Ruthless People (1986)

R  |   |  Comedy, Crime  |  27 June 1986 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.8/10 from 20,742 users  
Reviews: 71 user | 23 critic

A couple, cheated by a vile businessman, kidnap his wife in retaliation, without knowing that their enemy is delighted they did.


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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
William G. Schilling ...
Phyllis Applegate ...
Hooker in Car
J.P. Bumstead ...
Jon Cutler ...


Sam Stone is a clothing manufacturer, who married his wife Barbara, for the money that she was supposed to inherit from her dying father, but her father didn't die for another fifteen years. He is now planning to kill her and he tells his girlfriend Carol what he is going to do. He then on his way home to do just that but when he gets there, she's not there. He then receives a call from someone claiming to have kidnapped Barbara and threatening to kill her if he informs the police, which he does hoping that they do. What Stone doesn't know is that the kidnappers, Ken and Sandy are a couple whose idea for a garment he stole and made fortune off, are not that lethal, as a matter of fact Barbara's more lethal. And what Stone doesn't know is that Carol, has another boyfriend and they plan to blackmail Sam, by videotaping him disposing of Barbara's body. When her boyfriend, Earl goes there to do that, the person who goes there was not Sam but a guy with a hooker, and the guy instructs the ... Written by <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Barbara Stone has just been kidnapped by K-Mart, and what she doesn't know won't hurt her. See more »


Comedy | Crime


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

27 June 1986 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Y a-t-il quelqu'un pour tuer ma femme?  »

Box Office


$71,624,879 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Shares similarities with the O. Henry story, "The Ransom of Red Chief," a turn-of-the century fable about two con men who kidnap the rambunctious 10-year-old son of a widowed businessman for ransom. The businessman refuses to pay the ransom, happy to have his unruly son gone, and the son proves to be a difficult captive. The criminals decide to return the boy to his father, rather then collect the ransom. In an interview with the Los Angeles Times, writer Dale Launer stated: "I certainly read O. Henry as a kid, and I don't remember consciously lifting it." See more »


Kidnapping is a federal offense, so the local police would not have headed the investigation and stings. Both would be handed over to the FBI. See more »


[first lines]
Sam Stone: Carol, did I ever tell you why I married her?
Carol: Yes, Sam, you told me many, many...
Sam Stone: Her father was very, very rich, and very, very sick. The doctors assured me he'd be dead any minute. There wasn't a second to lose! I rushed right out and married the boss's daughter. He was so sick, it was like the Angel of Death was sitting in the room with him, watching the clock. They pulled the plug on him... he wheezed and shook for about an hour... and then... he stabilized. The son-of-a-bitch ...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Near the end of the credits is the line "I Love Wrong Numbers", referring to a scene earlier in the movie where Sam Stone gets a wrong number on the phone and does a vulgar prank to it. See more »


Featured in Waking Sleeping Beauty (2009) See more »


Wherever I Lay My Hat (That's My Home)
Performed by Paul Young
Written by Marvin Gaye, Barrett Strong and Norman Whitfield
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User Reviews

One of the Funniest Comedies of Errors I Have Ever Seen (and Re-Seen)
1 November 2008 | by (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil) – See all my reviews

The executive of the clothing industry Sam Stone (Danny DeVito) tells his mistress Carol Dodsworth (Anita Morris) that he can not bear his wealthy wife Barbara (Bette Midler) anymore and that he is going to kill her. When Sam arrives at his mansion in Bel-Air with chloroform, he does not finds Barbara; sooner he receives a phone call telling that Barbara has been kidnapped and asking a five hundred thousand dollar ransom. Further, he is warned that he should not call the press or the police, otherwise Barbara would be murdered. However, forty-five minutes later, his house is surrounded by the police and the press and Sam is celebrating the abduction in his room, without any intention of paying the ransom and expecting that the kidnappers kill Barbara for him. Meanwhile, the clumsy and inexperienced kidnappers Ken Kessler (Judge Reinhold) and his wife and stylist Sandy (Helen Slater) have been lured in a business with Sam in the past, when he stole a design of Sandy an raised a fortune, and they are actually seeking a financial compensation for their loss; however they are having difficulties to handle with Barbara in the basement of their lower medium-class house. When Carol asks her stupid lover Earl Mott (Bill Pullman) to make a videotape of Sam killing Barbara, Earl commits a mistake and records the Chief of Police Henry Benton (William G. Schilling) having kinky and noise sex with a prostitute in his car instead. Carol decides to blackmail Sam with the tape believing he killed Barbara, and she sends a copy to Benton to press him to arrest Sam. Ken reduces the ransom to ten thousand dollars, but Sam refuses to pay while Barbara loses twenty pounds working out while imprisoned and befriends Sandy. When Barbara discovers the intentions of Sam, she decides to help the young couple to take Sam's money.

"Ruthless People" is one of the funniest comedies of errors I have ever seen and re-seen. The plot is excellent, supported by a magnificent screenplay and wonderful performances highlighting Bette Midler and Danny DeVito). Bill Pullman in the beginning of his career is recognizable performing a tacky and stupid character. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Por Favor Matem a Minha Mulher" ("Please Kill My Wife")

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