"Clue" is a 1985 American mystery comedy film based on the board game of similar name. The film is a murder mystery set in a Gothic Revival architecture mansion, and is styled after the "old dark house" whodunit genre of films (wherein a mysterious killer preys on a group of strangers trapped at an isolated location), such as The Bat Whispers (1930), The Old Dark House (1932), One Frightened Night (1935), The Cat and the Canary (1939 film) (1939), Hold That Ghost (1941), And Then There Were None (1945 film) (1945), Ten Little Indians (1965 film) (1965), and Murder by Death (1976), which itself was a parody of the genres. The film was directed by Jonathan Lynn, who collaborated on the script with John Landis, and stars Eileen Brennan, Tim Curry, Madeline Kahn, Christopher Lloyd, Michael McKean, Martin Mull, and Lesley Ann Warren. The film was produced by Debra Hill.
In keeping with the nature of the board game, in theatrical release the movie was shown with one of three possible endings, with different theaters receiving each ending. In the film's home video release, all three endings were included. The film initially received mixed reviews and did poorly at the box office, ultimately grossing $14,643,997 in the United States, though later it developed a cult following.
Clue was Paramount's first adaptation of a now-current Hasbro property, though at that time Cluedo was owned by Waddingtons and licensed in the United States (as Clue) to Parker Brothers; Hasbro later bought both Waddingtons and Parker Brothers. This predated by 19 years Paramount's deal to distribute other films and television series based on Hasbro properties. Universal Studios announced that a remake was in the works with a release date set for 2013, though the project was later shelved.
In 1954 New England, against a backdrop of McCarthyism, six strangers are invited to a party at a secluded New England mansion. They are met by the house butler Wadsworth, who reminds them that they have been given pseudonyms to protect their true identity. During dinner, the seventh attendee, Mr. Boddy (Lee Ving), arrives. After dinner, Wadsworth takes everyone to the study and reveals the true nature of the party: all of the guests are being blackmailed:
- Professor Plum is a psychiatrist who lost his medical license because he had an affair with a married female patient. He now works for the United Nations' WHO.
- Mrs. Peacock is the wife of a United States Senator who has been accused of accepting bribes to deliver her husband's vote. However, she claims she is innocent and that she must pay blackmail money to avoid the story being used for a political witch hunt.
- Mrs. White is an alleged black widow who was drawn in to avoid a scandal regarding the mysterious death of her nuclear physicist husband. She was previously married to an illusionist, who also disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She claims innocence, but pays the blackmail to avoid public ridicule.
- Miss Scarlet is a madam who operates an illegal brothel and escort service in Washington, D.C.
- Colonel Mustard is thought, at first, to have been blackmailed for scandalous photographs with one of Miss Scarlet's employees, but it is later revealed that he was a war profiteer who made his money from selling stolen radio components on the black market during World War 2. He now works at the Pentagon on a private fusion bomb.
- Mr. Green is a homosexual, a secret that would cost him his job with the United States Department of State if it were widely known.
Finally, Wadsworth reveals Mr. Boddy's secret: he is the one who has been blackmailing the others. Wadsworth has gathered all the guests together to confront Mr. Boddy and turn him over to the police. He also reveals this plan is his revenge against Mr. Boddy, who is both his former employer and Boddy's blackmail had resulted in the suicide of Wadsworth's wife.
Mr. Boddy reminds the guests that he can reveal their secrets in police custody and offers them an alternative proposition: by using weapons he has provided (the wrench, the candlestick, the lead pipe, the knife, the revolver and the rope), they can kill Wadsworth and destroy the evidence, keeping their secrets safe. Escape is not an option as Wadsworth holds the only key to the mansion, and vicious dogs patrol the perimeter. Mr. Boddy turns out the lights in the room, creating a moment of chaos in which someone shoots the revolver. When the lights come back on, Mr. Boddy is pronounced dead by Professor Plum, seemingly murdered by an unknown cause since there is no gunshot wound, just a bullet hole in the wall. Everyone denies killing him, and are later proven right as Mr. Boddy is ultimately found murdered with the candlestick in the hall, but not before Mrs. Ho the cook was killed with the knife in the kitchen. Wadsworth and the guests try to deduce who killed Mr. Boddy by splitting up and searching the house, in case there is someone else inside. During the course of the evening, three others visit the house: a stranded motorist, a police officer investigating the motorist's abandoned car, and a singing telegram girl. They are respectively killed with the wrench in the lounge, with the lead pipe in the library, and with the revolver in the hall. Yvette, the maid, is killed in the billiard room with the rope.
