Movies about infidelity and cheating can be thrillers or cautionary tales. They’re not always just about physical attraction. Here are seven of the best.
Infidelity is a recurring theme in the movies. Indeed, adultery always gives rise to scenes of tension, contradiction, humor, etc. In addition, the way in which the characters are portrayed often promotes the viewer’s identification with them, and their problems or challenges.
In fact, as a viewer, you may find yourself empathizing with the character who’s been betrayed. Or, you may even sympathize with the unfaithful partner. Without a doubt, these movies cause different reactions in different people, depending on where their sympathies lie. They also probe the viewer’s capacity to either accept or reject betrayals.
Movies about infidelity
On the big screen, infidelity might be depicted as something that’s unexpected and unsought or a planned act. We’ve compiled a list of quality movies that address the issue of infidelity from different perspectives.
Nymphomaniac (Lars von Trier)
Infidelity isn’t the main theme of this movie, it’s nymphomania, as the title suggests. Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg both play the part of Joe, a nymphomaniac.
Joe indulges her craving for sex, leaving behind her boyfriend and more than a few angry wives. The movie shows the cruelty of lust, particularly when it destroys families.
Throughout the film, the protagonist continues to indulge in her nymphomania. In one of the most peculiar scenes, Mrs. H, played by Uma Thurman, shows her young children the bed where their father (and, we assume, her husband) has relationships with other women.
Dangerous Liaisons (Stephen Frears)
Dangerous Liaisons is a historical drama inspired by the famous and controversial novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos. The movie tells the story of the Marquise de Merteuil and the Vicomte de Valmont, two brilliant aristocrats who, upon ending their relationship, sign an inviolable pact of friendship.
In the name of this pact, the Marquise, out of jealousy, asks Valmont to seduce the future wife of her former favorite, Cécile de Volanges. However, while he’s fulfilling this mission, Valmont also decides to seduce the virtuous Madame de Tourvel.
The interesting thing about Dangerous Liaisons is how it analyzes Madame de Tourvel’s infidelity and how she suffers for committing the act, due to her feelings of real love for another person. In this film, the unfaithful sees herself as a victim, prey to both her moral codes and her passion at the same time.
Anna Karenina (Joe Wright)
A classic among classics on female infidelity, there have been several adaptations of this story to the big screen. The first on record was shot in Russia in 1911 and starred Mariya Guermanova. Then, in 1935, Greta Garbo gave a legendary performance at the height of her career. More recently, there was the Anna Karenina of 1997 with Sophie Marceau and the 2012 production, with Keira Knightley.
Based on the 1877 classic by Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina is a romantic tragedy set in the late 19th century. The story mainly revolves around the relationship between Anna Karenina and her husband Count Alexei Alexandrovich (Jude Law).
The relationship between Anna and the Count cools down over the years and Anna meets the young cavalry officer, Count Alexei Kirillovich Vronsky. The protagonist becomes the victim of her own lack of fidelity, suffering the consequences of her actions to the end.
Unfaithful (Adrian Lyne)
Few movies address infidelity so explicitly as this one. In fact, the director, Adrian Lyne warned of the fact by entitling the film, Unfaithful. It seems that he rather likes the theme of infidelity since he also used it in two more of his movies, Indecent Proposal, and Fatal Attraction.
Richard Gere and Diane Lane play Edward and Connie, a passionless married couple. Connie’s chance meeting with a younger man, Paul (Olivier Martinez), leads to an affair between the two.
Lyne, famous for his tasteful erotic films, creates an adult thriller that poses several questions. The scenes of a cold marriage are in direct contrast with those of absolute lust.
When Edward discovers the affair, events hit a downward spiral. No one knows how he might react to finding himself not only betrayed but humiliated and ridiculed. The movie portrays the unfaithful partner as both victim and executioner.
Little Children by Todd Field
One of the most original films that you’ll ever see on the subject of infidelity. Sarah (Kate Winslet) and Brad (Patrick Wilson) are a couple of acquaintances who end up having an affair.
Sarah is a hapless housewife who captures the attention of Brad, known as The Prom King. He’s married to a beautiful woman, with an infantilized and pleasure-deprived life. For Sarah, their adventure makes her fantasy come true, while for Brad, it means he feels wanted.
Combined with a subplot about a sex offender, Little Children is a complex look at suburban life with everyday characters who are ‘flawed’ in the eyes of normal society.
Brokeback Mountain (Ang Lee)
Movies about infidelity often follow two people looking for an opportunity to express their passion. However, Brokeback Mountain represents an adventure in which the two people involved become free to be who they really are.
Directed by Ang Lee, the film tells the story of Ennis (Heath Ledger) and Jack (Jake Gyllenhaal), two sheepherders who, while working together on a ranch one summer, develop feelings for each other and gave a romantic relationship over the course of 20 years, despite both getting married to two different women.
Brokeback Mountain paved the way for LGBTQ+ cinema and also subverted the western genre.
In The Mood For Love (Wong Kar-Wai)
This is perhaps the most romantic movie ever made about having an affair. In the Mood For Love takes place in 1960s Shanghai, where two lonely neighbors realize their partners are cheating on them.
The two end up falling in love but decide not to follow their impulses because they don’t want to lower themselves to the level of their partners. Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, this movie has been hailed as a work of art, painting an insightful portrait of love and loneliness.
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Seven of the Best Movies About Infidelity
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