Endless Love (1981 film)

Endless Love is a 1981 American romantic drama film directed by Franco Zeffirelli, starring Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt. Tom Cruise makes his film debut, in a minor role.

Endless Love
Endless love.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byFranco Zeffirelli
Screenplay byJudith Rascoe
Based onEndless Love
by Scott Spencer
Produced by
CinematographyDavid Watkin
Edited byMichael J. Sheridan
Music byJonathan Tunick
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • July 17, 1981 (1981-07-17) (United States)
Running time
116 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$32.4 million

Based on the 1979 Scott Spencer novel of the same name, the screenplay was written by Judith Rascoe. The original music score was composed by Jonathan Tunick.

Critics compared the film unfavorably to the novel, which showcased the dangers of obsessive love. Despite the poor reviews, its eponymous theme song, performed by Diana Ross and Lionel Richie, became a #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100. The song spent nine weeks at #1 and received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for "Best Original Song", along with five Grammy Award nominations.


In suburban Chicago, teenagers Jade Butterfield and David Axelrod fall in love after they are introduced by Jade's brother Keith.

The Butterfields' bohemian lifestyle, for which they're well-known in their community, allows Jade and David to develop an all-consuming and passionate relationship, including allowing the two to have sex in Jade's bedroom. In contrast to the openness of her family, David's home life is dull; his parents are wealthy liberal political activists who have little interest in their son's life.

One night, Jade's mother, Ann sneaks downstairs, and catches Jade and David making love by the fireplace. Ann starts living vicariously through them but her husband, Hugh, watches the couple with increasing unease. Jade's nightly trysts begin to negatively impact her grades and her ability to sleep. One night, Jade tries to steal one of her father's prescription sleeping pills but he catches her in the act. As a last straw, Hugh demands that David should stop seeing Jade, until the end of the school term. Although it initially causes a scene, Ann gently coaxes David to agree, telling him not to let Hugh "do something he'll regret".

Back at school, one of David's friends, Billy, tells him that when he was 8 years-old, he tried to burn a pile of newspapers, got scared and put the fire out, and his parents thought he was a hero for saving the house from burning. Inspired by this story, David starts a fire on the Butterfields' front porch and walks away. But by the time he returns, the flame has spread too far. David rushes to warn the family, but he is too late and the entire house is lost.

Following a trial, David is convicted of second-degree arson, sentenced to five years' probation, sent to a mental hospital for evaluation and forbidden to go anywhere near Jade or her family again. David continues to write to her daily, but the letters aren't sent because of the no-contact order. His parents pull strings to have him released early, much to Hugh's chagrin. Meanwhile, David receives his many letters upon his exit; realizing why Jade never wrote back, he decides to pursue her although he knows it violates his parole.

Following the loss of their home, the Butterfields have moved from Chicago to Manhattan where Ann and Hugh file for a divorce. In Manhattan, Ann tries to seduce David but he refuses, leaving her confused. When she isn't looking, David thumbs through her address book to find out where Jade is and discovers that she now lives in Burlington and attends the University of Vermont. Intent on catching a bus to Vermont, David sees Hugh on the street. Hugh starts chasing him but is hit by a car and killed. Hugh's new wife Ingrid catches up to the scene just in time to see David escape. David boards the bus to Vermont, but he is overcome with grief and returns to his apartment.

Later, Jade goes to David's apartment to say goodbye but he pulls Jade back as she tries to leave, throwing her on the bed and forcefully holding her down until Jade admits she loves him. Keith comes home to find the pair together again and falsely informs Jade that David is at fault for their father's death. Jade refuses to believe it at first but when David confirms that he was actually at the scene, she becomes horrified and hides behind Keith. David tries to explain it was an accident before he shoves Keith out of the way in a desperate bid to grab her. Keith fights him off until the police arrive and arrest David for brawling and disturbing the peace.

David is sentenced to prison and despairs that he'll never see Jade again. At Hugh's lakeside funeral, Jade tells Ann that nobody will ever love her like David does, although Ann speaks to her for understanding and approval. While in prison, David watches Jade walk toward him through his barred cell window.



Endless Love is based on Scott Spencer's 1979 novel of the same name. The film is directed by Franco Zeffirelli and written by Judith Rascoe. The film stars Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt in the two leading roles. It is also the film debut of Hewitt, Tom Cruise, Jami Gertz, Jeff Marcus and Ian Ziering. The film was shot in 1980 on location in Chicago, New York City and Long Island.

