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Dressed to Kill (1980)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 4
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 2



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Average Rating: 3.5/5
User Ratings: 9,899

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Movie Info

One of Brian De Palma's most divisive films, Dressed to Kill is a spine-chilling Alfred Hitchcock update for the late 1970s. Sexually frustrated wife and mother Kate Miller (Angie Dickinson) visits her New York psychiatrist, Dr. Elliott (Michael Caine), to complain about her unfulfilling erotic life. When she then goes to meet her husband at a museum, she meets an anonymous man whom she follows out to a cab. After an afternoon of satisfying sex, Kate discovers that the man has a venereal


Drama, Horror, Mystery & Suspense

Rick Alexander

Aug 28, 2001


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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (32) | Rotten (6) | DVD (25)

Originality has never been a high value in the genre-bound aesthetic of filmmaking, but De Palma cheapens what he steals.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Despite some major structural weaknesses, the cannily manipulated combination of mystery, gore and kinky sex adds up to a slick commercial package.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Ultimately, the film amounts to little more than a consummate study of suspense technique, all dressed up with nowhere to go.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

DePalma is not yet an artist of Hitchcock's stature, but he does earn the right to a comparison.

October 23, 2004 Full Review Source: Chicago Sun-Times
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Eerily transcendent, Dressed to Kill is a layered machine of on-target character work and the sort of tension that only the best of the best filmmakers can ratchet.

October 17, 2008 Full Review Source:

De Palma at his best.

July 17, 2008

This film should be celebrated as one of those purely cinematic experiences, which these days are all too few and far between.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

All dressed up with no script to go, but a feverish nerve jangler nonetheless.

September 26, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Inflates paperback pulp psychology into something like a plot, all the better to demonstrate that filmmaking is an inherently visual storytelling.

September 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Slant Magazine
Slant Magazine

Dressed to Kill (1980) is a flat-out masterpiece.

March 4, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid
Combustible Celluloid

Brian De Palma is at his Hitchcock-imitating best in this lurid psycho thriller that's an absolute treat from start to finish.

September 28, 2005
Fantastica Daily

Never gets past looking dressed up like an expensive hooker.

August 30, 2005 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

De Palma at his best

May 6, 2005

Overrated De Palma, one of the best posters in the history of movies, though

December 21, 2004
Greenwich Village Gazette

An A for style, a D for substance, with a plot that makes no sense at all.

July 16, 2004
Movie Mom at Yahoo! Movies

Imperfect but interesting, with a few superb sequences

July 10, 2003
Kalamazoo Gazette

Botched whodunit with obvious killer, but loads of DePalma style.

January 22, 2003
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

It will keep your interest, at least -- if nothing else, it'll remind you that 1980 was really an extension of the overblown 1970s.

December 16, 2002 Full Review Source:

...DePalma's inventive style and the quality of acting...makes the movie more than just a forgettable horror flick.

October 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Reel Film Reviews
Reel Film Reviews

Brian De Palma is truly a great filmmaker. Whether you enjoy his work or hate his guts, you got to admit that he's at least brilliant at crafting impressive set pieces.

September 10, 2002 Full Review Source: Montreal Film Journal
Montreal Film Journal

Audience Reviews for Dressed to Kill

Well executed thriller with horror and drama elements, Dressed to Kill is an engaging film with a good cast of actors and well thought out characters. I felt that the film was expertly directed by Brian De Palma who always seems to make some standout, taught, riveting pictures. Well, that is very much the case. Dressed to Kill is a well made movie, one that boasts an impressive story, which grabs your attention from start to finish. Fans of De Palma's work will surely enjoy this, and if you're looking for a tense, memorable thriller, Dressed to Kill is worth your time. While using a straight to the point approach to the way he tells history, De Palma manages to make a very good film, a film that succeeds at delivering thrills right from the moment it starts. As a thriller, Dressed to Kill is a fine example of one that gets it right, it steadily unfold before your eyes, an unravels its plot in a way that keeps you interested and add to that a great cast, and you have a film that is quite memorable in the long run. De Palma's work, I find is quite unique, and his style is mesmerizing and he has brought something quite worthwhile in the cinema. Dressed to Kill is among his best films, a well acted film that boasts some thrilling moments. The film is a genre classic, one that is a well crafted thriller and even with its weaker moments, still has enough good elements to make this a highly entertaining film.
July 24, 2014
Jeff "The Dude" Lebowski

Super Reviewer

For a director regarded as highbrow and artfully mainstream, Brian DePalma can certainly tap into the sleazy turpitude of human nature. The grabber is Angie Dickinson's full-frontal nudity in a shower which is shown in high-key, erotic lighting (although the body double belongs to Penthouse Pet Victoria Lynn Johnson). 'Dressed to Kill' is a decadent treat for fans of giallo horror (the killer-with-the-black-gloves cliché is intact). DePalma's craftsmanship is undeniable in tracking shots such as one spectacular example in a museum gallery where we follow Dickinson as she is stalked by an incognito man with her glove. A leaflet indicating that the one-night stand has a sexually transmitted disease is another harbinger of DePalma's perverse sensibilities. On the prerequisite "dark and stormy night", DePalma manipulates his erstwhile wife, Nancy Allen, into carnal bait for the unhinged serial killer and the tightrope anticipation nearly singes the screen into ashes. The transvestite twist in the denouement has been lambasted as a cheat (due to a series of taunting answering machine messages) but I found it to be delightfully loopy and a glowing tribute to the absurdist tendencies of DePalma's mentor, Alfred Hitchcock. A dream sequence somewhat disengages the enterprise, but overall, 'Dressed to Kill' is a kamikaze tour-de-force of kitchen-sink melodrama alongside slasher mainstays.
October 28, 2013
Cory Taylor

Super Reviewer

This steamy erotic thriller represent Brian De Palma's lurid homage to Hitchcock's Psycho...and it's quite a film!

