The story centers around your typical Italian-American family living in Brooklyn. Loretta Castorini (Cher), a widow in her late thirties who has moved back in with her parents since the death of her husband, accepts a proposal from her bumbling boyfriend Johnny (Danny Aiello), who suddenly has to leave in order to visit his dying mother in Sicily. While he's away, Loretta tries to convince Johnny's estranged brother Ronny (Cage) to give up their feud and come to the upcoming wedding, but accidentally falls for him. At the same time, Loretta's father (Vincent Gardenia) is having a secret affair while her mother (Olympia Dukakis) ponders the skirt-chasing mentality of men. Hilarity Ensues.
Notable for getting Cher, Dukakis and screenwriter John Patrick Shanley (the future playwright of Doubt) Academy Awards. Notable further for the fact that the acting awards, for a spot-on depiction of a big Italian family, all went to the non-Italian actors and screenwriter.note The Italian actors were Vincent Gardenia, a Neapolitan; he did get nominated, but didn't win; Italian-Americans Nick Cage and Danny Aiello.
- '80s Hair: Loretta leaves the hairdresser's with typical 80s big hair.
- All Girls Want Bad Boys:Loretta: (to Ronnie) You got them bad eyes, like a Gypsy!
- Ambiguously Gay: Al the mortician. His actor, Tim Koetting, is openly gay.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Ronny to Loretta.Ronny: Loretta, I love you. Not, not like they told you love is and I didn't know this either. But love don't make things nice, it ruins everything! It breaks your heart, it makes things a mess. We aren't here to make things perfect. Snowflakes are perfect, stars are perfect. Not us! Not US! We are here to ruin ourselves and... and to break our hearts and love the wrong people and... and DIE... I mean, I mean the storybooks are BULLSHIT. Now I want you to come upstairs with me and... and GET in my bed. Come on, come on, come on...
- Animal Motifs: Ronny resembles a wolf before he cleans up for the opera, which makes sense since Loretta calls him a wolf and the original title of the film was The Bride and the Wolf.
- Arc Words: "Why do men chase women?"
- Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: One of the best examples in all of filmdom, though it's more like Littering, Murder and Jaywalking. Loretta in confession.Loretta: Twice I took the name of the Lord in vain, once I slept with the brother of my fiancé, and once I bounced a check at the liquor store, but that was really an accident.Priest: Well then it's not a sin. But... what was that second one again?
- As the Good Book Says...: When Rose asks Johnny "why do men chase women?", his first response is to relate the tale of Adam's rib. It doesn't explain to Rose why a man would need more than one, however.
- At the Opera Tonight: Ronny takes Loretta to La Bohème. They're both dressed up and enjoy the performance a lot.
- Bait-and-Switch Comment: Grandpa late in the film announces he has something important to say. One might think for a moment he was about to call out Rose for cheating with Perry (which she didn't) or for Cosmo cheating on Rose with Mona (which he did), but instead he forcefully tells Cosmo that he must pay for the wedding of his only daughter, which he mentioned briefly he intended to do at his friend's burial.
- Better as Friends: Strongly implied about Loretta and Johnny.
- Better Partner Assertion: Even before realizing he's attracted to Loretta, Ronny lambasts her for choosing to marry his brother Johnny, since Johnny inadvertently caused Ronny to lose his hand in an accident years before and they are clearly marrying each other for convenience rather than love. He claims he is the better option because he actually wholeheartedly loves her.
- Big "WHAT?!": An epic one given by Johnny at the climax.
- Book Ends: The film begins and ends with Dean Martin crooning "That's Amore".
- Brutal Honesty: Loretta and Ronnie, which hints they really are made for each other.Loretta: (casually) So five years ago you got your hand cut off and your woman left you. No woman since then?
Ronnie: When your husband get hit?
Loretta: Seven years ago.
Ronnie: How many men since then?
Loretta: Just Johnny.
Ronnie: Stupid yourself.
- Both of the proposals are "on my knees... in front of all these people."
- When Rose asks Loretta if she's in love with Johnny, she's happy to hear Loretta only likes him. When Rose asks Loretta if she's in love with Ronnie, she sadly says, "Oh, gee, that's too bad" when Loretta says she loves him completely.
- Loretta says Perry's date is too young for him. Rose says the same thing to him after another disastrous date.
