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The Virgin Suicides (film)

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The Virgin Suicides
Theatrical release poster
Directed bySofia Coppola
Screenplay bySofia Coppola
Based onThe Virgin Suicides
by Jeffrey Eugenides
Produced by
Narrated byGiovanni Ribisi
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited by
Music byAir
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • May 19, 1999 (1999-05-19) (Cannes)
  • April 21, 2000 (2000-04-21) (United States)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.1 million
Box office$10.4 million[1]

The Virgin Suicides is a 1999 American psychological romantic drama film[2] written and directed by Sofia Coppola in her feature directorial debut, and co-produced by her father, Francis Ford Coppola. It stars James Woods, Kathleen Turner, Kirsten Dunst, A.J. Cook, and Josh Hartnett, with Scott Glenn, Michael Paré, Jonathan Tucker, and Danny DeVito in supporting roles.

The film is based on the 1993 debut novel by Jeffrey Eugenides. The film follows the lives of five adolescent sisters in an upper-middle-class suburb of Detroit during 1975.

Shot in 1998 in Toronto, it features an original score by the French electronic band Air. The film marked the first collaboration between Sofia Coppola and Kirsten Dunst, whom Coppola later cast as the lead in several of her subsequent films.

The Virgin Suicides premiered at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival and received a limited theatrical release on April 21, 2000, in the United States, later expanding to a wide release in May 2000. The film earned largely positive reviews from critics, with the performances of the cast, Coppola's direction, visual style, and soundtrack receiving praise. It was also acclaimed for its lyrical representation of adolescent angst, and is recognized as a cult classic.[3]

In 2015, the film ranked number 39 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the "50 Best High School Movies".[4]


In the sleepy suburb of Grosse Pointe, Michigan, a group of neighborhood boys—now grown men—reflect upon their memories of the five Lisbon sisters, ages 13 to 17, in 1975. Unattainable due to their overprotective Catholic parents, math teacher Ronald Lisbon and his homemaker wife Sara, the girls—Therese, Mary, Bonnie, Lux, and Cecilia—are enigmas who fill the boys' conversations and dreams.

During the summer, the youngest sister, Cecilia, slits her wrist in a bathtub, but survives. Her therapist, Dr. Horniker, suggests to her parents that Cecilia's suicide attempt was a cry for help, and she would benefit from wider interaction with her peers, particularly boys. Despite this, Mrs. Lisbon is unwilling to allow her daughters a normal social life. Mr. Lisbon persuades her to allow a chaperoned party to make Cecilia feel better. However, after other boys make fun of Joe, a teenager with Down syndrome, Cecilia excuses herself and commits suicide by leaping from her second-story bedroom window, impaling herself onto a spiked iron fencepost below. Afterwards, the Lisbon parents watch over their remaining daughters even more closely. This further isolates the family and heightens the air of mystery surrounding the girls, particularly to the neighborhood boys.

At the beginning of the new school year, Lux, the most rebellious sister, forms a secret, short-lived romance with Trip Fontaine, the school heartthrob. In hopes of becoming closer to Lux, Trip comes over to the Lisbon residence and watches television with the family. Trip persuades Mr. Lisbon to let him take Lux to the homecoming dance by promising to provide dates for Therese, Mary and Bonnie, and going as a group, to which Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon agree, with Mr. Lisbon chaperoning the dance. After winning homecoming King and Queen, Trip persuades Lux to ditch their group and take a walk on the football field, where they end up having sex. Afterwards, Lux falls asleep and Trip abandons her. At dawn, Lux wakes up alone and takes a taxi home, being met by her distraught parents.

Due to Lux breaking curfew, the girls are all punished. By using light signals and sharing records over the telephone, they share their feelings with the group of neighbor boys. Lux rebels and becomes overtly promiscuous, having anonymous sexual encounters on her house's roof late at night with random boys and men; the neighborhood boys spy from across the street. After months of confinement, the sisters begin to leave notes outside for the boys. The girls eventually send a final note asking the boys to come over at midnight, ostensibly to escape from their house.

When the boys finally arrive that night, they find Lux alone in the living room, smoking a cigarette. Thinking they are going to help the girls escape, the boys are invited inside by Lux to wait for her sisters, while she goes to start the car. Curious, the boys wander into the basement after hearing a noise and discover Bonnie's body hanging from the ceiling rafters. Horrified, the boys rush back upstairs, only to stumble across the body of Mary in the kitchen who put her head in the gas oven. The boys realize the girls killed themselves in an apparent suicide pact: Therese overdosed on sleeping pills upstairs, and Lux died of carbon monoxide poisoning by leaving the car engine running in the closed garage.

