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Crash (1996)

 -  Drama  -  21 March 1997 (USA)
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Ratings: 6.3/10 from 35,047 users   Metascore: 47/100
Reviews: 284 user | 103 critic | 22 from

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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Complete credited cast:
Colin Seagrave
Yolande Julian ...
Airport Hooker
Cheryl Swarts ...
Vera Seagrave
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 <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Life is a highway 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:

$738,339 (USA) (21 March 1997)


$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?


Vaughan's "benevolent psychopathology" speech ("The car crash is a fertilizing, rather than a destructive event . . . ") is taken word-for-word from a passage in J.G. Ballard's 1970 book "The Atrocity Exhibition", published three years before the novel "Crash". 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 »


Vaughan: The car crash is a fertilizing rather than a destructive event.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A superb movie.
26 January 1999 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

In the book "Cronenberg on Cronenberg," a study of director David Cronenberg's movies, the Canadian filmmaker criticises film theorist' Robin Wood's ideological beliefs that certain movies should be seen if they encourage or take a partciular moral stance, even if they're not outstandingly good pictures. For Cronenberg to criticise this belief is understandable. Movies don't have to be moral and go along with certain ideas or cultural stances to be worthy of critical debate or discussion. Because David Cronenberg's movies are often what's described as 'immoral,' they're consequently criticised for being sick, perverse, and sometimes downright depraved.

In 1996, The Daily Mail, a British newspaper, launched a campaign to see that "Crash" wasn't released in Britain. Led by their useless film critic Christopher Tookey (The man who thought 'Martha: Meet Frank, Daniel and Lawrence' was a brilliant picture), the newspaper was intent on seeing that the picture never made it onto British screens. They attacked the BBFC's decision when the film was eventually (And quite rightly) passed uncut. The newspaper's campaign was a short-lived, desperate joke. Two years later, "Crash" is available to rent on video uncut, and can be viewed on satellite TV in the UK. And, more importantly, during this period, the world-wide death rate that "Crash" has been linked to totals in at 0.

"Crash" is, in fact, a superb movie; a film like no other. I've now seen it many times, read a great deal of literature, essays and articles about it, including Cronenberg's genuinly fascinating own writings about the movie. In direct response to the opening paragraph I've written, I want to take this opportunity to 'Explain' "Crash" to those audiences who liked it but couldn't fully understand 'It's point' (As so many people say), and those, who, for various reasons absolutley hated it. In my writing, I want to deconstruct and 'Explain' the movie as simply as possible; believe it or not, I hate most film theories I read (Many are just plain ridiculous!), but, "Crash" is clearly a film that requires an alternative reading, and is certainly worthy of debate and discussion.

If one is willing to suspend their own morals and beliefs when viewing a film such as "Crash," the pleasure of seeing the film is incredible. For those reading this who haven't seen the film, hopefully this may encourage you to take a look, and ignore all the silly media negativity that surrounded it on its release. After all, if you're still concerned that this '18' Certificate movie could encourage people to crash their cars, then you must also be concerned about the thousands of 'U' and 'PG' rated movies where guns and violence often make up much of the plot. After all, "Crash" doesn't contain any of either.

Based on the 70's novel by British author JG Ballard, "Crash" is the story of film producer James Ballard and his wife Catherine, and their slow departure into a warped World where sexual pleasure is achieved in car crashes. Led by Elias Koteas, the underground group lead their lives in a bizarre way, fascinated by both car crashes and their bloody and often horrid consequences.

First of all, lets establish the most ridiculous element of "Crash." It's the car crashes themselves, of course. For someone to get sexual pleasure out of crashing a car is bizarre and laughable to say the least. In fact, as one critic wrote, it's something that would only happen in movies! I don't think there's much debate about that. So, we have to look at an alternative reading. What can this bizarre sexual ritual actually represent? It can and, indeed, does work as a perfect metaphore for the link between both sex and death, and pain and death. There's certainly no debate to say that a link exists between both, like it or not. Therefore, when we witness a car crash in the movie, the movie is exploring these concepts that, in reality, DO exist.

But there's another element to the car-crash concept of the movie, and that's the link the film makes between sex and technology. In his interviews about the picture, Cronenberg also explores some interesting cultural issues that combine the three aforementioned concepts; for instance, he questions just why so many people nowadays have their bodies pierced in such bizarre places; they often look painful, feel painful, but are so frequently done to look attractive!

When watching "Crash," it's often easy to get the impression that, somehow or other, you've lost the narrative; one never feels as though they're quite understanding the movie. This is deliberate, and, encourages the audience to watch as a spectator, rather than as someone who relates to the protagonists. For instance, the script, story and direction make little or no attempt for us to relate to James Ballard. This is where "Crash" is very much a David Cronenberg movie, as strong parallels can be drawn with many of his previous works. Take "The Fly," for example. Before and during the making of the 1986 movie, Cronenberg had been encouraged to make Jeff Goldblume's character (Seth Brundel), a normal, everyday fella, rather than the mad, eccentric scientist that he is. But, as Cronenberg expresses, that's not interesting! It's obvious how an everyday, conventional person would respond to the horrors explored in "The Fly," making the film conventional and much more mainstream. The same applies to "Crash...." ....At the start of the movie, James Ballard and his wife are already locked into a bizarre sexual World. The very first scene shows Catherine Ballard in an aircraft hanger about to have sex; the scene has two effects - It links sex and technology immediately in a very in-your-face-way, and, most importantly, it also stops us relating to the character. There's little dialogue; we never see the man she's with again, and the scene that follows this is a more frantic sex sequence with James Ballard, again with an annoymous character; an obvious parallel with the aircraft hanger part.

Later on, to encourage this impossible-to-relate to the characters effect, Cronenberg uses endless techniques; nearly all the cast mysteriously whisper their dialogue throughout, and we're told next to nothing about anyones background. Interestingly, however, the career of James Ballard is one of a film producer.

"Crash" isn't realism and Cronenberg doesn't want it to be, nor does he try to make it 'real.' An endless number of things happen in the movie that couldn't and wouldn't happen in real life, but, by being in place, create the atmosphere needed, and, of course, help the narrative. For instance, the scene in which the main character's begin to photograph a nasty night-time car crash is ridiculous; swarming with Police, such a thing would never happen! "Crash," is, in fact, a complete fantasy.

It's perhaps worth noting at this point just how brilliant Howard Shore's score is for this movie. Creating a suitable score for this bizarre tale must have been a hard job, but Shore's music isn't far from being perfect. There's an odd, clanging-metal type pace to it throughout, more than suitable and relevant to the film. And, although this isn't a movie where actors are rarely given the chance to shine, all performances are above-par, especially when one takes into account the difficult and complex themes that the film deals with. By bringing the incredibly sexy Rosanna Arquette in on the proceedings, Cronenberg has also put some much-needed humour into the film; the car-showroom scene is a painfully funny moment of dark humour.

The sex scenes in the movie are also more than vital; as already mentioned, the first set work as perfect parallels, but, more importantly, they can often be read in their own entirety. When James is making love to his wife mid-way through the movie, it's obvious that the film is both drawing a parallel between the love-making and car-crashing (Observe the positioning of the characters!), and, even more importantly, with the dialogue, it's clear that Catherine is actually making James fantisise about having sex with a certain other character in the movie.

There is an endless amount of interesting things about "Crash" one could say, and it really is a great movie. If you haven't seen it, take a look. It isn't always easy to sit through, and it sometimes verges on becoming too much to take with sex scene after sex scene. However, so many intelligent things can come from seeing it, and it really is a great movie, making David Cronenberg one of the greatest filmmakers working today.

44 of 66 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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