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Looking for Mr. Goodbar is a 1977 American drama film, based on the acclaimed, best-selling novel of the same name by Judith Rossner, which was inspired by the 1973 murder of New York City schoolteacher Roseann Quinn. The film was written and directed by Richard Brooks. It stars Diane Keaton, Tuesday Weld, William Atherton, and Richard Gere.

The film was a commercial success, earning $22.5 million,[note 1] but received wildly mixed reviews. Author Rossner, for one, "detested" it,[3] although she praised Diane Keaton's performance. The film did garner Academy Award nominations for supporting actress Tuesday Weld and for the cinematography by William Fraker.


Set in the mid-1970s, the film traces the sexual awakening of Theresa Dunn (Keaton), a young Irish-American teacher searching for excitement outside her ordered life. While in college, Theresa lives with her repressive Polish-Irish Catholic parents, and suffers from severe body image issues following a childhood surgery for scoliosis that left a large scar on her back. Theresa later finds out that her scoliosis is congenital and that her aunt had the same condition and committed suicide; as a result, Theresa is reluctant to have children of her own. Meanwhile, her beautiful "perfect" older sister, Katherine (Weld), has left her husband and embarked on a wild lifestyle involving multiple affairs, a secret abortion, recreational drug use, and a short-lived marriage to a Jewish man. Theresa finds first love and loses her virginity with her much older, married college professor Martin (Alan Feinstein), who ends the affair just before her graduation, leaving Theresa feeling used and lonely.

Theresa takes a job teaching deaf children, and proves to be a gifted and caring teacher. With Katherine's encouragement, she moves out of her parents' home into her own apartment in the city. She begins to go clubbing at night and picks up men for one-night stands as a way of getting excitement and sexual fulfillment without commitment, always insisting that the men leave before morning. An encounter with a street hustler named Tony (Gere) develops into them being sex buddies, and the two begin regularly meeting for increasingly rough and dangerous sex, involving a switchblade knife and drugs. At one point he gives her a Quaalude pill which causes her to oversleep and arrive very late for work the next day, angering her employer and students. Tony eventually becomes controlling and abusive, and Theresa breaks up with him. He then stalks and harasses her at the school where she works and makes threatening phone calls to her at night.

Through her job, Theresa also meets and dates an Irish-American welfare caseworker named James (Atherton). Her parents approve of the responsible James, seeing him as a potential husband for Theresa. However, they do not have sex and James wants a traditional courtship and monogamous relationship, which Theresa sees as stifling her freedom. Although James initially seems nice, over time he appears to become as controlling and disrespectful of Theresa as Tony was.

After imagining what could happen if Tony were to call the police, Theresa gathers up all the drugs in her apartment and flushes them down the toilet.

With the new year approaching, Theresa resolves to leave her clubbing and drug use behind and take control of her life. Seeking one final hookup on New Year's Eve, Theresa picks up Gary (Tom Berenger), a sexually confused ex-convict, who tells Theresa he has a pregnant wife in Florida, but has been "shacked up" with lovers (who, it is strongly implied, are gay men) since coming to the city. At Theresa's apartment, Gary finds himself unable to attain an erection. Theresa asks him to leave, which Gary misinterprets as questioning his sexuality. In a rage, Gary attacks her, beats and rapes her, then stabs her several times... killing her.



The film's soundtrack included numerous disco tracks from the era. A soundtrack album was released by Columbia Records (JS 35029).

  1. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow)" – Carol Connors and Artie Kane
  2. "Don't Leave Me This Way" – Thelma Houston
  3. "Lowdown" – Boz Scaggs
  4. "Machine Gun" – Commodores
  5. "Love Hangover" – Diana Ross
  6. "She Wants to (Get on Down)" – Bill Withers
  7. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow) [Reprise]"– Carol Connors and Artie Kane
  8. "Theme from Looking for Mr. Goodbar (Don't Ask to Stay Until Tomorrow) [Vocal]" – Carol Connors and Artie Kane; vocal by Marlena Shaw
  9. "She's Lonely" – Bill Withers
  10. "Try Me, I Know We Can Make It" – Donna Summer
  11. "Back Stabbers" – The O'Jays
  12. "Prelude to Love" – Donna Summer
  13. "Could It Be Magic" – Donna Summer


The film opened to mixed reviews[note 2] and solid box office. Many critics praised Keaton's performance.[4]

Some found the film lurid and muddled; a review by Frank Rich for Time magazine criticized Brooks for making "many crude miscalculations" in adapting the novel.[4] Roger Ebert gave the film 3 out of 4 stars, praising Keaton's performance but lamenting the "many loose ends and dead ends", some of which he blamed on significant alterations to the novel's plot.[5] John Simon noted that while the novel is set in New York City, the film is said to be located in San Francisco (but identifiably filmed in Chicago's Rush Street neighborhood). He also noted that "the main character is made considerably prettier, thus reducing the principal sources of her insecurity," as compared to her portrayal in the novel.[6]

Robert O. Friedel, MD, has suggested that Theresa's behavior in the film is consistent with a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder.[7]

Looking for Mr. Goodbar introduced Richard Gere, LeVar Burton, and Tom Berenger, as men whom Theresa encounters.

The film also inspired the music video for the 1993 Madonna song "Bad Girl". In the video Madonna plays a woman who like Theresa engages in self-destructive behavior by drinking heavily and sleeping around with random men before she is ultimately murdered by a one night stand.


Weld received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress and William A. Fraker received a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Cinematography.

Keaton was nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Actress - Motion Picture Drama. She was not nominated for an Academy Award for this film, but she won the same year for Annie Hall.


  1. In 2016 dollars, the film would have earned $86.9 million. See Box Office Mojo (Accessed December 30, 2016).
  2. The film has a misleading 76% "fresh" rating at Rotten Tomatoes, but this rating well illustrates a problem with the site's ratings for older films. Just 21 reviews are cited, which is hardly a representative sampling of the film's notices. Further, the film is--oddly--given a "fresh" vote for a review by Ken Hanke of the Mountain Xpress (Asheville, NC) with just the following quote: "Despite a solid lead performance, the film is off-putting rather than involving." See Rotten Tomatoes Looking for Mr. Goodbar (1977). Accessed December 30, 2016.

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See also


  1. Script error: No such module "citation/CS1".
  2. Looking for Mr. Goodbar at Box Office Mojo
  3. Pike, Rayner and Nancy. Rossner, Judith Louise. (Accessed December 30, 2016).
  4. 4.0 4.1 Script error: No such module "Citation/CS1".
  5. Chicago Sun-Times
  6. Script error: No such module "Citation/CS1".
  7. "Early Sea Changes in Borderline Personality Disorder", Current Psychiatry Reports 2006, 8:1–4

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External links

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