25 Years After ‘Cruel Intentions,’ ’90s Noir Thrillers Are Still On Our Mood Board

The cult classic film Cruel Intentions, which turned 25 this week, was part of an era of noir thrillers that always seemed to pair bad behavior with great interiors. In that film, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Reese Witherspoon, and company scheme from within the castle-like homes of their rich parents. Other ’90s flicks place their calculating characters inside modern homes with sleek elements, which can come off a bit cold, but exude a certain sophistication onscreen that’s enticing and sexy. Stylish subtext and pristine living quarters mirror the inner decorum of flawed characters and their worlds filled with intrigue, seduction, and suspense. Perhaps this is the positive side of their more unsavory traits: Being a highly meticulous person would likely make you a tasteful collector with sharp attention to detail; narcissism could manifest in competitive individuals showcasing their wealth through objects. Here, we dive into five films featuring some of the most toxic characters and the best design moments.

Sleeping with The Enemy (1991)

Julia Roberts with director Joseph Ruben in her character’s modern kitchen on the set of Sleeping with the Enemy

Photo: United Archives GmbH / Alamy Stock Photo

Behind the façade of a perfect and stunningly modern beach house on Cape Cod is the shadow of an unhappy marriage in this film directed by Joseph Ruben. Patrick Bergin plays Martin, the abusive husband of Laura Burney (Julia Roberts), whose wretched obsession and jealousy grow into something darker and more unforgiving than the black lacquer floor Laura falls on after he physically strikes her. The scene where she’s scolded about the bath towels being faultily hung is enough to scream “run away,” which she does, though Martin, as slick as his silky sheets, stalks her to Iowa. Why can’t the man just stay home and enjoy what he has?

Damage (1992)

Image may contain Ian Bannen Rupert Graves Jeremy Irons Miranda Richardson Grass Plant Clothing Coat and Jacket

Rupert Graves, Miranda Richardson, Ian Bannen, Jeremy Irons, and Gemma Clarke outside of the Fleming family home in the 1992 film Damage

Photo: Moviestore Collection Ltd / Alamy Stock Photo

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