Generally favorable reviews - based on 17 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 13 out of 17
  2. Negative: 1 out of 17
  1. In "Fatal Attraction" [Close] was a woman out of control. Here she's in control of her emotions, too much in control. When Merteuil finally lets loose and gives way to complete animal despair, Close is horrifying. [13 Jan 1989, Daily Datebook, p.E1]
  2. Pfeiffer reveals an emotional nakedness that's almost shocking. Never has she exposed so much and done it so simply. Who knew she could be this good?
  3. Reviewed by: Hal Hinson
    A delectably naughty experience. This sort of wit and immediacy is extraordinarily rare in a period film.
  4. 100
    A first-rate piece of work by a director who's daring and agile... It's heaven – alive in a way that movies rarely are. [9 Jan 1989]
  5. Nothing Miss Close has done on the screen before approaches the richness and comic delicacy of her work as the Marquise. [21 Dec 1988, p.C22]
  6. Reviewed by: Staff (Non Credited)
    Pfeiffer is a revelation in her part, almost stealing the film. Her relative stillness, masking internal unrest, makes her character seem more authentically "period" than her co-stars, who have adopted no formal period mannerisms.
  7. In addition to its photography, the film's details of costuming (by "The Last Emperor's" James Acheson) and production design (by Stuart Craig of "Gandhi" and "The Mission") are ravishing. [21 Dec 1988, Calendar p.6]
  8. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    An excellent film. [16 Jan 1989, p.64]
  9. The film seems a bit studied, but the creepy plot still holds a certain fascination.
  10. 75
    If there is anything lacking in the movie, it may be a certain gusto. The director, Stephen Frears, is so happy to make this a tragicomedy of manners that he sometimes turns away from obvious payoffs.
  11. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    The distanced result, screen-adapted by playwright Christopher Hampton, never quite overwhelms you. [21 Dec 1988, Life, p.1D]
  12. Malkovich's lead performance digs in its heels, deadening the movie's speedy exhilaration. The result is a highly diverting but ultimately unsatisfying production that doesn't perform -- so much as paraphrase -- the script.
  13. No matter how many times the script instructs us that Valmont is "conspicuously charming," Malkovich is not charming, conspicuously or otherwise.
  14. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    The real problem is Malkovich's Valmont. This sly actor conveys the character's snaky, premeditated Don Juanism. But he lacks the devilish charm and seductiveness one senses Valmont would need to carry off all his conquests.
  15. 50
    Though the costumes are beautifully designed, the chateau locations carefully chosen and the dialogue full of curling locutions, something cloddish and naive still comes through in Frears' direction, and not only because he can seldom get his shots to match. [13 Jan 1989, Friday, p.A]
  16. The disaster is John Malkovich in the key role of Valmont... From the moment he steps out of a carriage at the start, he walks and gestures like Malkovich. He has done nothing to bring himself to the part, not even bothering to learn how to pronounce "mademoiselle." ("Madam-uhzell," says M.) [2 Jan 1989, p.24]
  17. A second-rate adaptation of the second-rate Choderlos de Laclos novel: two hours of pretty people sitting in pretty rooms and talking about sex. [23 Dec 1988, A& L, p.19]
User Score

Universal acclaim- based on 28 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 6 out of 6
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 6
  3. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. RachelS.
    May 12, 2006
    Simply the truest reflection of the battle of the sexes that there has ever been.
  2. Nov 25, 2012
    First of all, no offence, but calling John Malkovich