The Box
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The Box is a 2009 American psychological thriller film written and directed by Richard Kelly. It is based on the 1970 short story Button, Button by Richard Matheson, which was previously adapted into an episode of The Twilight Zone. The film stars Cameron Diaz and James Marsden as a couple who receive a box from a mysterious man (played by Frank Langella) who offers them one million dollars if they press the button sealed within the dome on top of the box, but tells them that, once the button has been pushed, someone they do not know will die.


In December 1976, financially desperate NASA engineer Arthur Lewis and his wife Norma find a package on their doorstep, containing a wooden box with a large red button. The mysterious and disfigured Mr. Steward arrives to deliver the key to unlock the button, and tells Norma that if the button is pushed, she will receive $1 million in cash, but someone she does not know will die. He gives her $100 for allowing him to enter the house and voice his deal, and leaves.

Norma and Arthur argue over Steward s offer, complicated by the news that their son Walter s private school, where Norma teaches, will no longer provide a discount for his tuition. They open the box to discover it is just a bunch of wood , and Arthur chastises Norma for her fear, but no decision is made before they go to sleep.

They discuss the matter further in the morning, and after work, Arthur reveals that the hundred dollar bill is real. After further discussion, Norma impulsively pushes the button, whispering It s just a box . It is revealed that someone is shot, and the gunman ran from the scene with a briefcase. Mr. Steward arrives and presents Arthur and Norma with the $1 million, assuring them that someone did indeed die as a result of their actions, and that the same offer will be presented to someone else they do not know. Arthur attempts to return the money, but Steward declines, stating that he can do nothing because the button has been pressed .

The police treat the murder as a domestic homicide, and it is discovered that the husband of the woman who was shot is a colleague of Arthur s. NASA chief Martin Teague and Norm Cahill, Arthur s boss, discuss Cahill s missing colleague, Arlington Steward. The chief tells Cahill that Steward became something else after being killed by lightning, shortly after NASA received the first photograph transmitted by the Viking 1 Mars lander in July 1976.

Arthur and Norma become plagued by seemingly supernatural happenings and are visited by others who fell victim to the box, pressing the button and suffering the same fate as the Lewis family. It is revealed that Steward has been collaborating with a group of benefactors, using the box to decide whether the human race is worth preserving.

After several paranormal incursions, Steward returns to the Lewis home and informs them that Walter, earlier kidnapped by unknown assailants, is locked in the family s bathroom upstairs and has been stricken blind and deaf. Steward laments that he had hoped the family would not succumb to the temptation of the money, and delivers a final ultimatum: They may keep the money and live out their lives with their disabled son, or Arthur can kill Norma, thereby restoring Walter s sight and hearing, with the million dollars placed in a high-interest account available to him when he turns 18. Steward refuses Norma s proposal to kill herself. Arthur contemplates killing Steward, but Steward warns him he will be charged with the murder, his son s condition will remain, and the family will be left with nothing. Steward departs, and Arthur realizes the choice to push the button has placed the family in purgatory. Norma, wanting her son to live his life without disability, asks Arthur to kill her, and after a long goodbye, he reluctantly agrees but cannot bring himself to pull the trigger.

Another couple is offered the same box. They also decide to press the button; at the same time, Arthur shoots Norma while embracing her, and Walter is healed from his condition. It is implied that this mysterious offer will continue among other couples in the future.


  • Cameron Diaz as Norma Lewis
  • James Marsden as Arthur Lewis
  • Frank Langella as Arlington Steward
  • James Rebhorn as Norm Cahill
  • Holmes Osborne as Dick Burns
  • Sam Oz Stone as Walter Lewis
  • Gillian Jacobs as Dana / Sarah Matthews
  • Celia Weston as Lana Burns
  • Deborah Rush as Clymene Steward
  • Lisa K. Wyatt as Rhonda Martin
  • Mark Cartier as Martin Teague
  • Kevin Robertson as Wendell Matheson
  • Michele Durrett as Rebecca Matheson
  • Ian Kahn as Vick Brenner
  • John Magaro as Charles
  • Ryan Woodle as Jeffrey Carnes


Director Richard Kelly wrote a script based on the 1970 short story Button, Button by author Richard Matheson, which had previously been turned into a Twilight Zone episode of the same name. The project had a budget of over $30 million provided by Media Rights Capital. Kelly described his intent for the film, My hope is to make a film that is incredibly suspenseful and broadly commercial, while still retaining my artistic sensibility. Actress Cameron Diaz was cast in the lead role in June 2007.