- The Cameo: Martin Scorsese's mother Catherine is one of Ray's customers.
- Central Theme: Love and death. (Well, Food Porn, too. You'll be hungry for Italian after the film.)
- Cool Old Guy: Grandpa. (Also played by a non-Italian.)
- Damned by Faint Praise: When Al tells Loretta that he's a genius, she retorts that if he's such a genius, why are his receipts and taxes a complete and utter mess? She eventually admits he makes good coffee.
- Distinguishing Mark: Nic Cage's character has a wooden hand after an accident in the bakery. (He still has the palm of his hand, so presumably he lost all of his fingers.)
- Dull Surprise: Played for Laughs. When Loretta tells Cosmo then Rose that she is engaged to be married, they both ask in a bored tone, "Again?"
- Establishing Character Moment: Oh, Nic Cage. "Crissy, bring me the BIG KNIFE! I'm gonna cut my throat!"
- "Eureka!" Moment: "Thank you! Thank you for answering my question!" (Not that she didn't always know the answer.)
- Extremely Short Timespan: The entire story takes place over little over two days.
- Food Porn: The Italian dishes seen in the film look scrumptious.
- Foreshadowing: The opening scenes show trucks delivering props to The Met for La Bohème, the same performance that Loretta, Sonny, Cosmo and Mona attend.
- Get A Hold Of Yourself Man: When Ronny tells Loretta he loves her, she slaps him and yells "Snap out of it!" This is the movie's Signature Scene.
- Gigantic Moon: It's unnaturally large after Ronny sleeps with Loretta. Raymond calls it "Cosmo's moon" (the last time he saw it so huge was when Cosmo was courting Rose.)
- Good People Have Good Sex.
- The second time Ronny and Loretta have sex, they're both deep in the afterglow, when by all rights they should be guiltier.
- After Ray and Rita have sex for the first time in who knows how long, they're both giddy afterward.
- Good Shepherd: The Priest Loretta confesses her affair to never once condemns her or judges her as one would expect from this type of scene. Instead he advises her, in a friendly manner, to simply think about her life and the choices she's making and gives her rather light penance.
- Happily Ever After: Everyone has a happy ending, even Johnny.
- I Need a Freaking Drink:
- When Perry gets drinks splashed in his face by his dates,, he orders vodka. The waiter says he deserves one.
- Loretta asks for whisky when she meets with Ronny and they have dinner.
- Insistent Terminology: Listen carefully to Ronny. For example, he doesn't take Loretta to bed - he takes her to THE bed, as if it were a ritual or a meaningful part of an opera.Roger Ebert: When Ronny Cammareri sweeps Loretta Castorini off her feet in "Moonstruck," he almost, in his exuberance, throws her over his shoulder. "Where are you taking me?" she cries. "To the bed!" he says. Not to bed, but to the bed. There is the slightest touch of formality in that phrasing, and it is enough to cause Loretta to let her head fall back in surrender.
- Italians Talk with Hands: They all gesticulate heavily.
- Lady in Red: Loretta during her opera date with Ronny.Ronny: ...thank you.
- Mona also goes in a similar outfit, driving home to Loretta she's no different from her, though while she's still single (albeit engaged), Cosmo is married. (Also, while Loretta looks elegant in her outfit, Mona looks ever so slightly trashy.)
- Large Ham:
- Cage just nearly borders on this during his first scene where he explains his hatred for his brother, but slides back into being genuine. It helps that the characters react to him in a similar way as the audience would, giving the character just a more Large Ham persona. It's been noted that Ronny is operatic - he loves opera, and literally performs his life (see Insistent Terminology). He has plenty of more human, quiet moments.
- Johnny has his moments, too; see the quote from Sibling Rivalry below.
- Love Makes You Crazy: Practically the Trope Codifier. Rose is pleased when Loretta tells her she doesn't love Johnny, but likes him.Rose: (on Loretta and Ronny) You love him, Loretta?Loretta: Ma, I love him awful.Rose: (sighing) That's too bad.
- Momma's Boy: Johnny ("Johnny Camareri? He's a big baby.")
- Moral Luck: Loretta is deeply superstitious. For example, she blames the death of her first husband for not having a proper church wedding. She gets it from Cosmo.Cosmo: You did this once before. It didn't work out.
Loretta: The guy died.
