The Grifters (1990)

Original Large Theatrical Movie Poster Art 1990 Grifters Cinema Film

An unacknowleged classic, The Grifters is a neo-noir of the highest order. For my tastes, it is the best noir I have seen, with Double Indemnity (1944) a close second.

The film is based on the novel, The Grifters, by legendary pulp crime fiction novelist Jim Thompson.

John Cusack, Anjelica Huston and Annette Bening take you on a journey you will never forget. The casting here is absolutely superb. Highly-respected supporting actors such as Pat Hingle, J.T. Walsh and Charles Napier flesh out the terrific screenplay even further.

Stephen Frears had just finished directing the wonderful Dangerous Liaisons (1988) when Martin Scorsese approached him and told him he was producing a new movie and wanted Frears to direct. The rest should be the stuff of legend. Hopefully, one day, The Grifters will be listed as a classic. It deserves it.


You can find more information on this American movie on Wikipedia and IMDb.

As always, we recommend you don’t ruin any surprises by reading spoilers or watching trailers. The following trailer, as usual, gives away too much.


Title: The Grifters (1990)

Language: English

Direction: Stephen Frears

Screenplay: Donald E. Westlake

Based on: The Grifters; the 1963 novel by Jim Thompson

Cinematography: Oliver Stapleton

Editing: Mick Audsley

Score: Elmer Bernstein

Stars: John Cusack, Anjelica Huston, Annette Bening, Pat Hingle, J.T. Walsh, Charles Napier


Full Acting Cast and Roles



  1. “The Grifters” is superb, and it ranked #2 in my 1990 top ten. #1 was “Goodfellas”…not too shabby company. It’s a great film, maybe Frears’ best, and I’m pleased to find that someone recognizes it. Wrenchingly bleak finale! ML

  2. Hi, if you are looking for dark urban films superbly directed and acted with a great script then I can recommend Biutiful starring Javier Bardem. His best yet fabulous!

  3. Is financial crime a main element of this film’s plot? If so, I’ll check it out. I noticed Anjelica Huston fondling the suitcase of cash, but sometimes trailers are a tease that make me think it’s going to be about robbery, bribery, fraud, etc., only to find out that’s a minor part or side angle of the story.

  4. No one I know has seen The Grifters so I watch in alone, over and over and over again. It it one of my favorites from the late 80’s/early 90’s along with The Vampires Kiss with Nicolas Cage.

  5. It was quite the education to watch John Cusack pulling off all his little scams. And Anjelica Huston’s scornful ‘I’ve never had a legit job in my LIFE!’ was a classic line.
    And Annette Bening. What a babe she was back then.

  6. I love this movie. It is on my list of all-time greats. John Cusack, Annette Bening and Anjelica Huston turn in perfect performances. Stephen Frears is one of the few directors to create a film that could honestly be called Hitchcockian. The only sad thing about that is that no one is even trying today. At least, with the kind of budget it would take to do such in today’s dollars.

  7. If you are looking for movies to review, I can think of a number of my favs: Office Space, A Fish Called Wanda, Cinema Paradiso, My Father’s Glory, My Mother’s Castle, North Face, Lion in Winter. All wonderful films that should be on anybody’s list.

  8. I agree. The movie is “unacknowledged”. I’ve always kind of felt like Anjelica Huston was an accomplished actress who was not acknowledged enough. Anyway the late Michael Jackson made his respect and admiration for her very plain and acknowledged that he thought she was “beautiful”. 🙂

  9. Why oh why is this film not held in the same high regard as so many lesser productions?
    It is simply sublime, with a cast that does not put a foot wrong in any scene. Cusack’s best ever performance, Huston at her melancholic finest. Thanks for including this one Shimky.
    Best wishes, Pete.

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