Less Than Zero (film)

Less Than Zero
Less than zero 1987 poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byMarek Kanievska
Produced byJon Avnet
Jordan Kerner
Marvin Worth
Screenplay byHarley Peyton
Based onLess Than Zero
by Bret Easton Ellis
Music byThomas Newman
CinematographyEdward Lachman
Edited byPeter E. Berger
Michael Tronick
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release date
  • November 6, 1987 (1987-11-06)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$8 million
Box office$12.4 million[1]

Less Than Zero is a 1987 American drama film very loosely based on Bret Easton Ellis' novel of the same name. The film stars Andrew McCarthy as Clay, a college freshman returning home for Christmas to spend time with his ex-girlfriend Blair (Jami Gertz) and his friend Julian (Robert Downey Jr.), who is also a drug addict. The film presents a look at the culture of wealthy, decadent youth in Los Angeles.

Less Than Zero received mixed reviews among critics. Ellis hated the film initially but his view of it later softened. He insists that the film bears no resemblance to his novel and felt that it was miscast with the exceptions of Downey and James Spader.


Clay Easton (Andrew McCarthy) is a straitlaced college freshman on the East Coast of the United States, who returns home to Los Angeles, California, for Christmas to find things very different from the way he left them. His high school girlfriend and now model, Blair (Jami Gertz), has become addicted to cocaine and has been having sex with his high school best friend, Julian Wells (Robert Downey Jr.). Julian, whose life has gone downhill after his startup record company fell apart, has become a drug addict. He has also been cut off by his family for stealing to support his habit and reduced to homelessness. Julian is also being hassled by his dealer, an old classmate named Rip (James Spader), for a debt of $50,000 that he owes to him.

Clay's relationship with Blair rekindles and Julian's behavior becomes more volatile. His addiction is worsening and since he does not have the money to pay off his debt, Rip forces him to become a prostitute to work off the debt. After suffering through a night of withdrawal and hiding from Rip, Julian decides to quit and begs his father (Nicholas Pryor) to help him. The next day, Julian tells Rip his plans for sobriety, which Rip does not accept. Rip soon lures Julian bing]] him out at a Christmas party for affluent gay men in Palm Springs. Clay finds Julian and rescues him; after a violent confrontation with Rip and his henchman, Clay, Julian and Blair all escape and begin the long drive through the desert so Julian can attempt to achieve sobriety once and for all. However, the damage has already been done; the next morning Julian dies from heart failure in the car.

After Julian's funeral, Clay and Blair are sitting on a cemetery bench reminiscing about him. Clay then tells Blair, that he is returning to the East Coast and wants her to go with him. She agrees to his offer. The film ends with a snapshot of the three of them at graduation.