An overstressed suburbanite and his neighbors are convinced that the new family on the block are part of a murderous Satanic cult.


Joe Dante


Dana Olsen
3,657 ( 223)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Hanks ... Ray Peterson
Bruce Dern ... Mark Rumsfield
Carrie Fisher ... Carol Peterson
Rick Ducommun ... Art Weingartner
Corey Feldman ... Ricky Butler
Wendy Schaal ... Bonnie Rumsfield
Henry Gibson ... Dr. Werner Klopek
Theodore Gottlieb ... Reuben Klopek (as Brother Theodore)
Courtney Gains ... Hans Klopek
Gale Gordon ... Walter Seznick
Dick Miller ... Garbageman
Robert Picardo ... Garbageman
Cory Danziger ... Dave Peterson
Franklyn Ajaye ... Detective
Rance Howard ... Detective


This story takes place in a typical American neighborhood, when some new neighbors come to live in the house next to Ray Peterson. These new people are really strange; nobody has ever seen them, their house is a real mess, and during the night you can hear weird noises from their basement. The only thing they know is their name: Klopeks. One day Walter (an old man of the neighborhood) suddenly disappears and everyone starts to suspect the Klopeks... Written by Chris Makrozahopoulos <>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Life In The Burbs Will Never Be The Same Again! See more »


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


This was first full film that editor Marshall Harvey edited for director Joe Dante. He'd worked with Dante on the anthology comedy Amazon Women On The Moon, which was the unofficial sequel to Kentucky Fried Movie which was also directed by Dante, John Landis, Carl Gottlieb and Peter Horton also released by Universal Pictures like this film was. See more »


When the group hears the doctor's footsteps in the Klopek's living room, Carol, in the background, removes her left arm from a piece of covered furniture. In the next shot, Carol removes the same arm from the same furniture. See more »


Art: Safety is my middle name.
Ray Peterson: I thought his middle name was Louis.
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Crazy Credits

After the Universal Studios logo appears, the camera zooms into Earth and to where the film takes place.

At the end of the film, the effect is played in reverse. See more »

Alternate Versions

There were three filmed endings to the movie. The first is the one that is in the normal release of the movie both domestic and international. The second, available as the 'alternate ending' on the DVD version, follows the path of the first one, but is slightly different and does not contain the sequence in which the ambulance crashes into the house or the part where Mark Rumsfield slide tackles Hans Klopek. It does have a few more scenes which include Hans being interrogated by the police, Dr. Werner Klopek giving a speech to the police on what is wrong with the suburbs, and Ruben telling Ray that he was going to enjoy having him over for their final dinner. The third (and most downbeat) ending, which has not been released in any form officially, is supposed to have Ray get killed in the ambulance by Werner, the Klopeks are pronounced innocent, and garbage bags are found bound and gagged in the Klopek's car trunk. The last ending follows the original ending contained in the script. See more »


Referenced in Face Eater (2008) See more »


Written by Mickey Finn, Fernie Rod, Billy Rowe & Mark Radice
Performed by Jetboy
Courtesy of MCA Records
See more »

User Reviews

Light dark comedy
31 March 2008 | by mrtimlarabeeSee all my reviews

The 'burbs is a fun diversion from the usual neighborhood comedies. Joe Dante has a way of combining dark humor and outright horror and make it convincing to a mass audience (see 'Gremlins.') That this film has a lot of dark elements and remains just a light romp at the end is a feat unto itself. All credit goes to Hanks' good natured comedic performance and Dante's fun with the material.

Dante paints a portrait of the neighborhood at the very beginning. Hanks plays Ray, probably the most normal among the neighbors. Art is like a big kid and the first one to suspect the neighbors of foul play. Bruce Dern plays a war vet where Ricky Butler, played by Corey Feldman is the loud teenager. All is well in suburbia until clues pop up that might reveal the new neighbors, the Klopeks, as murderers.

With any other talent behind the film, this could have been a very dark comedy. But instead of playing up the horror, Dante has fun with it, playing up the comedy talents of his performers (notably Hanks and Dern, who take turns chewing scenery). Dante also has fun with visuals, notably in a hilarious dream sequence that Ray has.

Everything comes together to make this film work, including a great score by Jerry Goldsmith, that is part suburban comedy and part horror, complete with organs culled from a funeral march. This film is far from perfect, but it's fun diversional comedy and reminds of the great comic actor that Tom Hanks once was before becoming Oscar's golden boy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

17 February 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Life in the Burbs See more »


Box Office


$18,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$11,101,197, 20 February 1989

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (workprint)

Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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