Endless Love is a 1981 American romantic drama film based on Scott Spencer's 1979 novel of the same name.

It was directed by Franco Zeffirelli & starred Brooke Shields, Martin Hewitt, Shirley Knight, Don Murray, James Spader, Richard Kiley and Tom Cruise (in his film debut).


Spoiler warning: The following contains plot details about
the entire movie.

In suburban Chicago, teenagers Jade Butterfield and David Axelrod fall in love after they are introduced by Jade's brother Keith. Jade's family is known in their community for a bohemian lifestyle, allowing them to develop an all-consuming and passionate relationship; including allowing the two to make love in Jade's bedroom. In contrast to the openness of her family, David's home life is dull; his parents are wealthy political activists who have little interest in their son's life.

One night, Jade's mother Ann sneaks downstairs, and upon seeing Jade and David make love by the fireplace, starts living through them vicariously. However, Jade's father, Hugh watches the couple with increasing unease.

Jade's nightly trysts begin negatively impacting her grades and her ability to sleep. She attempts to steal one of her father's prescription sleeping pills but is caught in the act. This is the last straw for Hugh and he insists David stop seeing Jade until the end of the school term in 30 days. Although David initially causes a scene, Ann gently coaxes him into agreeing, telling him not to let Hugh "do something he'll regret".

Back at school, David's friend Billy tells him that when he was eight years old he tried burning a pile of newspapers and after he became scared, put the fire out, only to find his parents think he was a hero for saving the house from burning.

Inspired by this story, David starts a fire on the Butterfields' front porch and walks away briefly but by the time he returns, the flame has spread too far. He rushes to warn the family but he is too late, the entire house is lost.

Following the trial, David is convicted of second-degree arson, sentenced to five years probation, sent to a mental hospital for evaluation, and is forbidden from ever going near Jade or her family again. Nevertheless, he continues to write daily, but his letters are not sent due to the court order to not contact Jade. His parents pull strings to have him released early, much to Hugh's chagrin.

David receives his many letters upon his exit, and upon realizing why Jade never wrote back, decides to pursue her even though he knows full well that it will violate his parole. In the meantime, following the loss of their home, the Butterfield family has moved from Chicago to Manhattan, and Ann and Hugh divorce.

In Manhattan, Ann tries to seduce David, but he refuses which leaves her rather nonplussed. When Ann isn't looking, David thumbs through her address book to see where Jade is. On his way over, Hugh sees David on the street and while chasing him, is hit by a car and killed. Hugh's new wife Ingrid Orchester, catches up to the scene just in time to witness David flee.

Later, Jade goes to David's apartment to say goodbye but he pulls her back as she tries to leave, throwing her on the bed and forcefully holding her down until she admits she loves him which she eventually does. Keith comes home to find the pair together again and angrily informs Jade that David is at fault for their father's death.

Jade refuses to believe it at first but when David confirms it she becomes horrified and hides behind Keith, whom David then shoves out of the way in a desperate bid to grab her. Keith fights him off until the police arrive and arrest David.

Sentenced to prison, David seems doomed never to see Jade again. Jade tells her mother at her father's lakeside funeral that no one will ever love her the way David does, and Ann speaks her understanding and approval.

The final scene shows David watching Jade walk towards him through his barred cell window.


  • Brooke Shields as Jade Butterfield
  • Martin Hewitt as David Axelrod
  • Shirley Knight as Ann Butterfield
  • Don Murray as Hugh Butterfield
  • Richard Kiley as Arthur Axelrod
  • Beatrice Straight as Rose Axelrod
  • James Spader as Keith Butterfield
  • Ian Ziering as Sammy Butterfield
  • Penelope Milford as Ingrid Orchester
  • Tom Cruise as Billy
  • Jami Gertz as Patty
  • Jeff Marcus as Leonard
  • Walt Gorney as Passerby


"Endless Love" was filmed in Chicago, New York City and Long Island, New York. It was originally given a "X" rating and then an "R" rating, but the film was re-edited to earn a "PG" ratiing.

At first, Brooke Shields' mother\manager, Teri Shields almost turned down the film after she read the script because she felt that the character of Jade Butterfield had no substance and thought that the movie was going to be just Brooke standing around & looking beautiful.

Co-star Shirley Knight begged Franco Zeffirelli to cast other actresses (such as Linda Blair, Debra Winger, Rosanna Arquette, Jennifer Jason Leigh or Michelle Pfieffer) for the role of Jade Butterfield because she felt that Brooke Shields didn't have the right talent for the part.

During the lovemaking scene, Franco Zeffirelli squeezed Brooke Shields' big toe off-screen to provoke a reaction that would look like her character was having an orgasm.

The film was also noted to have one of the most spectacular one-man stunt displays when Hugh Butterfield gets hit by a car in New York City & the stuntman does a high end-over-end flip in mid-air.


Box OfficeEdit

"Endless Love" grossed $4,163,623 during its opening weekend.

Worldwide, the film grossed $32,492,674 and domestically, the film grossed $31,184,024.

Critical ReceptionEdit

"Endless Love" was panned by numerous critics for poorly handling the source material as well as glorifying what audiences saw as an unhealthy, damaging relationship.

Leonard Maltin called it "a textbook example of how to do everything wrong in a literary adaptation ... Scott Spencer's deservedly-praised novel is thoroughly trashed".

In 2014, Scott Spencer (the author of the novel on which the film was based) wrote, "I was frankly surprised that something so tepid and conventional could have been fashioned from my slightly unhinged novel about the glorious destructive violence of erotic obsession".

In 2014, Spencer described the film as a "botched" job and wrote that Franco Zeffirelli "egregiously and ridiculously misunderstood" the novel.

Roger Ebert gave the film two stars, saying, "Although there are a great many things wrong with the movie, this blunder on the narrative level is the worst".


1982 Academy Awards

  • Best Music, Original Song: Lionel Richie (for the song "Endless Love") (nominated)

1982 Golden Globes Awards

  • Best Original Song- Motion Picture: Lionel Richie (for the song "Endless Love") (nominated)

1991 ASCAP Film and Television Music Awards

  • Most Performed Feature Film Standards: Lionel Richie (for the song "Endless Love") (won)

1982 American Movie Awards

  • Marquee for "Best Original Song" (for "Endless Love") (won)

1982 Razzie Awards

  • Worst Picture: Dyson Lovell (nominated)
  • Worst Actress: Brooke Shields (nominated)
  • Worst Supporting Actress: Shirley Knight (nominated)
  • Worst Director: Franco Zeffirelli (nominated)
  • Worst Screenplay: Judith Rascoe (nominated)
  • Worst New Star: Martin Hewitt (nominated)

The Stinkers Bad Movie Awards (1981)

  • Worst Picture: Keith Barish & Dyson Lovell (nominated)
  • Worst Actress: Brooke Shields (nominated)
  • Worst Sense of Direction: Franco Zeffirelli (nominated)
  • Worst On-Screen Couple: Martin Hewitt, Brooke Shields, Shirley Knight (nominated) [Martin Hewitt and either Brooke Shields or Shirley Knight]

Young Artist Awards

  • Martin Hewitt: Best Young Motion Picture Actor (nominated)
  • Brooke Shields: Best Young Motion Picture Actress (nominated)
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