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Kiss of the Spider Woman (1985)

A gay and a political prisoner are together in a prison. The gay narrates the stories of two fake movies and his own life.



(based on the novel by),

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Won 1 Oscar. Another 11 wins & 11 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Leni Lamaison / Marta / Spider Woman
Míriam Pires ...
Mother (as Miriam Pires)
Nuno Leal Maia ...
Fernando Torres ...
Patricio Bisso ...
Herson Capri ...
Denise Dumont ...
Michele (as Denise Dummont)
Nildo Parente ...
Leader of Resistance
Antônio Petrin ...
Clubfoot (as Antonio Petrin)
Wilson Grey ...
Miguel Falabella ...


Luis Molina and Valentin Arregui are cell mates in a South American prison. Luis, a trans individual, is found guilty of immoral behavior and Valentin is a political prisoner. To escape reality Luis invents romantic movies, while Valentin tries to keep his mind on the situation he's in. During the time they spend together, the two men come to understand and respect one another. Written by Leon Wolters <wolters@strw.LeidenUniv.nl>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



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Release Date:

26 July 1985 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

El beso de la mujer araña  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$4,701 (USA) (29 June 2001)


$4,952,880 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


In July 1984, Hector Babenco went back to Sao Paulo to supervise work on the score. While there, he discovered he had non-Hodgkins Lymphoma and had to begin a long treatment process. Dan Weisman continued editing in California. See more »


[first lines]
Luis Molina: She's... well, she's something a little strange. That's what she noticed, that she's not a woman like all the others. She seems all wrapped up in herself. Lost in a world she carries deep inside her.
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Referenced in Living Single: Kiss of the Spider Man (1996) See more »


Lyrics by Manuel Puig, David Weisman
Music by John Neschling (uncredited)
Sung by Sonia Braga (uncredited)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

"Film within a film" really works
26 August 2002 | by (Montpellier, France) – See all my reviews

Reading the other reviews, I see that homophobes have been duly warned about this movie, so I won't say anything about the relationship between the two men beyond that it is complex and beautiful.

What interests me more for the purposes of this little blurb is that no one has commented on how the "film within a film" (much like the "play within a play" in Hamlet) reflects the actual events unfolding in the prison cell. Molina (William Hurt) is ostensibly retelling his favorite film to entertain Valentin (Raul Julia) and make the time pass more quickly, but he himself admits that he "embroiders" the story to make it more real. So who is to say if this film exists except in Molina's mind, and if it does, what really transpired in the film? The story about the French woman who is in love with a German officer during World War II, and must decide whether or not to betray him, is an obvious parallel to Molina's decision to betray Valentin or not. Even Molina says that he most identifies with Leni La Maison (Sonia Braga) in this film of his, and it's not just because he is a drag queen. It's because he has to choose between the man he loves and "patriotism" (in his case, represented by the police/government as well as his ailing mother).

This storytelling tactic works brilliantly, in my opinion. Kiss of the Spider Woman is indeed original, quirky, and a must-see.

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