Wild Things (film)

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Wild Things
Two women, their heads just above water, staring intently. Two men stand in the foreground.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byJohn McNaughton
Written byStephen Peters
Produced by
CinematographyJeffrey L. Kimball
Edited byElena Maganini
Music byGeorge S. Clinton
Distributed bySony Pictures Releasing
Release date
  • March 20, 1998 (1998-03-20)
Running time
108 minutes
115 minutes
(Unrated Edition)[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$67.2 million[3]

Wild Things is a 1998 American neo-noir[4] erotic crime thriller film directed by John McNaughton and starring Matt Dillon, Neve Campbell, Kevin Bacon, Denise Richards, Bill Murray, Theresa Russell, and Robert Wagner. In south Florida, a high school counselor is accused of rape by two female students, but the police officer investigating suspects something more is going on.

The film gained notoriety for its sex scenes – including one involving Campbell and Richards, and another depicting a threesome between the two actresses and Dillon – that were more explicit than typically seen in mainstream Hollywood releases. An uncut version, which adds seven minutes to the film's runtime, was released on DVD in 2004. Blu-ray released on April 4, 2022 in United Kingdom.[5]

Wild Things was followed by three direct-to-DVD sequels: Wild Things 2 (2004), Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005) and Wild Things: Foursome (2010).


Miami area high school guidance counselor Sam Lombardo is accused of rape by two female students, wealthy and popular Kelly Van Ryan and poor outcast Suzie Toller. He hires lawyer Kenneth Bowden to defend him.

At trial, both of the girls admit having lied to get revenge on Sam: Suzie for his failure to bail her out of jail on a minor drug charge and Kelly for his affair with her mother, wealthy heiress Sandra Van Ryan. Sam and Kenneth negotiate an $8.5 million settlement for defamation. It is revealed that Sam and the two girls were accomplices who used the trial to get money from Kelly's mother.

Police detective Ray Duquette suspects the trio are working a scam. Against the wishes of the district attorney's office, he continues investigating Sam. He tells Kelly and Suzie that Sam has already transferred the money to an off-shore account. Suzie panics and goes to Kelly, who comforts her. Kelly, however, calls Sam and tells him they may have to get rid of Suzie. In the pool, Suzie attacks Kelly. They fight, but eventually end up kissing, while watched by Ray, unbeknownst to them. A few nights later, at the beach, Sam apparently kills Suzie while Kelly waits nearby. They drive to the swamp where Sam disposes of the plastic-wrapped body.

Ray and his partner, Detective Gloria Perez, investigate Suzie's disappearance. Her blood and teeth are found at the beach while her car is found at a bus terminal. The D.A.'s office again insists that Ray drops the case, but he asks Gloria to watch Sam. Sam shows Gloria Kelly's school files, which claim she is a troubled and violent girl. Meanwhile, Ray goes to Kelly's house to confront a scared and upset Kelly. After Ray enters her room, three gun shots are heard, after which Ray exits the room and collapses. He later claims that Kelly shot first and he killed her in self-defense. No charges are filed against him, but he is dismissed from the force for disobeying orders.

It is revealed that Sam is working with Ray. Although Sam is displeased Ray killed Kelly instead of just framing her for Suzie's death, he agrees they have fewer loose ends. The two go sailing on Sam's sailboat, where Sam tries to kill Ray. When Ray fights back, he is shot and killed by a very much alive Suzie. She then poisons Sam's drink and knocks him overboard, so his body will not be found.

Several scenes during the credits fill in missing details. The five co-conspirators are Suzie Toller, Sam Lombardo, Sgt. Ray Duquette, Kelly Van Ryan, and Atty. Kenneth Bowden. Suzie is revealed to be the ultimate mastermind of the plot as she alone sails off into the sunset. She walks into Sam's guidance office and drops a set of pictures on his desk showing him and Kelly having sex in order to blackmail him into helping her execute the plot. She sets up the first meeting between Sam and Ray. She uses a pair of pliers to pull a tooth out of her own jaw. Finally, Kenneth gives her a briefcase full of cash that he describes as "just walking around money" and a check for millions of dollars; as she leaves, he tells her to "be good."



