6.8/10
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97 user 45 critic

The War of the Roses (1989)

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

Director:

Danny DeVito

Writers:

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

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Directors: Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Bette Midler, Danny DeVito, Judge Reinhold
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Cast

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
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Storyline

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

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Comedy | Romance

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

8 December 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Der Rosenkrieg See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$26,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$9,488,794, 10 December 1989

Gross USA:

$86,888,546

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$160,188,546
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

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 »

Goofs

When Benny (the dog) greets Oliver as he is coming out of the sauna, we hear Benny barking, however we see him licking Oliver. See more »

Quotes

[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 ...
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Saturday Night Live: Kathleen Turner/Billy Joel (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

We Wish You a Merry Christmas
Traditional
Arranged by Sam Pottle
Performed by Sesame Street Cast
Courtesy of Children's Television Workshop
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Works on so many levels
24 October 2005 | by MovieAddict2016See all my reviews

DeVito is a hit-and-miss director. He's turned out some very good films and some very bad ones. Sometimes his satire just falls short ("Death to Smoochy," for example); however, "War of the Roses" is his strongest directorial effort to date.

It's got everything - a clever script, great interaction between its two stars, exciting thrills, funny gags (without ever resorting to unnecessary crudity), and to top it all off, the direction is very effective - DeVito is heavily influenced by Hitchcock and that is very clear in the final sequence, which is reminiscent of "Vertigo" and "Rear Window." Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner play the Rose couple - two once-happily-married people who are now, after many years together, bitter and at the end of their frustration. Deciding upon a divorce, they begin to split apart; however, negotiations regarding belongings begin to go awry as Oliver Rose (Douglas) demands more from his wife, claiming it's his money that purchased their enormous house and all objects inside.

DeVito turns in a performance as the narrator, and Oliver's lawyer, who tells us at the start we are about to watch a sad tale about divorce. By the time the film has ended we've seen events spiral totally out of control - beginning with absolute believability and ending in absolute absurdity.

That's the crucial part of all this. Black comedy relies on whether the dramatic arc of the content - the leap from reality to lunacy - can be believable. Many times in DeVito's film, it isn't. "Smoochy," for example, was clever satire at first, and fairly reminiscent of real-life people and events; then it turned into an over-the-top revenge rampage.

"War of the Roses" is more careful, and the arc is subtler. It's believable because the characters are given such room to grow and their conflict blossoms throughout the picture.

I'd classify "War of the Roses" as one of the funniest, cleverest and most underrated black comedies of the 1980s - it's one of my personal favorite movies and never fails to crack me up. A cult film? Maybe; but I think many more people would enjoy it if they gave it a chance.


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