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Crash (1996)

NC-17 | | Drama | 21 March 1997 (USA)
After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.



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8 wins & 4 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
Colin Seagrave
Yolande Julian ...
Airport Hooker
Cheryl Swarts ...
Vera Seagrave
Judah Katz ...
Nicky Guadagni ...
Ronn Sarosiak ...
Man in Hanger
Alice Poon ...
Camera Girl


Since a road accident left him with serious facial and bodily scarring, a former TV scientist has become obsessed by the marriage of motor-car technology with what he sees as the raw sexuality of car-crash victims. The scientist, along with a crash victim he has recently befriended, sets about performing a series of sexual acts in a variety of motor vehicles, either with other crash victims or with prostitutes whom they contort into the shape of trapped corpses. Ultimately, the scientist craves a suicidal union of blood, semen, and engine coolant, a union with which he becomes dangerously obsessed. Written by Matt A. Knapp <mak8@le.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century. See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated NC-17 for numerous explicit sex scenes | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:





Release Date:

21 March 1997 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Crash: Extraños placeres  »

Box Office


$9,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

ITL 1,372,969,000 (Italy) (15 November 1996)


$3,168,660 (USA) (18 April 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated)

Sound Mix:

| |


Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Michael Hutchence was offered the role of Vaughan. See more »


After Vaughan repeatedly crashes the left front bumper of his Lincoln into a junker James Ballard is sitting in, causing major damage to the bumper and the lights, Vaughan is soon shown driving on the highway with no damage to the bumper and both left lights operational. See more »


[Ballard is giving Helen a lift; she's wearing a white coat]
James Ballard: Where can I take you?
Helen Remington: To the airport.
James Ballard: You're not leaving?
Helen Remington: No, although not soon enough for some people. A death in the doctor's family makes patients uneasy.
James Ballard: [smiling] I take it you're not wearing white to reassure them.
Helen Remington: [unsmiling] I'll wear a fucking kimono if I feel like it.
See more »


Referenced in Death Proof (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Prophecy is ragged and dirty
2 July 2009 | by (Australia) – See all my reviews

Despite its subject matter CRASH may be Cronenberg's most subtle shocker. The narrative is a sinking into an underworld. A group of injured people who have all at some point suffered automobile collisions, falling for each other, returning and fetishising the experience of the car-crash. Unorganised and organically forming in the wake of their individual near death experiences (of the car crash) to be lived over and over like a mantra. Sex has again become the animal act it once was with decisive promiscuity at the heart of the film. Often criticised for cold and emotionless lives I believe the story offers a highly deep level of human relations. Physical contact with one another. Forceful sex is just as common as a loving embrace in this film. An unofficial support group who take on their fears head on and look death strait in the eye.

There is a violence coupled with sex. The life altering events they chose to live again and again is the car crash. Rather than question this motivation I just accept that it has become a natural choice for these characters to return there. There seems to be an understanding between these damaged figures that differentiates them from the wider community. As if baptised by accident they return to the motifs, cold broken shells and even racing bodies of the automobile. The night is theirs to experiment with impulsive, careless journeys around the roads and highways of the airport. It is theirs to be reunited with the crash.

For a film so violent it is comforting to know there is no villain. There is no bad guy. The closest thing would be dissatisfaction but that can be solved with a forward sexual act. Following desire seems to be the best therapy for this group. Led by a confident character called Vaughan, played by Elias Koteas, the group follows a pattern part bohemian part wild pack of jaguars. Vaughan has a vision with no conclusion. His infectious energy creates a cult around him as he forges ahead with not only returning to the crash over and over with photographs, scrapbooks and diatribe but as literal performance. In perhaps Cronenberg's masterstroke of the film Vaughan re-enacts the James Deen crash for real at high speed with another vehicle. This set piece on a strip of bitumen, topped off with walky-talky organised choreography, is performed in front of an outdoor grand stand filled with a curious audience on the fringe. A late-night theatre lit sparsely with floodlights is a car crash.

James Ballard, played by James Spader, is to become Vaughan's protégé. Under his wing Ballard enters a world after having his own car crash. Ballard seems perfect for this incestuous group, as he already exists in an open but apparently functional relationship. The car crash has shifted his presence to this world or community where he will now function out his promiscuity among the fellow survivors. He will learn from Vaughan and eventually become him.

The film achieves a certain blue tone, an icy cold feel, as the days are overcast and the night roads shiny with rain. Great attention is taken to how things are shot. We are made to look at the automobile in a different way with camera angles that force closer inspection of the everyday motorcar. Its hard metal exteriors shaped like raging animals and its sexy interiors perfect soft places for gratification. A musical score winds repetitively through the film. Howard Shaw's theme reminds us of the cycle as it returns with chilly electric guitar prompting the swift lane changes and casual swapping of sexual partners for new experiences.

This is Cronenberg's best sci-fi. A distillation of JG Ballard's explicit novel, which is turned from internal monologue of the book to passive observer. Sci-fi that is barely that because it is about concepts of culture. Possabilities more so of humans reacting to the technology than of the technology itself. A grey existential and subjective view. Expressing the highways as arteries and the car as a means to travel if not exist in the modern world. The beating heart of the airport, a city within a city, pumps concrete and electric life to its surrounding earth. A concentration of energy that supports all kinds of existence. Left to interpret the actions of the film an audience can go either way. The chain of sex scenes and car drives as a narrative may be inaccessible for some or intriguing to others. You can shut off immediately and dismiss the story or remain curious and open. The latter may give you a very rewarding experience.

Mike Retter


5 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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