Kevin Bacon described the script as "the trashiest thing he had ever read" but "Every few pages, there was another surprise." Bacon also executive produced.[6]

Robert Downey Jr. was the first choice for the role of Sam Lombardo that ultimately went to Matt Dillon. Downey was considered because of his highly publicized drug problems, and although he was in recovery he was seen as too great an insurance risk. Producer Rodney Liber said "we couldn't make it work," and the production company even offered to put up some of the money but "There were just too many lawyers and insurance people and bond-company people involved."[6] John McNaughton said Denise Richards' first audition was good but her much improved second audition convinced them to cast her.[7] Richards' lawyer negotiated a detailed contract about how much nudity would be filmed, including the option to use a body double. Richards did not use a double and filmed the scene herself after drinking a pitcher of margaritas with Neve Campbell.[5][8] Campbell's contract had a strict no-nudity clause.[5] Campbell took on the role wanting to challenge herself, to do something different from her Party of Five character, and to avoid being typecast.[9] Bacon also had a no nudity clause in his contract but without giving it much thought allowed McNaughton to use the shot that he thought looked best, and a moment of frontal nudity was included in the film. He was surprised by how many questions he got about it at the [American] press junket, and noted that the European press did not ask about it at all.[10]

Filming in the Everglades proved difficult due to severe weather conditions. A tornado almost crushed a couple of trailers. McNaughton said production had to be halted and the police called when a real dead body floated into view.[6][11]


On Rotten Tomatoes the film has an approval rating of 63% based on reviews from 62 critics, with an average rating of 5.90/10. The site's consensus states: "Wild Things is a delightfully salacious, flesh-exposed romp that also requires a high degree of love for trash cinema."[12] On Metacritic, it has a score of 52/100 based on reviews from 20 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a grade "C+" on scale of A to F.[14]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of 4, praising McNaughton's directing and the plot twists. He described it as "lurid trash, with a plot so twisted they're still explaining it during the closing titles. It's like a three-way collision between a softcore sex film, a soap opera and a B-grade noir. I liked it."[15] Gene Siskel gave the film a marginal recommendation.[16]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times praised Campbell & Richard's performances, and also McNaughton's direction for adding "a decadent gloss to this far-fetched, quintuple-crossing tale", although she criticised the plot as being "loony".[17]

In The Washington Post, Desson Howe described the film as "clearly a crock", and although it "may not have a single redeeming feature, but it doesn't have a dull moment, either."[18] In the same newspaper, Stephen Hunter described the film as being "as tawdry as someone else's lingerie, yet not without a certain prurient watchability".[19] The Orlando Sentinel said that the film overall missed the mark, but that Murray in his small role manages to steal the show.[20]

Variety praised the casting of Dillon, Bacon, Campbell, Richards, Russell, Murray and Snodgress: "[Y]ou have an ensemble that appears to be enjoying the challenge of offbeat roles and unusual material. There's not a wrong note struck by the game group of players." The magazine also praised the film as "original" with a "glossy, unreal quality that nicely dovetails with the pulse of the drama".[21]

The film grossed $30.1 million in the United States and Canada and $37.1 million internationally for a worldwide total of $67.2 million.[2][22][3]


George S. Clinton was nominated for Best Music at 25th Saturn Awards, but lost to John Carpenter for Vampires, another film from Columbia Pictures.[citation needed]

The film was nominated for Best Kiss at the MTV Movie Awards.[23]

At the 1998 Los Angeles Film Critics Association Awards Bill Murray won the Best Supporting Actor for Rushmore and Wild Things.[24] The film won a Blockbuster Entertainment Awards for Daphne Rubin-Vega in the category "Favorite Supporting Actress - Suspense".[25]


Three sequels were released direct-to-video, Wild Things 2 (2004), Wild Things: Diamonds in the Rough (2005) and Wild Things: Foursome (2010). The sequels recycled much of the plot, dialogue, and direction of the first film, albeit with different actors. All three films, take place in Blue Bay, as well as its high school, Blue Bay High and the Blue Bay Police Department (BBPD).[26][27]

