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The War of the Roses (1989)



Average Rating: 6/10
Critic Reviews: 9
Fresh: 6 | Rotten: 3

No consensus yet.



liked it
Average Rating: 3.2/5
User Ratings: 40,314

My Rating

Movie Info

Divorce lawyer Danny De Vito warns his prospective client that the story he's about to tell isn't a pretty one, but the client listens with eager intensity -- as do the folks out there in the movie in the audience. The War of the Roses can best be described as a slapstick tragedy concerning the decline and literal fall of a marriage. After 17 years, Oliver (Michael Douglas) and Barbara (Kathleen Turner) Rose want a divorce. Not for this couple is there anything resembling a "civilized



Dec 18, 2001

Twentieth Century Fox Home Entertainment

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All Critics (38) | Top Critics (9) | Fresh (31) | Rotten (7) | DVD (15)

DeVito's taste for unorthodox camera angles and striking camera movements occasionally verges on overreaching but for the most part admirably serves the action.

February 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Trying to wring yocks from a deranged couple locked in mortal combat over possession of their house is more suited to film noir than black comedy.

February 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Variety
Top Critic IconTop Critic

De Vito's quirky camera angles and Kathleen Turner's steely-eyed spite inject a sadistic comic-strip madness into a film that for once has the nerve to see its nastiness through.

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

DeVito's direction is distinctively odd (with a lot of low-angle shots looking up at things), enjoyably mischievous and always somehow mindful that there may be, at the heart of all this comic mayhem, something substantial going on.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
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DeVito triumphs by instilling this caustic satire with truth and consequence.

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] deliciously jaundiced perspective on matrimony.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Greatly amusing, but its lasting achievement is DeVito's atmospheric authority, shaping a genuine filmmaking triumph in style and mood that deserves a standing ovation.

September 28, 2012 Full Review Source:

Wildly funny and deeply disturbing.

February 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Empire Magazine
Empire Magazine

One of the most durable -- and characteristic -- comedies of the 1980s.

February 11, 2008 Full Review Source: Film4

The film just keeps getting darker and more claustrophobic, like sliding down the center of a spiral.

May 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Combustible Celluloid | Comments (2)
Combustible Celluloid

Pretty good -- nice-looking -- black comedy with less copouts than usual.

July 21, 2004
Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC)

DeVito exerts a control behind the camera that is otherwise almost nonexistent in contemporary American film comedy.

July 30, 2003 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Comedy does not get any darker than this.

May 18, 2003

Fun little dark comedy from the days when DeVito still knew how to make a dark comedy fun.

April 1, 2003
Juicy Cerebellum

Funny, memorable, but ultimately a little too dark to savor.

March 25, 2003
Hollywood Bitchslap

"bitterly brilliant black comedy"

July 29, 2002
Kalamazoo Gazette

For anyone who ever spent Valentine's Day alone with a bottle of scotch, for anyone who ever watched the love of their life go stomping out the door, for anyone who ever gazed in hatred at the happy couple spooning in public... this is the movie for you.

July 26, 2002
Flipside Movie Emporium

If you dig black comedies, this is one of the better ones of the bunch.

February 20, 2002 Full Review Source: JoBlo's Movie Emporium
JoBlo's Movie Emporium

A sharply observed look at how optimism turns to dread, the dangers of possession, and a coda for a decade too often guilty of all of the above.

February 6, 2002 Full Review Source: Film Freak Central
Film Freak Central

a brilliant piece of visual virtuosity

January 1, 2002 Full Review Source: Q Network Film Desk
Q Network Film Desk

It's real ugly, but darkly funny at the same time.

December 18, 2001 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for The War of the Roses

THE WAR OF THE ROSES does occasionally suffer from showcasing a handful of gags that literally fall crêpe flat; however, there are tens of dozens of incredibly successful jests-easily enough to outweigh the failures and to make them instantly forgettable. Not since I watched A FISH CALLED WANDA have I guffawed so guffawed with such side-splitting joy, with close runners-up being FARGO and HAROLD AND MAUDE (why yes, I am very fanatic of the dark comedy!). This is the kind of misfortune we laugh at so agonizingly, we never never get the notion about how terrible it would be in reality. To make matters worse, much of the film is set around the holidays. In comparison, the premises of DIE HARD and GREMLINS seem tame. THE WAR OF THE ROSES isn't a horror movie. It isn't disturbing or emotionally harrowing. And even though logic isn't a forte for director DeVito or writer Leeson, the senseless violence is presented in a fashion that is comical, cohesive, and tasteful. Even with a scarce lack of innovation, the story is entirely entertaining and a riotous viewing.

read the whole she-bang at
August 26, 2012

Super Reviewer

Oliver Rose: You weren't even multiorgasmic before you met me, were you? 

