Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune

theatrical release poster
Directed by Barbet Schroeder
Produced by
Screenplay by Nicholas Kazan
Based on Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case (1986 book)
by Alan Dershowitz
Music by Mark Isham
Cinematography Luciano Tovoli
Edited by Lee Percy
  • Reversal Films, Inc.
  • Sovereign Pictures
  • Shochiku Fuji Co. Ltd.
Distributed by Warner Bros.
Release dates
  • September 12, 1990 (1990-09-12) (Toronto)
  • October 17, 1990 (1990-10-17) (LA)
  • October 19, 1990 (1990-10-19) (US)
Running time
111 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $15.4 million

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 film adapted from the 1985 book Reversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case, written by law professor Alan Dershowitz. It recounts the true story of the unexplained coma of socialite Sunny von Bülow, the subsequent attempted murder trial, and the eventual acquittal of her husband, Claus von Bülow, who had Dershowitz acting as his defense.[1] The film stars Jeremy Irons as Claus, Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz.


The story is narrated by Sunny von Bülow who is in a coma after falling into diabetic shock after a Christmas party. Her husband, the dissolute European aristocrat Claus von Bülow is charged with attempting to murder her by giving the hypoglycemic Sunny an overdose of insulin. Claus' strained relationship with his wife and his cold and haughty personal demeanor lead most people to conclude that he is guilty. In need of an innovative defense, Claus turns to law professor Alan Dershowitz. Dershowitz is initially convinced of Claus' guilt, but takes the case because von Bülow agrees to fund Dershowitz' defense of two poor black teenagers accused of capital murder. Employing his law students as workers, Dershowitz proceeds to defend Claus, wrestling with his client's unnerving personal style and questions of von Bülow's guilt or innocence.



The film was shot in numerous estates in Rhode Island and New Jersey, and the Knole house in Old Westbury.


The film received mostly positive reviews and holds a 94% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.8 out of 10 from 33 reviews.[2]

Awards and honors

Irons was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor, Schroeder was nominated for Best Director, and Kazan was nominated for the Best Adapted Screenplay award. Irons was also awarded the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama.

In 2015, the 25th anniversary of Entertainment Weekly, it named Reversal of Fortune on its list of the 25 best films of the past 25 years.[3]

The film is recognized by American Film Institute in these lists:

See also


  1. State v. von Bulow, 475 A.2d 995 (R.I. 1984).
  2. "Reversal of Fortune Movie Reviews, Pictures". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved January 18, 2011.
  3. "EW's 25 Best Movies in 25 Years". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 13 October 2015.
  4. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-13.
  5. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-08-19.
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