108 user 48 critic

The War of the Roses (1989)

0:26 | Trailer
A married couple try everything to get each other to leave the house in a vicious divorce battle.


Danny DeVito


Warren Adler (novel), Michael Leeson (screenplay)
Nominated for 3 Golden Globes. Another 2 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Michael Douglas ... Oliver Rose
Kathleen Turner ... Barbara Rose
Danny DeVito ... Gavin D'Amato
Marianne Sägebrecht ... Susan
Sean Astin ... Josh at 17
Heather Fairfield ... Carolyn at 17
G.D. Spradlin ... Harry Thurmont
Peter Donat ... Jason Larrabee
Dan Castellaneta ... Man in Chair
Gloria Cromwell Gloria Cromwell ... Mrs. Marshall
Harlan Arnold Harlan Arnold ... Mr. Dell
Mary Fogarty Mary Fogarty ... Mrs. Dell
Rika Hofmann Rika Hofmann ... Elke
Patricia Allison Patricia Allison ... Maureen
Peter Brocco ... Elderly Mourner


The Roses, Barbara and Oliver, live happily as a married couple. Then she starts to wonder what life would be like without Oliver, and likes what she sees. Both want to stay in the house, and so they begin a campaign to force each other to leave. In the middle of the fighting is D'Amato, the divorce lawyer. He gets to see how far both will go to get rid of the other, and boy do they go far.. Written by Rob Hartill

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Once in a lifetime comes a motion picture that makes you feel like falling in love all over again. This is not that movie.


Comedy | Romance


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


One of the film's main trailers featured a sing-a-long jingle that summarized the movie's story-line by spoofing the lyrics to the classic 1780 English Christmas carol "The Twelve Days of Christmas". The words to the song said: "In the War of the Roses my true love gave to me, twelve traps a flying, lots of orchids dying, piles of statues breaking, all the walls a shaking, lots of flying chairs, tumbling down the stairs, five broken teeth, four fractured bones, three cracked ribs, two wrecked cars, and a puppy in a pâté. Woof." The line about orchids refers to a scene that was deleted from the film, but can be seen in the DVD extras. See more »


When Oliver is lying on the gurney in hospital and the stab victim is rolled in next to him, they are so close their elbows are almost touching. In the next shot, they're significantly further away from each other and the gurneys are at different angles. See more »


[first lines]
Gavin: [Gavin is talking to a client] You have some valid reasons for wanting a divorce.
[blows his nose with a handkerchief]
Gavin: Excuse me. My sinuses are very sensitive to irritants.
[sprays nasal decongestant up his nostrils]
Gavin: In the past five months, I think I've breathed freely with both sides working maybe a week total.
[pulls a cigarette out of a pack]
Gavin: I gotta cut this out. It's gonna kill me.
[lights his cigarette]
Gavin: I hadn't smoked for thirteen years. I kept the last cigarette from my last pack....
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Crazy Credits

The fanfare in the 20th Century Fox logo at the beginning of the movie segues into the opening theme of the movie. See more »


Referenced in The Simpsons: The War of the Simpsons (1991) See more »


We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Arranged by Sam Pottle
Performed by Sesame Street Cast
Courtesy of Children's Television Workshop
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User Reviews

The best of its kind
12 May 2017 | by edge547See all my reviews

The premise is simple enough: a moderately wealthy couple—whose last name is Rose—decides to get divorced after many years of marriage. But neither of them wants to give up their house, and both remain living in it, getting on each other's nerves as they deliberately and maliciously annoy and attack each other, each in an attempt to get the other to give up and leave.

It's exactly the sort of film I don't normally enjoy, where two equally detestable parties go back and forth trying to one up each other with ridiculous shenanigans that are rarely funny and never make up for the ninety minutes of wasted time. It reminds me of dumb comedy films like Duplex—which pits neighbor against neighbor—and Are We There Yet?, in which Ice Cube goes up against his new girlfriend's mischievous kids. These sorts of films aren't typically my cup of tea, but it wasn't my turn to pick the movie, so I just sat back and watched.

And then a funny thing occurred. Almost immediately, I got drawn into the story. That wasn't supposed to happen, but it did, and I was pleasantly surprised. I normally don't even care for Danny DeVito as a director, probably due to the fact that he made the awful Duplex, which I mentioned earlier. I mean, I did enjoy Matilda, but that was a family movie that I watched as a kid. War of the Roses was something else entirely, and despite my efforts, I couldn't help but enjoying it.

It tells the story in a different way than others of its kind. Things unfold naturally and totally believably. Sure, some of the stunts that the characters pull reach the same levels of ridiculousness as in those other films that I didn't like, but here we get the impression that it's done for the sake of the story, rather than for just another cheap laugh. Instead of yawning, I was wide sitting wide-eyed on the edge of my seat. It's not just funny; it's also very real and poignant, especially considering the fact that most of us know someone who's had a really tough divorce and it's easy to see how things could go just as bad as they do in War of the Roses.

And, unlike most of these kinds of movies and apart from my expectations, we actually end up caring about the characters, despite their overabundance of flaws. They're both selfish idiots, which makes the story so much better, but they're still believable and very well acted. From moment to moment we find ourselves siding with each one. Neither of them could be called true protagonists, as they constantly antagonize each other, but there's a balance of both deserved animosity and loathsomeness between them that is very well done. They got good actors to play these roles, and they play them so well that we almost don't notice that it could have been much worse in the hands of anyone else.

The whole story is told by Danny DeVito, who plays a divorce attorney who is telling it as a warning to a prospective client who never says a word during the entire film. And the ending is great. I won't spoil it, but trust me, it's a good one. This definitely isn't the best film I've seen, but it's certainly the best of its kind, and makes me reconsider my attitude toward this type of film. I just thought the whole idea was bad, but it turns out that it's often just done very poorly.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

8 December 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The War of the Roses See more »


Box Office


$26,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,488,794, 10 December 1989

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby SR



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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