The Neon Demon

The Neon Demon
The Neon Demon.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byNicolas Winding Refn
Produced by
Screenplay by
Story byNicolas Winding Refn
Music byCliff Martinez
CinematographyNatasha Braier
Edited byMatthew Newman
Distributed by
Release date
  • May 20, 2016 (2016-05-20) (Cannes)
  • June 8, 2016 (2016-06-08) (France)
  • June 9, 2016 (2016-06-09) (Denmark)
  • June 24, 2016 (2016-06-24) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes[1]
  • France
  • Denmark
  • United States
Budget$7 million[2]
Box office$3.4 million[3]

The Neon Demon is a 2016 psychological horror film[4] directed by Nicolas Winding Refn, co-written by Mary Laws, Polly Stenham, and Refn, and starring Elle Fanning. The plot follows an aspiring model in Los Angeles whose beauty and youth generate intense fascination and jealousy within the industry. Supporting roles are played by Karl Glusman, Jena Malone, Bella Heathcote, Abbey Lee, Desmond Harrington, Christina Hendricks, and Keanu Reeves.

An international co-production between France, Denmark, and the United States, the film competed for the Palme d'Or at the 2016 Cannes Film Festival,[5][6] the third consecutive film directed by Refn to do so, following Drive (2011) and Only God Forgives (2013). In the United States, the film was released theatrically on June 24, 2016 by Amazon Studios and Broad Green Pictures. It opened to polarized reviews, and ultimately grossed a little over $3 million against a $7 million budget.


Sixteen-year-old aspiring model Jesse has just moved from small-town Georgia to Los Angeles. She meets photographer Dean, who does her first shoot, and makeup artist Ruby, who introduces fellow older models Sarah and Gigi. The three women are intrigued by Jesse's natural beauty and curious about her sexual proclivities. Jesse feigns experience in the latter.

Jesse is signed by Roberta Hoffman, the owner of a modelling agency, who tells her to pretend she is nineteen and refers her to a test shoot with notable photographer Jack McCarther. Jesse goes on a date with Dean, but keeps his advances at bay. She returns to her motel room to find it ransacked and occupied by a mountain lion. Jesse goes to the photo shoot with Jack, who covers her naked body in gold paint. The shoot is successful, and Gigi and Sarah begin envying Jesse's youth, while Ruby is fascinated with her.

Jesse goes to a casting call for fashion designer Robert Sarno, where Sarah is also present. He pays no attention to Sarah but is entranced by Jesse. A distraught Sarah asks her how it feels to be the one everyone admires. Jesse admits, "It's everything." Sarah lunges toward her, and Jesse accidentally cuts her hand on glass. Sarah immediately sucks the blood from Jesse's hand. Jesse rushes back to her motel and faints, hallucinating strange images. Dean arrives and treats Jesse's wound.

At Sarno's fashion show, Gigi tells Jesse about all the cosmetic surgery she has had done, and expresses disbelief that Jesse has not used casting couches to achieve success. As Jesse is closing the show, she sees a vision of the glowing triangle she saw before in her hallucination. After the show, a visibly-changed Jesse goes out with Dean to a bar. There, Sarno denigrates women who have cosmetic surgery, using a humiliated Gigi as an example. In contrast, he praises Jesse's natural looks. Dean challenges this view and tries to convince Jesse to leave, but she rejects him, now displaying a narcissistic new persona.

Jesse has a nightmare of being forced by Hank, the lecherous motel owner, to sexually swallow a knife. She wakes up in time to hear someone fidgeting with her door lock. She quickly turns the lock, but is left to listen as the intruder breaks into the next room and assaults the female occupant. Terrified, she calls Ruby, who tells her to come over. Ruby tries to initiate sex with her, but Jesse rejects her, revealing herself to be a virgin. Ruby draws a lipstick face on Jesse's mirror, with its eyes crossed-out, and leaves for her second job as a makeup artist at a morgue, where she pleasures herself with a female corpse; meanwhile at the house, Jesse lounges on a couch before applying makeup and putting on a dress.

Ruby returns home and finds Jesse now unabashed in her narcissism. Sarah and Gigi appear at the house, and attack Jesse. Gigi chases her with a butcher knife, while Sarah pursues her with a fire-poker. The three women corner Jesse outside, where Ruby pushes her into an empty swimming pool, breaking her leg. As Jesse lies helpless, the three women approach her with knives. After they butcher Jesse and consume parts of her body, Ruby bathes in a bathtub of her blood, while Sarah and Gigi wash themselves with it in the shower. Later, Ruby sprays the sidewalk of Jesse's blood, and is revealed to have occult tattoos on her abdomen. She lies in Jesse's unmarked grave, and later, nude in her living room as a torrent of blood gushes from her genitals.

The next day, Sarah drives Gigi along the Pacific Coast Highway to one of Jack's photoshoots with another model named Annie. Jack wanders to the living room and is suddenly enthralled with Sarah and fires Annie on the spot. In the midst of the shoot, Gigi feels ill and leaves. Sarah watches Gigi vomit up one of Jesse's eyeballs. She screams with regret, "I need to get her out of me", and stabs herself with a pair of scissors. Sarah watches Gigi die, eats the regurgitated eyeball, and returns to the photoshoot.

Other Languages
العربية: شيطان النيون
Ελληνικά: The Neon Demon
español: The Neon Demon
français: The Neon Demon
italiano: The Neon Demon
Nederlands: The Neon Demon
polski: Neon Demon
português: The Neon Demon
Türkçe: Neon Şeytan
українська: Неоновий демон
Tiếng Việt: Ác quỷ sàn catwalk
粵語: 霓裳惡魔
中文: 霓虹惡魔