Being cheated on is generally a brutal and heartbreaking occurrence, and sometimes the person doing the cheating ends up getting hurt too — this is especially explored in cheating wife movies or cheating husband movies. However, infidelity has provided Hollywood with some very compelling and dramatic cheating movies. Whether it’s jilted lovers or murdered souls out for revenge, adultery has been a catalyst for some truly romantic or tragic stories that explore this subject from every angle. Movies about cheating and infidelity aren’t always about sex, though.
Instead, they can tell each side of the relationship’s story, what led to the affair, whether it was justified, and the ramifications. Many of these cheating movies provide audiences with either a fantasy or a cautionary tale while telling them something about their own lives. Films like Fatal Attraction and its bombastic ending haunt audiences indefinitely, as it’s often the greatest fear realized for anyone who is in a relationship. While cheating wife movies tend to be rarer than cheating husband movies, the trope still exists, and here are the best movies about those fears, ranked from worst to best.
20 Indecent Proposal (1993) – Stream On HBO Max
Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson star as a loving couple, David and Diana, who have fallen on hard times, and a moment of desperation tests their love for each other. One of the more intriguing cheating movies, a wealthy businessman, John, offers the couple $1 million in exchange for one night with Diana. After much thought, the couple agrees because they really need money, however, as the months go by, knowing that his wife and John have been together is too much for David, ultimately pushing her into John’s arms.
In the Adrian Lyne movie, the questionable topic of John “buying” Diana for an evening (and only asking David’s permission, not hers) has always been criticized, and as one of the more bizarre cheating wife movies, received poor reviews upon release. However, Indecent Proposal was a massive hit and, to this day, is a cautionary tale about desperation and the consequences of one’s actions.
19 The Girl On The Train (2016) — Stream On Hulu
Based on Paula Hawkins’ debut novel, The Girl on the Train is definitely one of the more interesting cheating movies, and featured Emily Blunt in a standout performance as an alcoholic obsessed with her ex-husband. She takes the train every single day, not always entering or exiting it sober. One of her favorite sights on her commute is Scott and Megan, a seemingly idyllic couple. After she (believes she) sees Scott murder Megan, Emily Blunt’s movie character gets wrapped up in a missing person case that may have larger implications in regards to her potential innocence or guilt.
Hawkins’ book was a fun summer read, but the film adaptation was clearly trying to emulate the visual palette seen in David Fincher’s Gone Girl. That movie is widely seen as the superior of the two, but The Girl on the Train still has an incredible cast anchored by an intense Emily Blunt lead performance and isn’t one of the cheating wife movies, but rather, a cheating husband movie.
18 What Lies Beneath (2000) – Stream On HBO Max
In one of the iconic cheating movies What Lies Beneath, Indiana Jones actor Harrison Ford plays Norman, whose affair comes back to haunt him – literally, making it not one of the cheating wife movies. After noticing some strange occurrences in their house, Norman’s wife, Claire, discovers he had an affair with a woman who died and now is quite possibly haunting their house, which leads to more dark secrets coming to the surface.
Written by Agent Coulson himself, Clark Gregg, acclaimed director Robert Zemeckis channels his inner Alfred Hitchcock, delivering a suspenseful, slow burn that culminates in an explosively gripping finale. Even Alan Silvestri’s score is reminiscent of Hitchcock’s frequent composer, Bernard Herrmann.
17 Unfaithful (2002) – Rent On Prime Video
Director Adrian Lyne tackles infidelity yet again with the aptly titled, Unfaithful. Movie actors Richard Gere and Diane Lane star as Edward and Connie, a couple in a passionless marriage. However, Connie’s chance encounter with a younger man, Paul, leads to an affair in one of the better cheating wife movies. Ultimately, Edward’s discovery of the affair leads to a downward spiral of events. Lyne, famous for his tastefully erotic films like the recent Deep Water, crafts a thriller for adults that might spark debate and discussion between the married couples who decide to watch it.
16 Fatal Attraction (1987) – Stream On Paramount+ And Showtime
A rare example of an erotic thriller nominated for the Best Picture Oscar is Fatal Attraction. One of the more critically acclaimed cheating movies is directed by Adrian Lyne and stars actor Michael Douglas as Dan who, despite having a happy marriage, ends up involved in a passionate affair with Alex. However, after Dan puts an end to the affair, Alex won’t give him up, won’t be ignored, and begins exhibiting obsessive and dangerous behavior toward him.
Impeccably cast and tension-filled throughout, Fatal Attraction remains a sexy but tragic thriller that surely has made men think twice about ever having an affair since its release in 1987, unlike the rarer cheating wife movies.
15 Brothers (2009) – Rent On Prime Video
This underrated late aughts war drama focused on what happens when a POW comes home, and is one of the sadder cheating movies. Tobey Maguire plays Sam Cahill, the veteran who was held in a Taliban village and declared K.I.A. by the US military. Sam’s brother, Tommy (movie star Jake Gyllenhaal), begins entwining himself in the lives of Sam’s family, including his wife, Grace, and daughters Isabelle and Maggie.
