardy 1997, p. 131.
  6. ^ "Top Video Rentals" (PDF). Billboard. January 7, 1995. p. 65.
  7. ^ Adilman, Sid (October 6, 1993). "Toronto producers share movie gravy". Toronto Star. Torstar Corporation. p. D.2. Archived from the original on November 3, 2012. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  8. ^ Sharf, Zack (9 November 2017). "Aaron Sorkin Was Pushed to Write a 'Steamy' Sexy Scene for Nicole Kidman in 'Malice' and Refused". IndieWire.
  9. ^ "World Premiere of "Malice" – September 29, 1993". Getty Images. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  10. ^ "Box office information for Malice". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 15, 2010.
  11. ^ "Malice (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango Media. Retrieved April 17, 2018.
  12. ^ "Malice". Metacritic. Retrieved 2021-03-01.
  13. ^ "MALICE (1993) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  14. ^ Ebert, Roger (October 1, 1993). "Malice". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 2, 2021.
  15. ^ Travers, Peter (October 1, 1993). "Malice". Rolling Stone. Retrieved August 25, 2022.
  16. ^ Canby, Vincent (1 October 1993). "Reviews/ Film; An Idyll Shattered By Rape and Murder". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Gray, Tim (September 24, 1993). "Review: Malice". Variety. Retrieved February 28, 2018.
  18. ^ Jack Burditt, Tina Fey, writers; Don Scardino, director (February 12, 2009). "St. Valentine's Day". 30 Rock. Season 3. Episode 11. NBC.
  19. ^ "Terms of Endearment". Drawn Together. Season 2. Episode 8. January 26, 2006. Comedy Central.

Works cited