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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
Patrolman DiSimone
Skip Lee
Det. Lefransky
Barton Heyman ...
Dr. Rifkin
Arnaldo Santana ...
Loren Lukas
Larry Atlas ...
Eric Rossman
Chief of Detectives
Sonny Grosso ...
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
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Did You Know?


Rumor has it that William Friedkin's original cut ran 140 minutes. There is an increasing demand for a home video release of this version, if the deleted footage still exists and was not, as commonly believed, destroyed by United Artists. Apparently, Friedkin delivered this cut to the studio and it was condemned by the MPAA for ultra-provocative content. Friedkin has said that all of the footage he was ultimately forced to cut (over a series of 40 different edits, at a cost of $50,000, before the MPAA finally granted the film an R rating) involved graphic sexuality and wasn't connected to the murder investigation plot, and that the footage did provide some "twists and turns in the story" that were not present in the film's final cut. See more »


When the first victim gets stabbed blood is shown running off his shoulder but the knife is spotless. See more »


Steve Burns: Hips or lips?
See more »

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 »


Referenced in Sex: The Revolution: Tainted Love (2008) See more »


Heat Of The Moment
Performed by Willy DeVille
Words & Music by Willy DeVille
Produced by Jack Nitzsche
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Daring, brutal, and undeserving of its negative fame.
28 February 2008 | by (Palm Desert, California) – See all my reviews

First and foremost, Cruising is not a film about gay men in general. Friedkin explains this perfectly on the DVD -- it's a murder mystery of a cop going undercover that just happens to have a gay element in it. To those familiar with the 70s Italian giallos, Cruising is a "U.S. giallo" -- a successful combination of murder mystery, sex, alternative lifestyles and subcultures with that, and how getting into something too out of your element can affect you. Unlike the Italian giallos that often featured a gratuitous lesbian tease, Cruising gave us a masculine leather theme instead.

The controversy and protests surrounding Cruising were based on misinformation and unfairly gave the film a bad reputation, though lately many critics that originally panned it have since recanted their negative comments, finding more to appreciate about the film.

Two things factored into why people were uncomfortable with Cruising: First, the murder story was not the real reason. Frankly, they saw not effeminate stereotypes, but masculine gay men dancing, kissing, and experiencing S&M activities. When gay characters are weak and fey, many heterosexual men feel safe. They want non-threatening characters that will be kept in their place. The disclaimer that appeared before the film (that has thankfully been removed on the DVD) was to appease gay men that felt the film would be perceived as a representation of the whole gay community. If that's the case, then films like The Birdcage and TV's Will & Grace should have disclaimers as well that say not all gay men are effeminate finger-snappers that watch Desperate Housewives, are drag queens, nor are FABulous well-groomed clean-shaven cutie boys.

Second, the locations and activity in the bars was as it actually was (and still is to a degree) in many places. The characters and extras were "real" for this story -- bearded leathermen enjoying what they do, instead of buffed party circuit boys dancing to the latest diva tunes. To add to the darkness and mood of the story the bars were blasting with serious hard-driven songs by Willy DeVille, John Hiatt, Rough Trade, The Germs, The Cripples and others instead of loopy diva dance music. Some gay men as well as straight had a problem with this, thinking it was not a decent representation of what gay men "should" listen to. To date this is still one of the coolest soundtracks around, I cherish my vinyl LP copies of it.

Yes, this film was brutal. It will leave an impression on you. THAT'S A GOOD THING! It's what film is supposed to do. Amidst all this the journey of Al Pacino's "out of his element" slip into a different mindset was a great touch. It affected his whole being, his treatment of his girlfriend, his whole outlook. And it wasn't just because he got to dance with some leathermen, it was because the murder investigation he was doing was so horrifying. What, you were expecting a sweet ending? The only reasons Pacino distanced himself from this film was because footage was cut that he felt fleshed out his character better, and the protests during filming distressed him.

And think of it this way: if this were a film about lesbians, it would be hailed by hetero guys as an erotic masterpiece. But when it's about masculine gay men, it seems hard for some of them to handle it. This may sound cliché, but I know many straight guys that actually understood Cruising and have told me (on IMDb as well as in person) they thought it was quite a cool film.

After all these years, Cruising still packs a punch and does what it sets out to do: unnerve you. It's a taut thriller and a mindblower in its complexities. That's quite an achievement and while many films are forgotten, this one still seems to be well remembered no matter what. I for one love this film and think Friedkin and company deserve much praise for their effort.

The DVD released in 2007 can be considered a bit of a "director's cut" since Friedkin made some additions and changes. For a thorough article on the exact changes and where they occur, check out the magazine Video Watchdog #152, November 2009.

17 of 22 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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