There actually is no affair in Brothers (just a swiftly regretted kiss), meaning its not one of the cheating wife movies, but Sam thinks there was. He’s forced to kill a fellow soldier while being held captive and returns to the States with PTSD. As he’s closing himself off from his family, his daughter alludes to Grace and Tommy being a better match. Things come to a head, forcing Sam to open up in order to save his marriage. It’s an inversed take on the infidelity film, and the performance from the cast sells it well.
14 The Great Gatsby (2013) – Stream On HBO Max
Visionary filmmaker Baz Luhrmann took on one of the most celebrated novels of all time with his adaptation of The Great Gatsby. Set in the 1920s, the movie follows a rich and mysterious man who attempts to reconnect with his old lover who is now married, being one of the few cheating wife movies. There are many themes explored in this grand story and an aesthetically pleasing entry to the movies-about-cheating subgenre, but infidelity and its consequences have perhaps the biggest effect on it all. The movie is a visually stunning experience and features an all-star cast led by Leonardo DiCaprio as the title character.
13 Bound (1996) – Stream On PlutoTV
Before their ground-breaking The Matrix, the Wachowski sisters made their directorial debut with one of the better cheating movies, the crime thriller Bound. An entry to the cheating wife movies subgenre, the film tells the story of an ex-con who meets and falls for the girlfriend of a mob money man. As the two women engage in an affair, they make a plan to steal the money for themselves. While a much smaller scale movie than the Wachowskis are known for, it is a gritty and engrossing little thriller. However, it also showcases the brilliant filmmaking talent they already had.
12 Fish Tank (2009) – Stream On Tubi
Before becoming a household name, Michael Fassbender (whose career hasn’t been active since 2017) starred in this small and intense coming-of-age drama Fish Tank, one of Fassbender’s few cheating movies. The movie tells the story of a young teenage girl who begins an affair with her mother’s new boyfriend, played by Fassbender and adds itself to the small ranking of cheating wife movies. Anchored by a terrific performance from newcomer Katie Jarvis, Fish Tank is a small and impactful story. It can be difficult to watch at times but makes for a thought-provoking and powerful experience.
11 Sideways (2004) – Stream On HBO Max
The Oscar-winning comedy Sideways stars Paul Giamatti as a struggling writer who takes his soon-to-be-married friend on a weekend getaway in wine country. But as the friend looks to find a quick fling before his marriage, Giamatti tries to get up the courage to pursue a friendly waitress in one of the few Paul Giamatti-led cheating movies. The small independent comedy is captivating thanks to its sharp and funny script as well as some wonderful performances from the great cast, including Thomas Hayden Church as the obnoxious, cheating best friend.
10 Notes On A Scandal (2006) – Rent On Prime Video
Based on the book, Notes on a Scandal revolves around Sheba (one of Cate Blanchett’s best roles) a teacher whose affair with a student is uncovered by another teacher Barbara, who has a history of stalking, and is a thrilling entry to the cheating wife movies subgenre. Unfortunately, lonely Barbara uses the secret to her advantage in order to manipulate Sheba. Notes on a Scandal is a tragic tale of not only trusting the wrong people, but the potentially terrible repercussions an affair can have on a family and the people involved. For their roles, both Tár‘s Cate Blanchett and Skyfall‘s Judi Dench received Oscar nominations.
9 Eyes Wide Shut (1999) – Stream On HBO Max
Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut is about nothing if not extramarital affairs, and is one of the most iconic cheating mvoes. Nicole Kidman portrays Alice Hartford, a woman who admits to her husband that there is another man she knows who she wouldn’t mind sleeping with. Tom Cruise plays her doctor husband, Bill, who then takes this information and embarks on a nightlong endeavor for anonymous sex.
Surprisngly not one of the cheating wife movies, Bill never goes through with it, but he gets close. Kubrick’s final film is the same way with answers. It’s not quite clear if the masked orgy cult killed Bill’s friend, Nick. The same goes for the young woman who saves him at said event, whose lines were actually dubbed by Don’t Look Up actress Cate Blanchett, according to Vulture.
8 Little Children (2006) – Rent On Prime Video
Told through omniscient narration, Little Children is one of the more complex cheating wife movies, and concerns Sarah and Brad, who find themselves having an affair after both being in an unhappy marriage. Sarah, the unhappy housewife, catches the attention of Brad, known as the “Prom King,” who is married to a beautiful woman and relives his youth instead of maturing. For Sarah, the affair is realizing a fantasy, and for Brad, it means feeling desired. Combined with a subplot about a sex offender, Little Children is a complex look at suburban life with flawed everyday characters.
7 An Affair To Remember (1957) – Stream On Hulu
Starring movie icons Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, An Affair to Remember is one of the oldest cheating movies and concerns two people who have a whirlwind romance together aboard a cruise ship, despite being in relationships with other people. They plan to meet six months later at the top of the Empire State Building to continue their romance if they have ended their respective relationships. However, an accident leaves one unable to meet, possibly ending their reunion.
