Moulin Rouge!
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBaz Luhrmann
Written by
Produced by
CinematographyDonald M. McAlpine
Edited byJill Bilcock
Music byCraig Armstrong
Distributed by20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • 9 May 2001 (2001-05-09) (Cannes)[1]
  • 25 May 2001 (2001-05-25) (Australia)[1]
  • 1 June 2001 (2001-06-01) (United States)[2]
Running time
128 minutes[3]
Budget$50 million[5]
Box office$179.2 million[5]

Moulin Rouge! (/ˌmlæ̃ ˈrʒ/, French: [mulɛ̃ ʁuʒ][6]) is a 2001 jukebox musical romantic drama film directed, produced, and co-written by Baz Luhrmann. It follows an English poet, Christian, who falls in love with the star of the Moulin Rouge, cabaret actress and courtesan, Satine. The film uses the musical setting of the Montmartre Quarter of Paris and is the final part of Luhrmann's Red Curtain Trilogy, following Strictly Ballroom (1992) and Romeo + Juliet (1996). A co-production of Australia and the United States, it features an ensemble cast starring Nicole Kidman and Ewan McGregor, with Jim Broadbent, Richard Roxburgh, John Leguizamo, Jacek Koman, and Caroline O'Connor in supporting roles.

Moulin Rouge! premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival, where it competed for the Palme d'Or[7] and was released in theaters on 25 May 2001 in Australia and on 1 June 2001 in North America. The film was praised for Luhrmann's direction, the performances of the cast, its soundtrack, costume design, and production values. It was also a commercial success, grossing $179.2 million on a $50 million budget. At the 74th Academy Awards, the film received eight nominations, including Best Picture, and won two (Best Production Design and Best Costume Design). Later critical reception for Moulin Rouge! remained positive and has been considered by many to be one of the best films of all time, with it ranking 53rd in the BBC's 2016 poll of the 100 greatest films of the 21st century.[8][9] A stage musical adaptation premiered in 2018.



In 1900 in Paris, Christian, a young writer depressed about the recent death of the woman he loved, begins writing their story on his typewriter.

A year earlier in 1899, he arrives in the Montmartre district of Paris to join the Bohemian movement. He suddenly meets Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec and his troupe of performers who are writing a play called Spectacular Spectacular. After Christian helps them complete the play, they go to the Moulin Rouge where they hope Christian's talents will impress Satine, the star performer and courtesan, who will in turn convince Harold Zidler, the proprietor of the Moulin Rouge, to let Christian write the show. However, Zidler plans to have the wealthy, powerful and unscrupulous Duke of Monroth sleep with Satine in exchange for potential financing to convert the club into a theater.

That night, Satine mistakes Christian for the Duke and attempts to seduce him by dancing with him before retiring to her private chamber with him to discuss things privately, but eventually Christian reveals his true identity. After the Duke interrupts them, Satine claims that the two of them and the Bohemians were rehearsing Spectacular Spectacular. Aided by Zidler, Christian and the Bohemians improvise a story for the Duke about a beautiful Indian courtesan who falls in love with a poor sitar player she mistook for an evil maharaja. Approving the story, the Duke agrees to invest, but only if Satine and the Moulin Rouge are turned over to him. Later, Satine claims not to be in love with Christian, but he eventually wears down her resolve and they kiss.

During construction at the Moulin Rouge, Christian and Satine's love deepens while the Duke becomes frustrated with all the time he thinks Satine is spending with Christian working on the play. To calm him, Zidler arranges for Satine to spend the night with the Duke and angrily tells her to end their affair. She misses the dinner when she falls unconscious, leading a doctor to diagnose a fatal case of consumption. She does try to end things by telling Christian that their relationship is endangering the production, but Christian writes a secret song to include in the show that affirms their unending, passionate love.

At the final rehearsal, Nini, a can-can dancer jealous of Satine's popularity, hints to the Duke that the play represents the relationship between him, Christian, and Satine. Enraged, the Duke demands that the show ends with the courtesan marrying the maharaja, instead of Christian's ending where she marries the sitar player. Satine promises to spend the night with him after which they will decide on the ending. Ultimately, she fails to seduce the Duke due to her feelings for Christian, and Le Chocolat, one of the cabaret dancers, saves her from the Duke's attempt to rape her. Christian decides that he and Satine should leave the show behind and run away to be together while the Duke vows to kill Christian.

Zidler finds Satine in her dressing room packing. He tells her that her illness is fatal, that the Duke is planning on murdering Christian, and that if she wants Christian to live, she must cut him off completely and be with the Duke. Mustering all her acting abilities, she complies, leaving Christian devastated.

