Ruthless People was a black comedy released in 1986. The movie starred Danny Devito as Sam Stone, Bette Midler as Barbara Stone, Judge Reinhold as Ken Kessler, and Helen Slater as Sandy Kessler. The movie was a hit with most critics, such as Roger Ebert, but not all critics. Regardless, the fans loved it, and the movie grossed over $70 million dollars in ticket sales.
In this movie, Sam Stone (Devito) is a man who will do anything for money. He hatches a plan to kill his wife, Barbara (Midler), to gain her family fortune and run off his mistress (Carol), who also has every intention of blackmailing Sam. Before he can put his plan in place, Barbara is kidnapped for a $500k ransom by the Kessler’s (Reinhold and Slater), and Sam, considering this to be a golden opportunity, goes about the business of disobeying the kidnappers at every turn, in hopes that they will kill her for him. When Carol realized Sam’s plans to kill his wife, she has her boyfriend wait to film Sam’s dumping of his wife’s body. Carol’s dimwitted boyfriend ends up taping a sex act between a prostitute and a John, and presuming the video was of the murder of Barbara, and without watching it, she sends it to Sam, who thinks it is a sex tape and a foreshadowing of his next encounter with Carol.
After Sam tells Carol he plans to do the same thing to her that was in the video, Carol sends the video to the police chief, who was the John in the video. Thinking it was blackmail, the chief asks for Carol’s demands, and she asked that Sam be arrested for Barbara’s death. Once Sam realizes that the police suspect him of murder, he tries everything he can to pay the ransom. However, Barbara has become friends with her kidnappers, and the trio decides to get even with Sam. Eventually they get their revenge on Sam, who ends up with nothing in the end.