Film: Clue

Whodunit? I haven't a clue.

Wadsworth: That's what we're trying to find out! We're trying to find out who killed him, and where, and with what!
Professor Plum: There's no need to shout!

Possibly the best movie based on a board game ever made in 1985, Clue — a murder mystery/comedy film based on the board game Clue (or Cluedo, depending on where you live) — justifies a large mansion full of people with silly names trying to solve a murder mystery by turning all of the characters from the board game into blackmail victims using predetermined aliases.

The six guests travel to the remote mansion after receiving an invitation from Wadsworth (Tim Curry) to expose his employer, Mr. Boddy, as a blackmailer. When the lights go out, someone kills Mr. Boddy — and since everyone has both the means and the motive to turn Boddy into a body, everyone becomes a suspect in his murder. The group opts to solve the case themselves rather than call the police; Hilarity Ensues — and in a good way. While made in The Eighties, the film sets its story in The Fifties (and in New England).

That was one way the description could have ended. But how about this?

Clue bombed in theaters, and part of the blame lies with the hype surrounding the movie's Multiple Endings. In theaters, the solution to the murders changed depending on where you saw the movie; viewers couldn't deduce the murderer from the clues presented, since other options had to remain viable in order to accomodate the other endings. (Apparently, the studio didn't know a zany comedy couldn't have a real mystery happening, and many reviewers felt the same way.) The home video and TV versions of the film play all three endings; these cuts mark the first two endings as "how it could have happened", while marking the third ending as "how it really happened". The DVD and Blu-Ray can play one ending at random or all three endings.

But here's what really happened.

Although it did poorly in theaters, Clue eventually became a Cult Classic; fans regard it as a solid comedy with a mix of clever dialogue and slapstick, and the various solutions to the murders (mostly) hold up on repeat viewings.

Do not confuse this film with the UK adaptation of the board game (which, unbelievably, was a Game Show).

Clue contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Affectionate Parody: Of the Murder Mystery genre.
  • The Alcoholic: Strongly implied by Mrs. Peacock, who has an unsteady walk and slightly slurs her words. Tellingly, she "sobers up" in the second ending, wherein she committed all the murders - implying that she was Obfuscating Stupidity - but remains relatively addle-brained in the third, wherein she (and all the others) only killed one person.
  • Ambiguous Syntax: Mrs. White's late husband's threat.
    Mrs. White: He had threatened to kill me in public.
    Miss Scarlett: Why would he want to kill you in public?
    Wadsworth: I think she means he threatened, in public, to kill her.
  • And Then What?: Every Big Bad in each ending gets asked this by someone (usually Green) after admitting guilt. They always suggest, more or less, the same thing: stack the bodies in the cellar, have everyone leave at different times, pretend it never happened, and let the Big Bad continue to blackmail everyone, although not necessarily for the same reasons or by the same person.
  • Angry Guard Dog: Three of them. Two German shepherds by the house's main entrance, and a Doberman outside the conservatory.
  • Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Inverted when the cop starts listing their transgressions.
    Cop: I'll book you for false arrest, and wrongful imprisonment, and obstructing an officer in the course of his duty, and murder!
    Wadsworth: (opening the door and chuckling nervously) What do you mean... murder?
    Cop: I just said that so you'd open the door.
  • Audible Gleam: The soundtrack actually does one of these when, during The Summation, Wadsworth imitates Yvette smiling. (Which she doesn't actually ever do.)
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Wadsworth attempts this in the first ending by saying he kept track of how many times the revolver had gone off during the night and the killer has an empty gun. He miscounted.
  • Bad Liar: Mrs. Peacock. Except in the second ending.
  • Batman Gambit: Mr. Boddy attempts one, and it fails miserably, leading to his murder. In the third ending, Wadsworth reveals he is the blackmailer and his victims did all of his work for him in tying up loose ends.
  • Battle Butler: Wadsworth doubles as both this and Mr. Exposition.
  • Beneath Suspicion: In the first ending, everyone is thoroughly shocked to discover Yvette committed the first two murders.
  • "Be Quiet!" Nudge: When the policeman inspects the body of the Motorist and says he's in no shape to drive:
    Miss Scarlet: Oh, we'll— we'll— we'll get him a car!
    Professor Plum: A long black car!
    Miss Scarlet: (lightly jabs him in the stomach) A limousine!
  • Bizarre and Improbable Ballistics: It isn't physically possible that a bullet fired from inside the study could have grazed Mr. Boddy's ear and shattered a vase on a mantelpiece on the other side of the room from where Mr. Boddy was standing.
    • It is possible, however, that after shutting off the lights Mr. Boddy started walking across the room, thus putting him between the murderer and the fireplace.
  • Black Widow: Mrs. White. "Husbands should be like kleenex. Soft, strong, and disposable."
    Mrs. White: His head had been cut off. And so had his... you know...
    Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum simultaneously cross their legs
  • Blackmail: This serves as the driving force behind the plot, since Mr. Boddy had blackmailed all of the guests except possibly Mr. Green in the third ending.
  • Blatant Lies: Mrs. White's explanation for what happened to her first husband.
    Wadsworth: Your first husband also disappeared.
    Mrs. White: But that was his job. He was an illusionist.
    Wadsworth: But he never reappeared!
    Mrs. White: He wasn't a very good illusionist.
    • Also, the group Speaking in Unison to answer the cop's second question ("You all seem to have some kind of disagreement"), since Mr. Green's previous "Yes" would make any subsequent denial of disagreement an obvious lie.
  • Brain Food: Monkey brains is apparently popular as a dish in Cantonese cuisine.
  • The Butler Did It: In the third ending, Wadsworth shot the singing telegram girl. This example also inverts the trope, as the actual butler — the 'fake' Mr. Boddy — became a victim of Wadsworth's scheme.
    • During his summation of the murders, Wadsworth reveals that he's known about the secret passages in the house, so Mr. Green accuses Wadsworth of murdering everyone. Wadsworth's reply? "Don't be ridiculous. If I was the murderer, why would I reveal to you how I did it?" When you keep the third ending in mind, it becomes much more amusing.