Wadsworth comes to the conclusion that he knows who the murderer is and runs through a frantic re-enactment of the entire evening with the guests in tow. At one point, they are interrupted by an evangelist who is talking about the "Kingdom of Heaven." Wadsworth also points out that the victims were Mr. Boddy's accomplices in blackmail. Each of them had a connection to one of the guests, enabling Mr. Boddy to find out the secrets he later used to blackmail them.
- The cook had earlier been employed by Mrs. Peacock.
- The motorist was Colonel Mustard's driver during the war and knew of his involvement with the black market.
- Yvette had worked for Miss Scarlet and had an affair with Mrs. White's husband. Colonel Mustard's scandalous photographs were of him and Yvette "in flagrante delicto" (caught in the act).
- The police officer had been on Miss Scarlet's payroll for his silence.
- The singing telegram girl was one of Professor Plum's patients. He once had an affair with her.
In preparation to reveal the murderer of Mr. Boddy, Wadsworth turns off the electricity to the house.
At this point, the story proceeds to one of three endings: A, B, or C. In the film's initial theatrical run, some theaters announced which ending the viewer would see. In the VHS home video and releases, and most television broadcasts (including on Netflix), the three endings are shown sequentially, with the first two characterized as possible endings, but ending C being the true one. The DVD home release also provides the option of a random single ending.
Having used her former call girl Yvette to murder Mr. Boddy and the cook, Miss Scarlet killed Yvette and the others to keep her true business of "secrets" safe, planning on using the information learned tonight for her own benefit. While Miss Scarlet holds the group at gunpoint with the revolver, Wadsworth tries to tell her that she used up all the bullets in the gun, but unbeknownst to Miss Scarlet, Wadsworth and all the guests, she still has one left and threatens to kill him. Wadsworth reveals himself to be an undercover Federal Bureau of Investigation agent and arrests Miss Scarlet as police arrive and secure the house. The evangelist is revealed to be an agent. Although insisting to Miss Scarlet the revolver is empty, Wadsworth realizes she was right when he accidentally fires the last bullet into the air, hitting a chandelier and causing it to crash closely behind Colonel Mustard.
Mrs. Peacock is revealed as the murderer of all the victims and escapes after holding the others at gunpoint. However, Wadsworth reveals himself as an FBI agent with the night's activities set up to spy on Mrs. Peacock's activities, believing her to be taking bribes by foreign powers. As Mrs. Peacock makes her way to her car, she is captured by the police, and the evangelist is revealed to be a FBI agent.
Each murder was committed by a different person, with a different weapon, in a different room:
- Professor Plum killed Mr. Boddy in the hall with the candlestick (knowing he was still alive all along).
- Mrs. Peacock killed the cook in the kitchen with the dagger.
- Colonel Mustard killed the motorist in the lounge with the wrench after locking the remaining weapons in a cupboard. The group attempted to get rid of the key, but Mustard snuck off with it to get the wrench out of it (he snuck into the lounge using the secret passageway in the conservatory).
- Mrs. White killed Yvette in the billiard room with the rope, out of a strong hatred towards her (she turned off the power to lure Yvette downstairs and also admits that she killed her husband).
- Miss Scarlet killed the cop in the library with the lead pipe.
Mr. Green is then accused of killing the singing telegram (in the hall with the revolver), but insists he didn't shoot her. Wadsworth then reveals not only did he shoot her himself, but that he is in fact the real Mr. Boddy (the man Professor Plum killed was simply his butler). He had brought the other victims (his accomplices in the blackmail scheme) to the house to be killed by the guests and thus plans to continue blackmailing them now that there's no evidence against him. But Mr. Green then draws a revolver and kills the blackmailer in the hall. Mr. Green reveals to the others that he's actually an undercover FBI agent and the whole evening was a set-up to catch the criminals. The police and FBI arrive and arrest all the guests for murder as the evangelist is revealed to be an agent. When asked who "done it," Green acknowledges that all of the guests are guilty of murder now, but that he killed Mr. Boddy "in the hall...with the revolver" in reference to the original game. Also, Mr. Green's previously stated homosexuality was presumably just part of his cover, because his final line of the movie is, "I'm gonna go home and sleep with my wife."
In an unused fourth ending, Wadsworth committed all of the murders. He was motivated by his desire for perfection. Having failed to be either the perfect husband or the perfect butler, he decided to be the perfect murderer instead. Wadsworth reports that he poisoned the champagne the guests had drunk earlier so they would soon die, leaving no witnesses. The police and the FBI arrive, and Wadsworth is arrested. He breaks free and steals a police car, but his escape is thwarted when three police dogs lunge from the back seat. This ending is documented in Clue: The Storybook, a tie-in book released in conjunction with the film.