Devastated by the suicides of all their children, Mr. and Mrs. Lisbon quietly flee the neighborhood and are never seen again. Mr. Lisbon has a friend clean out the house and sell the family belongings in a yard sale; family photos and other mementos are put out with the trash and collected by the boys. The house is eventually sold to a young couple from the Boston area.

Unsure of how to react to the events, the adults in the community go about their lives as if nothing traumatic happened, or even making fun of the suicides, but the boys cannot stop thinking about the Lisbon sisters and why they did what they did. Now adult men themselves, they acknowledge that they had loved the girls, and that the mystery surrounding their deaths will torment them for the rest of their lives.




Coppola wrote the script for the film in 1998 after the project was already greenlit at another studio, adapting it from the source novel, of which she was a fan.[5] Another script had already been written by Nick Gomez, but the production company that owned the rights at the time, Muse Productions, was dissatisfied with it.[6] After the rights to the novel lapsed,[5] Coppola pitched her manuscript to Muse executives Roberta and Chris Hanley, the latter of whom signed on to co-produce.[6] Coppola was inspired to write the film after reading the source novel: "I really didn't know I wanted to be a director until I read The Virgin Suicides and saw so clearly how it had to be done," she said. "I immediately saw the central story as being about what distance and time and memory do to you, and about the extraordinary power of the unfathomable."[7]


Kathleen Turner was the first actor to sign on to the project, playing the Lisbon girls' oppressive mother; Turner had known Coppola after they appeared together in Peggy Sue Got Married (1986).[7] James Woods was cast opposite Turner as the passive father. Woods was given the script by Coppola's father, Francis, and was so impressed by the script and the character's "dark humor" that he agreed to play the role.[7] For the part of Lux, Coppola auditioned numerous actresses, but had a "gut choice" of Kirsten Dunst, who was sixteen years old at the time of her casting.[8] Reflecting on the role, Dunst said: "I was nervous. It was my first role that was more of a 'sexy' thing. I was also unsure about how large the role was gonna be, because a lot of it was without dialogue. When I met Sofia, I immediately knew that she would handle it in a delicate way... [she] really brought out the luminous aspect of the girls; she made them like ethereal angels, almost like they weren't really there."[9]


The Virgin Suicides was filmed in the summer of 1998 in Toronto, Ontario, standing in for suburban Detroit, Michigan,[8] on a reported budget of $6 million.[10] The shoot lasted roughly one month.[10]

Coppola was inspired by photographer Takashi Homma's photos of suburban Japan when choosing the filming locations; "I have always been struck by the beauty of banal details," she said, "and that is what suburban style is all about."[7] The film's occasional use of stills and collages was intended to evoke the "fantasia" of adolescence.[7] Cinematographer Edward Lachman shot the film.[7] Coppola's brother, Roman Coppola, was the second-unit director on the film.[10]


French electronic music duo Air composed the musical score for The Virgin Suicides. Coppola did not want the hits from the 1970s, but rather a "consistent soundtrack" that suited the theme of the film, which led Air to be on board.[7] She wanted to convey the theme of adolescence in the suburbs in the soundtrack. She found that Air shared many of her suburban memories and experiences even though they grew up in a different country.[7]

Air's score was released on February 23, 2000, by Virgin Records, to critical acclaim and has been considered as one of the "best film scores/rock albums".[11][12][13] The film features songs by 1970s-era performers and five tracks from the 1990s by Sloan. A separate soundtrack album was released on March 28, 2000, featuring music from Todd Rundgren, Boston, Heart, Sloan, The Hollies, Al Green, Gilbert O'Sullivan, 10cc, Styx, and two tracks by Air (one previously recorded; one composed for the film).[14] The deluxe edition of the film score was released in June 2015,[15] and a vinyl re-issue was published by Rhino Records in 2020.[16]


The film had its world premiere at the 1999 Cannes Film Festival on May 19.[5] It was given a limited release in the United States almost a year later on April 21, 2000.[17] The theatrical release would expand to a wide release in May 2000.[18]


Critical reception[edit]

The Virgin Suicides received positive reviews from film critics, though some noted the film's discomforting thematic material.[19] It holds an 80% approval rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 108 reviews, with a weighted average of 7.1/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "The Virgin Suicides drifts with a dreamlike melancholy that may strike some audiences as tedious, but Sofia Coppola's feature debut is a mature meditation on disaffected youth."[20] On Metacritic, the film holds a rating of 77 out of 100, based on 31 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[21]