      • Even with that, he never did the "it" that started the whole bloodbath: Mr. Boddy's murder. He didn't do any of the things he was explaining, save for the final murder, which didn't really bear explanation: someone simply picked up the gun, answered the door, and shot the girl.
  • Butt Monkey: Mr. Green. Colonel Mustard too, at times.
  • Call Back: Mrs. White threatens Wadsworth if they're ever alone together; he says that no man in his right mind would end up alone with her. During the search for the killer, the two end up paired off with each other.
    • Everyone got paired up with the worst partner imaginable for that scene: Miss Scarlet with Colonel Mustard (one of her clients), Wadsworth and Mrs. White (see above), Mrs. Peacock and the lecherous Professor Plum (one's uptight and conservative, the other is a lech), and sex-kitten Yvette with alleged homosexual Mr. Green.
    • "I didn't do it!" In the third ending, "I told you I didn't do it!" — even though he did shoot Mr. Boddy. In the Hall. With the revolver.
  • The Cameo: Nurse Kellye and the rhythm guitarist of The Go-Go's are murder victims, while Dr. Johnny Fever puts in an uncredited appearance as a Jehovah's Witness /FBI chief.
    • Lee Ving, who played Mr. Boddy, was also the lead singer and rhythm guitarist for the punk band Fear.
  • Canon Ending: On the home video version, it is the third ending. See Multiple Endings below.
  • Canon Foreigner: Wadsworth (except in the third ending).
    • Also Yvette, the cook, the motorist, and the cop.
  • Captain Obvious:
    Wadsworth: I was in the Hall. (beat) I know because I was there.
  • Casanova Wannabe: Professor Plum
  • Casting Gag: Mr. Boddy can't stay for very long. In fact, he's just Lee Ving.
    • This isn't the first time Mrs. Peacock's been involved in a manor murder mystery.
  • Casual Danger Dialogue: When the characters are checking on the room they left the bodies in, to make sure another one hasn't mysteriously disappeared.
    Mrs. Peacock: Everything all right?
    Colonel Mustard: Yep. Two corpses. Everything's fine.
  • Catch Phrase
    Mr. Green: I didn't do it!
    • Call Back
      Mr. Green: I told you I didn't do it!
  • Chekhov's Armory: Like you wouldn't believe. Even the bit with the Jehovah's Witness, which seems irrelevant, is important later.
  • The Chessmaster: Miss Scarlet in the first ending, Mrs. Peacock in the second ending, Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy in the third ending.
  • Chewing the Scenery: Mrs. Peacock seems to do this nearly every time she opens her mouth.
    • Wadsworth's exposition delves into this as well. Subverted with Mrs. White in the third ending in a rambling, stumbling speech.
      • Wadsworth is played by Tim Curry; what did you expect?
  • Circular Reasoning: The blackmail against Mr. Green is that he's gay. He has no issue with it himself, but he'd be fired if his employers (the State Department) found out because they'd view him as a security risk... which he is solely because of that policy. His stating such is met with a quick beat.
    • Possibly Justified, since according to at least one of the three endings he isn't actually gay, he just came up with that as a quick excuse for why he was there as he didn't want to reveal the real reason He's an FBI agent trying to flush out a security leak.
    • Truth in Television: This is basically how the reasoning behind the real-life Lavender Scare worked. No, it didn't make more sense in the actual fifties, either.
  • Closed Circle: Once the characters get to the house, they can't leave. Not only is there a storm outside, but there's angry dogs loose near a couple possible exits, Wadsworth has all the keys, and if anyone leaves, they'll be blamed for the murders.
  • Cloudcuckoolander: Everyone has their moments, but possibly the biggest offender is Mrs. Peacock, who spends a lot of time babbling about irrelevant things, especially when things get a bit too quiet for her tastes. Mr. Green is also a notable Cuckoolander, especially in the second ending.
    Mr. Green: Mrs. Peacock was a MAN?!
    • Mrs. White has some moments, like her rambling of how much she hated Yvette for sleeping with her husband:
    " I hated her so...much..i-it, the, it...flames, flames...on the sides of my face...breathing, breaths...heaving breaths...heaving—"
  • Cold War: The politics of the '50s plays a part in the story, although mainly so the writers could make it look like there's a political conspiracy behind the murders. Communism was just a red herring.
    • When Wadsworth enters the kitchen, there's a television set with the McCarthy inquiry playing, which took place June 6, 1954, and he later mentions the House Un-American Activities Committee. Shown Their Work indeed.
  • Colour-Coded for Your Convenience / Color-Coded Characters: A very interesting case: like in the board game, the six main suspects each dress basically with one color, but those colors are de-emphasized.
    • Colonel Mustard arrives in a yellow mustard coat and hat, which he takes off. Amusingly, his suit is a brown mustard color.
    • Miss Scarlet's hair is a fiery red—and we soon learn that she is a scarlet woman.
    • Mrs. Peacock sports peacock-plumage in her hair.
    • Though not part of the above loop, Mrs. White is worth noting in that the inside of her coat actually is white, but we only see this for about five seconds, in the process Lampshading her alias. But for the majority of the film, she wears black. She does wear a striking white pearl choker and have a pale, dreary face, however.
    • Prof. Plum's vest is purple.
    • Green, however, never actually wears green. Possibly because, as we find out in the third ending, he isn't really Mr. Green.
  • Comically Missing the Point: "Like the Mounties, we always get our man!" " Mrs. Peacock was a man?" (cue Dope Slap)
    • This becomes a Stealth Pun when you realize that the word "peacock" refers to the male of the species. (The females, which are called peahens, lack the bright blue plumage.) (Spoilered because of relevance to the murderer's name.)
    • Colonel Mustard does this frequently while trying to appear intelligent.
    Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
    Mustard: [Confidently] That's right!
  • Confusing Multiple Negatives: Particularly when Mustard tries to hide his indiscretions. Which becomes a Double Entendre:
    Mustard: [to Scarlet] Well, you tell him it's not true.
