Reversal of Fortune

Reversal of Fortune is a 1990 American drama 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 was directed by Barbet Schroeder and stars Jeremy Irons as Claus, Glenn Close as Sunny, and Ron Silver as Dershowitz. Screenwriter Nick Kazan originally envisioned Austrian actor Klaus Maria Brandauer in the role of Claus von Bülow, but was thrilled with Irons' performance.

Reversal of Fortune
Reversal of fortune poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarbet Schroeder
Produced by
Screenplay byNicholas Kazan
Based onReversal of Fortune: Inside the von Bülow Case
by Alan Dershowitz
Music byMark Isham
CinematographyLuciano Tovoli
Edited byLee Percy
  • Reversal Films, Inc.
  • Sovereign Pictures
  • Shochiku Fuji Co. Ltd.
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 12, 1990 (1990-09-12) (TIFF)
  • October 17, 1990 (1990-10-17) (Los Angeles)
  • October 19, 1990 (1990-10-19) (United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Box office$15.4 million


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 the hypoglycemic Sunny by giving her an overdose of insulin. Claus' strained relationship with his wife and his cold and haughty personal demeanor led 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. At least one courtroom scene was shot at the Appellate Division, Second Judicial Department in Brooklyn, New York.


The film received mostly positive reviews and holds a 94% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes, with an average score of 7.82/10 from 35 reviews.[2]

Awards and honorsEdit

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 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 alsoEdit


  1. ^ State v. von Bulow, 475 A.2d 995 (R.I. 1984).
  2. ^ "Reversal of Fortune (1990)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved November 18, 2019.
  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 13 August 2016.
  5. ^ "AFI's 10 Top 10 Nominees" (PDF). 16 November 2011. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 19 August 2016.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)

External linksEdit