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Film: Fat Al Attract Ion

I'm not going to be IGNORED, Dan!
-Alex Forrest

Fatal Attraction is a 1987 thriller about a married man named Dan Gallagher who cheats on his wife with a co-worker named Alex Forrest while his wife and child are away. Dan expects their affair to just be a one-night stand, but Alex, who is a bit on the unbalanced side, has other ideas.

Alex attempts suicide when Dan explains to her that he has to get back home and get on with his life. He tries to put the affair behind him, but Alex will not let go, and stalks Dan with the intent of getting him back, and as Dan continues to turn her down, Alex gets increasingly unhinged, reaching into his life and his family with devastating effect. It gets to the point where Dan and his family have to move, but Alex still won't leave them alone, continuing to stalk them, her obsession turning to hatred over time, culminating in a horrific scene which coined the phrase "bunny boiler." Dan, who originally wanted to keep the affair secret from his wife, now has to protect his family from a psychotic woman who is willing to do anything, even kill, in order to get her man.

Fatal Attraction—#28 on AFI's "Thrills" list— was the top grossing movie of 1987, was nominated for several Academy Awards, and became hugely popular both in the United States and internationally. Alex Forrest—AFI' s #7 "Villain"—was cited as a notable film example of someone with erotomania. The movie was also the cause of much discussion about marital infidelity (and the Double Standard gender politics involved in the Stalking Is Love trope) for a good while afterward.

Not to be confused with Fatal Instinct.


This film contains examples of:

