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Crash (1996)

NC-17 | | Drama | 21 March 1997 (USA)
After getting into a serious car accident, a TV director discovers an underground sub-culture of scarred, omnisexual car-crash victims who use car accidents and the raw sexual energy they produce to try to rejuvenate his sex life with his wife.


David Cronenberg


J.G. Ballard (novel), David Cronenberg
2,190 ( 98)
9 wins & 5 nominations. See more awards »



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Complete credited cast:
James Spader ... James Ballard
Holly Hunter ... Helen Remington
Elias Koteas ... Vaughan
Deborah Kara Unger ... Catherine Ballard (as Deborah Unger)
Rosanna Arquette ... Gabrielle
Peter MacNeill ... Colin Seagrave
Yolande Julian Yolande Julian ... Airport Hooker
Cheryl Swarts Cheryl Swarts ... Vera Seagrave
Judah Katz ... Salesman
Nicky Guadagni ... Tattooist
Ronn Sarosiak Ronn Sarosiak ... A.D.
Boyd Banks ... Grip
Markus Parilo Markus Parilo ... Man in Hanger
Alice Poon Alice Poon ... Camera Girl
John Stoneham Jr. ... Trask


Since a road accident left him with serious facial and bodily scarring, a former TV scientist has become obsessed by the marriage of motor-car technology with what he sees as the raw sexuality of car-crash victims. The scientist, along with a crash victim he has recently befriended, sets about performing a series of sexual acts in a variety of motor vehicles, either with other crash victims or with prostitutes whom they contort into the shape of trapped corpses. Ultimately, the scientist craves a suicidal union of blood, semen, and engine coolant, a union with which he becomes dangerously obsessed. Written by Matt A. Knapp <mak8@le.ac.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Exploring the ultimate thrill where body and metal become one! See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated NC-17 for numerous explicit sex scenes | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »





English | Swedish

Release Date:

21 March 1997 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Crash See more »


Box Office


$9,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$738,339, 6 October 1996

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


| (R-rated)

Sound Mix:

Dolby | SDDS | Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


In the novel by J.G. Ballard from which this film derives, Vaughan's goal is to achieve sexual climax by crashing his car into the limo of Elizabeth Taylor and gruesomely killing her, a plot item not retained (obviously) for the film. See more »


After Vaughan repeatedly crashes the left front bumper of his Lincoln into a junker James Ballard is sitting in, causing major damage to the bumper and the lights, Vaughan is soon shown driving on the highway with no damage to the bumper and both left lights operational. See more »


[Vaughan is being tattooed]
Vaughan: It's too clean.
Tattooist: Medical tattoos are supposed to be clean.
Vaughan: But this is not a medical tattoo. It's a prophetic tattoo. Prophecy is ragged and dirty... so make it ragged and dirty.
See more »

Alternate Versions

A broadcast of the film on the Canadian cable network Showcase purported to be the uncut version of the film, but is missing at least one of the sex scenes. See more »


Referenced in The IT Crowd: The Dinner Party (2007) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »

User Reviews

This film is fascinating but definitely not for everyone
1 June 2004 | by patrezziSee all my reviews

I love this film. I have now viewed it three times and I still keep getting something new out of each viewing.

I think it's one of Cronenberg's best. It is not, however, for the uninitiated. By that, I mean those who are not familiar with Cronenberg's previous work, and those who have not read J.G. Ballard, whose novel was the basis for this film.

Cronenberg excels at bringing difficult pieces of fiction to film. This is one such example.

The written works of J.G.Ballard are generally, dark, dreary, and disturbing psychological fiction. The characters in them are often very disturbed and socially dysfunctional. These are people who, often due to unusual circumstances, are not in their right minds.

In Crash, we are observing a group of characters who are all survivors of horrific car crashes. Like many crash survivors, they are, during their period of recovery, in shock. They are badly shaken. They are recovering from severe physical injuries, and they are disoriented, fearful, and emotionally numb.

Instead of recovering in the normal fashion, (how sad that we've come to think of auto accidents as normal) these characters stumble into the car crash cult of Vaughan. Vaughan, who is brilliantly portrayed by Elias Koteas, is a scientist who believes that there is a strong connection between the violence of a car crash and the passion of the sexual act.

He easily indoctrinates the other characters into his mode of behavior and beliefs. By staging car crashes for entertainment, by initiating traffic altercations with his followers and ultimately finishing with some very warped sex, usually involving cars, there is a metaphor being created. Accidents, and the viewing of them becomes foreplay. It's the eroticism of the automobile taken to an extreme.

Our society has had, what is often referred to as a "love affair" with the automobile. This love affair has resulted in a worldwide addiction to a means of transportation that is, in reality, often very unhealthy and destructive. Aside from the aftermath of pollution and the sheer carnage of the ever rising highway accident rate, this addiction also increases people's isolation from each other. Hidden in their private shells, they move about, only interacting with one another as necessary. This interaction rarely becomes intimate until it is violent, as in aggressive driving and accidents .

In Crash, the characters are all portrayed as cold hearted, numb, and incapable of true intimacy with each other(they sure have a lot of sex though). They are only capable of intimacy through their cars.

This film is a bizarre metaphor for the human condition and how it is affected by our choice of technology. It is not meant to make car crashes look sexy. It is meant to draw attention to how our most familiar technology has changed us and made us less human.

I love this film. Brilliant cast. Great cinematography. An excellent soundtrack by Howard Shore (multiple layers of cleanly played, very dissonant electric guitar, sounding like a cross between Sonic Youth and Brian Ruryk). Only Cronenberg would have the guts to tackle a subject as difficult as this particular work of Ballard's. I think he did quite well.

Depending on your mood at the time of viewing, this film can range from being shocking, amusing, revolting, hilarious, to even just plain boring. It's a great piece of art, but you really do have to be in the right mood for it.

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