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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 242,342 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? 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?


In a 2009 Hanes commercial, Charlie Sheen is driving a car with the license plate "MASHEEN". This is reference to the scene in which Malkovich and Charlie Sheen trade affectionate nicknames: Malkovich: "Ma-sheen!"; Charlie: "Malkatraz!" See more »


The chimp actor changes a few times - sometimes it has a white beard, while at other times it has no beard. 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 »


Featured in Sideways (2004) See more »


Song of the Soul
Composed by Patrick Hawes
Courtesy of Promusic, Inc.
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

One of the most unique, imaginative movies ever made. **** out of ****
28 November 1999 | by (Michigan, USA) – See all my reviews


Starring: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Orson Bean, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich, and Charlie Sheen Director: Spike Jonze Running Time: 113 minutes Rated R (for sexuality and language)

By Blake French:

It is not every day that I use words in my movie reviews such as unique, creative, inventive, imaginative, original, fresh, mesmerizing, and unmatched. Under the circumstances of "Being John Malkovich," a wonderfully hilarious presentation of an incomprehensible idea, I find myself using every one of those phrases and then some more being deserved. Everything about it is labyrinthine, intriguing, and very funny. It is one of the years best films, and should be well presented come Academy Award time.

"Being John Malkovich" details the relationship between Craig and Lotte Schwartz. They basically live an old fashioned life in a small apartment with a miniature zoo of pets and a puppet factory inside. Lotte is a typical, unattractive homemaker while Craig holds that unusual occupation of being a professional puppeteer. Desperately searching for employment, Craig soon visits a business for an interview as a filer when he discovers for some odd reason the construction of the office floor is all but several feet tall, forcing all employees to bend over backwards just to walk around.

One of those employees is named Maxine, a highly seductive co-worker of Craig's. When he asks her out for a beer one night, Craig experiences lustful thoughts about her, and nearly begins an affair as his seemingly loving wife wonders around her happy little apartment all by herself.

As you can see, the household isn't exactly a joyful situation. All things change, from blossoming sexual confusion to inner self-esteem, when Craig uncovers a small door behind a filing cabinet in his office. It is tucked away, hidden acutely well in a dark corner, which is found mysteriously by accident when Craig droops a paper behind the cabinet. After Craig explores this deep miniature, seemingly endless hallway, he discovers this secret door leads to the brain of actor John Malkovich for fifteen minutes, then spits you out along the roadside afterwards.

Wow, sounds like "Alice in Wonderland," doesn't it...well, sort of. Craig first tells his co-worker about his discovery, who continues to think he's nuts. Then, after explaining and showing this portal to his wife, who is hysterical, Maxine begins to believe Craig, and concoct a devilish idea. To sell tickets allowing a pedestrian to enter the mind of a famous celebrity. The tagline: Ever wanted to be someone else? Now you can.

It is very intriguing how the narrative point of view is juggled between Craig and then Lotte after the problem is introduced and then solved: the couples dead-end lives are lifted in glory. This creates a second conflict moving us smoothly into the second act. Perfect internal problems are created with the two female leads; Lotte and Maxine find themselves physically attracted to each other in unbelievable character twists. The two end up having a femininity sexual relationship while one is entrapped in the mind of Malkovich, and the other experiences the actual Malkovich. It is a beautifully crafted structure, with act breaks so clear and complications so faultless it is no wonder while this is such an effective picture.

Also first rate here are the performances. Although the film offers strange types of roles for these actors to indulge themselves in, they do a wonderfully energetic job. Cameron Diaz is flawlessly cast as Craig's sexually and mentally uncoordinated wife, and delivers us a comically riotous character. John Cusack as Craig himself is superior and believable as a down on his luck puppeteer, and possesses a perfect blend of humor and unpredictable qualities with his character. Also quite good here, John Malkovich, who has much more of a difficult role than one would think. He has some hard scenes where Craig controls him while inside his mind, which requires great skill to perform.

However, better than any performance, and more amazing then any flawless characters or plot, is the concept of a human being thinking up such an absurd idea as the imagination behind the beauty of "Being John Malkovich." With such a penetrating, magical atmosphere to it, it is kind of a shame that the filmmakers created this film in the form of a black comedy instead of something more harrowing. Although comedy is simply the most logical choice to categorize this type of film, wouldn't it have been interesting to see this movie as a drama, or perhaps as a spiritual awakening picture.

Regardless, the film still has an oddly powerful message to it, which I will not, nor do I ever directly reveal in any of my reviews. You see, since different individuals come from different backgrounds, and thus see things differently. It is because of this that I do not allow my personal take on a message persuade another filmgoer whose idea of a moral may be much different than my own. But I will say that "Being John Malkovich" might not overtake the box office, but for appreciative movie patrons, this one is sure to be treasured for a long time to come.

Brought to you by Gramercy Pictures.

126 of 184 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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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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