The Bonfire of the Vanities (1990)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama  |  21 December 1990 (USA)
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Ratings: 5.4/10 from 17,051 users  
Reviews: 112 user | 31 critic

After his mistress runs over a young teen, a Wall Street hotshot sees his life unravel in the spotlight, and attracting the interest of a down and out reporter.


(as Brian DePalma)


(screenplay), (novel)
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1 win & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Jed Kramer
John Hancock ...
Reverend Bacon
Tom Killian
Albert Fox
Louis Giambalvo ...
Ray Andruitti
Barton Heyman ...
Det. Martin
Norman Parker ...
Det. Goldberg
Mr. McCoy
Arthur Ruskin


Financial "Master of the Universe" Sherman McCoy sees his life unravel when his mistress Maria Ruskin hits a black boy with his car. When yellow journalist Peter Fallow enflames public opinion with a series of distorted tabloid articles on the accident, the case is seized upon by opportunists like Reverend Bacon and mayoral candidate D.A. Abe Weiss. Written by Jon Reeves <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Take one Wall Street tycoon, his Fifth Avenue mistress, a reporter hungry for fame, and make the wrong turn in The Bronx...then sit back and watch the sparks fly. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

21 December 1990 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La hoguera de las vanidades  »

Box Office


$47,000,000 (estimated)


$15,691,192 (USA)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(70 mm prints)| (35 mm prints)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Kyra Sedgwick and Robin Wright tested for the role of Maria Ruskin. See more »


Before cuckold Arthur Ruskin dies in the restaurant, his cocktail glass alternates from between his hands to outside his hands. See more »


Pollard Browning: Hello, Sherman.
Sherman McCoy: Good evening, Pollard.
Pollard Browning: It's raining, you know.
Sherman McCoy: I did notice, yes.
Pollard Browning: [on Sherman's dog] Ah, Sherman, a true friend to man's best friend.
Sherman McCoy: Pollard, you old phrase-maker.
Pollard Browning: I beg your pardon?
Sherman McCoy: Is that the best you can do? Is that as witty as we get?
Pollard Browning: I don't know what you're talking about. Furthermore, if you're wet when you return, take the service elevator.
See more »


Featured in Boffo! Tinseltown's Bombs and Blockbusters (2006) See more »


Am I Living In Vain?
Written by E. Twinky Clark
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Deserves a better pitch and a better rating
6 July 2003 | by (Middletown NJ) – See all my reviews

The back cover for the DVD calls this movie "hilarious" and "the quintessential story of the go-for-it '80s." In truth, it is neither. The Bonfire of the Vanities is, however, funny in parts, poignant in parts, and entertaining throughout.

The protagonist is Sherman McCoy, a man whose one fatal flaw (an affair we know of from the beginning) leads to the downfall from his envious position as a "Master of the Universe." Tom Hanks gives an excellent performance and shows real emotion in bringing this highly plausible character to life. Unfortunately, his character is the only one with enough depth to be realistic. Even Morgan Freeman's Judge White, representing a refreshing dose of intelligence and honesty in the film, is perhaps too good to be believed. All of the other characters are mere caricatures, appearing too greedy, too pretentious, too self-absorbed, or too flighty to be believed. Bruce Willis might have made himself an exception as well, but I feel he simply lacked enough screen time to flesh out the different faces he had to show.

Nevertheless the story is very well told. If the other characters appear less than convincing, accept them as colorful background for McCoy, who is the real focus anyway. There are numerous laughs, and the other characters represent elements that are definitely present in society - even if not to the extent shown here. Wolfe's story is entertaining enough to make this movie worth seeing. And it might even make you think twice about the names you see next time you open a newspaper.

7 / 10 stars.

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

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