    Scarlet: It's not true.
    Plum: Is that true?
    Scarlet: No, it's not true.
    Green: Ah ha! So it is true!
    Wadsworth: A double negative!
    Mustard: Double negative? You mean you have photographs?
  • Cool Guns: The gun that Professor Plum is given is the Harrington & Richardson Model 642, which is used by several people throughout the film, and the gun that the FBI use in this film is the Smith and Wesson Model 10.
    • The "revolver" from the board game (not counting the 2008 updated version) is also a pretty cool gun. It's not a revolver at all, in fact. Rather it's a sadly obscure piece of firearm history called a pepper box pistol.
  • Corpsing: Wadsworth during Mrs. White's "flames on the side of my face" monologue.
  • Counting Bullets: The first ending has Miss Scarlet and Wadsworth arguing over how many bullets are left in the revolver, the former insisting one, and the latter insisting none. Scarlet was right.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass/Obfuscating Stupidity: Mrs. Peacock in the second ending and Mr. Green in the third ending.
  • Curtain Camouflage: Subverted. When the group splits up to search the house, Miss Scarlet thinks that there's someone hiding behind the curtains in the Ballroom. However, when she opens them, it's just the wind blowing through a crack in the balcony doors.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Wadsworth.
    Colonel Mustard: Are you trying to make me look stupid in front of the other guests?
    Wadsworth: You don't need any help from me, sir.
    Colonel Mustard: That's right. *Beat, starts frowning.*
    • Ms. Scarlett, to Colonel Mustard's disgust:
    Colonel Mustard: Why would someone kill the cook?
    Ms. Scarlett: I know, dinner wasn't that bad.
    Colonel Mustard: How can you joke at a time like this?!
    Ms. Scarlett: It's my defense mechanism!
    Colonel Mutard: Some defense mechanism! If I was the killer, I would kill you next!
    The others gasp in shock.
    Colonel Mustard: If! I said if!''
  • Demoted to Extra/Out of Focus: Not for the characters, but the rooms. While the six characters and six weapons all play equal roles and get equal screen time, very little time is spent some of the nine rooms. Most of the action takes place in the Hall, Lounge, Study, Dining Room, and Library, with additional scenes in the Billiard Room and Kitchen. The Conservatory is featured in just two scenes, and the Ballroom gets The Cameo.
  • Department of Redundancy Department: Wadsworth beginning The Summation:
    Yvette was here, waiting to offer you champagne. I was in the Hall. (beat) I know because I was there.
  • Depraved Homosexual: Inverted. Mr. Green says he is being blackmailed for being gay, but is the only one of the main characters who was never involved in any illegal activity. While the others were being blackmailed for things like war profiteering, political corruption, and murder, his only "crime" was being homosexual. Even in the third ending, wherein everyone killed someone, his only victim was the villain, Wadsworth...and then he says he's not really gay.
  • Dies Wide Open:
    • Boddy dies with his eyes open, which bothers Mustard while he's trying to develop a plan, so he closes them.
    • The cook apparently dies with her eyes closed, so forcefully so that Peacock has to keep them pried open during the lounge dancing scene.
    • In the third ending, Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy dies this way when shot by Mr. Green.
  • Disconnected by Death: Twice. Both the Motorist and the Cop are killed while on the phone.
  • Discontinuity Nod: Whether nor not the brandy's been poisoned is a running point of concern for the characters. In the original edition of Cluedo, poison was included among the possible weapons.
    • It also has the distinction of being the added feature to the 50th Anniversary Edition.
    • In the unused D ending, it really was poisoned.
  • Distinguished Gentleman's Pipe: Professor Plum.
  • The Ditz: Colonel Mustard.
  • Does Not Like Men: Mrs. White has some male issues. She has two husbands who died under mysterious circumstances.
    Mrs White: Husbands should be like Kleenex. Soft, strong, and disposable.
    Miss Scarlet: I think most men could use a little practice.
  • Dope Slap: Mr. Green, twice in the second ending. by Col. Mustard and Wadsworth.
  • Dramatic Curtain Toss: When Miss Scarlet is searching the Ballroom.
  • Drawing Straws: Used with fireplace matches to determine who gets paired up with whom while searching the house.
  • Eek, a Mouse!!: Mrs. Peacock in the cellar.
  • Eureka Moment: Played with. Mr. Green has two, but one ( "Maybe Mr. Boddy killed the cook!") is immediately exposed as false and the other ( "And Yvette is a link between them!") turns out to be a Red Herring.
    • Col. Mustard. "So... whoever knew the cook was involved... killed her?" looking very pleased with himself, except he's being Captain Obvious.
    • Mr. Green's second comment just proves he's Wrong Ending Savvy — it'd be a salient point in the right ending.
  • Everybody Did It: In the third ending, all the suspects turn out to have committed a murder each, except for Mr. Green, who ends up killing the Big Bad.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Even though they're a room full of morally-dubious, underhanded folks (and Mr. Green), everyone's disgusted by Mustard's deep, dark secret. Stealing essential airplane parts and selling them on the black market.
    Mustard: That does not make me a murderer!
    Peacock: Well, a lot of our airmen died because their radios didn't work!
    • Mrs. Peacock, a corrupt politician's wife, also tries to pull this a few times on the other guests with exclamations of disgust, and is usually called out on it.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: This is true throughout the entire film, but only the third ending takes the trope to its full extent. Though, Mr. Green excludes himself for it since he "didn't do it".
  • Extremely Short Timespan: The whole movie takes place in one evening. Possibly Real Time.
  • Eye Poke: Boddy vs. Mustard.
  • Faking the Dead: Mr. Boddy does this, pretending to be dead after realizing that the shot in the dark was intended for him, not Wadsworth. It doesn't work for him. Depending on the ending, Yvette, Mrs. Peacock or Professor Plum realizes the fake and kills him for real.
  • Falling Chandelier of Doom: Colonel Mustard is almost killed by one when Yvette accidentally shoots it down. At the end of the first ending, it happens again.
