It was 1993’s Short Cuts that made Julianne Moore famous — both for her acting chops and the definitive proof she’s as naturally red as Che Guevara. But her role in that film — as the saucy, pants-averse Marian Wyman — was also a clue. The gist of Moore’s memorable scene was a pre-party fight with husband Matthew Modine. The argument? That Moore had potentially kissed another man. And thus began in earnest Moore’s two-tracked career: critically acclaimed performer and Hollywood’s go-to, gold star adulteress.
In her unprecedented two-decade run of cinematic cuckoldry, Moore has demonstrated true straying power, cheating on men and women, on the elderly and with twentysomethings. She’s had affairs with Oscar nominees and with the star of Police Academy 5, and shared forbidden French kisses in both English and Boston accents. At this point, her very presence in a movie alerts us to an unstable sexuality lurking just below the surface — or at least at the bottom of that extra glass of Chardonnay. She’s a marriage-wrecking, conflict-creating, ginger-haired Jezebel. If you want to make a winning movie about losing a relationship, the formula is simple: Julianne Moore has got to cheat.
And so, to celebrate the release of her latest film, Crazy, Stupid, Love., in which Moore kicks off the plot by confessing her infidelities (with Kevin Bacon, no less) to her husband, Steve Carell, we at Grantland have faithfully compiled the following list of Julianne Moore at her most unfaithful, rating each performance in cuckoldry horns.
The Hand That Rocks the Cradle (1992)
In her first major role, the 32-year-old Moore is underutilized as a close friend (and flame-haired former flame) of beleaguered father, Michael Bartel (Matt McCoy). While no actual cheating occurs, Moore’s simmering potential for sin is quickly realized by villainess Rebecca De Mornay who first tries to frame her for sleeping with Michael and then, when foiled, drops an entire glass building on her. Too bad for Rebecca: Moore was only getting warmed up.
Body of Evidence (1993)
In this unacclaimed, Razzie-nominated erotic thriller, Madonna simultaneously sunk her acting career while increasing national candle sales tenfold, thanks to her waxy on-screen dalliance with Willem Dafoe. But the film’s most egregious mistake was miscasting Moore as Dafoe’s cuckolded wife, making this the only known instance of Moore being cheated on. As if!
Boogie Nights (1997)
As ambisexual pornstar Amber Waves, Moore isn’t technically breaking any vows when she sleeps with half the San Fernando Valley. But one has to figure at least a couple dozen of the extras in the Brock Landers movies were hiding ring tan lines, right?
The End of the Affair (1999)
Now we’re cooking with gas! In this extremely rainy adaptation of the Graham Greene novel set in World War II-era London, Moore plays a married woman so irresistible that not even German bombs can keep Ralph Fiennes’s polite paws off of her.
No filmmaker alive can bring the breast, er, best out of Moore like Paul Thomas Anderson. In this three-hour epic of familial frenzy and falling frogs, she plays Linda, a remorseful adulteress, who does the very un-Moore-like thing of falling in love with her elderly, dying husband (Jason Robards) only after years of cheating on him. A nuanced performance to be sure but we have to dock points for Anderson’s head-scratching decision to set all the affairs offscreen. Having Julianne Moore on set and not having her at least hold hands with someone else’s husband is like asking Pavarotti to whistle.
Far From Heaven (2002)
In this excellent, Sirk-ian melodrama, Moore and husband Dennis Quaid have a seemingly perfect 1950s suburban life — which in short order comes crashing down when she begins to have impossible feelings for her African-American gardener while Quaid struggles with his even more impossible attraction to other men. The takeaway? In any era of American history, Moore is a greater threat to marital stability than a slutty Swedish au pair driving a midlife crisis mobile.
The Hours (2002)
Nicole Kidman’s nose may have stolen the headlines in this Oscar-baiting tale of three women living in different eras. But what we remember most is Moore’s stolen kiss with neighbor Toni Collette — a brazen move that leads to the dissolution of her unhappy marriage to John C. Reilly. It’s the sort of role Moore could play in her sleep, and the sort of film that puts us there, too.
Trust the Man (2006)
Not even Moore’s own real-life husband — to whom she’s been married for a by-all-accounts happy (and monogamous!) eight years — can ignore the all-world homewrecking skills of his wife. For his fourth film, Bart Freundlich cast the Mrs. as — what else? — a successful actress who is lecherously pursued by a hot younger castmate. All while her less-famous husband (David Duchovny) slaves away as an underappreciated stay-at-home dad. Nope, nothing to see here! Moving right along!
30 Rock (2009)
Clearly unsatisfied limiting her liaisons to the big screen, Moore took on a recurring guest role as Nancy Donovan, Jack Donaghy’s very Boston, very married former Russian conversation partner. Unsurprisingly, the character was written off just after unceremoniously wrecking her wedding vows with the same lusty abandon she used to wreck the English language.
Julianne Moore’s illicit smoldering has only improved with age, allowing her to wreck the families of a whole new generation of actors. In this preposterously pulpy thriller, Moore suspects her husband (Liam Neeson) of cheating on her (ha!). To get to the truth, she hires Amanda Seyfried’s hooker to proposition him (as you do) only to then sleep with Seyfried herself (as only she would do). Chaos and general defenestration ensue. Republicans would do well to note that the gravest threat to traditions in this country isn’t gay marriage, it’s the face of Talbots.
The Kids Are All Right (2010)
At at time when other masters might consider throwing in the towel — or at least wrapping it around themselves for modesty’s sake — Moore continues to innovate and impress in the field of adultery. She was rightfully Oscar-nominated for this dynamo performance as a woman who cheats on her wife (Annette Bening) with the sperm-donor father of her kids (Mark Ruffalo). Topical and tawdry? We salute you, Julianne Moore! It’s said that nobody likes a cheater. But whoever said that clearly never met you. Or was married to you in a film.
Andy Greenwald is an author and screenwriter in New York. He covers pop culture for Grantland. He has previously predicted the Oscars, solved the unemployment crisis among Harry Potter‘s supporting cast, and diagnosed Christopher Nolan with Batophobia