Most of the filming took place in the Boston, Massachusetts area, with scenes shot in downtown Boston, South Boston, Waltham, Ipswich, Winthrop, Milton, Medfield, Quincy, Kingston, and North Andover, as well as other localities. Some filming took place on the Milton Academy campus and at Boston Public Library. A large indoor set was built inside a former Lucent Technologies building in North Andover to recreate a NASA laboratory. The production crew also journeyed to NASA s Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia, to shoot a number of scenes for the film. Richard Kelly s father had worked at NASA Langley in the 1970s and 80s.

Filming also took place in Richmond, Virginia, including overhead shots of the city, including 95 South passing the train station. Many background extras were reused in different scenes, and people with period-correct 60s and 70s cars were encouraged to participate. Arlington Steward s car, in particular, is a Buick Electra, although characters in the movie refer to it as Lincoln Town Car (an entirely different car model, which was not yet in production at the time the movie is set).

Actor Frank Langella was cast in October 2007, and production began on the film the following month. Prior to production, actor James Marsden was cast a lead role opposite Diaz. Production concluded by February 2008. It was the second time Marsden and Langella worked together, the first being Superman Returns and re-teaming again in Robot & Frank.


In December 2008, it was announced that Win Butler and Regine Chassagne of Canadian band Arcade Fire, and Owen Pallett provided an original score for the film. Butler, Chassagne, and Pallett helped Kelly during the editing process by advising his decisions. Butler, Chassagne, and Pallett had planned on releasing the soundtrack after Arcade Fire s third album release in August 2010, but as of 2021, the soundtrack is still unavailable.


The film was first released in Australia on October 29, 2009. While it was originally scheduled to be released in the U.S. on October 30, 2009, on July 31, 2009, it was announced the release date would be delayed to November 6, 2009.

The film opened with $7,571,417 in 2,635 theaters at an average of $2,873 per theater. It ranked number 6 at the box office coming in behind the newly released Disney s A Christmas Carol, The Men Who Stare at Goats, and The Fourth Kind. The film went on to gross $15,051,977 domestically and $32,924,206 worldwide.

It was released on DVD, Blu-ray and digital download in the U.S. on February 23, 2010.


Review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reports that 44% of 153 critics have given the film a positive review, and the average rating is 5.1 out of 10. The site s consensus is that Imaginative but often preposterous, The Box features some thrills but largely feels too piecemeal. Metacritic, which assigns a rating out of 100 to reviews from film critics, has a score of 47 based on 24 reviews. Audiences polled by CinemaScore on opening day gave the film an F, for which CinemaScore President Ed Mintz blamed the film s ending and was quoted as saying People really thought this was a stinker. As of April 2020, it is one of only 22 films to receive such a rating.

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave the film three out of four stars and wrote: This movie kept me involved and intrigued, and for that I m grateful. Jordan Mintzer of Variety wrote: Kelly s trademark mix of sci-fi, surrealism and suburbia occasionally entertains. Keith Uhlich of Time Out New York named The Box the ninth-best film of 2009, calling it a defiantly personal project that solidifies writer-director Richard Kelly s talent, even as it surely pushes him further toward the filmmaking fringe.


The film was nominated at the 8th Visual Effects Society Awards in the category of Outstanding Supporting Visual Effects in a Feature Motion Picture but lost to Sherlock Holmes.