Jeffrey Eugenides visited the set of the film for three days.[7] He supported the film, but did offer a few critiques in an interview with Dazed.[7] Eugenides envisioned the girls as more of an entity than actual people; he believed this idea could have been accomplished by casting different actresses to play the same character with each actress changing depending on whom they are speaking to.[7]

Graham Fuller of The New York Times gave the film a middling review, writing: "Ms. Coppola has made [...] a haunting metaphysical celebration of adolescence with the aura of a myth. Yet, on the surface, there is something wrong with this picture: how can a film in which a quintet of apparently normal girls commit suicide possibly be a celebration, and why would a filmmaker attempt to make it so unless she is uncommonly perverse?"[22] Kevin Thomas of the Los Angeles Times gave the film a positive review, praising Coppola's direction, the cast, and the production design, but also noting that while the film "is successfully venturesome... you need to know that it's also a real downer."[23] Roger Ebert gave the film three-and-a-half out of four stars, and positively compared it to Picnic at Hanging Rock (1975): "[Coppola] has the courage to play it in a minor key," he notes. "She doesn't hammer home ideas and interpretations. She is content with the air of mystery and loss that hangs in the air like bitter poignancy."[24]

Ed Gonzalez of Slant Magazine noted the film's dreamy, childlike nature, writing: "The narrator speaks of youth as if it existed and still exists in a near-fugue state. In this respect, the film is as much a relevant view of adolescence and male/female relations as it is an act of remembrance. Scenes from the film (first kisses, gossiping about neighbors) are sinewy in nature and seem lifted from the pages of a lost photo album."[25] Critic Richard Crouse called the film "one of those rare occasions when a film surpasses the book it is based on," and included it in his book The 100 Best Movies You've Never Seen (2003).[26]


Accolades for The Virgin Suicides
Award Date of ceremony Category Recipient(s) Result Ref.
Brit Awards February 26, 2001 Soundtrack/Cast Recording Air Nominated [27]
Cannes Film Festival May 23, 1999 Caméra d'Or Sofia Coppola Nominated [28]
C.I.C.A.E. Award The Virgin Suicides Nominated
Casting Society of America November 1, 2000 Independent Feature Film Casting Linda Phillips Palo, Robert McGee Won [29]
Chicago Film Critics Association February 26, 2001 Best Original Score Air Nominated [30]
Las Vegas Film Critics Society December 21, 2000 Best Director Sofia Coppola Nominated [31]
Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated
Best Supporting Actor James Woods Nominated
Best Cinematography Edward Lachman Nominated
Best Female Newcomer Sofia Coppola Nominated
MTV Movie Awards June 2, 2001 Best New Filmmaker Won [32]
Teen Choice Awards August 6, 2000 Choice Movie Actress Kirsten Dunst Nominated [33]
Young Hollywood Awards April 29, 2001 Best Director Sofia Coppola Won
YoungStar Awards November 19, 2000 Best Young Actress in a Drama Film Kirsten Dunst Nominated [34]
Empire Awards February 19, 2001 Best Debut Sofia Coppola Nominated [35]
Chlotrudis Awards 2001 Best Adapted Screenplay Nominated [36]
Cahiers du Cinéma 2000 Top 10 Film Award The Virgin Suicides 7th Place [37]

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and DVD through Paramount Home Entertainment on December 19, 2000.[38] On April 24, 2018, a remastered version of the film was released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc via The Criterion Collection, featuring new interviews, a behind-the-scenes documentary, an essay, among other features.[39][40]A 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray release from Criterion followed on July 5, 2022.[41]