  • Fate Worse Than Death: Namechecked by Plum.
    Plum: What are you afraid of?! A fate worse than death?!
    Peacock: No, just death, isn't that enough?
  • Faux Yay: Mr. Green in the third ending. Maybe.
  • Femme Fatale: Yvette, and Miss Scarlet in the first ending.
  • The Fifties: The communism (though in all three endings it's just a "Red Herring"), nuclear arms race, J. Edgar Hoover, and homosexuals-not-being-allowed-to-hold-government-jobs part of the Fifties, in particular.
    • The soundtrack also establishes the time period from the very beginning. Seeing as how most of the action takes place in an old, creepy house, music is vital to pinning the atmosphere to the subtext of the McCarthy era.
  • Foreign Queasine: The contents of the dinner ( monkey's brain) is an important clue tying Mrs. Peacock to the Cook. When the other guests find out what it is, they react with disgust and horror.
    • In the novelization (3 times, it's part of all the endings). "Is that what we ate?" said Mr Green, green.
  • Foreshadowing: Colonel Mustard's quoting Rudyard Kipling. The women in the house are significantly more dangerous and threatening than the men. No matter which ending you watch, a woman is the/a killer.
    • A rather more blatant example occurs several lines earlier when Wadsworth is quoting Alfred, Lord Tennyson:
      Wadsworth: "Ours is not to reason why; ours is but to do and die."note 
    • Also Colonel Mustard looks up at the chandelier that later almost kills him.
    • Mr. Green reveals he's a homosexual, Wadsworth reacts with shock, staring at him and the notes he was about to read, implying that what Green said was not what he expected. This foreshadows the third ending with Mr. Green being an FBI agent.
    • The Cook (innocently) points a large knife at Wadsworth when he asks if everything is alright. She is killed with The Knife.
    • And a nice subtle one early one when Wadsworth states that "Nobody here is being addressed by their real name", including himself.
    • Plum claims during dinner he helps with "family planning". However, he's a psychiatrist. We later find out he's having sex with patients.
    • An odd one in the beginning, in that it was a Book End for the fourth ending which was never used, when Wadsworth has a very tense moment with the attack dogs. The lack of the fourth ending makes it a Red Herring instead.
  • French Maid: Yvette who isn't really French or a maid (although she says "it's you!" with her French accent, so it may be that the American accent was fake). But that's okay. Currently the page image for the trope.
  • Gambit Roulette, with a Spanner in the Works: Mr. Boddy presents all of his blackmail victims with a lethal weapon, tells them to kill the guy who isn't blackmailing them, and then turns off all the lights, while still in the room. To the shock of no one, it doesn't end well for him. Of course, depending on the ending, it was a successful Roulette - in the third ending "Mr. Boddy" was really the blackmailer's butler, and the guy he was telling everyone to kill was, in fact, Mr. Boddy. If anybody had actually done what they were told to, The Chessmaster would have been killed, just as the butler wanted.
  • Gag Boobs: Yvette.
  • Gainaxing: A rare live action example courtesy of Yvette.
  • Get a Hold of Yourself Man: "Well, I had to stop her screaming."
  • Get On With It Already: At the end of the movie, the murders are explained in excruciating detail by Wadsworth, prompting the other characters to yell this several times.
    Wadsworth: And to make a long story short—
    Col. Mustard: Too late.
    • Once they even do it as a chorus.
    Wadsworth: I'm getting there! I'm getting there!
  • The Glasses Come Off: When Wadsworth accuses Mrs. Peacock in the second ending, she takes off her glasses. This is the only time she does this in any of the endings, because she's the murderer.
    • Nicely Foreshadowed in the dinner scene: When Mr. Green says he recognizes Mrs. Peacock, she takes off her glasses and demands sharply, "How do you know who I am?"—indicating that not only the glasses but her scatterbrained behavior are just a disguise.
    • In the third ending, Mr. Green takes his glasses off before shooting Wadsworth / Boddy. He never puts them back on, either.
  • Groin Attack: Administered to Mr. Boddy by Mrs. White. Normally-prim Mrs. Peacock cheers.
    Mr. Green: Was that really necessary, Mrs. White?
    • Also alluded to later in a conversation with Colonel Mustard.
    Colonel Mustard: You lure men to their deaths like a spider with flies!
    Mrs. White: Flies are where men are most vulnerable!
    • And mentioned earlier:
    Mrs. White: His head had been cut off. And so had his... you know...
    Colonel Mustard, Mr. Green and Professor Plum simultaneously cross their legs
  • Guilt By Association Gag: While everyone else is being blackmailed for some crime or unscrupulous activity that they know they shouldn't've done, Mr. Green's just a closeted gay man who's afraid of being outed. This plays into the endings as he's the only one in all of them who never commits any of the murders, and in one is revealed to be a badass overcover Fed. And not a homosexual.
  • Ham-to-Ham Combat: Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Madeline Kahn, and Michael McKean are all in the same movie. It's inevitable.
  • Hand of Death: Black gloves allow the identity/sex of the murderer to remain anonymous until the endings.
  • Have I Mentioned I Am Heterosexual Today?: Mr. Green appears to do this in the third ending, but it's ambiguous, since the movie ends right after he delivers the line about his wife and we never find out if he's telling the truth.
  • Head-Tiltingly Kinky: "Oh my. Nobody can get into that position." Plum is eager to show White just how, however.
  • Here We Go Again: Mr. Green being tossed around by Wadsworth during The Reveal.
    Wadsworth: No.
  • Heroic BSOD: After the power is restored, the entire group gathers together and wander around the house, noting every new corpse with absolutely no reaction whatsoever, mentally putting more checks on the list. Wadsworth deadpans, "Three more murders... This is getting serious."
  • He's Dead, Jim: Subverted, as Plum gets it wrong. Zigzagged in the third ending because Plum did know, but lied.
  • Hypocritical Humor: A running gag is Mrs. Peacock's moral outrage at the discovery of the other guests' indiscretions, even though she herself is guilty of taking bribes on behalf of her husband. And of murder, in two of the endings.