On the opening night of the show, in front of a full audience, Christian denounces Satine and vows to give her to the Duke before walking off the stage, but Toulouse-Lautrec cries out from the rafters, "The greatest thing you'll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return." This spurs Satine to sing their secret song, causing Christian to change his mind. After Zidler and the company thwart several attempts by the Duke and his bodyguard to kill Christian, the show ends with Christian and Satine proclaiming their love as the Duke permanently storms out of the cabaret. The audience erupts in applause, but Satine collapses after the curtains close. Before dying, she tells Christian to write their story so she will always be with him.

In the present, the Moulin Rouge has closed down and is in disrepair; Zidler, the Duke, the Diamond Dogs, and the Bohemians are gone; and Christian finishes his and Satine's story, declaring their love will live forever.





Writing and inspiration


Moulin Rouge! was influenced by an eclectic variety of comic and melodramatic musical sources, including the Hollywood musical, "vaudeville, cabaret culture, stage musicals, and operas." Its musical elements also allude to Luhrmann's earlier film Strictly Ballroom.[11]

Giacomo Puccini's opera La bohème, which Luhrmann directed at the Sydney Opera House in 1993, was a key source of the plot for Moulin Rouge!.[12] Further stylistic inspiration came from Luhrmann's encounter with Bollywood films during his visit to India while conducting research for his 1993 production of Benjamin Britten's opera A Midsummer Night's Dream.[13] According to Luhrmann:

. . . we went to this huge, ice cream picture palace to see a Bollywood movie. Here we were, with 2,000 Indians watching a film in Hindi, and there was the lowest possible comedy and then incredible drama and tragedy and then break out in songs. And it was three-and-a-half hours! We thought we had suddenly learnt Hindi, because we understood everything! We thought it was incredible. How involved the audience were. How uncool they were – how their coolness had been ripped aside and how they were united in this singular sharing of the story. The thrill of thinking, 'Could we ever do that in the West? Could we ever get past that cerebral cool and perceived cool.' It required this idea of comic-tragedy. Could you make those switches? Fine in Shakespeare – low comedy and then you die in five minutes. . . . In Moulin Rouge!, we went further. Our recognisable story, though Orphean in shape, is derived from Camille, La Boheme – whether you know those texts or not, you recognise those patterns and character types.[14]

In the DVD's audio commentary, Luhrmann revealed that he also drew from the Greek tragedy of Orpheus and Eurydice. The filmmakers projected the Orpheus figure onto Christian by characterizing the latter as a musical genius whose talent surpassed that of everyone else in his world. The film's use of songs from the mid- to late 20th century in the 1899 setting makes Christian appear ahead of his time as a musician and writer. Moulin Rouge!′s plot also parallels that of the myth: "McGregor, as a poet who spouts deathless verse . . . , descends into a hellish underworld of prostitution and musical entertainment in order to retrieve Kidman, the singing courtesan who loves him but is enslaved to a diabolical duke. He rescues her but looks back and . . . cue Queen's 'The Show Must Go On.'"[15]

Commentators have also noted the similarities between the film's plot and those of the opera La Traviata[16] and Émile Zola's novel Nana.[17] Other cinematic elements appear to have been borrowed from the musical films Cabaret,[18] Folies Bergère de Paris, and Meet Me in St. Louis.[19]

The character of Satine was based on the French can-can dancer Jane Avril.[20] The character of Harold Zidler shares his last name with Charles Zidler, one of the owners of the real Moulin Rouge. Satie was loosely based on the French composers Erik Satie and Maurice Ravel. Môme Fromage, Le Pétomane, and Le Chocolat share their names with performers at the actual cabaret. Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Rita Hayworth were cited as inspirations for the film's "look."[19]



Leonardo DiCaprio, who worked with Luhrmann on Romeo + Juliet, auditioned for the role of Christian.[21] Ethan Hawke also read for the role.[22] Luhrmann also considered younger actors for the role, including Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, before Ewan McGregor won the part. Courtney Love auditioned for the role of Satine and gave approval for "Smells Like Teen Spirit" to be used in the film.[23]



Production began on 9 November 1999 and was completed on 13 May 2000,[24][25] with a budget of $50 million.[5] It was shot on the sound stages at Fox Studios in Sydney.[26] Filming generally went smoothly, but Kidman broke her ribs twice when she was lifted into the air during the dance sequences. She also suffered from a torn knee cartilage resulting from a fall during the "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend" production song.[19] Kidman later stated in an interview with Graham Norton that she broke a rib while getting into a corset by tightening it as much as possible to achieve an 18-inch waist, and that she fell down the stairs while dancing in heels.[27] The production overran its shooting schedule and had to be out of the sound stages to make way for Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones (which also starred McGregor). This necessitated the filming of some pick-up shots in Madrid.[28][29]

