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Temptation on the Big Screen: The Best and Worst Adultery Films Ever Made

Updated on November 25, 2019
heather92383 profile image

Heather has a Bachelor's Degree in English from Moravian College and has been freelance writing for more than 14 years.

The Bridges of Madison County Poster
The Bridges of Madison County Poster
The Ice Storm Poster
The Ice Storm Poster
The Golden Bowl Poster
The Golden Bowl Poster
Match Point Movie Poster
Match Point Movie Poster
Derailed Poster
Derailed Poster
I Think I Love My Wife Poster
I Think I Love My Wife Poster
Revolutionary Road Poster
Revolutionary Road Poster
The Kids Are All Right Poster
The Kids Are All Right Poster
Unfaithful Poster
Unfaithful Poster
Fatal Attraction Poster
Fatal Attraction Poster
Hall Pass Poster
Hall Pass Poster
Love Ranch Poster
Love Ranch Poster

What is adultery? What does it mean for those who commit it? Is it only physical or can be emotional too? To best define adultery, it's simply a connection with someone other than your spouse or significant other. It's an illicit pairing that can only lead to trouble down the line for everyone involved, directly or otherwise.

In Hollywood, adultery is often played out onscreen and in tabloid magazines. It's interesting to watch other people make utter messes with their lives, but it's also sad to see that perfection doesn't exist for celebrities fictionally or otherwise. Here are a list of ten films that displayed the emotional and physical strains of cheating, as well as five films that are best left forgotten. Decide whether these films are worth watching and what are left ignored in your Netflix que.

Broken Marriages

The Ice Storm (1997)- Director Ang Lee's indie drama perfectly captured the atmosphere of the 1970s in how sex, drugs and bad decisions can impact everything we do. Joan Allen and Kevin Kline played a married couple whose marriage was on life support. Neither spouse was happy and started going after other options to appease their unhappiness. Kline began sleeping with his wild neighbor (Sigourney Weaver) and Allen got closer to someone else as well. The movie's main purpose was to examine the complicated lives between two struggling families, but it's real purpose was to show how every action had a consequence. The ending was the culmination of every leading up to the shocking point that happiness mattered more than keeping up appearances.

Revolutionary Road (2008)- Costars Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet were the picture of movie romance with their previous film Titanic, a classic case of love conquering all. With Road, their love couldn't survive each other or the suburbs. Their marriage was so toxic that both of them seeked escape with different sexual partners. He went through the secretarial pool like a fraternity brother at a frat party. She put the moves on the neighbor's husband. In the 1960s, divorce wasn't still commonplace for any couple struggling through their marriage. They were stuck with each other, until one of them made a life and death decision that changed their quiet neighborhood forever.

Bad Timing Romance

The Bridges of Madison County (1995)- Bored housewife Francesca Johnson (Meryl Streep) met photographer Robert Kincaid (Clint Eastwood) by chance. What wasn't planned was their brief affair and how greatly it impacted both of them. Robert's presence helped awaken Francesca in a way that her husband never did. Unfortunately, their relationship had a short shelf life due to his job and the fact that society would look down on Francesca for leaving her husband. Instead of going with Robert, Francesca was forced to stay in a marriage that she didn't want to be in anymore for the sake of her family and not her own.

Match Point (2005)- This film helped launch Woody Allen's directorial comeback as the setting left his beloved New York for London. Aspiring Tennis player Chris Wilton (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) was caught in the ultimate dilemma: marry for love or money. Unfortunately, he chose wrong and regretted it ever since. His wife (Emily Mortimer) was a nice woman, but she lacked the spark that Nola Rice (Scarlett Johansson) delivered whenever she entered a room. Her mere presence drove Chris insane, which led him to into a full blown affair with the attractive Nola under his wife's nose. Sadly, he didn't anticipate the possible danger of the affair becoming public and destroying his golden goose. He had to choose whether to give up his financial security or commit the ultimate sin: murder. His decision is disturbing to see unfold and hard to keep your eyes off the screen at the same time.

Musical Comedy Relationships

Chicago (2002)- Wannabe starlet Roxy Hart (Renee Zellweger) wanted everything that Velma Kelly (Catherine Zeta Jones) had: a white hot career, fortune and a murder charge hanging over her head. Well, the last one was just purely accidental. She impulsively killed her lover, while Velma killed her sister and husband after catching them in bed together. Chicago combined music, sex, murder and all that jazz with a light touch that most movies with that subject manner never could. The songs were catchy and the leads were literally able to get away with murder.

