Getting cheated on is generally a brutal and heartbreaking event, and sometimes the cheating person is hurt as well. However, the infidelity has delivered some very compelling and dramatic films to Hollywood. Adultery has been a catalyst for some really romantic or tragic stories that explore the subject from every angle.
However, movies about cheating and infidelity aren’t always about sex. Instead, they can tell each side of the relationship story, what led to the affair, whether it was justified, and what the consequences are. Many of these films offer audiences either a fantasy or a cautionary story as they tell them something about their own lives.
10 Indecent Proposal (1993) – 6.0
Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson star as lovers, David and Diana, who have gotten into difficult times, and a moment of desperation tests their love for one another. A wealthy businessman, John (Robert Redford), offers the couple $ 1 million in exchange for a night with Diana. After much deliberation, the couple agrees because as the months go by, they really need money. Knowing that his wife and John were together drives David crazy and eventually puts her in John’s arms.
The questionable subject of John “buying” Diana for an evening (and only asking David’s permission, not hers) has always been criticized, and the film received poor reviews when it was released. However, Indecent Proposal was a great success and to this day it is a warning story about desperation and the consequences of one’s own actions.
9 What is below (2000) – 6.6
What Lies Beneath plays Harrison Ford Norman, whose affair literally haunts him. After Norman’s wife Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) notices some strange happenings in their home, she discovers that he was having an affair with a woman who has died and may now have haunted her home, leading to more dark secrets being passed on to her Surface come.
Acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis, written by Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg, channels his inner Alfred Hitchcock and delivers an engaging, slow burn that culminates in an explosively gripping finale. Even Alan Silvestri’s score is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s frequent composer Bernard Herrmann. What Lies Beneath was produced in the middle of the production of Cast Away to keep the crew on and give Tom Hanks time to lose weight. It remains one of Zemeckis’ lesser known gems.
8th Unfaithful (2002) – 6.7
Director Adrian Lyne campaigns against infidelity again with the aptly titled Unfaithful. Richard Gere and Diane Lane play Edward and Connie, a passionless couple. However, Connie’s chance encounter with a younger, sexy man, Paul (Oliver Martinez) leads to an affair. Ultimately, Edward’s discovery of the affair leads to a downward spiral of events.
Lyne, famous for his tasteful adult films, creates an adult thriller that could spark debate and discussion between the married couples who decide to watch it.
7th Deadly Attraction (1987) – 6.9
A rare example of an adult thriller nominated for an Oscar for best picture is Fatal Attraction. The film is directed by Adrian Lyne and plays Michael Douglas as Dan, who despite a happy marriage is involved in a passionate affair with Alex (Glenn Close in an Oscar-nominated performance). After Dan ends the affair, however, Alex will not give up on him, will not be ignored, and will display obsessive and dangerous behavior towards him.
Fatal Attraction is a sexy but tragic thriller that has undoubtedly made men think twice about ever having an affair since its release in 1987.
6th Notes on a scandal (2006) – 7.4
Based on the book, Notes On A Scandal revolves around Sheba (Cate Blanchett), a teacher whose affair with a student is exposed by another teacher, Barbara (Judi Dench), who has stalked in the past. Unfortunately, the lonely Barbara uses the secret to her advantage to manipulate Sheba.
Notes on a Scandal is a tragic story that not only trusts the wrong people, but also the potentially dire effects an affair can have on a family and those involved. Both Blanchett and Dench received Oscar nominations for their roles.
5 Small children (2006) – 7.5
Told through omniscient narratives, Little Children involves Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) who are having an affair after they were both in an unhappy marriage. Sarah, the unhappy housewife, attracts the attention of Brad, known as the “Prom King,” who is married to a beautiful woman and is reliving his youth instead of maturing.
For Sarah, the affair is a fantasy, and for Brad, it means feeling wanted. Combined with a subplot about a sex offender, Little Children is a complex look at suburban life with flawed everyday characters.
4th A Memorable Affair (1957) – 7.5
The movie icons Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, An Affair To Remember, involve two people who have a whirlwind romance aboard a cruise ship despite being related to other people. They plan to meet at the top of the Empire State Building six months later to continue their romance once their respective relationships have ended. However, an accident leads to the fact that one cannot meet and possibly ends the reunion.
Despite initial mixed reviews, An Affair To Remember has become known as one of the most romantic films of all time. An Affair To Remember, referenced in movies like Sleepless in Seattle, shows audiences the enduring power of love, and that, despite all obstacles, true love can sometimes find its way back to you.
3 Madison County’s Bridges (1995) – 7.6
Based on the book and directed by star Clint Eastwood, The Bridges Of Madison County is about Robert, a photojournalist who comes to Madison County to photograph his bridges and meets Francesca (Meryl Streep), who falls into a dispassionate marriage is involved. The two begin a four-day affair while their husband and children are away. Ultimately, the affair gives her meaning and she will remember it all her life.
Hollywood doesn’t make a lot of romance films about older people. However, Bridges Of Madison County presents a mature love story for adults for seasoned age groups as well as for young couples in the long run.
2 Brokeback Mountain (2005) – 7.7
Often times, infidelity films explore two people given the chance to live out their passions outside of their boring marriage. However, Brokeback Mountain reveals an affair in which the two involved become free who they really are. Directed by Ang Lee, the film tells the story of Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), two shepherds who develop feelings for one another during a summer together on a ranch and have been romantically involved over the course of 20 years , despite marrying women.
Controversial when its topic was released, Brokeback Mountain laid the groundwork for LGBTQ + cinema and also undermined the western genre. Ultimately, Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful film, visually and emotionally, with a catchphrase that best sums it up: “Love is a force of nature.”
1 In the mood for love (2000) – 8.1
Perhaps the most romantic movie ever made about an affair, it features two characters who ultimately don’t have one. The Mood For Love takes place in Shanghai in the 1960s, where two lonely neighbors discover that their partners are cheating on them. The two fall in love but decide against responding to their urges because they don’t want to bow to the level of their adulterous partners.
Directed by renowned filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, In The Mood For Love was featured as one of the greatest films of all time. He makes a portrait of love and loneliness that the audience will remember long after watching it.
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About the author
Justin Van Voorhis
(88 articles published)
Justin Van Voorhis is an actor / writer / filmmaker. He is the creator of the award-winning feature film “Slate Yourself,” which is currently streamed on Amazon Prime. As well as contributing to Screen Rant, he is also a contributor to The Take and co-hosts the Dissident Film Club podcast. He portrayed 40-year-old Warren Buffett in “Becoming Warren Buffett” on HBO and sits in front of Joaquin Phoenix in “Joker”.
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