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Naked Lunch (1991)


No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 1



liked it
Average Rating: 3.6/5
User Ratings: 33,234

My Rating

Movie Info

This cinematic/literary hybrid fuses motifs from Beat writer William S. Burroughs's novel of the same name with elements of the author's biography and plenty of the cerebral alienation and biomorphic special effects fans of creepy cult director David Cronenberg have come to expect. Bill Lee (Peter Weller) wants to write, but he exterminates bugs to pay the bills. His wife, Joan (Judy Davis), becomes addicted to Bill's bug powder dust, and soon he joins her in a world of unorthodox hallucinogens;


Drama, Horror, Special Interest

David Cronenberg

Nov 11, 2003

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

Watch It Now


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All Critics (44) | Top Critics (10) | Fresh (24) | Rotten (10) | DVD (18)

A challenge if you're expecting a forward-moving plot but there's also more than enough pitch-black humor and straight-faced madness to lighten the mood, especially since Burroughs' strange lingo and vicious knack for language are intact.

April 23, 2013 Full Review Source:

If you've yet to purchase this incredible mind-trip involving bug powder, Brazilian centipedes, typewriters turning into giant insects, and bumping into Mugwumps in bars then the Blu-ray release is well worth your hard earned money.

April 12, 2013 Full Review Source:

...very nearly accomplishes the book's goal of "extinguishing all rational thought."

July 18, 2009 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

a respectful fugue on Burroughs' life and art ... It can be forgiven its acolyte's soul, for it is willing confront Burroughs' signature themes of addiction and control, and to meld them into ... an evocation of the master.

September 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette
Arkansas Democrat-Gazette

This is the only film in which a typewriter beetle kills another typewriter beetle for being a secret agent. I mention it only because of the relevance of the written word, and typewriters %u2013 portable ones in this case %u2013 are the medium of the mes

May 5, 2007 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

Given that nobody could really have adapted Burroughs' book in any literal manner, what Cronenberg does instead is predictably creepy, warped and dreamy.

September 8, 2005

Stands on its own apart from the book.

January 18, 2004 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

There are no great scenes, just flat moments of weirdness with lots of schlorping noises.

January 5, 2004 Full Review

One of Cronenberg's most difficult but deliriously clever and emotionally insinuating films.

August 15, 2003
Nick's Flick Picks

Cronenberg's overly-ambitious attempt at filming the unfilmable.

July 10, 2003

At root the most personal mission statement of a vital cinematic voice.

March 9, 2003 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

Cronenberg is the right man for a very, very odd job.

March 6, 2003
Capital Times (Madison, WI)

A twisted, brilliant masterpiece. One of Cronenberg's best.

January 17, 2003
San Francisco Examiner

While certainly original, its hallucinatory terrain is basically weird for the sake of weird... and ultimately buckles under its own pretense.

January 16, 2003
Flipside Movie Emporium

Cronenberg's masterpiece and perhaps the best film ever made about writing

August 22, 2002
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

Some movies just try too hard to be hip, and David Cronenberg's adaptation of William S. Burroughs' Naked Lunch is certainly one of them.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Deseret News, Salt Lake City
Deseret News, Salt Lake City


January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: | Comment (1)

