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Drop Dead Fred (1991)

PG-13 | | Comedy, Drama, Fantasy | 24 May 1991 (USA)
A young woman finds her already unstable life rocked by the presence of a rambunctious imaginary friend from childhood.


Ate de Jong (as Ate De Jong)
2,255 ( 36)

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A young woman who has experienced a series of unfortunate events is reunited with Fred, her imaginary friend from childhood, who promises to make her life better -- though his methods are more violent and abusive than anything.



Cast overview, first billed only:
Phoebe Cates ... Elizabeth 'Lizzie' Cronin
Rik Mayall ... Drop Dead Fred
Marsha Mason ... Polly Cronin
Tim Matheson ... Charles
Carrie Fisher ... Janie
Keith Charles Keith Charles ... Murray
Ashley Peldon ... Young Elizabeth
Daniel Gerroll ... Nigel Cronin
Ron Eldard ... Mickey Bunce
Eleanor Mondale ... Attractive Customer
Bob Reid Bob Reid ... Judge Dubben
Peter Thoemke ... Arsonist
Sjoukje De Jong Douma Sjoukje De Jong Douma ... Grandma Bunce
Paul Holmes Paul Holmes ... Man in Speedboat
Steve Cochran Steve Cochran ... Waiter #1


A young woman who's attempting to find her place in the world battles with her controlling mother and a womanizing husband finds comfort and confusion with the appearance of her childhood friend. It is a zappy movie that emphasizes self-actualization. Written by C. Marshall

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Unusual, Uncontrollable, Unleashed, Unreal See more »


Comedy | Drama | Fantasy


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »






Release Date:

24 May 1991 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Drop Dead Fred See more »


Box Office


$6,788,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Stereo



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Did You Know?


The mud pie that sprays mud on Charles' pants was controlled by compressed air tubes from underneath the table. At one point, something went wrong with the tubes resulting in mud spraying all over the crew and all over an uninsured prop painting that was worth $100,000. See more »


When the cereal box is knocked off the table it clearly spills corn flakes, but if you watch closely when the box is falling you will notice that the box says Wheaties. See more »


[first lines]
Polly: And the prince took the beautiful young girl in his arms and said, will you marry me? Yes, she whispered, I will be your princess.
Young Elizabeth: Did they live happily ever after?
Polly: Of course, Elizabeth.
[tucking her in]
Young Elizabeth: How do you know?
Polly: Because she was a good little girl. If she had been naughty, the prince would have run away.
Young Elizabeth: What a pile of shit!
See more »


Referenced in Clerks (1994) See more »

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User Reviews

Sweet Fantasy with a Beautiful Ending
29 August 2002 | by CleverTitaniaSee all my reviews

I originally saw this in my late teens. A few years ago, it started getting good play on cable, and I rediscovered this treasure.

I won't rehash the plot (you can read that on the main page), but the premise has a real interesting idea. What surprised me most by the other comments were things about Elizabeth's emotional state? She's not nuts, and she's not delusional. Just because her mother mistakes Fred for a psychological problem doesn't mean she's right. That's the whole point. While we might have some questions in the beginning, by the end it's quite clear that Fred is real. This is a fantasy after all.

Elizabeth is such a sweet child, it's just such a shame her father never gets a backbone to stand up to her mother. That's the one thing I didn't like about the story. It would seem her father simply abandoned them, which you simply wouldn't believe based on the sweet caring man they depict him to be. I've always adored Marsha Mason, and it was hard to see her as such a cold manipulative woman. You can see underneath, at least at the end, that she has her own issues that cause her to treat her daughter as an adversary. But it's hard to forgive.

Ryk Mayall is hilarious! He's an absolute gem, and I really wish we would see him in more mainstream movies so I could view his talent without video hunting. He is brilliant in the physical comedy, and a riot even when his jokes aren't all that funny. He also shows some really tender moments. He reminds you a touch of a teacher who really loves a student with emotionally inept parents. He's supposed to be showing her what's wrong with her life, making her wake up to the shell of a person she's become, but you can see what he really wants to do is hold her, kiss the top of her head, and tell her it'll all be alright and that (at least) he loves her.

Phoebe Cates turns in one of her best performances (second only to Shag). She plays the vulnerable young woman, who's been cowed by her mother and squashed by her husband, with realism and depth. You can understand her attachment to her philandering spouse (cleverly portrayed by Tim Matheson) when you recognize that she just desperately wants to be loved by someone. But after being; abandoned by her father (and seemingly Fred), emotionally battered by her mother, and losing her only other real friend (Ron Eldard is really charming in this bit) as a child; who wouldn't cling to any shred of love they can get?

While this movie is so funny and energetic, it's at the end it really pays off for the grown ups. Elizabeth comes to terms with the fact that her husband really doesn't care, that she can live her life without the approval or permission of her mother, and that she'll never really be happy until she regains the inner child her mother stole from her. The fantasy scene where Fred helps her step back and face all this is really interesting, I particularly LOVE the metaphor of unwrapping the young Elizabeth from the bed where she's trapped by the same masking tape her mother used to lock Fred in the Jack-in-the-Box. The final moment of Fred's departure, with a warm kiss and hug, is heartbreaking but fitting. And closing the film with Fred continuing his efforts by befriending Mickey's daughter proves the whole point, that Fred is very real and that the imaginary friends in this story have a real purpose. They are there to help children in need in the only way kids really can be helped, with fun.

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