Year 2009
ReleaseDate 2009-11-06
RuntimeMins 115
RuntimeStr 1h 55min
Plot A small wooden box arrives on the doorstep of a married couple, who know that opening it will grant them a million dollars and kill someone they don’t know.
Awards Awards, 6 nominations
Directors Richard Kelly
Writers Richard Kelly, Richard Matheson
Stars Cameron Diaz, James Marsden, Frank Langella
Produced by Sue Baden-Powell, Terry Dougas, Ted Field, Edward H. Hamm Jr., Paris Kassidokostas-Latsis, Richard Kelly, Dan Lin, Sean McKittrick
Music by Win Butler, Régine Chassagne, Owen Pallett
Cinematography by Steven Poster
Film Editing by Sam Bauer
Casting By Suzanne Crowley, Venus Kanani, Mary Vernieu
Production Design by Alec Hammond
Art Direction by Priscilla Elliott
Set Decoration by Tracey A. Doyle
Costume Design by April Ferry
Makeup Department Marleen Alter, Coni Andress, Elizabeth Cecchini, Jerry DeCarlo, Paula Dion, Anna Fleiner, Robin Fredriksz, Louis Lazzara, Craig Lyman, Jennifer McCollom, Sandra S. Orsolyak, Nichole Pleau, Sara Seidman Vance, Lona Vigi, Jason Willis
Production Management Sue Baden-Powell, Wendy Cox, Ilyse Reutlinger
Second Unit Director or Assistant Director Crisoforo Aguilar, Jason Altieri, Dieter Busch, Mark Carter
Art Department Bobby Anderson, Joseph Barillaro, Joe Barry, Jamie Bishop, Richard Blankenship, David Henry Buck, Brian Buckley, Rachel Burgio, Jason Case, Christina Chandler, Danica Chipman, Sarah Crall, Roger Danchik, Cosmas A. Demetriou, Noah Dubreuil, Andrew Garcia-Price, Steve George, Zack Gorman, Donovan Greer, Jane Gulick, Mary Hopkins, J.M. Hunter, Eric Jerman, Dan Joy, Lance Littlefield, Dave Major, Etienne Martine, Brian McKenzie, Lisa Nagid, Katrina Parsons, Jeremy M. Pereira, Beth Petty, John Pungitore, James Reitz, Jim Reitz, Isabel Riley, Catherine Rooney, David Rotondo, John Ryder, Richard Salinas, Shauna Sanchez, Robert Schleinig, Michelle Sherwood, Rae Signer, Nathan Smith, Tom Sola, Katie Tower, Peter Wilcox, Peiyi Amelia Wong, Joshua Barnatt, John D. Bert, Aimee Butterfield, Jessica Case, Andréa Dawson, Joe Gagnepain, Leighanne Haddock, Keith S. Jackson, Rick Reeder, Peter Rippe
Sound Department Daniel Brennan, William Britt, Scott Cannizzaro, Roberto Cappannelli, Rich Crescenti, Jenna Dalla Riva, Chris David, Brian Dunlop, Christopher Eakins, David Esparza, Alan Freedman, Marshall Garlington, Brooke Graeff, Jack Heeren, Rick Hernandez, Kevin Jette, Goro Koyama, Travis MacKay, Andy Malcolm, Aurélien Mauro, Douglas Murray, Beauxregard Neylen, Kevin S. Parker, Jan Petrov, Joel Reidy, Brian Seagrave, Gabriel J. Serrano, Eric Thompson, Callie Thurman, Paul Tirone, Lisa Varetakis, Don White, Tom Williams
Special Effects by Christian Beckman, Judson Bell, Alfredo Cairo, James Champoux, Jeremy Dominick, Phil H. Fravel, David Hill, Gregory Morell, William Purcell, Morgan McMath Rogers, John Ruggieri, Kenneth Salter, Jay Cail Stone, Peter Rippe
Visual Effects by Ian T. Barbella, Patrick J. Barry, Mannix Bennett, Jonathan Bird, Francis L. Camacho, Ray Chang, Chris Christman, David Cole, Shane Cook, Sean Coonce, Donnie Creighton, Sean Cushing, Peter Beak Cvijanovic, Raffael Dickreuter, Megan Dolman, Jay Frankenberger, Philip Fraschetti, Mike Gajga, Brad Gayo, Brian Genna, Joanna N. Goslicka, Eddie Gutierrez, Ryan Helsley, Dylan Highsmith, Kevin Hoppe, Ben Howard, Josiah Holmes Howison, Jan Huybrechs, Christopher Ide, Sadie D. Johnson, Michael Kennen, Thomas Kernan, Nineli Khanian, Ji Young Gina Kim, Mark Kolpack, Hima Kumar, Gary Laurie, Satheesh Manimaran, Alex Marin, Damian McDonnell, Scott McGinley, Mahito Mizobuchi, Emmi Nakagawa, Anita Naufal, Pouyan Navid, Andrea Paolino, Andrey Pavlovskiy, James Polk, Krishna Prasad, Raphael Protti, Karthik Ramasamy, Karthic Ramesh, Anita Razzano, Ryan Reeb, Eric S. Rosenthal, Rick Sander, Tanissa Potrovitza Schoen, Rene Segura, Kent Seki, Reina Sparks, Olcun Tan, Thomas Tannenberger, Rodrigo Teixeira, Cameron Thomas, Sherman Toy, Guerdon Trueblood, Andres Vitale, Diana Marie Wells, Shane Christopher Wicklund, Jason Wilson, Bob Froehlig, Tony Lupoi