  • I Ate WHAT?: In the second and third ending, Wadsworth revealed what they ate earlier in the film.
    Wadsworth: Monkey's brains, though popular in Cantonese cuisine, are not often to be found in Washington, DC.
    Mr. Green: That's what we ate? (covers his mouth and runs to the bathroom)
  • Impossibly-Low Neckline: Yvette, Ms. Scarlet, and Mrs. White.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: Not the cognac - just in case.
  • I Resemble That Remark: "What do you mean, don't deny it? I'm not denying anything."
  • Idiot Ball: In what may be the most stunningly foolish move in the history of cinema, Mr. Boddy hands lethal weapons out to a half dozen people he's been blackmailing into poverty for years (at least one of whom he already knows to be a murderer), turns out the lights, and expects them to use the weapons on the guy who's trying to help them out of their fix.
    • However, one can understand this far better if one takes the third ending into account. Imagine that "Mr. Boddy" is another blackmail victim, whose only condition to earning his freedom is to deliver those packages filled with weapons. "Mr. Boddy", sick of his life of blackmail and knowing "Wadsworth"'s true plan, tries to get the guests to kill their true blackmailer. Then again, he could have told the guests the truth, so he held an Idiot Ball either way.
    • "Mr. Boddy" probably thought they would not believe him. Also he said that killing "Wadsworth" would make sure that their dirty secrets wouldn't get into the papers. If they did kill him however, the press would be all over it, exposing them anyway.
    • For that matter: Yvette, in the first ending, is knowingly working for someone who's been killing off all of Mr. Boddy's other accomplices. What did she think would happen?
  • Instant Death Bullet: See Killed Mid-Sentence just below. Inverted in the 3rd ending when Wadsworth/Boddy is fatally shot, but keeps on talking.
  • It Gets Easier: The characters are wildly hysterical about Boddy's death, then the cooks, but they quickly get hardened ("Everything normal, two corpses"), and finally, "Three more murders... this is getting serious.")
  • Killed Mid-Sentence: The Singing Telegram Girl.
    • Also the motorist who is bludgeoned while talking on the phone, just before revealing which one of the guests is his old boss.
    • Wadsworth/Boddy, in the third ending, who doesn't manage to get out the last word of his sentence before dying.
    • Inverted when the cop's killer hangs up his phone call before killing him.
  • Knocking on Heathens' Door: Appears as a throwaway gag during Wadsworth's summation.
    Evangelist: Repent! The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!
    Scarlet: You ain't just whistlin' Dixie!
    Evangelist: Armageddon is almost upon us!
    Plum: I've got news for you; it's already here!
    Peacock: Go away!
    Evangelist: But your souls are in danger!
    Peacock: Our lives are in danger, ya beatnik! (slams door)
    • This is yet another cover. The Jehovah's witness is really the FBI agent's - whether Wadsworth or Mr. Green - boss.
  • Large Ham: See Tim Curry, below. Especially during The Summation, which could be summed up as "Wadsworth reenacts the entire movie by himself, but in the silliest way possible."
    • Mrs. Peacock too.
    • Martin Mull as Col. Mustard has his moments. "You could've killed us! I could've been killed! I can't take any more scares!"
    • Let's face it, this is a movie almost entirely cast with character actors who are having a blast hamming it up.
  • Left Hanging / Aborted Arc: Of a sort. While the movie is... decent at consistently making sure all the points of each ending work, there is one that doesn't: before she dies, Yvette the Maid has a very ominous, suspicious conversation with her killer that makes absolutely no sense unless you get a specific ending, where it's revealed the two were working together. Without that ending, it instead becomes a plot point that is never elaborated on.
    • Yvette, however, is surprised by the identity of the person she's speaking to ("It's you!"), so she thought it was someone else.note 
    • There was a fourth ending written and shot, but ultimately left out in the final cut.
  • Let's Split Up, Gang: Invoked by Colonel Mustard. Played with in that the cast makes a point to pair off and search separate floors; in theory this will make it easy to figure out who the murderer is if someone else dies.
  • Lights Off, Somebody Dies: Mr. Boddy's murder. He's actually the one who turns off the lights, expecting everyone in the room to attempt to murder someone else. It Makes Sense in Context. And he was actually faking his death because he realized someone was trying to kill him instead. Said guest succeeds later, but not in the dark.
  • Logic Bomb: The questions Mustard asks Wadsworth in the library are self-inverted as to be effectively unanswerable, which leads to a comedic interchange.
    Mustard: Am I right in thinking there is no one else in this house?
    Wadsworth: No.
    Mustard: So there is someone else in this house?
    Wadsworth: No, sorry, I said no meaning yes.
    Mustard: I want a straight answer, is there someone else or isn't there, yes or no?
    Wadsworth: Um, no.
    Mustard: No, there is? Or no, there isn't?
    Wadsworth: Yes.
  • Lovable Sex Maniac: Professor Plum tries to put the moves on every woman in the film including Mrs. Peacock ("It's just you and me now, honeybunch!") and the singing telegram girl who, it turns out, he had an affair with. Even his hand somehow ends up on the dead cook's ass.
  • Male Gaze: Professor Plum not so subtly gazes at Yvette's cleavage.
  • Meaningful Name:
    • Mr. Boddy, naturally. All of the other guests (except Mr. Green) have these as well, as their pseudonyms reflect their attire or appearance: Ms. Scarlet has red hair, Professor Plum wears a plum-colored vest, Mrs. Peacock's outfit and headdress are loud and multicolored, Ms. White looking pale and tragic.
    • Mr. Green being a plant in the third ending. Also, it could refer to his clumsy nature, as green is often used as a slang term for an incompetent novice. He also is the only one who turns a metaphorical green in the second ending on learning what they ate for dinner.
    • The more obsessive viewer will have picked up on the fact that their names match the colors of their cars (though admittedly Mrs. Peacock's isn't peacock blue, and Professor Plum's car is closer to maroon. Maybe. His vest is still purple, though.)