"There is no winning! Only degrees of losing!"

It took me a long time to finally watch this movie and it really was worth it. This is a dark comedy out of heaven. I loved everything about it. Danny DeVito's commentary and direction are awesome. And of course Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner give fantastic and fun performances as a married couple who are now dueling for their home. The movie is extremely fun and entertaining. 

Oliver and Barbara Rose have been married for 17 years. In those 17 years, they had two kids and Oliver worked himself into a position where he is making loads of money. The family is rich and they buy their dream house. Barbara spends years making the house as perfect as possible, but when she is finally done she realizes that her marriage is no longer a satisfying one. She wants a divorce, but she also wants the house and Oliver isn't going to give that up easy. Basically the whole run time is full of marital disputes and craziness. 

Kathleen Turner is so good at playing a bitch. She excels at it to such a degree, that I only think of her as a bitch. Michael Douglas is just Michael Douglas. He's a solid and multidimensional actor who never disappoints. Those two on screen together in this movie are perfect. They much more fun to watch then they were in Romancing The Stone. 

The movie is essentially a drama that they playoff as a comedy, and it works really well. These types of Black Comedies don't always work, but when they do, they aren't just good, they're amazing. This is one of those examples. DeVito doesn't make a false step. He brings us into a world of marital hell and he does it with a strong sense of style and wit. 
October 9, 2011
Melvin White

Super Reviewer

Funny movie about a divorce lawyer and his client Oliver Rose. Barbara worked her whole life to provide for her family and make a good home. When the kids are off to college, she wants to set up her own business. Her husband takes no interest. He thinks their life is perfect but she wishes he was dead. They war over their beautiful house. Great cast.
December 12, 2010
T Tsang

Super Reviewer

Fun and really dark black comedy about a fighting couple from Danny DeVito.
December 9, 2010

Super Reviewer

    1. Gavin D'Amato: There are two dilemmas that rattle the human skull; How do you hold on to someone who won't stay? And how do you get rid of someone who won't stay?
    – Submitted by George P (4 months ago)
    1. Man in Chair: Why would somebody sell a million-dollar house for $200,000?
    2. Gavin D'Amato: Who knows--divorce, loan sharks, drugs, sudden death--the point is, you get to capitalize on a fellow human being's misfortune. That's the basis of real estate.
    – Submitted by George P (4 months ago)
    1. Gavin D'Amato: No. No, Oliver - you don't even deal with her. You avoid her: women can be a lot meaner than we give them credit for. Never underestimate her as an adversary. Don't even talk to her.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (13 months ago)
    1. Gavin D'Amato: "What do you call 500 lawyers at the bottom of the ocean? An excellent start." I used to resent jokes like that. Now I see them as simple truths.
    – Submitted by Christopher B (13 months ago)
    1. Oliver Rose: You say it's mine and you can have everything in the house.
    2. Barbara Rose: Ok. It's mine.
    – Submitted by sean b (2 years ago)
    1. Oliver Rose: Im going to go piss on the fish.
    – Submitted by sean b (2 years ago)
View all quotes (6)

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Latest News on The War of the Roses

November 13, 2013:
War of the Roses Sequel in the Works
It'll focus on the children of the squabbling couple played by Michael Douglas and Kathleen Turner...
October 11, 2012:
Danny DeVito Goes on Honeymoon with Dad
DeVito returns to the director's chair for a comedy about a jilted groom forced to spend his...
February 27, 2012:
Danny DeVito Talks The Lorax
He also promises you'll be able to buy a "War of the Roses" Blu-ray soon.

Foreign Titles

  • Der Rosenkrieg (DE)
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