The MPAA awarded the initial cut of Endless Love an X rating. Director Franco Zeffirelli subsequently made several cuts in the love scenes between Brooke Shields and Martin Hewitt to achieve a lower rating. The film was re-submitted to the MPAA five times before they awarded it an R rating.[1]


The film's theme song, written by Lionel Richie and performed by Richie and Diana Ross and also called "Endless Love", became a number 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was the biggest-selling single in Ross' career. Billboard magazine chose it as "The Best Duet of All Time" in 2011, 30 years after its debut. It spent nine weeks at #1 and received Academy Award and Golden Globe Award nominations for "Best Original Song", along with five Grammy Award nominations. The soundtrack peaked at #9 on the Billboard Top 200 and was certified platinum. It also featured a second duet between Ross and Richie, "Dreaming of You", that received considerable airplay but was never released as a single.


The film received mostly mixed reviews on release. Roger Ebert compared the film unfavorably with the novel, describing Martin Hewitt as miscast and criticizing the narrative, although he did praise Brooke Shields's performance:

Is there anything good in the movie? Yes. Brooke Shields is good. She is a great natural beauty, and she demonstrates, in a scene of tenderness and concern for Hewitt and in a scene of rage with her father, that she has a strong, unaffected screen acting manner. But the movie as a whole does not understand the particular strengths of the novel that inspired it, does not convince us it understands adolescent love, does not seem to know its characters very well, and is a narrative and logical mess.[2]

Janet Maslin in The New York Times wrote:

There are two sorts of people who'll be going to see Endless Love — those who have read the richly imaginative novel on which the movie is based and those who have not. There will be dismay in the first camp, but it may be nothing beside the bewilderment in the second."[3]

Film historian Leonard Maltin seemed to agree, calling the film a "textbook example of how to do everything wrong in a literary adaptation."[4]

In 2014, Scott Spencer, the author of the novel on which the film was based, wrote, "I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession".[5] Spencer described the film as a "botched" job and wrote that Franco Zeffirelli "egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood" the novel.[6]

As of August 2019, Endless Love holds a rating of 28% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 18 reviews.[7]

Release and box officeEdit

The film premiere for Endless Love took place on July 16, 1981, at the Ziegfeld Theatre in New York City. The film was released the next day. Despite the poor critical reception, the film was a box office success. It made $4,163,623 on its opening weekend and went on to gross $31,184,024 in total, becoming the twenty-second highest earning film domestically in 1981.[8] Internationally, the film took in a further $1,308,650 bringing its total worldwide gross to $32,492,674.[9]

Home mediaEdit

The film was released on Blu-ray on Shout! Factory in mid-August 2019, with enhanced 5.1 surround sound.

Awards and nominationsEdit

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards Best Original Song "Endless Love" – Music and Lyrics by Lionel Richie Nominated
American Movie Awards Best Original Song Won
ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards Most Performed Feature Film Standards Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Original Song – Motion Picture Nominated
Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Dyson Lovell Nominated
Worst Director Franco Zeffirelli Nominated
Worst Actress Brooke Shields Nominated
Worst Supporting Actress Shirley Knight Nominated
Worst Screenplay Judith Rascoe; Based on the novel by Scott Spencer Nominated
Worst New Star Martin Hewitt Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or a Television Special Endless Love – Lionel Richie, Jonathan Tunick and Thomas McClary Nominated
Jupiter Awards Best International Actress Brooke Shields Nominated
Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture Keith Barish and Dyson Lovell Nominated
Worst Director Franco Zeffirelli Nominated
Worst Actress Brooke Shields Nominated
Worst Screenplay Judith Rascoe; Based on the novel by Scott Spencer Nominated
Worst On-Screen Couple Martin Hewitt and Brooke Shields or Shirley Knight Nominated
Young Artist Awards Best Young Motion Picture Actor Martin Hewitt Nominated
Best Young Motion Picture Actress Brooke Shields Nominated

Other HonorsEdit

American Film Institute:

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Thomas, Bob (August 10, 1981). "Director Fears 'Endless Love' Viewed As Exploitative, Not Love". Kentucky New Era. Retrieved February 12, 2016.
  2. ^ Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1981). "Endless Love". RogerEbert.com. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  3. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 17, 1981). "Endless Love (1981)". The New York Times. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  4. ^ Maltin's TV, Movie, & Video Guide
  5. ^ Spencer, Scott (September 10, 2013). "Spoiler Alert". The Paris Review. Paris. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  6. ^ Appelo, Tim (February 14, 2014). "'Endless Love' Author Trashes Remake: 'Stick With the Paperback'". The Hollywood Reporter. Hollywood. Retrieved June 22, 2014.
  7. ^ "Endless Love".
  8. ^ "1981 DOMESTIC GROSSES". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  9. ^ "Endless Love". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved February 10, 2016.
  10. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.
  11. ^ "AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved August 19, 2016.

External linksEdit