The Grifters (1990)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  25 January 1991 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.0/10 from 19,988 users   Metascore: 86/100
Reviews: 89 user | 53 critic | 18 from

A small-time conman has torn loyalties between his estranged mother and new girlfriend--both of whom are high-stakes grifters with their own angles to play.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 4 Oscars. Another 9 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Robert Weems ...
Racetrack Announcer
Richard Holden ...
Sandy Baron ...
Lou Hancock ...
Noelle Harling ...
Nurse Carol Flynn


Lily works for a bookie, placing bets to change the odds at the track. When her son is hospitalized after an unsuccessful con job and resultant beating, she finds that even an absentee parent has feelings for her child. This causes her own job to go wrong as well. Each of them faces the down side of the grift. Written by John Vogel <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Seduction. Betrayal. Murder. Who's Conning Who?


Crime | Drama | Thriller


R | See all certifications »

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Release Date:

25 January 1991 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Svindlarna  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$13,446,769 (USA)

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Technical Specs


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Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


On a late 2013 interview, Anjelica Huston described this role as the most challenging one of her career. See more »


Lily unscrews both light bulbs in the hallway outside Roy's apartment. In a following cut, Roy is seen entering his apartment from a well lit hallway. See more »


[first lines]
Voice-over: Around the country the bookies pay off winners at track odds. It's dangerous when a long shot comes in. Unless you have somebody at the tracks to lower those odds.
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Referenced in Mystery Science Theater 3000: Eegah (1993) See more »


Performed by Dreamworld
Words & Music by Pete Theodore and Emilie A. Bernstein (as Emily Bernstein)
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Play Nice. Don't Fight.
28 January 2009 | by (Fraggle Rock) – See all my reviews

Frears's 'The Grifters' is a bizarre noir-style disturbing thriller with dark undertones of themes such as despair, greed, incest and murder. Unlike most con thrillers, this one does not focus on tricks. Rather it focuses mainly on the characters. Lilly is in it big and she needs (or wants) money. Roy is frustrated and is in an ambivalent state. Myra, uses her weapon of seduction to have her way...including getting Roy back into the game. Then there's a fourth character, money. Which tangles them into a lethal web resulting in severely extreme consequences. It starts off a little slow as the three lead characters are introduced but the pace picks up in the proceedings. The twists and layers are well done as the viewers move back and forth into hating and liking the characters. The final sequence between Huston and Cusack is among the most unsettling scenes and it was brilliantly executed. Yet, 'The Grifters' is far from my favourite Frears film. I pretty much loved his other movies like 'High Fidelity', 'Dirty Pretty Things', 'Mrs. Hendersen Presents' and so on but I felt this movie lacked something even though I myself am a big sucker for weird movies. The three leads deliver solid performances. Cusack is finely restrained and quite intense. Bening is suitably perky, slutty and malicious. Huston is a knock out as she delivers a chilling performance. The score is quite low key (usually a piano track) except during dramatic sequences. The lighting has been well done. 'The Grifters' is intriguing and quite a departure from the usual con flick. In the end, it leaves an unsettling taste.

11 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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