      • For those looking even further into it, Mrs. Peacock has a peacock pin on her and her browns could be seen as matching the more modest plumage of female peafowls.
    • Also, the lining of Ms. White's black coat is dazzlingly white.
  • Minsky Pickup: The singing telegram girl.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Colleen Camp as Yvette. This is even justified, as she's actually one of Miss Scarlet's prostitutes.
    • For that matter, Miss Scarlet.
  • Motor Mouth: Wadsworth, summarizing the evening's events at the end of the film.
    • Mrs Peacock, when she tries to break the ice at the dinner. The rest of the group just stare as she goes on and on.
  • Multiple Endings: Three of them. If you go back and watch the film with each ending's evidence in mind, noting the absences of certain characters in certain scenes as well as specific character interactions, you'll find that all three are plausible to one extent or another. In the order they appear on the "home video" version of the film, they are:
    • 1. Miss Scarlet and the maid Yvette are responsible for all the murders, and Wadsworth is an FBI agent.
    • 2. Mrs. Peacock killed everyone, Wadsworth still works for the FBI.
    • 3. Everyone except Mr. Green killed somebody, Wadsworth is actually Mr. Boddy (and 'Mr. Boddy' was actually his butler), Mr. Green kills Mr. Boddy, reveals he's an FBI plant, has all the others arrested, and declares he is "going home to sleep with my wife." (The home video lists this one as "But here's what really happened." That, and the fact that the third ending features actual relevant flashbacks, hints this was also the original ending.)
    • The Novelization included a fourth ending that was left out of the finished film, in which the brandy really was poisoned. Wadsworth knew that inviting the guests to the house, presenting them with their enemies, and supplying them with weapons and opportunity would prove too powerful a temptation to resist, so he dosed them with a slow-acting poison and allowed them to do his dirty work for him, knowing they would all drop dead at the end of the night.
  • Murder Is the Best Solution: Mr. Boddy insists that the party guests killing Wadsworth is the best way for them to keep their various secrets from being exposed. He even gives them the weapons to do it. Needless to say, that didn't quite work out for him.
  • My Car Hates Me
    Scarlet: Why has the car stopped?
    Plum: It's frightened.
  • Mythology Gag: Several, referencing the original board game.
    • In the quote at the top of the page, Wadsworth describes the primary objective of the game: to find out who's the murderer, where the murder took place, and what weapon was used.
      • And one character eventually gives an answer to each of these: "...I did. In the hall, with the revolver."
    • The Creative Closing Credits show all the guests (plus Wadsworth, Mr. Boddy, and Yvette) on playing cards just like in the game. (And the guests are even holding all the murder weapons.)
    • During The Summation, Wadsworth leads the group running from room to room to explain to his suspects. In the game, to suggest a suspect, players must place their pawns in the room they intend to speak about.
  • Nasty Party: All the characters are invited to the house to face Mr. Boddy, who (unbeknownst to them) is the person blackmailing each of them. Boddy gives them all weapons, and orders them to kill the butler so that what they're being blackmailed for won't be exposed. This degenerates into psychosis, with more murders over the course of the movie.
  • Never One Murder: In fact, there are six!
  • No Name Given: All of the characters from the game (Mr. Green, Professor Plum, Mrs. White, etc.) are revealed to be going by aliases so as to protect their real identities.
    Mustard: That's not my name, my name is Colonel—
    Wadsworth: Forgive me, sire, but tonight you may feel obliged... for the use of an alias.
    White: Do you know who I am?
    Wadsworth: Only that you are to be known as Mrs. White.
    White: Yes, it said so in the letter. But why?
    • This goes for almost every character, actually. Most of the minor characters are called by what they are (The Cop, The Motorist, The Singing Telegram, etc). Yvette, Wadsworth, and Mr. Boddy are the only characters who are given actual names, and it's heavily implied that these are also just pseudonyms. The only time we get an actual name for a character is a blink-and-you'll-miss-it line early in the movie where Wadsworth calls the cook "Mrs. Ho."
  • Non-Indicative Name: See Colour-Coded for Your Convenience above.
    • Subverted with Mr. Green in the last ending, since plants are green. He also turn a more metaphorical green at the concept of eating monkey's brains. Furthermore, "green" as a slang term can refer to someone who is new, inexperienced, and makes a lot of mistakes; this would seem to describe the klutzy Mr. Green very well.
  • Not-So-Harmless Villain: Mrs. Peacock in the second ending.
  • Not That Kind of Doctor: Professor Plum evaluates Mr. Boddy after he "dies".
    Green: How did he die?!
    Plum: I don't know! I'm not a forensic expert!
    • In Ending C, Wadsworth sneers that it doesn't even take a doctor to tell if a patient is dead or alive.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: There is a genuinely eerie scene where Ms. Scarlet, left alone in the ballroom, nervously checks to see if the mystery killer is hiding behind the curtains. This is made even better by the brief tracking shot over her shoulder, which upon first viewing lends the sensation we're about to see someone come up behind her.
    • The fourth and fifth murders. First, Yvette walks into a dark room. An unknown voice tells them to lock the door, and asks them if anyone saw them. Yvette answers in an different accent, only to switch back to scream "It's you!" as they get strangled with the rope. Then we cut to the cop telling someone on the phone that they are genuinely afraid, only for the murderer to use the lead pipe to hang up the phone, then bash their head in.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Zigzagged with Colonel Mustard in the third ending. On the one hand, he was bright enough to pick Wadsworth's pocket for the key to the weapons cupboard, substitute the lounge door key to be thrown away, then suggest everyone split up in order to get at the witness against him, but on the other hand, he assumes that something perverted is about to happen when Wadsworth declares that, rather than be exposed as the killer, "I choose to expose myself!"
    • Mrs. Peacock in the second ending.
    • Mr. Green in the third ending.
