After its release, Fatal Attraction engendered much discussion of the potential consequences of infidelity. Some feminists, meanwhile, did not appreciate what they felt was the depiction of a strong career woman who is at the same time psychopathic (although Forrest is more widely considered to be representative of borderline personality disorder). Feminist Susan Faludi discussed the film in Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women, arguing that major changes had been made to the original plot in order to make Alex wholly negative, while Dan's carelessness and the lack of compassion and responsibility raised no discussion, except for a small number of fundamentalist men's groups who said that Dan was eventually forced to own up to his irresponsibility in that "everyone pays the piper".
The film has also had an effect on men. Close was quoted in 2008 as saying, "Men still come up to me and say, 'You scared the shit out of me.' Sometimes they say, 'You saved my marriage.'"
The film spent eight weeks at #1 in the U.S. and eventually grossed $156.6 million domestically, making the film the second highest-grossing film of 1987 in the U.S. behind Three Men and a Baby. It also grossed $163.5 million overseas for a total gross of $320.1 million, making it the biggest film of 1987 worldwide. This in turn led to several similarly themed psychological thrillers being made throughout the late '80s and '90s.
Overall, the film received positive reviews from critics. Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a rating of 78% based on reviews from 46 critics, with the site's consensus "A potboiler in the finest sense, Fatal Attraction is a sultry, juicy thriller that's hard to look away from once it gets going." On Metacritic, the film has a rating of 67/100 based on reviews from 16 critics.
The film received six nominations for the 60th Academy Awards ceremony:
- Best Picture
- Best Actress in a Leading Role—Glenn Close
- Best Actress in a Supporting Role—Anne Archer
- Best Directing—Adrian Lyne
- Best Film Editing—Peter E. Berger and Michael Kahn
- Best Adapted Screenplay—James Dearden
American Film Institute recognition
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies—Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills—#28
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Passions - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes & Villains: Alex Forrest—Villain—#7
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) – Nominated