Cosmo: What killed him?
Loretta: He got hit by a bus.
Cosmo: No. Bad luck. Your mother and I were married 52 years. Nobody died. You were married two years, somebody's dead. Don't get married again. It don't work out for you.
Loretta: (on why Johnny isn't with her) He's flying to Sicily. His mother is dying.
Cosmo: More bad luck!
- Multigenerational Household: It's in jeopardy, however, when it seems Loretta is going to marry Johnny, since Rose says she might as well sell the house because Johnny won't move in because Cosmo hates him. That doesn't seem to be an issue when Ronny is going to marry her, however.
- My Beloved Smother: Johnny's mother. She's dying — til she finds out Johnny's found a Parental Substitute in Loretta. She then has a miraculous recovery, gets up and starts cooking for everybody (just like in the Gospel story of Christ healing Peter's mother-in-law!), and shares with them a dinner "that could choke a pig". Johnny breaks off his marriage with Loretta because she'll die if he gets married. Ronnie scoffs, "You're 42 and she's still running your life!"
- Not What It Looks Like: When Grandpa sees Rose walking with Perry, he gives a disgusted look. He gives the same one to her when he comes home. Rose has to explain to Johnny: "My father-in-law has some wrong idea in his head."
- Oblivious to Love: Ronny in regard to Crissy who confesses to another worker at Ronny's bakery that she's in love with him. It's never mentioned again.
- Once per Episode: Perry seems to have a disillusioned student getting up, throwing a drink in his face and storming off every time he goes to his favorite restaurant with them.
- One True Love: Loretta had it once, lost it, and has settled with Johnny. She unexpectedly and unconveniently finds a Second Love with her fiancé's brother.Ronny: You waited for the right man the first time, why didn't you wait for the right man again?Loretta: He didn't come.Ronny: I'm here!Loretta: You're late.
- Pan and Scan: Averted. The film was shot in 4:3, but in a way that would allow for widescreen in theaters. This means that the 4:3 ratio has no Pan And Scan.
- Percussive Therapy: Ronny violently smacks some stuff to relieve stress when he tells Loretta his backstory.
- Reality Is Unrealistic: Well, when you're awoken by two family members in the middle of the night for important news, wouldn't your first reaction be, "Who's dead?"
- Romantic Runner-Up: Johnny.
- Running Gag: "You're got a love bite on your neck."
- She Cleans Up Nicely: When Loretta takes the grays out and gets the full beauty treatment, she goes from a nice middle-aged pretty to stunning.
- Shout-Out: Rose quips, "It ain't over til it's over!", a reference to one of Yogi Berra's quotes.
- Sibling Rivalry: Summed up in one exchange between Johnny and Ronny towards the end of the film:Ronny:: Aw, Johnny, you're 42 years old and she's still running your life.
- Sibling Triangle: Loretta is set to marry Johnny out of loneliness but unexpectedly falls for his brother Ronny.
- Slap-Slap-Kiss: Ronny & Loretta (reportedly an example of Enforced Method Acting).Loretta: Snap out of it!
- Something We Forgot: Ray and Rita during the climax arrive at the house, very worried, asking Loretta if there's something she wants to tell them. She's confused for a moment, then realizes she never deposited the store's money to the bank.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: When Johnny proposes:Loretta: Could you kneel down?Johnny: On the floor?Loretta : Yes, on the floor.Johnny: (protesting) This is a good suit!(a moment later)Bobo: (shocked) She's got him on his knees. He's ruining his suit!
- Suspiciously Apropos Music: Vicki Carr's singing "It Must Be Him", with the lyrics, "Or I must die," something death-obsessed Cosmo sings along to.
- Unrequited Love: Crissy is in love with Ronnie, but he doesn't notice her.
- Unreveal Angle:
- When Ronny first appears, the audience sees just his back.
- The priest in the confessional. Only his hands are seen.
- Win-Win Ending: Everyone gets what they want. Johnny is initially depressed, but Grandpa points out he is now a part of the family, and that perks Johnny right up, who joins in on the toasting of Ronnie and Loretta.
- Women Are Wiser: Played with. Loretta is a mess, but Rose, when given an opportunity to have a fling herself, declines politely, saying, "I know who I am." However, when Johnny chuckles at Perry for not being able to control his date, Loretta (accurately) states she's too young for him.