Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Provocative Thriller Is A Streaming Hit

Sarah Michelle Gellar's steamiest movie, Cruel Intentions, is currently in Paramount+'s top ten.

By Jonathan Klotz | Published

24 years since it was released, Sarah Michelle Gellar’s sexiest thriller, Cruel Intentions, is in the top ten of Paramount+ (via Flixpatrol). The cult classic is a retelling of Les Liaisons dangereuses, a French novel first published in 1782, but updated to be about the sex lives of elite New York high school students. Originally meant to be a significantly smaller movie, Cruel Intentions was a surprise hit that is still influencing teen movies and shows to this day.

Starring Sarah Michelle Gellar as Kathryn and Ryan Phillipe as her step-brother Sebastian, the two engage in a wager over whether or not Sebastian can seduce Annette, the virgin daughter of their school’s headmistress played by Reese Witherspoon. If Sebastian wins, he gets to have sex with Kathryn, and if she wins, Sebastian hands over his Jaguar XK140. Caught in the cross-fire is Cecille, played by Selma Blair, and Joshua Jackson’s Blaine.

The two step-siblings engage in back and forth games as they corrupt their classmates before ultimately Sebastian finds himself falling for Annette. In one of the greatest endings to a movie in history, “Bittersweet Symphony” by The Verve is blasting when revenge is finally served. There’s one scene though, that earned Sarah Michelle Gellar and Selma Blair a place in history, along with getting the film censored in multiple countries.

Sarah Michelle Gellar’s Kathryn is using Blair’s Cecille to get revenge against her ex, who had dumped Kathryn for Cecille. In a park one afternoon, Kathryn teaches Cecille how to get to first base and the resulting kiss, complete with unplanned spittle, made Cruel Intentions a smash hit at the box office. The two actresses are still best friends to this day, having first met while filming the sexy drama together.

Ryan Phillippe sarah michelle gellar
Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe in Cruel Intentions

The other two stars, Ryan Phillipe and Reese Witherspoon, were dating while filming the movie. Soon after production wrapped, the two were married and Witherspoon was pregnant with their first child while on the press tour. Separated in 2006, they officially divorced in 2008, but their real-life status led to an urban legend that the on-screen sex scene was done for real, a claim the director has since shot down.

Despite the lack of real sex, Cruel Intentions was another in a string of 90’s box-office hits for Sarah Michelle Gellar. Raking in $75 million against a budget of only $10 million, the film ended up spawning two sequels and amazingly, a musical in 2015. The Buffy star reprised her role as Kathryn fore the second film, a prequel covering the first time Kathryn and Sebastian first met, with Amy Adams playing her younger counterpart.

The second two films were direct-to-video, but the franchise tried to make the jump to streaming. Originally announced in 2021, Amazon was working on a Cruel Intentions series for Freevee. Quietly canceled earlier this year, Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe were never announced as being involved with the project.

Even if the reboot series never happens, the original 1999 movie remains an influential classic, redefining what a teen movie could be about at the turn of the last century. Without Sarah Michelle Gellar and Ryan Phillipe’s devious step-siblings, it’s likely there would have been no Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, Riverdale, or even The O.C. Catch one of the sexiest, and most important, movies on Paramount+.