Diary of a Mad Black Woman (2005)- Okay, this Tyler Perry film might not entirely be considered a comedy film because the main story was a rather serious one. Helen (Kimberly) was a dutiful wife to a powerful man who was thrown out on the street for a younger model. The betrayal forced her to start over literally and figuratively. The real comedy was Helen's relative Madea (Tyler Perry) who was pistol packing granny that never backed away from a good fight. She helped Helen see that she wasn't done living or loving someone else. Ultimately, it was for Helen to decide whether to be miserable from the betrayal or rise from the ashes and move on. This film introduced Tyler Perry's Madea to audiences and become part of movie culture.

Impulsive Pairings

Fatal Attraction (1987)- Okay, this might be considered cliché to list this film, but the movie is still a perfect example to avoid going into an affair impulsively unless you're ready for the consequences. Dan (Michael Douglas) had it all: a great wife, daughter and a wonderful job to keep him happy. What he didn't have he could count on one hand and one of them was a reckless affair with someone other than his wife. Enter Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) who was the exact opposite of his wife. She was strong, powerful and knew she wanted Dan for herself. Sadly, Dan didn't know that Alex was also completely off her rocker and would kill anyone who got in her way of being with the man she loved. Not his wife or an innocent rabbit boiled before its time. If Dan could get one do over, he would definitely undo having the regrettable affair with the resident psychopath.

The Kids Are All Right (2010)- Kids was a revelation in itself because it treated a Lesbian marriage like it was just any other marriage filled with problems, kids and mistaken lusty affairs. Annette Bening's heartbreak quietly washed over her face as she realized that her partner (Julianne Moore) was sleeping with their sperm donor (Mark Ruffalo). Her eyes said it all as she felt like an outsider amongst her family at the dinner table. She also fought hard to keep her contempt hidden long enough until she was in the privacy of her own home to unleash her anger and hurt as she took her partner to task. A heartbreaking revelation to see how family is still complicated in even the most untraditional of the families.

Women Behaving Badly

Lady Chatterley's Lover (1982)- A rich woman is married to a husband crippled after a wartime injury. She wants to support him, but he pushes her away. He jokingly tells her to take a lover, but he didn't expect her to fall in love with the groundskeeper. Once he found out, she had to choose between love and duty. It's not hard to see which one she choose when the audience got to see the groundskeeper in his birthday suit early on in the movie.

Unfaithful (2002)- Connie (Diane Lane) was a content housewife with a husband (Richard Gere) and son she adored dearly. What she lacked was the ability to explore her own sexuality. In a chance meeting, she met the attractive and mysterious Paul (Olivier Martinez) who was exactly what she needed. He made her feel alive in ways her husband never did. Unfaithful was a perfect exploration until the last 30 minutes when the story suddenly shifted focus as Connie's husband confronted the lover and went downhill from there. It's a shame because Diane Lane's performance was so pitch perfect. The ending would've been better if it focused more on her instead of her mild mannered husband.

Affairs Meant to be Forgotten

The Golden Bowl (2001)- Uma Thurman played a woman so eager to hang onto a former lover that she married his wife's father (Nick Nolte) to do it. With easy access to him, she made it her mission to be alone with him long enough to declare her love. Unfortunately, the audience didn't buy any of it. The chemistry between the four leads was stale and the story was stuck in another long forgotten century.

Derailed (2005)- When audiences think of Clive Owen and Jennifer Aniston together onscreen, you'd think it would cause a three alarm fire. Instead, it was a disjointed train wreck from start to finish. Best to watch once and forget about it immediately.

I Think I Love My Wife (2007)- Chris Rock portrayed a married man who loved his wife but longed for his carefree days as a bachelor. So much so that he started hanging around with a free spirited single woman (Kerry Washington) to help relive his past. What he didn't know was that he was in real danger of wrecking his life from the inside out. Was it worth seeing in movie theatres? No. Due to lack of humor and a silly story, Wife was completely skippable.

Love Ranch (2010)- Even though Ranch is based on a true story, it's still hard to understand why a young boxer (Sergio Peris-Mencheta) would go after the much older married madame of a legal brothel. Well, if she's Helen Mirren it would make sense. Unfortunately, the movie's Lifetime movie/70s porn flick tone was too distracting for the audience to fully enjoy Mirren enjoying being an onscreen cougar.

Hall Pass (2011)- Two bored husbands get a free pass from their wives to behave like college frat boys. Sadly, this movie didn't work due to the stale premise and the fact that the two main characters truly had no plays left in their playbooks to begin with. They should've stuck to being content husbands before they crossed any actual lines.

In the end, adultery is a dish best watched through the eyes of others. It's better to watch the temptation unfold and the consequences come back to haunt everyone involved. A morality play without actually having been involved directly. Remember to truly love the one you're with properly and honestly.


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