Ruthless People


Ruthless People

Critics Consensus

It's sometimes crude and tasteless, but Ruthless People wrings acid-soaked laughs out of its dark premise and gleefully misanthropic characters.



Total Count: 35


Audience Score

User Ratings: 21,079
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Ruthless People Photos

Movie Info

The last film to be co-directed by Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, Ruthless People stars Bette Midler (capitalizing on her comeback performance in Down and Out in Beverly Hills) as Barbara, a spoiled rich woman who is kidnapped by the kindly Ken and Sandy Kessler (Judge Reinhold and Helen Slater). Barbara's forceful husband Sam (Danny DeVito) has ripped off the Kesslers and they decide to hold Barbara for ransom. Sam, who hates his wife, refuses to pay. Eventually Barbara befriends the Kesslers and together they figure out how to exact revenge upon the obnoxious Sam. Bill Pullman makes his film debut here as a very dim, would-be criminal.

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Bette Midler
as Barbara Stone
Danny DeVito
as Sam Stone
Anita Morris
as Carol Dodsworth
Judge Reinhold
as Ken Kessler
Helen Slater
as Sandy Kessler
Bill Pullman
as Earl Mott
William G. Schilling
as Police Commissioner
Art Evans
as Lt. Bender
Clarence Felder
as Lt. Walters
J.E. Freeman
as Bedroom Killer
Gary Riley
as Heavy Metal Kid
Phyllis Applegate
as Loan Officer
Jeannine Bisignano
as Hooker in Car
J.P. Bumstead
as Technician
Jon Cutler
as Stereo Store Customer
Susan Marie Snyder
as Stereo Store Customer
Jim Doughan
as Cop at Sam's House
Christopher Keene
as Cop at Jail
Arnold Turner
as Cop with Killer Picture
Bob Tzudiker
as Sam's Attorney
Louise Yaffe
as Social Worker
Janet Rotblatt
as Secretary to Chief of Police
Frank Sivero
as The Mugger
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Critic Reviews for Ruthless People

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (9)

  • The characters here aren't just bad; most of them are truly vile -- human slime. And the film makers chew them up (especially two nefarious bonbons played by Danny DeVito and Bette Midler) with the toothsome glee of jolly cannibals.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Much of the fun of this comedy is in watching what happens as virtually everyone in the movie tries to double-cross or otherwise take advantage of everyone else.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Full Review…
  • An undemanding but well-executed entertainment.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • Ruthless People contains some of the biggest laughs of 1986.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • It's a rare kind of craftsmanship, and it produces a rare kind of pleasure.

    Jul 31, 2013 | Full Review…
  • Ruthless People is a hilariously venal comedy about a kidnapped harridan whose rich husband won't pay for her return.

    Mar 26, 2009 | Full Review…

    Variety Staff

    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Ruthless People

  • Dec 10, 2012
    Ruthless People is a fun, entertaining comedy film that has good gags going for it. I enjoyed the film, but it did lack in some areas, and it could have been a bit better. However this is a good little comedy that was directed by the guys who made Airplane! However this isn't their best work. Bette Midler is very good here, and she makes the film worth seeing. I, on the other hand, never did enjoy Devitto's work, but I like him here, and he is pretty funny in his part. The film manages to be good enough to be a worthwhile comedy to watch, and if you're looking for a pleasant time waster, then give this one a shot. Although not the greatest comedy, there are enough effective elements to make this one a memorable flick to watch. I even if at times the film's material lacks, the cast do affine job to elevate this film into very humorous moments that works throughout. Everything you'd expect from the directors is present and there's enough zany humor to make this one worth seeing despite its flaws. I liked the film, and it's smartly constructed and it manages to rely more on its great cast, which are just funny on-screen to really make it standout above its flaws. Enjoy this crazy ride. Middler is great here, and she is one of the film's biggest strengths with a well written script that has more good things going for it than bad, directors, Jim Abrahams, David and Jerry Zucker craft a fine little comedy that is sure to please comedy lovers.
    Alex r Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2012
    Without all the madness of Airplane, The Naked Gun or Top Secret, the trio: Jim Abrahams and David and Jerry Zucker made a terrific intelligent comedy, with the misunderstandings between the characters, the complex plot, a funny cast (with the best of Danny DeVito) make Ruthless People one of the greatest comedy film of the 80's and of the Touchstone Pictures. Fresh.
    Lucas M Super Reviewer
  • Jan 22, 2012
    This is THE ultimate film of misunderstandings. Every plan in this film goes wrong, and in an absolutely spectacular fashion. The plot for this one is dark and hilarious, making Danny DeVito one of the most loathsome (but funny) characters in film history. What makes this so surprising is that it's a Touchstone film, which means it was funded by Disney. What's unsurprising is why it's funny. It was made by the "Airplane" team, Jim Abraham, David Zucker, and Jerry Zucker, which means it's going to be decently funny no matter what. This is absolutely awesome instead of just decently funny. It's very crude at certain points, but I was too busy laughing to care. One of the best con comedies of the 80s.
    Jacob E Super Reviewer
  • Jul 21, 2011
    Lighthearted 80's romp about the small mean places in some versus the great wide open of others, and how each side secretly, insanely envies the other. Zany fun.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer

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