  1. ^ The Virgin Suicides (2000). Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 10 July 2017.
  2. ^ Chandler, Sarah (2021-08-11). "Movies Like Requiem For A Dream For Fans Of Psychological Dramas". Looper.com. Retrieved 2021-08-23.
  3. ^ "Why The Virgin Suicides Is Still So Resonant Today". The Atlantic. 26 April 2018.
  4. ^ "50 Best High School Movies". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2019-11-02.
  5. ^ a b c Richman, Darren (14 June 2017). "Movies You Might Have Missed: Sofia Coppola's The Virgin Suicides". The Independent. Archived from the original on 2022-06-20. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  6. ^ a b LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 89.
  7. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k "About the Production". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
    • "The Cast". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
    • "The Style". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
    • "The Music". Cinema Review. The Virgin Suicides. Archived from the original on May 7, 2005. Retrieved July 17, 2017.
  8. ^ a b LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 91.
  9. ^ Dunst, Kirsten (June 2000). "The Cat's Meow! Kirsten Dunst". Interview (Interview). Interviewed by Brendan Lemon. Retrieved 26 December 2016.
  10. ^ a b c LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 90.
  11. ^ "The 50 Best Film Scores of All Time". Pitchfork. 21 February 2019. Retrieved 4 September 2019.
  12. ^ "Les 100 disques essentiels du rock français selon Rolling Stone". Rolling Stone France (in French). No. 18. February 2010. ISSN 1764-1071.
  13. ^ "61 Of The Greatest Film Soundtracks Ever". NME. 8 January 2014. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  14. ^ Various Artists (2000). The Virgin Suicides (CD Soundtrack). Emperor Norton. ASIN B00027JY4E. EMN 7029.
  15. ^ Scheetz, Cameron (12 June 2015). "Win the new vinyl boxset commemorating The Virgin Suicides' 15th anniversary". The A.V. Club. Retrieved 13 August 2019.
  16. ^ "Various Artists - The Virgin Suicides (Music From The Motion Picture) - Vinyl LP". Rough Trade. Archived from the original on 2020-08-12. Retrieved 2022-09-08.
  17. ^ Scott, A.O. (21 April 2000). "FILM REVIEW; Evanescent Trees and Sisters In an Enchanted 1970's Suburb". The New York Times. Retrieved 23 June 2017.
  18. ^ "Plan Ahead". The Washington Post. 28 April 2000. Retrieved 16 July 2017.
  19. ^ LoBrutto & Morrison 2012, p. 92.
  20. ^ "The Virgin Suicides (1999)". Rotten Tomatoes. 12 May 1999. Retrieved 19 July 2019.
  21. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". Metacritic. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  22. ^ Fuller, Graham (16 April 2000). "FILM; Sofia Coppola's Second Chance". The New York Times. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  23. ^ Thomas, Kevin (21 April 2000). "'The Virgin Suicides' an Affecting, Somber Tale of Repressed Lives". The Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  24. ^ Ebert, Roger (5 May 2000). "The Virgin Suicides Movie Review". The Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved 28 June 2017 – via RogerEbert.com.
  25. ^ Gonzalez, Ed (2 May 2001). "The Virgin Suicides: Film Review". Slant Magazine. Retrieved 28 December 2016.
  26. ^ Crouse, Richard (2003). The 100 Best Movies You've Never Seen. Toronto, Ontario, Canada: ECW Press. p. 237. ISBN 978-1-554-90540-9.
  27. ^ "Brits 2001: The nominations". 2001-01-15. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  28. ^ "Official Selection 1999 : All the Selection - Festival de Cannes 2013 (International Film Festival)". 2013-10-14. Archived from the original on 2013-10-14. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  29. ^ "2000 Artios Awards". www.castingsociety.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  30. ^ "Chicago Film Critics Association - Nominations for the Chicago Film Critics Awards". 2001-10-05. Archived from the original on 2001-10-05. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  31. ^ "Las Vegas Film Critics SocietySierra Award Winners". www.lvfcs.org. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  32. ^ "Past Winners Database". 2007-01-06. Archived from the original on 2007-01-06. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  33. ^ Staff, Hollywood com (2001-10-26). "2000 Teen Choice Awards". Tickets to Movies in Theaters, Broadway Shows, London Theatre & More | Hollywood.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  34. ^ "Radio Disney to Broadcast From the Hollywood Reporter's Fifth Annual YoungStar Awards". LaughingPlace.com. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  35. ^ "The Empire Awards 2001". 2002-06-20. Archived from the original on 2002-06-20. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  36. ^ "2001, 7th Annual Awards". Chlotrudis Society for Independent Film. 2023-09-24. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  37. ^ "Cahiers du Cinéma (2000)". IMDb. Retrieved 2023-12-28.
  38. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". Cinema Review. Paramount Film Corp. Archived from the original on January 18, 2018. Retrieved 17 July 2017.
  39. ^ "The Virgin Suicides". The Criterion Collection. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  40. ^ Sharf, Zack (January 16, 2018). "Criterion Announces 'The Virgin Suicides' 4K Restoration, Approved by Ed Lachman and Sofia Coppola". Indiewire.com. Retrieved January 18, 2018.
  41. ^ "Criterion Announces July Releases". Blu-ray.com. 19 April 2022. Retrieved 14 January 2024.


  • LoBrutto, Vincent; Morrison, Harriet R. (2012). The Coppolas: A Family Business. Modern Filmmakers. ABC-CLIO. ISBN 978-0-313-39161-3.

External links[edit]