In a Napoleonic era insane asylum, an inmate, the irrepressible Marquis De Sade, fights a battle of wills against a tyrannically prudish doctor.


Philip Kaufman


Doug Wright (play), Doug Wright (screenplay)
4,958 ( 336)
Nominated for 3 Oscars. Another 18 wins & 42 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Geoffrey Rush ... The Marquis de Sade
Kate Winslet ... Madeleine
Joaquin Phoenix ... Coulmier
Michael Caine ... Royer-Collard
Billie Whitelaw ... Madame LeClerc
Patrick Malahide ... Delbené
Amelia Warner ... Simone
Jane Menelaus Jane Menelaus ... Renee Pelagie
Stephen Moyer ... Prouix
Tony Pritchard Tony Pritchard ... Valcour
Michael Jenn ... Cleante
Danny Babington ... Pitou
George Antoni George Antoni ... Dauphin (as George Yiasoumi)
Stephen Marcus ... Bouchon
Elizabeth Berrington ... Charlotte


The infamous writer, the Marquis de Sade of eighteenth century France, is imprisoned at Charenton Insane Asylum for unmentionable activities. He manages to befriend the young Abbé de Coulmier, who runs the asylum, along with a beautiful laundress named Madeline. Things go terribly wrong when the Abbe finds out that the Marquis' books are being secretly published. Emperor Napoleon contemplates sending Dr. Royer-Collard to oversee the asylum, a man famed for his torturous punishments. It could mean the end of Charenton and possibly the Marquis. Written by Emily H and Janette W

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Meet the Marquis de Sade. The pleasure is all his. See more »


Biography | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong sexual content including dialogue, violence and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Geoffrey Rush directed the play that the asylum residents put on. See more »


Numerous inaccuracies regarding chronology and biography. The opening narrative does explain that the facts have been "tarted up." See more »


Coulmier: I love you Madeleine... as a child of God.
See more »


Referenced in The Dirties (2013) See more »


Au clair de la lune
Written by Jean-Baptiste Lully
See more »

User Reviews

A dark film that is a bit long but pays off
18 August 2005 | by PersianPlaya408See all my reviews

This is the first Philip Kaufman film I have seen, and I was impressed. Although it isn't the most pleasant to watch, its great. A dark look at an insane erotic storywriter named Marquis De Sade (Rush) and his stay an asylum run by religious priest Abbe Du Coulmier (Phoenix). While there he befriends a laundrette named Madeleine (Winslet). The film has great performances, a brilliantly written script and great direction, although running a little over an hour the story is so rich and characters developed well enough for one to really enjoy it. Like I said it wasn't the most pleasant, however it is a bit exaggerated and satirical account. My favorite performance came from Joaquin Phoenix, who was great, however Geoffrey Rush was better than I have ever seen him, fully worthy of his Oscar nod. Michael Caine was decent in his role although i didn't feel his performance as much as i usually like him (hes a fine actor). Kate Winslet was great in her role, this is my favorite acting from her besides Eternal Sunshine. The script is very good in this film, which is what makes it work, because a lot of these films about medieval, napoleonic, etc.. times in europe are a bit boring, but this one is quite entertaining. Although I didn't think the ending was perfect (a bit flawed), i still enjoyed this film a lot. 9/10 #123 on my list of all time favorite films

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Official Sites:

Fox Searchlight


UK | Germany


English | Latin

Release Date:

19 January 2001 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

Quills See more »


Box Office


$13,500,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$249,383, 26 November 2000

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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