A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich.


Spike Jonze


Charlie Kaufman
2,139 ( 584)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 48 wins & 76 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
John Cusack ... Craig Schwartz
Cameron Diaz ... Lotte Schwartz
Ned Bellamy ... Derek Mantini
Eric Weinstein ... Father at Puppet Show
Madison Lanc Madison Lanc ... Daughter at Puppet Show
Octavia Spencer ... Woman in Elevator (as Octavia L. Spencer)
Mary Kay Place ... Floris
Orson Bean ... Dr. Lester
Catherine Keener ... Maxine Lund
K.K. Dodds ... Wendy
Byrne Piven ... Captain Mertin
Judith Wetzell Judith Wetzell ... Tiny Woman
John Malkovich ... John Horatio Malkovich
Kevin Carroll ... Cab Driver
Willie Garson ... Guy in Restaurant


Puppeteer Craig Schwartz and animal lover and pet store clerk Lotte Schwartz are just going through the motions of their marriage. Despite not being able to earn a living solely through puppeteering, Craig loves his profession as it allows him to inhabit the skin of others. He begins to take the ability to inhabit the skin of others to the next level when he is forced to take a job as a file clerk for the off-kilter LesterCorp, located on the five-foot tall 7½ floor of a Manhattan office building. Behind one of the filing cabinets in his work area, Craig finds a hidden door which he learns is a portal into the mind of John Malkovich, the visit through the portal which lasts fifteen minutes after which the person is spit into a ditch next to the New Jersey Turnpike. Craig is fascinated by the meaning of life associated with this finding. Lotte's trips through the portal make her evaluate her own self. And the confident Maxine Lund, one of Craig's co-workers who he tells about the ... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Ever Wanted To Be Someone Else? See more »


Comedy | Drama | Fantasy

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language and sexuality | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


John Malkovich encouraged Spike Jonze and Charlie Kaufman to heighten the satire. See more »


One logistical issue the film does not resolve is how Craig and Maxine are able to avoid severe sleep deprivation while simultaneously working 9 to 5 jobs and running J.M. Inc. from 9 pm to 4 am every night. This is especially true of Maxine, who seems to run the business every night (while Craig seems to spend some nights at home), and who also manages to maintain a series of dates and sexual encounters with Malkovich without ever seeming sleepy or exhausted. See more »


[first lines]
Lotte Schwartz: Craig, honey, it's time for bed.
[fade out and in]
Orrin Hatch the bird: Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up, Craig, honey, time to get up,
Craig Schwartz: Lotte...
Lotte Schwartz: I'm sorry. I didn't know Orrin Hatch was out of his cage.
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Crazy Credits

at the end of the cast listing is noted ...and John Malkovich See more »


Referenced in The Cinema Snob: The Cinema Snob Movie: Part 1 (2018) See more »


Tchaikovsky: Swan Lake
Music by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (as Tchaikovsky)
Performed by Boston Symphony Orchestra
Conducted by Seiji Ozawa
Courtesy of Deutsche Grammophone Gesellschaft GmbH, Hamburg
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
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User Reviews

Being John Malkovich is a Wild Ride
3 July 2018 | by paul-nemecekSee all my reviews

This has been a great year for alternate realities at the movies. Films like The Matrix, Sixth Sense, Blair Witch Project, Thirteenth Floor, and Run, Lola, Run have all, in different ways, played with the line that separates past from present, reality from simulation, and truth from fiction. Being John Malkovich can be added to this list of innovative films that a recent issue of Entertainment Weekly described as the first films of the 21st century.

There is little in this film that is formula. John Cusack plays a gifted puppeteer who aspires to be one of the world's great puppeteers. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of job openings for puppeteers so he is reduced to street theater where he is clearly underappreciated. An almost unrecognizable Cameron Diaz plays Cusack's wife, a pet lover who is just a little quirky. When Cusack decides to take a job as a file clerk on floor 7.5 of an office building, life becomes even weirder. Cusack discovers an opening behind a file cabinet, a little door that leads into a tunnel. Like the characters in C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (or Alice Through the Looking Glass), Cusack jumps in and finds himself in an alternative universe. Instead of Narnia or Wonderland, Cusack finds himself on a 15-minute ride inside actor John Malkovich (played quite capably by . . . John Malkovich).

Cusack joins forces with a co-worker to create a business. For $200 people can spend 15 minutes inside of John Malkovich's head, seeing the world through his eyes. Since this is even better than Real World or a WebCam show, people come in droves. Eventually, Malkovich himself discovers what's going on and jumps the line to go inside of his own mind. This leads to what has to be one of the more unique scenes in the history of film. The story takes on an even more interesting twist when Cusack finds a unique way to fulfill his lifelong dream of being the world's greatest puppeteer.

This is one weird film--and I've left out some of the weird. This is also one of the most creative films I have seen, and the film raises interesting questions about consciousness, identity, love and meaning. There are great performances here by Cusack, Diaz, Malkovich, and Catherine Keener (Cusack's co-worker and eventual love interest). The real star of the show, however, is the story itself. First-time screenwriter Charlie Kaufman has crafted an interesting and innovative story. First-time director Spike Jonze handles the material extremely well. This is clearly not a film for all tastes, and the language and sexual scenes may well offend. This is, however, something that is very rare, in Hollywood--innovative, creative, and thought provoking. Watch for this film during the Oscar nominations. If this doesn't get nominated for screenplay--at least--I will hang up my trophy.

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Frequently Asked Questions

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Release Date:

3 December 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Being John Malkovich See more »

Filming Locations:

California, USA See more »


Box Office


$13,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$637,721, 31 October 1999

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital


Color (Technicolor)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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