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The War of the Roses (1989)

R | | Comedy | 8 December 1989 (USA)
A married couple try everything to get each other to leave the house in a vicious divorce battle.



(novel), (screenplay)

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Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Josh at 17
Carolyn at 17
Harry Thurmont
Jason Larrabee
Gloria Cromwell ...
Mrs. Marshall
Harlan Arnold ...
Mr. Dell
Mary Fogarty ...
Mrs. Dell
Rika Hofmann ...
Patricia Allison ...
Elderly Mourner


The Roses, Barbara and Oliver, live happily as a married couple. Then she starts to wonder what life would be like without Oliver, and likes what she sees. Both want to stay in the house, and so they begin a campaign to force each other to leave. In the middle of the fighting is D'Amato, the divorce lawyer. He gets to see how far both will go to get rid of the other, and boy do they go far.. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie.




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

8 December 1989 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Der Rosenkrieg  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$9,488,794 (USA) (10 December 1989)


$86,888,546 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


While shooting the scene where Michael Douglas (Oliver Rose) and Kathleen Turner (Barbara Rose) are sitting in the chandelier, director Danny DeVito pretended to break for lunch while the two actors were 30 feet above ground. See more »


When Barbara runs over Oliver's sport car in their yard, a ramp cover with grass is visible. See more »


[first lines]
Gavin: [Gavin is talking to a client] You have some valid reasons for wanting a divorce.
[blows his nose with a handkerchief]
Gavin: Excuse me. My sinuses are very sensitive to irritants.
[sprays nasal decongestant up his nostrils]
Gavin: In the past five months, I think I've breathed freely with both sides working maybe a week total.
[pulls a cigarette out of a pack]
Gavin: I gotta cut this out. It's gonna kill me.
[lights his cigarette]
Gavin: I hadn't smoked for thirteen years. I kept the last cigarette from my last ...
See more »


Featured in Siskel & Ebert: The Best Films of 1989 (1989) See more »


We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Arranged by Sam Pottle
Performed by Sesame Street Cast
Courtesy of Children's Television Workshop
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

The Tragic Quest To Materialize Ontological Value Into Objects.
16 September 2015 | by (Fights Over The Helpless) – See all my reviews

Spoilers Ahead:

The darkest of all comedies that carries its darkness all the way to the ending, no wimping out at the last minute. You may hate it, many people do, of course it is mother's milk to all single people. Whenever I thought of going further in my dating life, decades ago, I watched this movie. My favorite line,"Lately, when I watch you eat, when your asleep or when I look at you, I just want to smash your face in." Young people, the movie seems stupid to you because today the minute anyone is unhappy: divorce. It wasn't like that back here. Also, the core of the movie is anti greed. These two are in love with the stupid house, those retarded figurines and home furnishings. Watch when the trouble starts, when she finishes decorating her giant playhouse. DeVito's narration echoes this,"What do you do when you are all finished?" Answer: You fight for sole possession. Also, she was too distracted from what an annoying nitwit Oliver was when she was busy making the perfect temple of consumption with all the objects placed just right. See, it will not seem dumb to you if you get the point that a better director would have made more clear to you. The movie is about these two idiots in love with material objects.

He works to provide money so she can build this art museum for them. Well, after she finishes something horrible happens: she discovers what an annoying idiot he is and how they could not be more different. Never lose sight that the War revolves over ownership of the home. Oliver must have Turner because she is part of the total home package. When Barbara discovers, after finishing the decorating, what an imbecile Oliver is, she wants the house A La Carte without Oliver, who can blame her? The humor is well done but it is black as pitch. I love the map Oliver shows Gavin with the red, yellow and blue areas: how pathetic? Yes, if you don't get what is going on here it will be an ugly bore to you. Admittedly, it has not aged well. This is an anti greed movie about two people who started their project to build a dream house and discovered, after it was done, that they detest each other. Oliver only wants her to stay because he looks upon her as just another possession in his house.

The rancor keeps escalating until murder is being attempted; they both die together. I love the last scene where she knocks his dying hand off of hers. I admired Turner, you want to see a strong female character? Watch Barbara Rose, don't mess with her! Watch her drive her monster truck over his tiny sports car. You want to watch this because this was the Yuppie 1980's Culture in the United States. Rich people dedicated to doing just what this couple is modeled doing: creating an art museum for a home. The never ending quest for the perfect urban professional lifestyle. Sadly, one cannot exteriorize ontological value into material objects then suck it back up, like a vampire, into your personality. They love the objects not each other. Yes, it is dated and far from its Zeitgeist now. Try to see it as it has always been; a scathing satire on the shallow, vapid, greedy Yuppies of the 1980's. It also works as a lesson that all wealth is internal; you cannot draw existential value from material objects that you possess only as long as your heart keeps beating. Still A Good Movie. Q.E.D.

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