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Being John Malkovich (1999)

0:32 | Trailer
A puppeteer discovers a portal that leads literally into the head of movie star John Malkovich.


Spike Jonze


Charlie Kaufman
328 ( 1,133)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 48 wins & 75 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
Learn more

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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


Be All That Someone Else Can Be 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?


Several characters in the movie remember John Malkovich as having played a jewel thief, even though, as he correctly points out, he never did. However, Malkovich did eventually play a jewel thief in Johnny English (2003). See more »


Pressing "emergency stop" on an elevator wouldn't set off any alarms. It might alert security but one would have to hit the alarm button to sound an alarm. 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.
See more »

Crazy Credits

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


References Forrest Gump (1994) See more »


Malkovich Malkovich
Written by Nick Peck
Performed by Nick Peck
Courtesy of Perceptive Productions
See more »

User Reviews

Without a doubt the weirdest movie ever
27 April 2020 | by CriticalstaffSee all my reviews

This movie takes the most absurd premise : What would happen if there was a tunnel that lead to John Malkovitch's brain. The film's quality resides in its confidence. The confidence to stick to whatever weird premise it itself has set up and to run it. And when you think the film could not get any more absurd, well the movie does it again and doubles down on the weirdness. It does it twice.

John Cusack is Craig: a pathetic talented puppeteer that is down his luck. Oh and he is a pervert. Everybody in this film is a sexual deviant (in an ironic twist the only character who did not surprise me was Charlie Sheen playing restrained Charlie Sheen). His wife Lotte is an employee at a pet-store. They are both unhappy and locked in their miserable lives. Cusack and Diaz steal the show in the first act, and like the weirdness, I thought the acting could not be topped. Craig finds a new job and meets the stunning Maxine, who is as evil and cunning as she is beautiful. Craig is obsessed by Maxine, who rejects him. The film itself suggest that Maxine might be a witch but that might be the case, I found her to be the most unpleasant woman ever. Which is on purpose because that is exactly the kind of nihilism that the film engages with. At his new job, which already abounds of weirdness and absurdity, Craig finds one day, behind a filing cabinet, a tunnel that lead to "inside" John Malkovitch, the actor. Craig is enticed by Maxine to profit from the situation and they start selling tickets to the mind of John Malkovitch. However, Craig lets his wife try the tunnel one night. Lotte is in Malkovitch's head, at the same time that Maxine goes out on a date with him. Lotte falls for Maxine, and declares she wants a sex-change. Maxine falls for Lotte and manipulates Malkovitch in order to have sex with her. Craig is left out and excluded so he locks-up is wife and takes control of Malkovitch with the help of his puppeteering skills.

At that point, I thought the movie was the weirdest, but it became weirder. Craig becomes Malkovitch full time and Craig-Malkovitch starts to resemble Craig, he stops being an actor, he becomes a world-renown puppeteer, and he grow his hair longer and marries Maxine. This is where John Malkovitch becomes the star(and the focus of the story) and gives an amazing performance. The movie stops and plays out as a gossip-documentary on the life of John Malkovitch.

Then the film becomes even weirder. There is a conspiracy plot, which involves the now excluded Lotte. Lotte chases Maxine to murder her through the painful memories of the legit John Malkovitch. They end up in a lesbian couple. The film is the most absurd. The strangeness is reinforced by the fact that there are no jokes. The movie plays the subject matter so straight-faced. It is rather dark and sad. But it is unique.

On the technical level everything is perfect: the camera-work, the lighting, the music, the sets. It is a very visual movie. There is absolute mastery of all these elements. However, they are all at the service of the weirdest story ever. I do not really know what to make of it, and I guess that was the point. The nihilism of the film is it's shell, but also it's substance. There are no proper themes at play. You could argue that there is a criticism of celebrity-worship and a reflexion on 90s existential angst (same as in American Beauty, the Matrix, Office Space, Fight Club). But it is too subtle and submerged by the absurdity.

1999 is regarded as the last good year in American Cinema. And while this movie might not be what people had in mind; it certainly is a pinnacle of absurdity that has not been topped since.

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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:

See more on IMDbPro »

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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