Ruthless People (1986) - Rotten Tomatoes

Ruthless People (1986)

Ruthless People (1986)

Ruthless People



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

Ruthless People Trailers & Photos

Movie Info

Based on O. Henry's story "The Ransom of Red Chief," Ruthless People is among Jerry Zucker-Jim Abrahams-David Zucker's most vicious and funniest comedies. Danny De Vito plays a wealthy businessman plotting to murder his irritating wife (Bette Midler), but before he gets the chance to commit the crime, she is kidnapped by a clueless married couple. The kidnappers demand $50,000 for the release of Midler or else, but DeVito refuses to pay the ransom, believing that the couple will kill his wife. Instead, the couple keeps her alive and Midler plots revenge on her husband. None of the characters in Ruthless People--with the possible exception of the kidnappers--are likable, yet that is precisely why the film succeeds.more
Rating: R
Genre: Comedy
Directed By: , ,
Written By: O. Henry, Dale Launer, David Zucker
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 2, 2002
Buena Vista Pictures


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 Custome...
Susan Marie Snyder
as Stereo Store Custome...
Jim Doughan
as Cop at Sam's House
Christopher Keene
as Cop at Jail
Arnold Turner
as Cop with Killer Pict...
Bob Tzudiker
as Sam's Attorney
Louise Yaffe
as Social Worker
Frank Sivero
as The Mugger
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Ruthless People

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.

Full Review… | July 31, 2013
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

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.

Full Review… | July 31, 2013
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic

An undemanding but well-executed entertainment.

Full Review… | July 31, 2013
Philadelphia Inquirer
Top Critic

Ruthless People contains some of the biggest laughs of 1986.

Full Review… | July 31, 2013
Chicago Tribune
Top Critic

It's a rare kind of craftsmanship, and it produces a rare kind of pleasure.

Full Review… | July 31, 2013
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Ruthless People is a hilariously venal comedy about a kidnapped harridan whose rich husband won't pay for her return.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Ruthless People


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 roy

Super Reviewer

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 Martins
Lucas Martins

Super Reviewer


While not as entirely crazy and hilarious as their Naked Gun films, this comedy by the Zucker, Abrahams, Zucker team still shows some trademarks of the same kind of humor: wonderfully ditsy main characters, fights with kitchen utensils and plenty of mix-ups. While Frank Drebin's adventures are more like a 90 minute collection of gags, the plot here is actually quite smart and make use of all of its characters and the chaos that entails. Bette Midler is particularly funny and outshine her two kidnappers easily. The clever solution to the entire confusion is also quite clever. Soundtrack and look of the film make it a perfect example of the 80s comedy that may not have aged well but still have that particular charm and the jokes still work years later.

Jens S.

Super Reviewer

Ruthless People Quotes

– Submitted by Conner F (4 years ago)

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