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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
2,550 ( 108)

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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
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


Love in the dying moments of the twentieth century. 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: Extraños placeres 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?


Rosanna Arquette worked on this film while she was also working on Gone Fishin' (1997). She flew back and forth between Toronto, Canada and Florida where Gone Fishin' (1997) was filmed. 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 »


Colin Seagrave: I want really big tits, out to here, so the audience can see 'em get all cut up and crushed on the dashboard.
See more »

Alternate Versions

Just after Vaughan's "attack" to Catherine's car, witnessed by Ballard in another car, there's the most explicit scene in the movie. A long sex scene between Ballard and Catherine lying on their sides, with frontal nudity of her. During the sequence, there's a long and quite explicit dialogue, mostly of her asking things about Vaughan - his body, his car -, and questioning Ballard if he desires to have sex with him. The scene has about 3 and a half minutes and was completely cut. See more »


References A Fistful of Dollars (1964) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

On the road to hell...
30 September 2004 | by majikstlSee all my reviews

There is the very real possibility that CRASH is an elaborate joke. That is the only way that this monumentally idiotic mess could possibly be explained. Certainly there is nothing in this silliness that in any way touches upon normal human behavior as most people understand it. Indeed, I even suspect you would have trouble finding any psychologist or psychiatrist who would have ever encountered the type of freaky weirdoes who populate this film -- or for that matter even have read about such freaky weirdoes in text books.

The film deals with people who get sexual aroused by automobile accidents and the pain and suffering such wrecks cause. I suppose anything is possible and such people may exist, but CRASH takes it one step further and suggests that there is this cult of individuals who somehow network to fulfill their fantasies of motorized mayhem. Two such characters are played by Holly Hunter and James Spader. In a most grotesque parody of "meeting cute" the two encounter each other when he crosses the center line and smashes head-on into her car, killing her husband and apparently getting her hot and bothered in the process. Hunter's Helen is already into smashup sex, so, after a stay in the hospital, the grieving widow naturally rushes Spader -- playing James Ballard, the author of the original novel -- into her small band of bumper car aficionados.

In addition to being wreck 'n' roll fanatics, the people must also be incredibly rich. They like to recreate infamous celebrity auto accidents, such as James Dean's roadside death. For instance, to do so, they have to buy or recreate not only a replica of Dean's rare 1955 Porsche Spyder, but also an almost equally rare 1950 Ford coupe that was the other car involved in the crash. With these and a variety of other new and used cars, we're talking about thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of dollars for autos destined to be demolished in the name of foreplay. Talk about expensive quickies. A couple of tickets to a demolition derby would be far more economical -- and a virtual orgy.

Of course, the film isn't really about auto eroticism; it is about sexual obsession in general. The fetish in question could have been about anything that inspires abnormal lust. The characters could have been turned on by, say, internet porn, gambling, bungee jumping, farm animals or jiggling Jell-O molds. But, gosh darn it, car wrecks are so much more photogenic. It doesn't seem to bother the filmmakers that they are perpetuating a correlation between sex and violence, because, well, they apparently believe such a link already exists. Nor do they seem to be aware that they are undermining their own efforts by building an oh-so serious drama around a ludicrously grim (and lame) joke.

As such, the insipidness of the story is accentuated by the pomposity of the storytelling. Director David Cronenberg approaches the story as though he were Igmar Bergman directing PERSONA. Other than a few lapses, the film is cold and lifeless and empty; though it is somewhat appropriate that a film celebrating a sexual obsession with automobiles would depict sex as an utterly mechanical act. Cronenberg and crew do slip up a couple of times and inspire moments worthy of laughing out loud. One scene in particular is hilarious: Hunter and several others are lounging around watching videos of auto crash tests like they are watching porn videos; One particularly messy smash up prompts Hunter to excitedly demand that it be shown again in slow motion. Crash dummies watching crash dummies, as it were.

There is an unwritten rule of movie sex: If films featuring explicit sex are fun and comic, then it is pornographic; but if the sex is joyless, degrading and dispassionate, then it is art -- or, sex as something good is dirty; sex as something bad is honest. It is this simplistic, neo-puritanical attitude that makes films like CRASH so insultingly hypocritical: Make a big deal about filming graphic, lurid sex scenes, then condescendingly shake one's finger at the audience to remind them how perverse such activity is. It's like slipping an alcoholic a drink in order to self-righteously chastise him for being a drunk.

Had the filmmakers shucked the smug moralizing and openly played the material as sly satire, perhaps CRASH could have been a sharp commentary on modern romance, both between people and with their cars -- speeding as flirtation, road rage as rape, reckless driving as masturbation, the head-on collision as the one night stand; marriage as the aftermath of roadside carnage. But I don't think the film has the courage or the intellect to explore such themes. The film plays it safe, giving us a tale of obsession where the obsession is devoid of the thrill, the energy or the naughtiness of actually giving in to an impulse. It's an addiction without a high, but worse no expectation of there being a high. Here is a film that wants us to identify with a psychological quirk that is, to say the least, ridiculous, but it doesn't even make the effort to frame the quirk in a realistic fashion. How are we to care one way or the other -- emotionally, dramatically, socially or even clinically -- about people the film itself seems to regard as emotionally dead freaks?

CRASH thinks it is speeding recklessly down uncharted roads, but it is up on blocks, spinning its wheels and destined for the junkyard.

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