In the liner notes to the film's Special Edition DVD, Luhrmann writes that "[the] whole stylistic premise has been to decode what the Moulin Rouge was to the audiences of 1899 and express that same thrill and excitement in a way to which contemporary movie-goers can relate."[30] Both Roger Ebert and The New York Times compared the film's editing and cinematography to that of a music video and noted its visual homage to early Technicolor films.[31][18]



Marsha Kinder describes Moulin Rouge! as a "brilliant," "celebratory," and "humorous" musical and aural pastiche due to its use of diverse songs.[32] Moulin Rouge! takes well-known popular music, mostly drawn from the MTV Generation, and juxtaposes it into a tale set in a turn-of-the-century Paris cabaret.[30] Kinder holds that keeping borrowed lyrics and melodies intact "makes it almost impossible for spectators to miss the poaching [of songs] (even if they cannot name the particular source)."[33]

The film uses so much popular music that it took Luhrmann two and a half years to secure the rights to all of the songs.[34] Some of the songs sampled include "Chamma Chamma" from the Hindi movie China Gate, Queen's "The Show Must Go On" (arranged in operatic format), David Bowie's rendition of Nat King Cole's "Nature Boy", "Lady Marmalade" by Labelle (in the Christina Aguilera/P!nk/Mýa/Lil' Kim cover commissioned for the film), Madonna's "Material Girl" and "Like a Virgin", Elton John's "Your Song", the titular number of The Sound of Music, "Roxanne" by The Police (in a tango format using the composition "Tanguera" by Mariano Mores), and "Smells Like Teen Spirit" by Nirvana.

Luhrmann had intended to incorporate songs by The Rolling Stones and Cat Stevens into the film, but could not obtain the necessary rights from these artists. When Stevens denied consent for the use of "Father and Son" due to religious objections to the film's content, "Nature Boy" was chosen as its replacement.[19]

Release and reception


Originally set for release on Christmas 2000, 20th Century Fox eventually moved the release of Moulin Rouge! to Summer 2001 to allow Luhrmann more time in post-production.[35][36] Moulin Rouge! premiered at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival on May 9, 2001, as the festival's opening title.[1]

Moulin Rouge! opened in the United States at two theaters in New York and Los Angeles on May 18, 2001.[1] It grossed US$167,540 on its opening weekend.[5][2] The film then expanded to a national release on June 1, 2001.[1] It generated $14.2 million, ranking in fourth place behind Pearl Harbor, Shrek and The Animal.[37] In the United Kingdom, Moulin Rouge! was the country's number one film for two weeks before being displaced by A.I. Artificial Intelligence.[38] During its fifth weekend, it reclaimed the number one spot.[39] The film remained so until it was dethroned by American Pie 2 in its sixth weekend.[40] Moulin Rouge! has grossed $57,386,369 in the United States and Canada and another $121,813,167 internationally[2] (including $26 million in the United Kingdom[41] and $3,878,504 in Australia[42]).

Moulin Rouge! received generally positive reviews from critics. Roger Ebert rated the film 3.5 stars out of 4, remarking that "the movie is all color and music, sound and motion, kinetic energy, broad strokes, operatic excess."[31] Newsweek praised McGregor's and Kidman's performances, stating that "both stars hurl themselves into the movie's reckless spirit, unafraid of looking foolish, adroitly attuned to Luhrmann's abrupt swings from farce to tragedy. (And both sing well.)"[43] The New York Times wrote that "the film is undeniably rousing, but there is not a single moment of organic excitement because Mr. Luhrmann is so busy splicing bits from other films" but conceded that "there's nothing else like it, and young audiences, especially girls, will feel as if they had found a movie that was calling them by name."[18] All Things Considered commented the film was "not gonna be for all tastes" and that "you either surrender to this sort of flamboyance or you experience it as overkill."[44][45]

Moulin Rouge! holds a rating of 66/100 at Metacritic based on 35 reviews.[46] At Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds a 75% "Fresh" approval rating based on 259 reviews, with an average score of 7.1/10. The website's critics' consensus reads: "A love-it-or-hate-it experience, Moulin Rouge is all style, all giddy, over-the-top spectacle. But it's also daring in its vision and wildly original."[47] In December 2001, the film was named the best film of the year by viewers of Film 2001.[48] Entertainment Weekly ranked it #6 on its list of the top ten movies of the decade, saying, "Baz Luhrmann's trippy pop culture pastiche from 2001 was an aesthetically arresting ode to poetry, passion, and Elton John. It was so good, we'll forgive him for Australia."[49][50] In 2008, Moulin Rouge! was ranked #211 on Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time.[51] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B+" on an A+ to F scale.[52]