  • Adult Fear: Alex kidnapping Ellen. It's not just every parent's worst nightmare, but all the elements surrounding it—that your child could go off with a stranger just because he/she seemed nice, that other adults who should have protected your child would instead let them go, that someone could have been watching and stalking your child, just waiting for the right moment to snatch them. And even though Ellen is returned safely, the cold hard fact is that Alex could have harmed her if she wanted to. Dan's demeanor in the police station afterwards demonstrates how really and truly terrified he now is.
  • All Men Are Perverts: If Dan had listened to his "big head" instead of his "little head" regarding Alex, none of this would have happened.
  • Asshole Victim: Considering how Dan dumps Alex, you don't really feel sorry for him when she retaliates. The police don't even act at first. Until Alex kidnaps his daughter, Ellen.
    • Alex herself, by the end.
  • Ax-Crazy: Alex, although she doesn't seem like it at first.
  • Berserk Button: Alex kidnapping Ellen is the last straw for Dan.
  • Betty and Veronica: Beth (interestingly, a name very similar to Betty) and Alex.
  • Blondes are Evil: Again, Alex.
  • Break-In Threat/The Villain Knows Where You Live: Alex follows Dan home and clearly continues stalking the family unseen, as proven by her breaking into their home to kill Ellen's pet rabbit, kidnapping Ellen from her school, and breaking into the house again to kill his wife.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin' : And how. Many people saw what happened with Alex as "punishing" Dan for cheating on his wife.
    • And conversely, another view has everything that happens to Alex as punishment for (a) daring to advance in a traditionally-male business world, (b) being happily single, successful, and independent at a time when most women her age (30-something) were expected to be married with children—it's hard not to notice the stark contrast between her and Dan's happy homemaker wife. Her extreme reaction is intended to discredit her advocacy of feminism, making this an entirely different kind of morality tale.
      • Although none of the other businesswomen in the film are portrayed as unhappy and unsatisfied with their lives. Alex's problems seem to stem more from her personality problems (perhaps caused in part by the traumatic early death of her father which made it hard for her to properly bond with people) than it does from her trying to succeed in a "traditionally male business world."
  • Chekhov's Armoury: The final act of the film is rife with these:
    • Alex follows Dan home, which plays into her later breaking into their house to kill their pet rabbit, and her kidnapping his daughter from her school. Even the breaking and entering plays into her showing up in their house in the film's final minutes.
    • There's even a Chekhov's Knife—the butcher knife Alex nearly stabs Dan with during the confrontation in her apartment plays a large role in both endings. In the original, she uses it to kill herself in an attempt to frame Dan for murder (note the lingering close-up of Dan's hand on the blade handle as he places it on the counter), while in the new ending, Alex brings it to the house in her attempt to kill Beth.
    • The wife fills a bathtub in preparation for a soak. Suffice it to say, it comes in handy during the final confrontation.
    • And Chekhovs Words. Beth outright tells Alex that she'll kill her if Alex comes near her family again. Alex shows up. . .
    • And the best example—we see a revolver in Dan's drawer. It is used in the end.
  • Christmas Cake: Alex.
  • Focus Group Ending: The original ending wasn't that well-liked (at least in America. A Japanese version exists with the original ending).
    • It's also on the DVD and Blu-Ray.
  • Foreshadowing: Early on, Dan and Alex listen to Madame Butterfly at Alex's house; Dan recalls first going to see the opera as a little boy, and how scared he was by Cio-Cio San's suicide at the end. This foreshadows the film's original ending, in which Alex herself commits suicide (to the tune of Madame Butterfly, no less) and frames Dan for her murder. However, this scene was cut from the final film (see "Focus Group Ending"), so it's actually an aversion.
    Beth: (to Alex over the phone)"This is Beth Gallagher. If you ever come near my family again I will kill you. Do you understand me?"
  • Happily Married: Odd example, considering that the crux of the movie is the fact that Dan cheats on his wife, but all scenes before and after his weekend fling with Alex indicate that he adores his wife and is genuinely remorseful about the affair even before Alex goes off the deep end.
  • I Have This Friend: Fed up with Alex's crazed behavior, Dan goes to the police on behalf of a "client" who wants to stop an ex from harassing him. Aside from being completely unsympathetic and unhelpful, the cop he speaks to clearly knows Dan is talking about himself.
  • Idiot Ball: Dan for apparently not using any protection when he slept with Alex, as evidenced by him asking her about her birth control method. This at a time when the AIDS crisis was slowly but surely becoming more of a worrisome social issue, not to mention the myriad of other ST Ds out there. Alex as well, who opens her door without looking through the peephole, asking who it is, or having a chain lock on—highly stupid in a city like New York, even more so when you've just kidnapped a man's daughter and the man might just be a tad upset about this.
  • Jump Scare: After Dan drowns Alex in the bathtubs and assumes her to be dead, she suddenly comes back to life and springs out of the tub, waving her knife, until Beth shoots her.
  • Karma Houdini: Alex in the original ending.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: Alex in the new ending. How appropriate that the cuckolded wife is the one who gets gets to shoot her husband's lover.
  • Love Makes You Crazy: Alex.
  • Mama Bear/Papa Wolf: Beth and Dan, given their reactions to the threats against Ellen.
  • Murder the Hypotenuse: Alex tries to do this in the end.
  • Not Good With Rejection: Alex in regards to Dan. Big time.
  • Oh Crap: "My wabbit, My wabbit!"
  • Police Are Useless: Dan's initial pleas to the cops are ignored with them basically having the attitude that he brought it on himself by having the affair with Alex, but also truthfully pointing out that he has no proof that it was she who vandalized his car and that there isn't much they can do regarding her harassment (stalking laws either didn't exist back then or were very weak and usually geared towards women being targeted by men, not the other way around). After Alex snatches Ellen, it's obvious Dan holds the cops equally responsible for failing to act when he first complained.
  • Sanity Slippage: The more Dan tries to distance himself from Alex, the crazier she gets.
  • Stalker with a Crush: Alex, to the extent of being an alternate Trope Namer.
  • Vapor Wear: Alex has no concept of wearing a bra, apparently.
  • What Happened to the Mouse??: Dan's lawyer buddy and his wife, apparently good friends with Dan and his wife, disappear halfway through the movie. The lawyer's last scene is warning Dan that Alex could sue him for child support, but that's the last we see of him.
  • Woman Scorned: Alex, especially near the end.
  • Would Hurt a Child: Alex has no problem breaking Ellen's heart by killing her pet rabbit. And although she returns Ellen unharmed, it's obvious that she wanted to terrify her parents with the very real possibility that she could have harmed her if she wanted to.
    • Beth and Dan easily qualify too. While it is true that it was self-defense, Beth and Dan did kill a pregnant woman, first trying to drown her, then shooting her in the heart.
  • Yandere: Alex. Holy shit, Alex. (Know why this movie was a huge hit in Japan? There you go.) Her #7 placement on AFI' s "Villains" List is well earned.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Sets up the plot.

The Beyond 100 Scariest Movie MomentsCujo
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Broadcast NewsAcademy AwardMoonstruck

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