Sometimes it seems like Hollywood is obsessed with infidelity, both on screen and off.
Celebrity cheating scandals—Jesse and the porn star, Tiger and, well, everyone—covered the front pages recently, and Zsa Zsa Gabor once famously said, ‘How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?”
Even supposedly happily-ever-after-Tinseltown-couples preemptively guard against unfaithfulness by signing “cheat-proof” prenups. Catherine Zeta-Jones has a legal infidelity clause with Michael Douglas and it’s rumoured that Denise Richards and Charlie Sheen signed one worth more than $4 million.
In this weekend’s The Dilemma — a funny take on infidelity — Vince Vaughn discovers his best friend’s wife is having an affair. There have been adultery comedies before but usually on screen in American films there is a price to be paid for matrimonial betrayal. Ever since the first cheating Hollywood movie, 1915’s Infidelity, movies like The End of the Affair, Body Heat and Derailed have shown the consequences of bed hopping, but one movie stands head and shoulder above the rest as a cautionary tale.
Fatal Attraction begins with Michael Douglas, a married man, who has a fling with Glenn “I’m not gonna be ignored!” Close. When he tries to break off their affair, she becomes a lesson in why not to cheat on your wife.
The film was a sensation in 1987 and its most famous clip, the rabbit boiling on the stove, even inspired a phrase in the Urban Dictionary. According to the website, cook your rabbit “refers to the moment when someone goes over the edge in their obsession with another person.”
Fatal Attraction was a box office bonanza, inspiring a number of imitators including The Crush, Single White Female and a spoof called Fatal Instinct.
More poignant is Same Time Next Year, the story of a 26-year affair. Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn star as an extramarital couple who rendezvous once a year from youth to old age. Based on a stage play by Canadian Bernard Slade, it’s a nice mix of humour — when asked how many kids he has Alda lies, saying two rather than three. “I thought it would make me seem less married,” he says — and emotion.
Perhaps the strangest infidelity movie on our list is Come With Me My Love, a supernatural tale about a man who kills his cheating wife, then commits suicide, only to come back as a ghost 50 years later to haunt his old apartment.