Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) - Rotten Tomatoes

Sex, Lies, and Videotape1989

Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989)



Critic Consensus: In his feature directorial debut, Steven Soderbergh demonstrates a mastery of his craft well beyond his years, pulling together an outstanding cast and an intelligent script for a nuanced, mature film about neurosis and human sexuality.

Sex, Lies, and Videotape Photos

Movie Info

Steven Soderbergh kickstarted the independent film movement of the 1990s with this landmark drama about the tangled relationships among four people and a video camera. John (Peter Gallagher) is an unscrupulous, self-centered yuppie lawyer with a beautiful wife named Ann (Andie MacDowell). Ann feels secure and well provided-for in their relationship, but she has almost no interest in sex; she tells her therapist that she's more concerned about waste disposal. John, however, is still quite interested in sex and is having an affair with Ann's sister Cynthia (Laura San Giacomo), whose personality is fire to Ann's ice; sex is the one area in which she's been able to best her more successful sister, and she relishes her ability to seduce Ann's husband. Into this dysfunctional picture comes Graham (James Spader), a college friend of John's whom he hasn't seen in nine years. Graham has decided that talking about sex is more interesting than actually having sex, so he meets women and asks them discuss their desires and fantasies as he tapes them with a camcorder. A sensation at the Sundance Film Festival, the film made that festival a synonym for a new brand of low-budget indie dramas about contemporary life and relationships. Together with Quentin Tarantino's very different Pulp Fiction (1994), sex, lies, and videotape was one of the most influential movies for independent filmmaking of the 1990s. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

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James Spader
as Graham Dalton
Andie MacDowell
as Ann Millaney
Peter Gallagher
as John Millaney
Laura San Giacomo
as Cynthia Bishop
Ron Vawter
as Therapist
Alexandra Root
as Girl on Tape
David Foil
as John's Colleague
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Critic Reviews for Sex, Lies, and Videotape

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (13)

Such a fascinating shows you what happens if people who start out small get to grow in the industry...

March 15, 2021 | Full Review…

I was disappointed. I think it's been overhyped and I can't understand why people rave about it the way they do.

February 16, 2018 | Full Review…

What amazes is that at just 26, Soderbergh displays the three qualities associated with mature filmmakers: a unique authorial voice, a spooky camera assurance, and the easy control of ensemble acting.

December 9, 2011 | Full Review…

Soderbergh has assembled his cast into a fascinating jigsaw of neuroses, which then leap from the screen thanks to his intriguingly intellectual script.

December 9, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
Top Critic

This is a sexy, nuanced, beautifully controlled examination of how a quartet of people are defined by their erotic impulses and inhibitions.

October 18, 2008 | Full Review…

The actors are superb; working from Soderbergh's funny, perceptive, immaculately wrought dialogue, they ensure that the film stimulates both intellectually and emotionally.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Sex, Lies, and Videotape


I was impressed with James Spader's role. He seems both withdrawn and 'broken' and yet sure of himself enough to convince his female friends to confess their secrets about sex. I enjoyed the film ending as well.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer

Steven Soderbergh establishes himself as a mature filmmaker despite his young age in his directorial debut. Everything about this independent film is well done with specific regards to the writing and acting. Though frequent with spells of uninteresting plot, 'sex, lies, and videotape' resolves marvelously. It is an emotionally resonant portrait of the middle class, sex, and marriage.

Kase Vollebregt
Kase Vollebregt

Super Reviewer

An extremely well done sensual drama concerning a lonely, sex-shy housewife (Andie MacDowell) who is unaware that her lawyer husband (Peter Gallagher) is having an affair with her sister (Laura San Giacomo). With the arrival of a mysterious stranger (James Spader) that is thrown into their lives, each of the characters, including the stranger, begin to see everything unravel. Steven Soderbergh has made a living off of being one of the most efficient, hard-working directors in the business, and here he sports a film with a lot of indie qualities, but successfully strays from making this a pretentious exercise in sex education. Instead, he gives a lot of trust to his ensemble cast, and it pays off remarkably well, and this freedom allows James Spader to create a creepy character with a bad problem that he needs to address. There are a few loose-ends it does not tie up, including an abrupt ending, but this is mostly excellent film-making, including remarkable editing.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

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