Cruising (1980)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  15 February 1980 (USA)
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Reviews: 135 user | 97 critic

A police detective goes undercover in the underground S&M gay subculture of New York City to catch a serial killer who is preying on gay men.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Capt. Edelson
Stuart Richards
Ted Bailey
Joe Spinell ...
Patrolman DiSimone
Skip Lee
Randy Jurgensen ...
Det. Lefransky
Barton Heyman ...
Dr. Rifkin
Arnaldo Santana ...
Loren Lukas
Larry Atlas ...
Eric Rossman
Chief of Detectives
Det. Blasio
Det. Schreiber (as Edward O'Neil)


A serial killer brutally slays and dismembers several gay men in New York's S&M and leather districts. The young police officer Steve Burns is sent undercover onto the streets as decoy for the murderer. Working almost completely isolated from his department, he has to learn and practice the complex rules and signals of this little society. While barely seeing his girlfriend Nancy anymore, the work starts changing him. Written by Tom Zoerner <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Al Pacino is Cruising for a killer.


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

15 February 1980 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

William Friedkin's Cruising  »

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


In 1977 and '78, New York homosexuals were terrorized by a series of "bag murders," in which six male victims were mutilated and dismembered , their remains wrapped in black plastic bags and dumped in the Hudson River. Some of the grisly fragments washed up on the New Jersey shore, others coming to ground near the World Trade Center. Police traced items of recovered clothing to a shop in Greenwich Village, catering to gays, and distinctive tattoos identified one of the victims as a known homosexual. Lacking identities and confirmed cause of death in several cases, the crimes were not officially classified as homicides, but were listed as CUPPI's - circumstances undetermined pending police investigation. A solution in the case derived from evidence collected in an "unrelated" case. On September 14, 1977, film critic Addison Verrill was beaten and stabbed to death in his New York apartment. Charged with the slaying, Paul Bateson, a 38-year-old X-ray technician, confessed to meeting Verrill in a Greenwich Village gay bar. After having sex at Verrill's flat, Bateson crushed his victim's skull with a metal skillet, afterward stabbing Verrill in the heart. Convicted of the homicide on March 5, 1979, Bateson drew a term of 20 years to life in prison. While in custody, awaiting trial, Paul Bateson bragged of killing other men "for fun," dismembering their bodies, and dropping the bagged remains in the Hudson River. Detectives satisfied themselves of Bateson's guilt, but he was never charged, and the "bag murders" - that later inspired the movie Cruising - remain technically unsolved. See more »


The close up of the last body, you can clearly see his heartbeat in his neck for a few seconds. See more »


Steve Burns: There's a lot you don't know about me.
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Crazy Credits

The film only opens with the title in large letters, across the screen. It is only at the end where the filmmakers are credited. See more »


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Le Voile d'Orphée
Composed by Pierre Henry
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Flawed,Yet Also Quite Original and Captivating
30 March 2007 | by (Canada) – See all my reviews

I'm glad to know I'm not the only person who actually like this movie."Cruising" is a very unusual film, a very unique film for a lot of reasons.First of all,and most of all,the movie takes place in a world that very few people know about,and that is the S&M gay sub-culture.Second of all,we get to see Al Pacino,a top class mainstream actor, in a very different kind of character,even though he plays a cop.And finally,I can say it's also a very unique film because it does not follow the path of typical Hollywood movies in terms of structure and tone.

The fact that the film does take place in a world very few people know about,at least not me,is one of the element that makes this movie so special and unsettling and original,because it's done in a very down-to-earth,realistic way.I think the film presents the S&M gay sub-culture for what it is,not more,not less.People who are offended by the sight of homosexuals having contacts with each other will be offended by this movie,of course.But if you're willing to go along,to let yourself be open about all this,you just might found out that this film is not about exploitation or homophobia.It's much more about the psychological path followed by one man who has to immerse himself in a culture unknown to him,because of a murder case,and the effects this culture and this case have upon him and his life.In the course of the movie,we see this evolution through Pacino's character,and it's rather quite compelling and captivating,Pacino being very subtle in this movie.

Of course,"Cruising" is not only a psychological, undercover cop movie,it's also a thriller.And as a thriller,this movie is also very captivating,and pulse-pounding,although it still is flawed.Apparently,the version most of us saw is not the complete version of the movie,and sometimes,it shows.I like ambiguity in a thriller,but I think "Cruising" is sometimes too ambiguous for it's own good,and that some elements could have been just a little bit more developed and explained(the ending,for instance).That being said,Friedkin still shows with this movie that he is a very accomplished director.There's nothing artificial in this movie,nothing superfluous in terms of the cinematography or the music or the art direction,and for me,this just helps the movie to be more realistic for the viewer.There's a rather raw feeling emanating from this movie,and it suits perfectly well for the tone of this film.Also,I think the supporting cast gives very honorable performances,especially Paul Sorvino as Pacino's boss and Karen Allen as his girlfriend.

So,in conclusion,do yourself a favor: if you like thrillers and/or if you like undercover cop movies with great psychological input, if you're willing to be open-minded and if you want to watch something different than most Hollywood movies,just find this movie if you can and watch it,and never mind all the bad critics.

23 of 41 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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