Psychologist Dr. Robert Elliott finds his world totally flipped upside down when a patient of his, a sexually frustrated housewife named Kate Miller, is brutally slaughtered by another one of his patients- an unhinged transgender individual named Bobbi. On top of that, a witness to the murder- a young prostitute named Liz has become Bobbi's next target.

Liz isn't helpless though, as she finds comfort in the arms of Kate's revenge-driven teenage son Peter who is bound and determined to bring Bobbi to justice.

While the film references/homages plenty of movies (many of them Hitchcock's), Psycho is the main one. What I love about all this is how this puts its own spin on things, and creates a great work of art that functions as both homage and a stand alone thriller.

The film's content and subject matter really drew a lot of criticism from the LGBT and feminist communities, but, regardless of where one stands on the issue, it is undeniable that this film succeeds in being provocative.

It is also one of De Palma's best, featuring some outstanding cinematography/camera work, and some great music from frequent collaborator Pino Donaggio. There's a wonderful sense of mood, tone, atmosphere, and dread, and it amazed me just how riveting and suspense this gets sometimes.

Michael Caine is good as Elliott, Nancy Allen is strong as Liz, and Angie Dickinson is quite something as Kate. I also enjoyed seeing Dennis Franz as a slimy detective.

The effects are terrific, and the film really delivers the goods when it comes to sex and violence. But thankfully the film is also actually about something, and not just a visceral thrill ride. There are some great sequences here, but my favorite has to be the museum sequence. It's stunning.

Definitely give this one a watch, because it's great.
January 20, 2013
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

Didn't mind this, but something about it didn't quite sit right with me. Perhaps I am overanalysing it, but I really got the feeling that the director of this does not like women a great deal. My comments are based on the unrated DVD version, I have not seen the theatrical one, perhaps it was not as exploitive.
The opening scene is an extended "dream" of middle aged Kate (Angie Dickinson) in the shower, quite graphic, soaping herself down while her husband totally ignores her. Maybe it is meant to be moving, but actually the portrayal of her was pathetic and made you feel that she was ridiculous - really quite cruel to film an older woman like that, no matter how good her body might still be! There would have been nicer and just as effective ways to get that point across in a story. At any rate.......... SPOILERS............................... Kate is disposed of shortly into the film, and you kind of feel it is because she has been a bit of an old slapper and had some anonymous sex with a stranger in a motel. That the focus is then immediately shifted to the young and beautiful Nancy Allen is a second slap in the face to women.
Don't get me wrong - Nancy Allen is what works in this movie. Even I felt it was a little dull prior to her appearance. She is very attractive and watchable and she does a good job as young prostitute, Liz. (See what I mean about this movie - old slapper, and young prostitute. Nice on the stereotypes!). I actually never really believed her as a prostitute, but anyhow, still she isn't bad in this. I am not sure this movie does the transexual community a lot of favours either, what with the killer being a cross dressing man! I won't say more than that and ruin it.
So I would say, okay thriller, silly ending and questionable intentions, but worth it for Nancy Allen.
September 2, 2011

Super Reviewer

    1. Detective Marino: Well look Miss.. Miss Blake, you're gonna save me a lot of trouble by finding this, this Ted from out of town and getting him in town and downtown and in here to sign this statement as to exactly what he saw and when he saw it.
    2. Liz Blake: How the hell am I supposed to know where he is?
    3. Detective Marino: Well if you can't find him I sure can't. And anyway, you got a lot better motivation than I do: your ass.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (12 months ago)
    1. Detective Marino: So what were you doing there?
    2. Liz Blake: I had a job.
    3. Detective Marino: Who?
    4. Liz Blake: You want me to get in trouble don't you?
    5. Detective Marino: You are in trouble.
    6. Liz Blake: Hey, I didn't kill her.
    7. Detective Marino: So who were you fucking?
    8. Liz Blake: Ted, I didn't get his last name. He's from out of town.
    9. Detective Marino: Oh, oh, that's great. Yeah, Ted from out of town. That's almost as good as the blonde from the elevator.
    – Submitted by Joakim A (12 months ago)
    1. Liz Blake: Well, what do you think?
    2. Dr. Robert Elliott: I think you're a very attractive woman.
    3. Liz Blake: Would you like to touch me?
    4. Dr. Robert Elliott: Yes, and no, Yes, because...
    5. Liz Blake: Well, why don't you?
    6. Dr. Robert Elliott: I told you why.
    7. Liz Blake: Oh, that's right. You're a married doctor? I remember now. I think you're full of shit.
    8. Dr. Robert Elliott: You do? Just because I happen to have personal and professional ethics?
    9. Liz Blake: Look, Doc, I think you're kind of shy. So, uh... I'm gonna go powder my nose... and when I come back, I hope to find your clothes right next to mine. And if not, we can just get back to the mind fuck.
    – Submitted by Lucien Z (3 years ago)
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