  • Of Corpse He's Alive: When the cop becomes understandably suspicious of the goings-on at Hill House, Mr. Green is commandeered to give a "tour" while the others set up the corpses to "make it look convincing" they're still alive. The results are hilarious, if not half because of the cop and Green's reactions to Mrs. White and Mr. Boddy apparently making out and Colonel Mustard romancing Mrs. Ho (while poor Mrs. Peacock is stuck on her other side on a window ledge). Professor Plum and Miss Scarlet get off the lightest since they get to make out while pretending the motorist is "dead drunk" who will have "a long black car" sent to take him home.
  • Of Corsets Sexy: Yvette and Ms. Scarlet again.
  • Oh, Crap: When Professor Plum finds out he didn't kill Mr. Boddy, but his butler, in the third ending he says, "Oh, shucks", but it's obvious his lips actually say "Oh, shit." It was probably changed in ODR to keep a PG rating.
  • Once per Ending: Several lines and events happen in all three endings, in similar ways and to similar effect.
    • Someone expresses with surprise that the murder plot had nothing to do with the various characters' government contacts, to which the killer replies "communism is just a red herring."
    • After the summation and confrontation, someone says "there's just one thing I don't understand," to which someone else will quip "one thing?"
    • "The gun is missing! Gentlemen, turn out your pockets! Ladies, empty your purses! Whoever has the gun is the murderer!" after which the killer will reveal themselves and attempt to escape. Said by Wadsworth in all but the last ending, where he has it. Otherwise, Green speaks it.
    • Wadsworth saying that they will stack the bodies in the basement, leave and pretend nothing ever happened.
  • One Degree of Separation: They're not supposed to know each other and they're all addressed by aliases but a little conversation turns up the connection that most of them live in Washington D.C. and all of them make their living from the government which naturally alarms them.
  • Ooh, Me Accent's Slipping:
    • Yvette's French accent occasionally gets shaky. Yvette drops the accent completely when she's killed, implying her accent was fake.
    • Mrs White starts off with some sort of accent, which gradually disappears as the movie wears on. Its possibly intentional by the character for concealment.
  • Panty Shot: Yvette the Maid.
  • Patriotic Fervor: Mr. Boddy's motivation for the blackmail.
    Mr. Green: This is ridiculous. If he was such a patriotic American, why didn't he just report us to the authorities?
    Wadsworth: He thought he'd put the information to good use and make a little money. What could be more American than that?
  • Pet the Dog:
    • Mrs. Peacock was concerned about the Cook since she wasn't involved in the blackmail conspiracy. But Wadsworth tells her she WAS involved, otherwise why else would she even be in the mansion? She was one of Mr. Boddy's accomplices. However, in the second and third endings, Mrs. Peacock killed the Cook.
    • Ice Queen Mrs. White is the most sympathetic when Wadsworth sobs that his wife was a socialist.
  • Plucky Comic Relief: The cowardly Mr. Green, except in the third ending.
    "Sorry, I'm a bit accident-prone."
  • Pretty in Mink: Mrs. Peacock shows up wearing a fur wrap. She only wears it for a few minutes in the film, but far more often in promotional shots.
  • Pun: "Is the FBI in the habit of cleaning up after multiple murders?" "Of course. Why do you think it's run by a man called Hoover?"
    • Of course, the first one to die is Mr. Boddy.
    • The Cop examining the motorist and saying, "This man's drunk. Dead drunk." This is followed by "Dead right."
    • "Communism was just a red herring."
    • Professor Plum works for UNO (the United Nations Organization), specifically for a branch of them called the World Heath Organization. In other words, he works for UNO WHO. The best part? That actually exists.
  • Police Are Useless: The police officer who shows up to inquire about a motorist who left his car on the side of the road apparently was incapable of noticing the blood on Mr. Body's head or the fact that the man he was talking to wasn't breathing.
    • And then this is averted in the case of the police and F.B.I. who do arrest the culprit(s), although they don't arrive until several people have died.
  • Randomly Generated Levels: There have been three different endings for the movie, each with a different person being the killer. Theatrical release of the film showed only one of the endings, but television and home video versions have included all of the endings, sometimes all in one movie.
  • Rapid-Fire Comedy
  • Really Gets Around: Miss Scarlet, by implication. The fact at least part of this is attributed to her blackmailable life as a brothel madam only compounds the issue, since presumably one in that line of work needs to maintain some degree of division between their personal and professional lives. Used to justify her making out with Professor Plum when trying to hide the bodies of the murdered informants from the cop. (See Of Corpse He's Alive.)
    • Led to quite the gem in the Novelization, however: in the scene in the kitchen, where Mrs. White reveals her Black Widow nature, her recitation of how men are like Kleenex is corrected by Miss Scarlet thusly: "Their slogan is Soft, Strong, and Pops Up, Too."
  • Red Herring: All of the characters have some connection to the government, many of them with ties to the military and the Cold War. However, none of this turns out to be important because, as we're told in all three endings, "Communism was just a red herring".
    • Also, we never learned the cause of the broken window in the ballroom. Though it can probably be assumed it was broken by a tree branch during the storm.
  • Rule of Three: The three endings. Used to full effect in the "home video" version of the film, in which all three endings are shown one after another.
  • Running Gag:
    • Wadsworth steps in dog poop at the beginning of the movie. The first time he speaks to Yvette and each of the guests, they all sniff a few times and check their own shoes.
    • "To make a long story short..." "Too late."
    • "I didn't do it!"
  • Scenery Porn: Shot on location in an authentic New England mansion.
  • Share Phrase: The same lines and gags appear in each ending, transposed to different characters (e.g. "Communism was just a red herring," the line "There's one thing I don't understand." "One thing?"). However, when watched together, it comes off as a convincing call back.
  • Share the Male Pain: When Mrs. White indicates that her late husband was castrated during his murder, the three male guests all cross their legs.
  • Shoot Out the Lock: Yvette does this to get Miss Scarlet and Colonel Mustard out of the Lounge.
  • Shout-Out:
  • Shown Their Work: A subtitle proclaims that the film takes place in 1954. The TV broadcast playing in the kitchen as the cook prepares dinner uses real Congressional footage which was aired June 6, 1954.
  • Slapstick Knows No Gender: In the third ending, Wadsworth grabs Mrs. White's hand and leads her up the stairs, only to drop her for no apparent reason.