Audience Reviews for Naked Lunch

April 21, 2014
Directors Cat
Directors Cat

Super Reviewer

A surrealist film from the debonair auteur with a flair for the unsettling: David Cronenberg. Adapted from the William S. Burroughs novel and starring the eccentric yet keen Peter Weller, there is a fine line between utmost devotion and utter loathing for this film. For me it wasn't exactly the realism in the fantasies as seen through the eyes of a puritanical junkie, but how these obvious hallucinations interacted with the fantastical plot and the cavalcade of characters. The film follows an exterminator named William Lee who becomes addicted to the bug powder he peddles, and starts having intense and very specific kinds of hallucinations that drive him to start a life of crime, insanity, and commonly talking to his typewriter. These hallucinations tell him that he's a secret agent, his wife is against him, and homosexuality is a sin but is essential in the line of duty. Throughout the film visions of talking cockroaches/typewriters, and out of this world octopus hybrids are seamlessly strung along the plot to encompass the true absurdity of the situation. William Lee is an interesting character on his own, without the eccentricities that being a junkie include. He's cryptic with his words, and the strange speeches he spills forth are slightly egomaniacal and very isolating. He still interacts with the populous while hiding in plain sight, but when he is alone it's a depth of darkness that has to stay hidden and leads to more egotistical rants by William himself. The reason this film is so unbelievably amazing to me is that he recognizes that these hallucinations are just that in the beginning, the fact that a bug was communicating with him was something that led to his mind expelling the beast. Still, his problematic brain and his dire reality fuse to become a powder keg of insecurities. He knows these things are in his mind, but he's not sure if he's replacing them with actual human contact or it's an amalgamation of the drugs and what we all call reality. It's the fact that we only see a small glimpse of truth, once during the film, and the rest is some dream sequence with no true parameters except a timeline, which makes this genius. Yes, the bugs and parasitic creatures are unsettling and have the same monotone, warbling voices, but they're all part of the mindset of a very imbibed individual. The one thing that perturbed me was the psychotic ending with the strange yet logical reveal. It was too crazy, too convoluted and intricate to be a hallucination. While this film is not for everyone, it does give a great interpretation of a comparatively half-real life, powered by a strong drug of choice.
January 26, 2012

Super Reviewer

Bill Lee: America is not a young land. It is old and dirty, evil. Before the settlers, before the Indians, the evil is there, waiting. 

"Exterminate all rational thought."

Beyond bizarre. So far beyond bizarre that it's hard to organize my thoughts about what I have just seen. All I know for sure is that in the end, I really didn't care for it.

For the first half hour or so, I was in love with the movie. I found the whole insect poison as a drug thing interesting. As the film went on, I started to fall out of love with it. Then altogether, I just lost interest in what I was seeing. The viewing experience is very much like getting high. At first your having fun, it is a great time; but you must come down, and I did... hard. 

To explain more than a few details of this plot would be tedious. So I'll just keep it to the bare minimums. An exterminator learns that his wife has been stealing his powder and has been shooting it up. His wife then turns him, an ex-junkie himself, onto the drug and soon is just as addicted as his wife. Then he starts hallucinating. Bugs are telling him secret information about all sorts of wild stuff. For awhile, the bug scenes are incredibly interesting, but after the third or fourth one, they become boring. 

I won't say that I hated this movie altogether. Maybe with another watch later in life, I'll enjoy the whole experience more. Cronenberg is just a weird director and that's what makes him so interesting. I can't say that I'm a huge fan of him, yet. I've only seen five of his movies and I have fallen completely in love with any of them. But one thing I will say is that the bizarreness of Cronenberg is much easier to watch and get through, than that of Lynch.

If this plot at all interests you, I would at least give it a shot. It's well made and big time fans of Cronenberg should love it. Even if you don't like it in the end; there's enough interesting stuff going on, that it won't feel like you just completely wasted your time. You are sure to see images that you have never seen in another movie.
January 22, 2012
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Adapting an unadaptable book, Cronenberg works weird Sci-Fi magic with this strange movie experience.
October 27, 2011
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer

    1. Dr. Benway: Speaking of new uses for old technology, we could use a man of your calibre. A 32, wasn't it?
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
    1. 2nd Exterminator/Creature Voices: Take it from me Bill, your not the first person to develop a bug powder problem....
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
    1. Joan Frost/Joan Lee: It's a literary high, a Kafka high. You feel like a bug. You want to try?
    2. William Lee: I don't know, our metabolism's are very different...
    3. Joan Frost/Joan Lee: You mean yours and Kafkas?
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
    1. Yves Cloquet: I've seen you around, but I had no idea you were queer.
    2. William Lee: Yes, the Lee's have always been perverts.
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
    1. Tom Frost: That's my mujaheddin! For gods sake!
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
    1. Dr. Benway: Oh it's all natural, made from giant braziallian centrepedes or some such outlandish thing....
    – Submitted by Joanne R (2 years ago)
View all quotes (7)

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