There’s something so uncomfortable and real about a scene in which a film character interrogates his or her spouse about their fleeting fidelity. And after watching this scene for, I don’t know, the 100th time last week, my brain started churning as to the best cheating wife interrogations.
Here are 10 of my favorites. Some are heartbreaking, others are jaw dropping, and some are just goddamned hilarious. Enjoy.
Indecent Proposal (1993)
After Harrelson and Moore’s characters have agreed to let Moore sleep with Robert Redford in exchange for one million dollars, the happily married couple vows to never discuss the incident again. Then insecurity takes hold. Moore is perfectly fine with brushing it off, but Harrelson can’t let it go, culminating in a vicious examination about the details of the night she spent away from him. Devastating shit.
Robert De Niro vs. Sharon Stone
Here’s an amusing one. After Sharon Stone’s Ginger has come home from slumming with her old pimp, Lester, De Niro’s Ace slowly grills her while having drinks. Like a lawyer cross-examining a criminal with a flimsy alibi, Ace shoots holes all through Ginger’s bullshit story, which ultimately results with De Niro repeating precisely how he would like Lester to end up: “Dead. Dead. Dead.”
Robert De Niro vs. Ashley Judd
I should’ve mentioned this earlier, but I’m taking a few liberties with this list, case in point, De Niro’s even-tempered bitching out of Ashley Judd in Heat. In the film, Judd is married to Val Kilmer, who plays De Niro’s gambling-addicted right hand man. When De Niro catches Judd stepping out on his boy, he bum rushes Judd in a shitty motel room and demands that she give her husband one final chance. If Kilmer fucks up again, De Niro will financially back Judd himself. And after De Niro tells her to get her stuff and go home, she does just that, and quick.
Russell Crowe vs. Kim Basinger
L.A. Confidential (1997)
One of the most powerful aspects of Curtis Hanson’s masterful L.A. Confidential is the reason as to why Crowe’s stern cop, Bud White, is so protective of women. No need to divulge the story here (because those involved explain it far more eloquently than I could), I will just say that Bud White doesn’t hurt women. In fact, he goes out of his way (and breaks the law) to protect them. So when White finds out that his prostitute girlfriend, Lynn (played to Oscar gold by Basinger) has balled his archenemy, Ed Exley (Guy Pearce), White weeps at her feet before slapping her hard (twice) and regretting it within a matter of milliseconds. Utterly gut wrenching.
Kevin Spacey vs. Annette Bening
American Beauty (1999)
“SMILE, you’re at Mr. Smiley’s!”
“We’ve met before, but something tells me you’re going to remember me this time.”
“No no, you… don’t get to tell me what to do… ever… again.”
That about sums it up.
John C. Reilly vs. Jennifer Aniston
The Good Girl (2002)
Once Jennifer Aniston’s moron husband figures out his wife has been cheating on him, Miguel Arteta’s satire turns deadly serious. Reilly (who may or may not be the least intimidating “big guy” of contemporary cinema) stands and slowly walks toward Aniston. He asks. She answers. He slaps. She cries. In the minutes that follow, Reilly’s character achieves an arc we didn’t know he was capable of, before calmly asserting that, “I need to get stoned.” Aaaand, we’re back.
Richard Gere vs. Diane Lane
One of the more disturbing interrogations on this list is Richard Gere’s lacerating verbal thrashing of Diane Lane in Unfaithful. This film doesn’t get nearly the credit it deserves, which is a real shame, given the talent on display. During the scene in question, so many layers are revealed, that dedicating one paragraph of text to it is completely futile. Let me just say that “I wanted to kill you!” is perhaps the single greatest line delivery of Gere’s career. And Lane’s subsequent reaction to that sentence should’ve won her the Best Actress Oscar. Period.
Clive Owen vs. Julia Roberts
The one that started it all. The boss of all husband vs. wife bitch outs: Clive Owen’s extended, fucking brutal interrogation of Julia Roberts in Closer. He wants to know everything, in the frankest, most vivid detail possible, which Roberts reluctantly gives him. The result is as fine a film moment as anything released in the ‘00s. My jaw was literally dropped the first time I saw this movie. So goddamn perfect.
Anthony Mackie vs. Kerry Washington
She Hate Me (2004)
This is an age-old argument: what’s worse, the fact that your wife was cheating on you, or the fact that she was cheating on you with another woman? That is essentially the internal battle Anthony Mackie has with himself in the moments following the discovery of his fiancé going at it with another woman. Leave the roses on the ground, brother man.
Bill Nighy vs. Cate Blanchett
Notes on a Scandal (2006)
How would you respond to your spouse having an extended affair with a much younger student? I’m not entirely sure, but damn if Bill Nighy doesn’t nail the bitter, enraged tone once learning that his much younger wife has done just that. I mean, really, where do you even begin? What anger takes precedence: the fact that your wife cheated on you, or the fact that her cheating has made her a pedophile? Where to begin, indeed.
There are many more to name here, please feel free to share some of your favorites!