In 2006, the producers tried to develop a spiritual successor and John McNaughton was in talks to again direct a script by Stephen Peters titled "Backstabbers". Richards and Campbell were also in talks to star.[28]

Cultural references[edit]

In the "Wild Things" episode of the web television series Pen15, the film is watched by a number of middle school kids, who are enraptured with the sex scene. This sets the mood for one of the major characters getting her first kiss from a boy.[29]


  1. ^ "Wild Things (18)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved January 30, 2018.
  2. ^ a b "Wild Things (1998) - Financial Information". The Numbers.
  3. ^ a b Klady, Leonard (January 25, 1999). "The Top 125 Worldwide". Variety. p. 36.
  4. ^ Clark, Jason. "Wild Things". Allmovie. Wild Things can honestly be called one of the '90s true neo-noirs
  5. ^ a b c Chris Nashawaty (March 20, 2018). "Pervy or Priceless? Revisiting 'Wild Things' on its 20th anniversary". Entertainment Weekly.
  6. ^ a b c EW Staff (February 7, 2014). "Spring Movie Preview: March 1998". Entertainment Weekly.
  7. ^ Benjamin Svetkey (April 10, 1998). "Denise Richards takes a 'wild' turn". Entertainment Weekly.
  8. ^ Carter, Andrew (July 31, 2011). "12 Stories From Denise Richards' New Memoir". The Daily Beast. Archived from the original on November 24, 2020.
  9. ^ Dunn, Jancee (September 18, 1997). "Interview: Neve Campbell". Rolling Stone.
  10. ^ Branch, Chris (August 25, 2014). "Kevin Bacon Dishes On Doing Full-Frontal Nudity". Huffington Post.
  11. ^ Madeleine Marr (June 25, 2018). "Remember 'Scarface?' That movie and others have put South Beach at the top of the list". Miami Herald.
  12. ^ "Wild Things (1998)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved September 15, 2021.
  13. ^ Wild Things at Metacritic Retrieved October 8, 2020.
  14. ^ "WILD THINGS (1998) C+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on December 20, 2018.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (March 20, 1998). "Wild Things". Chicago Sun-Times.
  16. ^ "Wild Things, Niagara Niagara, Mr. Nice Guy, Wide Awake, Fireworks, 1998 – Siskel and Ebert Movie Reviews". SiskelEbert.org.
  17. ^ Maslin, Janet (March 20, 1998). "FILM REVIEW; Schoolgirls Make Alligators Look Like Ingenues (Published 1998)". New York Times.
  18. ^ Howe, Desson (March 20, 1998). "'WILD THINGS': A HOT PURSUIT". Washington Post.
  19. ^ Stephen Hunter (1998). "'Wild Things' (R)". Washington Post.
  20. ^ Jay Boyar Sentinel Movie Critic (March 20, 1998). "TWISTY 'WILD THINGS' JUST MISSES ITS MARK". OrlandoSentinel.com.
  21. ^ Klady, Leonard (March 18, 1998). "Wild Things". Variety.
  22. ^ Wild Things at Box Office Mojo
  23. ^ Hosken, Patrick (April 5, 2017). "A Long, Lingering Look Back At The MTV Movie & TV Awards' Best Kiss Category". MTV News.
  24. ^ SK (December 13, 1998). "'Saving Private Ryan' Tops L.A. Critics List". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on September 2, 2020.
  25. ^ "Blockbuster Entertainment Awards (1999)". IMDb.
  26. ^ Alex McLevy (2018). "Wild Things gave us Kevin Bacon's wang and a threesome of sequels". The A.V. Club.
  27. ^ Rob Hunter (June 21, 2018). "'Wild Things' is a Blackly Comic Gem; Its Three Sequels Are Also Movies Set in Florida". SlashFilm.
  28. ^ Gardner, Chris (February 15, 2006). "Mandalay 'Wild' about pic reteam". Variety.
  29. ^ Pape, Allie (February 12, 2019). "PEN15 Recap: Walk on the Wild Side". Vulture.

External links[edit]