With temperatures dropping and Valentine’s Day just a few days away, now is the perfect time to cozy up to some rom-coms or romantic dramas, right? Wrong. You’re reading a post on a site called Murder & Mayhem, after all. So let’s run that back.
With temperatures dropping and Valentine’s Day just a few days away, now is the perfect time to watch some thrillers about what happens when obsessive, psychotic people let love go to their heads! Here’s are seven of the best crime of passion movies to watch leading up to Love Day.
Let’s start with an essential, the first that comes to mind for most. Diane Lane and Richard Gere star as Connie and Ed Sumner, an age-gapped couple with a young son and a cushy Long Island suburban life. But Connie wants more.
Under the guise of preparing for a fundraiser for her son’s school, she begins taking trips into Manhattan where she meets Paul (Olivier Martinez), a young book dealer who is the exact opposite of her husband. The affair that ensues is sexy and messy—the pair has quite the knack for exhibitionism—so of course they get caught. And when they do, Ed quickly loses control.
If you like this, check out A Perfect Murder, a similar but less sexy and more violent title from the same year, starring Viggo Mortensen (swoon), Gwyneth Paltrow, and Michael Douglas. Which brings me to my next suggestion…
Fatal Attraction (1987)
If there’s a kind of project that could get Michael Douglas on board back in the day, it was a screenplay in which a gorgeous blonde woman ruins his character’s life. Fatal Attraction follows Dan Gallagher (Douglas) as he struggles to shirk the consequences of a one-night fling with an obsessive editor named Alex Forrest (Glenn Close) that took place while his wife and daughter were out of town. It’s bloody, it’s sexy, and Glenn Close is undoubtedly the blueprint for iconic crazies to come like Gone Girl’s Amy Dunne.
Basic Instinct (1992)
From there, check out Basic Instinct next. In Basic Instinct, homicide detective Nick Curran (Douglas) investigates best-selling writer Catherine Tramell (Sharon Stone) when her boyfriend turns up murdered with an ice pick—the same way a character was killed in her most recent novel. Nick becomes obsessed, of course, and from there an affair ensues. Basic Instinct is packed with twists and turns, and if you’re looking for the more procedural of the two, definitely go with this one.
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone Girl is slightly different than most you’ll find on this list, mostly because the crimes committed aren’t so much crimes of passion, but instead crimes committed because of a lack thereof. Amy (Rosamund Pike) and Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck) have grown ambivalent in their marriage to the point that Nick, a college professor, begins an affair with one of his students. Tired of the way society expects women to both mother their husbands and endlessly cater to their egos, Amy plots to disappear and blame Nick for her staged murder. Ladies, for the sake of the holiday, try not to be too loud when the credits roll and you find yourself saying, “good for her.”
What Lies Beneath (2000)
There is something inherently sexy about the thrillers and mysteries that came out near the turn of the century. But what if you want a sexy thriller with a little bit of spooky? What Lies Beneath is for you.
Empty nesters Claire (Michelle Pfeiffer) and Norman (Harrison Ford) become aware of the strain in their marriage when their daughter Caitlin goes away to college. In her boredom, Claire fixates on her neighbors, Mary and Warren, who seem to have a tumultuous relationship. When Mary disappears, Claire grows convinced that Warren killed her. Things get strange when Claire begins to see things around her home that point to what happened to Mary, but when Mary reappears, having only gone away to stay with her mother for a bit, Claire realizes the true volatility and danger comes from inside her own house.
For a more current watch, check out Sanctuary from 2022. A bit lighter on the crime but certainly a thriller to keep you on the edge of your seat, Sanctuary follows dominatrix Rebecca (Margaret Qualley) and “nepo-baby” hotel heir Hal (Christopher Abbott) throughout a single night in a hotel room. Preparing to replace his dad as CEO, Hal tells Rebecca they can no longer continue their relationship since he'll be in the public light. The problem is, the cunning and clever Rebecca won’t take no for an answer. From there, a battle of wills ensues.
Think along the lines of Fatal Attraction under a microscope with a modern update—and a jaw-dropping upswing at the end.
Love and Death (2023)
Last but not least, if you’re looking for a binge-watch, check out Love and Death from HBO. Love and Death tells the true story of Candy Montgomery (Elizabeth Olsen), an 80s housewife who has an affair with a man from her church. Things go south when she decides to pick up an axe.
Love and Death isn’t the first time Candy’s story has graced the silver screen. A year earlier Jessica Biel (who absolutely kills it as Cora Tannetti in season one of The Sinner, a show about a crime of sisterly passion—but that’s a whole other list) took a stab at the character in a limited series called Candy for Hulu. If you’re really into the case, both are worth the watch. But if you’re looking to go with just one, try Love and Death. It offers more backstory, as well as a deeper look into Candy’s psychology. Plus there's more time watching her subsequent trial unfold.
Which brings us to the end of our list. And here’s the thing: regardless of what you pick, each of these titles will shock you and put a little pink in your cheeks. The best of both worlds, right?
So watch one. Watch them all. Just don’t get any ideas.
Happy Valentine’s Day.
Featured photo: Alexandre Boucey / Unsplash