Home Theater Forum rated the DVD release of Moulin Rouge! as the best DVD of 2001.[53] Luhrmann had hand-picked the features and behind-the scenes footage for the two-disc DVD edition.[54]





Scholarly commentators have interpreted Moulin Rouge! as an exemplary postmodern film, citing its methods of aesthetic expression, symbolism, and ties to both fine art and pop culture as evidence.[55][56] The film's music also contributes to its postmodern aesthetic. Notably, Moulin Rouge! combines mid-to-late 20th Century melodies and lyrics with a narrative set in fin de siècle France.[33] The use of famous popular songs in a new, original context requires audiences to reinterpret their significance within the framework of the narrative and challenge the assumption that music's symbolism is static.[57][58]

Moulin Rouge! also makes ample use of other postmodern filmmaking techniques, including fragmentation and juxtaposition. As the film's protagonist, Christian is the primary source of Moulin Rouge!'s story line and many portions of the story are told from his point of view. However, the narrative is fragmented on several occasions when the film deviates from Christian's perspective or integrates a flashback. Moulin Rouge! also juxtaposes a play-within-a-film (Spectacular Spectacular) with the film's events themselves to draw parallels between the plot of the play and the characters' lives. This culminates in the "Come What May" sequence, which reveals the development of Christian and Satine's relationship alongside the progression of Spectacular Spectacular's rehearsals.[59]

Postmodernism is also evident in Moulin Rouge!'s homage to Western musicals, Bollywood masala films, and music videos, as well as Luhrmann's film Strictly Ballroom.[60]

Feminist critique


It has been argued that, despite the film's postmodern stylings, Moulin Rouge! is not a feminist text because the death of its female protagonist (Satine) serves as a plot device that upholds patriarchical perspectives in storytelling.[61]



Moulin Rouge! received eight Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture and Best Actress (Nicole Kidman), winning in two categories for Best Art Direction and Best Costume Design. It became the first musical film to receive a coveted Best Picture nomination since Beauty and the Beast (1991).[62] Despite the film's overwhelming success, Baz Luhrmann was notably excluded from the Best Director lineup; commenting on this during the Oscar ceremony, host Whoopi Goldberg remarked, "I guess Moulin Rouge! just directed itself."[63] Additionally, the only original tune in the film, "Come What May" was disqualified from the Best Original Song consideration because it was originally intended, although unused, for Luhrmann's previous film Romeo + Juliet and not written expressly for Moulin Rouge!.[64] It tied with The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring for leading twelve nominations at the 55th British Academy Film Awards and resulted in three wins, including Best Actor in a Supporting Role (Jim Broadbent).[65] The musical also led the 59th Golden Globe Awards, alongside the drama A Beautiful Mind, each receiving six nominations; it won three, including Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy.[66]

Other notable ceremonies where it received much recognition included the American Film Institute Awards, the Australian Film Institute Awards, and the Satellite Awards. Various prestigious award bodies, such as the National Board of Review and the PGA Awards named it the best film of the year.

