One Of The Best 1990s Thrillers Gets Long-Awaited New Version For Fans

By Brian Myers | Updated

to die for

Nicole Kidman had her breakout role in the 1989 American thriller Dead Calm, leading her along the quick path to near-overnight stardom. The Australian actress found herself in high demand immediately afterward, with the films Days of Thunder, Malice, and Billy Bathgate helping cement her place as an A-list performer. One often-overlooked Kidman film is the 1995 dark comedy/thriller To Die For, a movie that is being given new life with the Criterion 4k restoration.

To Die For

to die for

To Die For is the story of a young, egotistical journalist who convinces two high school delinquents to murder her husband. Suzanne (Nicole Kidman) feels as though her spouse Larry (Matt Dillon) is impeding her career.

After meeting a handful of high school students while on assignment, Suzanne seduces one of the boys and leads him to believe that Larry is abusive and murder is the only way to stop him.

The Police Start Closing In

Jimmy (Joaquin Phoenix) and his pal Russell (Casey Affleck) commit the murder with a gun that is secured by their friend Lydia (Alison Folland).

Though it first appears like the killers are going to get away with their crime, To Die For finds Suzanne and her co-conspirators under heavy scrutiny from police investigators.

Different Views Of The Same Story

To Die For is not only a compelling film due to its intriguing plotline and complicated character development, but also shines through due to the way that everyone’s stories are told.

Kidman’s Suzanne tells her version of events directly to the camera in a style reminiscent of a journalist, while the other characters have their tales told documentary-style with interviews. Director Gus Van Sant is able to give audiences multiple angles on the same story in this fashion and is successful in keeping attention from start to finish.

Based On A Real Murder

to die for

To Die For is based on a real-life murder conspiracy case from New Hampshire in 1990. In May of that year, Pamela Smart arrived home after work to find her husband Greggory shot dead.

After a thorough police investigation, Smart was found guilty of conspiracy to commit first degree murder when it was revealed that she coerced her secret, 15-year-old boyfriend to kill her spouse.

Unlike the screen-version of Smart portrayed by Nicole Kidman, the real story ends with Smart being incarcerated for life without parole. The five accomplices in the murder of her husband were all given hefty sentences, though all have been out on parole since 2015.

Criterion Collection

The Criterion Collection release of To Die For is loaded with extras that will make any fan of the film elated.

The film’s 4K restoration gives the original frames a new life and brings Kidman and company onto your television screen with the most vivid picture imaginable. The master audio has also undergone a full restoration.

Director Van Sant, film editor Curtiss Clayton, and cinematographer Eric Alan Edward give a running commentary, scenes deleted from the theatrical and home media versions are included, and the original trailer can also be found in the special release.

Additionally, To Die For‘s Criterion Collection has an essay from film critic Jessica Kiang as part of the package.