Metascore
86

Universal acclaim - based on 18 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 15 out of 18
  2. Negative: 0 out of 18
Watch On
  1. 100
    The performances are all insidiously powerful.
  2. The movie is pulp, yet it attains a surprising emotional power-especially when Anjelica Huston's Lilly, a survivor who'll do whatever it takes to master her surroundings, is on-screen.
  3. Reviewed by: John Stone
    100
    [Frears] has not only captured the bleak qualities of the old film noir melodramas but supplied an undercurrent that is as sly as it is unsettling. [25 Jan 1991]
  4. The Grifters moves with swift unsentimental resolve toward a last act as bleak as any in recent American screen literature. In a less skillful work, it would be a downer. The Grifters is so good that one leaves the theater on a spellbound high. [5 Dec 1990]
  5. 100
    Huston's power as Lilly is astounding... She bites right through the film-noir pulp; the [climactic] scene is paralyzing, and it won't go away.
  6. 100
    Diamond-hard and mesmerizing… Bening and Cusack are perfection at what they are doing, she twinkly as any rhinestone, he dangerously passive; it's hardly their fault that Huston is the motor of the piece and so ferociously seductive that one cannot look away from her. [5 Dec 1990]
  7. Mr. Frears is as good with the small touches as he is with the big ones – and that means they're great. [24 Jan 1991, p.A8(E)]
  8. If Frears and screenwriter Donald E. Westlake (who scripted "The Stepfather") are light on substance, they're satisfyingly heavy on nuance. Grifters may not blow you away afterward but it keeps your attention riveted during.
  9. Indeed, as the film unreels to its extraordinary climax - a scene that will make your skin crawl - Frears has the larger target right in his sights and, bang, pulls the thematic trigger, taking no prisoners.
  10. 88
    Huston gives one of her very best performances as a strong lady who can con almost everyone but herself. Her manner on the screen in this picture and in Woody Allen's "Crimes and Misdemeanors'' marks Huston as the one contemporary actress who comes closest to having the power of classic female dramatic stars of years past. [25 Jan 1991]
  11. Reviewed by: Staff (Not Credited)
    80
    Westlake's screenplay has the right combination of vivid characters, mordant wit and avaricious savagery which distinguishes the best noir.
  12. Reviewed by: Hal Hinson
    80
    [Huston] brings a vital conviction to her scenes; they're scorchingly immediate, and her ability to get in sync with what Lily's feeling is what gives the movie weight. She may be the best we have.
  13. It's a picture marked by competence, not the boiling-over intensity that Frears and Thompson fans have anticipated. [30 Nov 1990]
  14. Reviewed by: Richard Corliss
    70
    Best to savor The Grifters for its handsome design -- the picture looks as clean as a Hockney landscape -- and its juicy performances. [11 Feb 1991]
  15. Reviewed by: Mike Clark
    63
    More than anything, The Grifters isn't dramatically shot; black-and-white would have made a huge difference. [5 Dec 1990]
User Score
8.8

Universal acclaim- based on 44 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 6
  2. Negative: 0 out of 6
  1. Jun 26, 2015
    4
    The Grifters ultimately left me feeling quite disappointed. The ending is quite intriguing and well done, but the first three quarters of theThe Grifters ultimately left me feeling quite disappointed. The ending is quite intriguing and well done, but the first three quarters of the film are pretty terrible. Though John Cusack is strong and the premise is interesting, the premise winds up being the only interesting part for much of the film as it winds up just dragging along and never really feeling like anything ever happens. Anjelica Huston is terrible here (seriously, her pronunciation of Los Angeles made me question my decision to watch this one at all) and Annette Benning is alright, but her character is so poorly written and sexist, it is appalling. Honestly, her character is resigned to being nothing more than an object to have sex with, in spite of showing some serious talents as a "grifter". Anyways, the last little bit does save this one from being worse because it is interesting and the film itself is well made, though the direction from Stephen Frears was quite disappointing to say the least. Overall, The Grifters is a sub-par film that should have been way better than it was. Full Review »
  2. Jun 20, 2012
    7
    An indie crime-drama fixes on a veiled Oedipus complex relationship between a mother and his son, which also involves another pivotal figure,An indie crime-drama fixes on a veiled Oedipus complex relationship between a mother and his son, which also involves another pivotal figure, the son's femme fatale girlfriend. One background consensus is that they are all grifters, while the mother is an old-hander, the girlfriend is a slutty self-seeker, they are pros, bar the son is just a small-time crook and being too righteous to go down with the swindle business, what Full Review »