Award Category Subject Result Ref.
Academy Awards Best Picture Fred Baron, Martin Brown and Baz Luhrmann Nominated [67]
Best Actress Nicole Kidman Nominated
Best Art Direction Art Direction: Catherine Martin;
Set Decoration: Brigitte Broch
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie Won
Best Film Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated
Best Makeup Maurizio Silvi and Aldo Signoretti Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage and Guntis Sics Nominated
Australian Film Institute Awards Best Film Martin Brown, Fred Baron and Baz Luhrmann Nominated [68]
Best Direction Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role Ewan McGregor Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role Nicole Kidman Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Richard Roxburgh Nominated
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Won
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie Won
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Won
Best Production Design Catherine Martin Won
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Roger Savage and Guntis Sics Won
ACE Eddie Awards Best Edited Feature Film – Comedy or Musical Jill Bilcock Won [69]
British Academy Film Awards Best Film Fred Baron, Martin Brown and Baz Luhrmann Nominated [70]
Best Direction Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jim Broadbent Won
Best Original Screenplay Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce Nominated
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie Nominated
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated
Best Makeup and Hair Maurizio Silvi and Aldo Signoretti Nominated
Best Original Film Music Craig Armstrong and Marius De Vries Won
Best Production Design Catherine Martin Nominated
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage, Guntis Sics, Gareth Vanderhope and Antony Gray Won
Best Special Visual Effects Chris Godfrey, Andy Brown, Nathan McGuinness and Brian Cox Nominated
Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Baz Luhrmann Nominated [7]
Golden Globe Awards Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy Fred Baron, Martin Brown and Baz Luhrmann Won [71]
Best Director - Motion Picture Baz Luhrmann Nominated
Best Actor - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Ewan McGregor Nominated
Best Actress - Motion Picture Musical or Comedy Nicole Kidman Won
Best Original Score Craig Armstrong Won
Best Original Song David Baerwald (music & lyrics) for "Come What May" Nominated
Grammy Awards Best Compilation Soundtrack for Visual Media Marius De Vries, Baz Luhrmann and Anton Monsted Nominated [72]
National Board of Review Awards Best Film Baz Luhrmann Won [73]
Producers Guild of America Awards Best Theatrical Motion Picture Fred Baron, Martin Brown and Baz Luhrmann Won [74]
Satellite Awards Best Film - Comedy or Musical Moulin Rouge! Won [75]
Best Director Baz Luhrmann Won
Best Actor - Comedy or Musical Ewan McGregor Won
Best Actress - Comedy or Musical Nicole Kidman Won
Best Supporting Actor - Comedy or Musical Jim Broadbent Won
Best Original Screenplay Baz Luhrmann and Craig Pearce Nominated [76]
Best Art Direction and Production Design Annie Beauchamp, Catherine Martin and Ian Gracie Won [75]
Best Cinematography Donald McAlpine Nominated [76]
Best Costume Design Catherine Martin and Angus Strathie Won [75]
Best Editing Jill Bilcock Nominated [76]
Best Original Score Craig Armstrong Won [75]
Best Original Song David Baerwald for "Come What May" Nominated [76]
Best Sound Andy Nelson, Anna Behlmer, Roger Savage and Guntis Sics Nominated
Best Visual Effects Chris Godfrey Nominated

American Film Institute recognition



Musical numbers


Music sources

Elephant Love Medley

Jamie Allen contributes additional vocals to the "Elephant Love Medley".[79] "Love Is Like Oxygen" and "Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing" are only spoken dialogue; they are not actually sung in the medley.

"Your Song" is performed by Ewan McGregor and Alessandro Safina, who contributes additional lyrics in Italian.[79]

Two soundtrack albums were released, with the second coming after the first one's massive success. The first volume featured the smash hit single "Lady Marmalade", performed by Christina Aguilera, Lil' Kim, Mýa and Pink. The first soundtrack, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, was released on 8 May 2001,[80] with the second, Moulin Rouge! Music from Baz Luhrmann's Film, Vol. 2, following on 26 February 2002.[81]

Stage adaptation


As early as November 2002, Luhrmann revealed that he intended to adapt Moulin Rouge! into a stage musical. A Las Vegas casino was the reputed site of the proposed show.[82] Luhrmann was said to have asked both Kidman and McGregor to reprise their starring roles in the potential stage version.[83]

In 2008, a stage adaptation entitled La Belle Bizarre du Moulin Rouge ("The Bizarre Beauty of the Moulin Rouge") toured Germany and produced a cast recording.[84]

In 2016, it was announced that Global Creatures was developing Moulin Rouge! into a stage musical. Alex Timbers was slated to direct the production, and John Logan was tapped to write the book.[85] Moulin Rouge!: The Musical, starring Aaron Tveit as Christian and Karen Olivo as Satine, premiered on 10 July 2018 at the Colonial Theatre in Boston.[86] The Broadway production opened at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre on 25 July 2019.[87] In February 2024, Boy George, Derek Klena, and Courtney Reed were playing the roles of Zidler, Christian, and Satine, respectively.[88]


The 2002 made-for-television movie, It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie, features a Christmas-themed parody entitled "Moulin Scrooge", in which various scenes and musical numbers are re-enacted by Muppets.[89] In Moulin Scrooge, Christian is played by Kermit the Frog, Satine (named Saltine) by Miss Piggy, Toulouse-Lautrec by Gonzo and Zidler by Fozzie Bear.[90]

The music video for Mr. Brightside was inspired by the film.[91]

In the 2017–18 figure skating season, at the 2018 Winter Olympics, Canadian skaters Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir performed two selections from Moulin Rouge!, interpreting the story of Christian and Satine through "The Show Must Go On", "El Tango de Roxanne", and "Come What May". Their performance won the gold medal in the team and the individual events.[92] At this event, Virtue and Moir became the most decorated skaters of all time.[93]

See also



  1. ^ Though this character does not spend his entire time on screen unconscious and instead displays symptoms that are more closely associated with narcolepsy, the film and its credits refer to this character as The Unconscious Argentinean.[10]


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