Despite initial mixed reviews, An Affair to Remember has become known as one of the most romantic movies of all time. Referenced in such films as Sleepless in Seattle, An Affair to Remember shows audiences the enduring power of love, and that despite all obstacles, true love can sometimes find its way back to you somehow, despite being an entry to the cheating wife movies genre.
6 The Bridges Of Madison County (1995) – Rent On Apple TV
Based on the book and directed by star Clint Eastwood, The Bridges of Madison County concerns Robert, a photojournalist, who comes to Madison County to photograph its bridges and, while there, meets Francesca, who’s involved in a passionless marriage. The two begin a four-day affair while her husband and children are away, and its one of the more complicated cheating wife movies.
Ultimately, the affair gives her meaning, and she remembers it all her life. Hollywood doesn’t produce a lot of romance films about older people. However, Bridges of Madison County presents a mature, adult love story for people of experienced age, as well as young couples in it for the long haul.
5 Silver Linings Playbook (2012) – Stream On Starz
David O. Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook was an interesting take on the cheating movies genre, as it primarily explores Pat’s near-fatal reaction to his wife’s infidelity. Oscar-nominated actor Bradley Cooper plays Pat Solitano Jr., a man with bipolar disorder who recently walked in on his wife with another man in the shower, making this technically one of the cheating wife movies — but with a twist.
He soon meets Tiffany Maxwell (a role which netted Jennifer Lawrence an Academy Award for Best Actress in a Leading Role), a younger widow who offers Pat an opportunity. Together, they are to participate in a dance contest (partially in an effort to get his wife back). Soon Tiffany and Pat are able to mutually process their individual situations and move on to the next step of their lives.
4 Gone Girl (2014) – Stream On HBO Max
Rosamund Pike (in a fantastic, Academy Award-nominated performance) plays the titular Gone Girl: Amy Dunne in one of the best cheating movies. Movie star Ben Affleck plays her husband, who is the prime suspect in her disappearance and presumed death. In the film and the book, Nicholas (Affleck) begins an affair with his young student Andie (Emily Ratajkowski) after growing bored with his life in North Carthage, Missouri.
Like she did in her novel, Gillian Flynn takes revenge for infidelity to a new level in David Fincher’s film. The Amazing Amy is an incredible character with legitimately frightening forethought, and the character has been made famous thanks to Pike’s “Cool Girl” monologue. Gone Girl is proof that the infidelity thriller subgenre is still alive, well, and capable of surprises.
3 Brokeback Mountain (2005) – Stream On Netflix
Often times cheating movies explore two people getting the chance to act out their passions outside of their dull marriage. However, the LGBTQ+ movie Brokeback Mountain depicts an affair where the two people involved become free to be who they really are. Directed by Ang Lee, the movie tells the story of Ennis and Jack, two sheepherders who, while working at a ranch together one summer, develop feelings for each other and maintain a romantic relationship over the course of 20 years, despite marrying women.
Controversial upon release for its subject matter, Brokeback Mountain broke ground for LGBTQ+ cinema, and also subverted the Western genre. Ultimately, Brokeback Mountain is a beautiful film, visually and emotionally, with a tagline that sums it up best, “Love is a force of nature.”
2 Cape Fear (1991) – Stream On Starz
Martin Scorsese’s Cape Fear is one of those horror movies grounded in reality which makes it all the more unsettling. While not one of the more obvious cheating movies, Nick Nolte plays a callous womanizing lawyer named Sam Bowden who consistently disrespects his marriage to Leigh (Jessica Lange), and the consequences are terrifying.
Robert De Niro plays Max Cady, a convict who seeks revenge on Nick Nolte’s lawyer, who blames him for putting him in prison. He seeks to torment the man and his family, using the lawyer’s own extramarital relationships to drive them apart, along with seducing his underage daughter Danielle (Juliette Lewis). Seeing Scorsese operate in the cheating movies genre is a thrill and De Niro makes for a truly terrifying villain.
1 In The Mood For Love (2000) – Stream On HBO Max
Perhaps one of the most romantic cheating movies features two characters who ultimately don’t end up having an affair. In the Mood for Love is a stylized romance movie that takes place in 1960s Shanghai, where two lonely neighbors realize their partners are cheating on them. The two end up falling in love with each other but decide against acting on their urges because they don’t want to stoop to the level of their adulterous partners.
Directed by acclaimed filmmaker Wong Kar-Wai, In the Mood for Love has been listed as one of the greatest films ever made, and he crafts a portrait of love and loneliness that audiences will remember long after viewing. Subverting all cheating wife movies and cheating husband movies, In the Mood For Love is more about the merits and pain of staying faithful rather than the consequences of adultery.
More: 10 Movies To Watch If You Love Stylized Romances Like In The Mood For Love