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Being John Malkovich (1999)

R  |   |  Comedy, Drama, Fantasy  |  3 December 1999 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.8/10 from 242,233 users   Metascore: 90/100
Reviews: 832 user | 241 critic | 36 from Metacritic.com

A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of the movie star, John Malkovich.



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Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 46 wins & 72 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Derek Mantini
Father at Puppet Show
Madison Lanc ...
Daughter at Puppet Show
Woman in Elevator (as Octavia L. Spencer)
K.K. Dodds ...
Byrne Piven ...
Captain Mertin
Judith Wetzell ...
Tiny Woman
Cab Driver
Guy in Restaurant


Puppeteer Craig Schwartz and animal lover and pet store clerk Lotte Schwartz are just going through the motions of their marriage. Despite not being able to earn a living solely through puppeteering, Craig loves his profession as it allows him to inhabit the skin of others. He begins to take the ability to inhabit the skin of others to the next level when he is forced to take a job as a file clerk for the off-kilter LesterCorp, located on the five-foot tall 7½ floor of a Manhattan office building. Behind one of the filing cabinets in his work area, Craig finds a hidden door which he learns is a portal into the mind of John Malkovich, the visit through the portal which lasts fifteen minutes after which the person is spit into a ditch next to the New Jersey Turnpike. Craig is fascinated by the meaning of life associated with this finding. Lotte's trips through the portal make her evaluate her own self. And the confident Maxine Lund, one of Craig's co-workers who he tells about the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can. See more »


Comedy | Drama | Fantasy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

3 December 1999 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Biti John Malkovich  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$13,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$637,721 (USA) (29 October 1999)


£1,882,462 (UK) (5 May 2000)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The 1990 Steppenwolf Theatre building in Chicago (John Malkovich was one of the first members of Steppenwolf, and remains one today) includes a half-floor used for storage. See more »


When Craig runs his fingers over files, his wedding ring is on his right hand although usually it's on the left one. See more »


[first lines]
Lotte Schwartz: Craig, honey, it's time for bed.
[fade out and in]
Orrin Hatch the bird: Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up,
Craig Schwartz: Lotte...
Lotte Schwartz: I'm sorry. I didn't know Orrin Hatch was out of his cage.
See more »

Crazy Credits

at the end of the cast listing is noted ...and John Malkovich See more »


Referenced in I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue (2008) See more »


Pace, pace, mio Dio
from "La Forza del destino"
Written by Giuseppe Verdi
Performed by Eva Urbanová and The Prague Symphony Orchestra
Courtesy of Promusic, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Brilliant, Unique Film
4 July 2000 | by (Salem, Oregon) – See all my reviews

What does it feel like to be inside someone else's skin? Some people find out in the highly imaginative `Being John Malkovich,' directed with style by Spike Jonze, and starring John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener and John Malkovich. When out of work puppeteer Craig Schwartz (Cusack) gets a job as a file clerk on the `7 1/2' floor of an office building, it's the beginning of a bizarre interlude that will ultimately take him, and a few others as well, into a realm beyond the known. One day he discovers a small doorway hidden behind a filing cabinet; curious, he ventures into the dark beyond and is suddenly sucked into the mind of actor John Malkovich. After fifteen minutes of seeing through Malkovich's eyes, and experiencing what the actor is experiencing, Craig is just as suddenly and inexplicably dropped into a ditch beside the New Jersey Turnpike. Unable to contain himself, he confides what has happened to him to Maxine (Catherine Keener), a woman who also works on 7 1/2. Immediately, she sees money in the prospect of having a portal into the mind of John Malkovich, and she convinces Craig that they should start a business: `J.M. Inc.' For two hundred dollars a pop, people can have the experience of a lifetime.

Jonze has taken a unique screenplay that is clever, witty, humorous and totally engrossing, and turned it into one of the most ingenious films to come our way in a long, long time. In fact, there's never been anything quite like it. It is distinct and filled with nuance and subtle shades of humor, sometimes dark, sometimes hilarious, but riveting throughout. And the performances are absolutely first rate all around. Keener deservedly got the Oscar nod for Best Supporting Actress, but Cusack, Diaz and Bean are also exemplary here. Cusack comes through with one of the best characters he's ever done; there's an edgy, quiet intelligence to Craig, a Bohemian at heart, with a wife, Lotte (Diaz), and an apartment full of pets (snakes, birds and a chimp). He's reserved, generally takes things as they come, and exudes a certain boyish charm when he becomes smitten with Maxine. Diaz, taking on a decidedly unglamorous role, is terrific as Lotte, the somewhat unremarkable pet shop clerk who comes alive after experiencing the `portal.' It's a great character part, and Diaz plays it for all it's worth, connecting with the audience while ably conveying Lotte's sense of confusion and repressed yearnings. And Orson Bean nearly steals the show as Dr. Lester, Craig's boss, the hundred-and-five year old man with a secret that holds the key to the portal. It's a memorable performance filled with nuance and subtle humor; the scene in which he interviews job-applicant Craig is classic. Malkovich (as himself) is the icing on the cake; he plays it straight, with a finesse and distinction that makes the unbelievable somehow credible, while lending an easy, natural flow to the innate humor of the story. The `Malkovich, Malkovich,' sequence, and his rendition of the puppet's dance are unforgettable scenes.

The supporting cast includes Mary Kay Place (Floris), Charlie Sheen (Charlie), Carlos Jacott (Larry), Willie Garson (Guy in restaurant) and Byrne Piven (Captain Mertin). Written by Charlie kaufman, `Being John Malkovich' is a movie that is an experience in itself. And Jonze and his entire cast should be given a standing ovation for bringing this one to life, for making it breathe. It's the kind of film you wait for to come along, but rarely does, and it demands to be seen more than once. Like Lotte, once you've been through the portal, you have to do it again; once you've tasted the nectar, there's no turning back. 10/10.

65 of 92 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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Recent Posts
I am a MSTie, and found this uwatchable. gaijin33
Why John Malkovich? miles_fierce_larson
I completely do NOT get this movie, care to explain? yuan-van
Highly Overrated chironaphelion
Catherine Keener as Maxine? metanthrax
This is a horror movie georgetazberik
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