Stunts Danny Aiello III, Blaise Corrigan, Jeffrey Lee Gibson, Paul Marini, Kimberly Shannon Murphy, Brieann Rich, Nicholas Rich, Kid Richmond, Steven Ritzi, Aaron Vexler, Robert Wiley
Camera and Electrical Department Darlene Anastas, Beth Anderson, Robert Beinhocker, Andrew Bell, Carlos Bermudez, Peter Boynton, Ray Brown, Al Bruce, Jan Burgess, Rick Cardillo, Mark J. Casey, Derek Contrado, Doug Cordonier, Austin Cross, Joshua Cross, Peter D Angelo, Geoff Dann, Scott D. Davis, John S. DeSimone, Michael DiIeso, James Dombey, Thomas Doran, Tim Driscoll, Brian Dwiggins, Michael Dynice, Eric Engler, Patrick D. Fields, Jamie Fitzpatrick, Alan Gitlin, David Shane Guild, Terrence Hayes, Dan Hutchinson, Jason Jaeger, John R. Kaplan, Jay Kemp, Zachary K. Lazar, Jody Miller, James R. Mitchell, Chris Nickerson, Heather Norton, Tracy Ouellette, James H. Pair III, Michael Peterson, Jason Petty, Josh Pressey, Dave Provenzano, James A. Ray, Michael E. Reynolds, Michael Rich, Dale Robinette, Edwin Rubio, Chuck Rudolph, Dave Rudolph, Patrick Shelby, Chris Silano, Liz Silver, Wayne Simpson, Benny Smyth, Robert Spencer, Julian Sternthal, Hektor Stockton, Jeff Tanger, Darrell Temple, Christopher A. Thompson, Travis Trudell, Aaron Tyburski, Carl A. Vidnic, Tim Wicks, Christine Willard, Greg Wimer, Elan Yaari, Fred Young
Casting Department Matt Bouldry, Shannon Cain, Peter Dudgeon, Lindsay Graham, Henry Jaderlund, Jessica Kelly, Marisa Kushner, Carolyn Pickman, Georgia Simon
Costume and Wardrobe Department Donna Berwick, Susanna Brown, Laurie Buehler, Michael Burke, Elizabeth Clifford, Carrie Davis, Hillary Derby, Sheila Grover, Lee Harris, Virginia Johnson, Alexandra Krost, Leonard Logsdail, Clinton E. O Dell, Maggie Ronck, Barbara Dalton Rotundo, Dana Schaefer, Tina Ulee
Editorial Department Patrick J. Barry, Rick Beausoleil, David Cole, Donnie Creighton, Julie Dole, Ryan Helsley, Nancy Jundi, Janssen Riofrir, Darrin Roberts, Valance Eisleben
Location Management Jeff Dionne, Dave Ozug, Joe Piasecki, Christopher Plummer, Luke Ramsey, Isaac Moses Regelson, Tom Trigo
Music Department Nino Centurion, Markus Dravs, John Marshman, Christopher T. Mollere, Owen Pallett, Carter Armstrong
Script and Continuity Department Maxine Bergen
Transportation Department David O. Ang, Jon Campagna, James Divito, Kris Golashesky, Teresa Haney, Jacqueline L. Hurd, Billy Kane, Tom Mawyer, Dave Winair
Additional Crew John Albrecht, Natalia Anderson, Natalie Angel, Julian Barnett, Catherine Burt, Jennifer Bydwell, Gary Chandler, Jeff Culotta, Ramses del Hierro, Judy Dickerson, Kimbette Fenol, Ethan Fox, Christina Garnett, Stephen Gilchrist, Ali Glasser, Elizabeth Ridley Hagan, Julie Hansen, Hannah Hoover, Marc Hormuth, Ryan Johnson, Uyen Le, Gentry Lee, Scott Levine, Faleshia Lo, Suz Loshin, Jeffery Mannarini, Jack McCullough, Dean McManus, Nora Minnich, Susan Murphy, Caitlin Osgood, J.P. Ouellette, Katie Packard, Brieann Rich, Nicholas Rich, Jane Sakowski Bell, Andrew Sarno, Krista Selvaggio, Kristina Soderquist, Tracy Spiegel, Thomas Tannenberger, Sonya Tateosian, Anthony Torres, Stuart Valberg, John West, John M. White, Seanne Winslow, Katie Shine Young, Charlotte Anne Dore, Matthew Milam, Abe Vilchez-Moran
Genres Drama, Mystery, Thriller
Companies Warner Bros., Radar Pictures, Media Rights Capital (MRC)
Countries USA
Languages English
ContentRating PG-13
ImDbRating 5.6
ImDbRatingVotes 92749
MetacriticRating 47
Keywords moral dilemma,nosebleed,alien,library,supernatural power