  • Slasher Smile: Wadsworth gets off a good one in the third ending when he says, "I shot her."
  • Spiritual Successor: To Neil Simon's Murder by Death — the movies share a similar setting, sense of humor... and Eileen Brennan.
  • Stealth Insult: Upon discovering Mr. Boddy was in fact alive, Mrs. White claims the group should have made sure he was dead. Mrs. Peacock replies that they should have cut his head off to which Mrs. White snaps it was uncalled for. Doubles as a Call Back due to the mysterious deaths of Mrs. White's husbands, but what makes it a Stealth Insult is the fact that Peacock is comparing White to a praying mantis.
  • Stealth Pun: At dinner, Professor Plum says that he is employed by UNO (United Nations Organization), at a branch called WHO (World Health Organization). Which means he works for U-NO-WHO.
    • See also Casting Gag.
    • Wadsworth's name. Early firearms used wadding in the barrel to help igniting the black powder. Wadsworth's name implies that he's worth shooting. Especially true in the third ending.
    • Miss Scarlet's name seems ill-chosen in the film, as she never wears any red throughout it. But it soon comes to light that she's the leader of a prostitution ring who has "serviced" several high-paying clients. An old term for dubious women with multiple sexual partners is "Scarlet woman."
  • Straight Gay: Mr. Green, unless the third ending is the correct ending, in which case he was a plant ("A plant? I thought men like you were usually called a fruit.") from the FBI pretending to be gay so he would be blackmailed, and is in fact "going home to sleep with [his] wife".
    • So he says. He couldn't very well have told his boss something else, could he? All the evidence that he was gay burned up earlier in the movie.
    • Given Wadsworth's surprise when going through the evidence, it's probable that Green actually is straight - or at least being gay would not appear to be what he was being blackmailed for.
  • The Summation: All such summations from 80s mystery shows are totally spoofed by the over the top and ultimately unhelpful way Wadsworth does it. This one takes over 20 minutes.
  • Summation Gathering: At the very end, Wadsworth calls everyone together for The Summation.
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial
    The Motorist: Where is it?
    Wadsworth: What? The body?
    The Motorist: The phone. What body?
    Wadsworth: There's no body. Nobody. There's, there's nobody in the study.
    • Everyone's body language when the cop shows up just reeks of this, especially the two who slam and block the doors to the two rooms containing corpses. This is especially true when everyone very nervously denies the motorist came to the house, only for Mr. Green to admit that he did. When the cop then states what is essentially a rhetorical Is The Answer To This Question "Yes"? observation ("You all seem to have some kind of disagreement")...they all deny it again, even more nervously, only for Green to again, with grim satisfaction, say yes.
  • Take That
    Wadsworth: Professor Plum, you were once a professor of psychiatry specializing in helping paranoid and homicidal lunatics suffering from delusions of grandeur.
    Professor Plum: Yes, but now I work for the United Nations.
    Wadsworth: So your work has not changed.
    • Plum himself joins in, when he is told that it won't help his career to be implicated in six murders. He responds, "You don't know the kind of people we have at the UN - I might go up in their estimation."
    • "Even a psychiatrist can tell the difference between patients who are alive or dead."
  • Tap on the Head: Wadsworth is briefly knocked out by the candlestick falling off a shelf over a doorway he was standing in. He's back upright in the next scene.
  • Ten Little Murder Victims: The film was a parody of this kind of movie.
  • That Came Out Wrong: During the third ending.
    Mr. Green: So it was you. I was going to expose you!
    Wadsworth: I know. So I choose to expose myself.
    Col. Mustard: Please, there are ladies present!
  • Trying to Catch Me Fighting Dirty: When Colonel Mustard challenges Mr. Boddy to a fight, Mr. Boddy responds by poking him in the eyes, kicking him in the shin, then beating him more while he's down.
    • Mr. Boddy has to be dragged away by the others, at which point Mrs. White decides to get in on this trope too, by kneeing Boddy in the crotch.
  • Undercover Cop Reveal: In the first two endings, Wadsworth is an FBI agent. In the final ending, Mr. Green reveals himself as the agent just after shooting the real Mr. Boddy. In all the endings, the Jehovah's Witness is the FBI agent's boss.
  • Unusually Uninteresting Sight: When the group walks into the Billiard Room and find Yvette dead with the noose around her neck, they just walk out without a single word as if they were used to all the murders happening around them.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: The dogs disappear, not bothering the motorist or anyone else that arrives later. Although with the storm raging for most of the night, they would have been hiding in the doghouse, as shown in one shot early on.
    • In the unused D ending, which appears in the Novelization, Wadsworth leaves the house after all the guests are dead, gets into his car, and begins to drive away when he hears a dog growl from the backseat, which causes him to crash. It is unclear if he dies in the crash or if the dog attacks him, but the implication is that he doesn't survive.
  • World of Ham
  • Worthy Opponent: Wadsworth/Mr. Boddy in the third ending, after being shot by Mr. Green:
    Mr. Boddy: Oh, good shot! *slides down the wall to sitting, looks in his suit at the wound* A very... *dies*
  • Would Hit a Girl: Mr. Green slapping Mrs. Peacock early on (see Get Ahold Of Yourself Man above). During The Summation, Wadsworth does the same thing.
  • "Yes"/"No" Answer Interpretation: When Colonel Mustard is asking Wadsworth about whether there is anyone else in the house, Wadsworth does answer with 'yesses' and 'nos', but they're all so ambiguous as answers to the questions asked that he has to keep asking him for clarification.
  • You! Exclamation: When Yvette spots their former boss or former lover's wife or someone else and will-be murderer, they exclaim "It's you!"
    • When Wadsworth reveals that he shot the singing telegram girl in the third ending, everyone else exclaims, "You?!"
  • You Have Outlived Your Usefulness: Yvette in the Ms. Scarlet ending, and all the victims (except Yvette this time, who was killed for revenge) in the "Everybody did it" ending, thanks to the Batman Gambit of the real Mr. Boddy.