The film was shown at festivals in Italy, the US and Canada in September, and originally released in Ireland and the UK in October 1992, where it failed at the box office. Director Neil Jordan, in later interviews, attributed this failure to the film's heavily political undertone, particularly its sympathetic portrayal of an IRA fighter. The bombing of a pub in London is specifically mentioned as turning the English press against the film. (See List of terrorist incidents in London, 12 October 1992.)
The then-fledgling film company Miramax decided to promote the film in the United States where it became a sleeper hit, earning over $60 million at the box office. A memorable advertising campaign generated intense public curiosity by asking audiences not to reveal the film's "secret" to their friends. Jordan also believed the film's success was a result of the film's British/Irish political issues being either lesser-known or completely unknown to American audiences, who thus flocked to the film for what Jordan called "the sexual politics."
The film earned critical acclaim and went on to be nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Film Editing, Best Actor (Rea), Best Supporting Actor (Davidson), and Best Director. Writer-director Jordan finally won the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. The film went on to success around the world, including re-releases in Britain and Ireland.
"Critics in Los Angeles and New York, where 'The Crying Game' opened last week, were ecstatic about Jordan's picture, greeting it with 39 positive reviews, one negative review and six mixed notices, according to Weekly Variety's reviewers poll."
The Crying Game received worldwide acclaim from critics. Roger Ebert gave the film a four-star rating and described it as one that "involves us deeply in the story, and then it reveals that the story is really about something else altogether."
Richard Corliss, in Time magazine, stated "And the secret? Only the meanest critic would give that away, at least initially." The secret is revealed by means of an acrostic, forming a sentence from the first letter of each paragraph.
Considering its discussion of race, nationality, and sexuality, much has been written about The Crying Game. Theorist and author Judith Halberstam analyses the conflicting visual representations of transpeople in cinema focusing specifically on The Crying Game 's twist. Looking for transgender gaze in film, Halberstam argues that Dil's transvestism and viewer's placement in Fergus's point of view reinforces societal norms instead of challenging them.
It currently maintains a 97% "fresh" rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 61 reviews with the consensus: "The Crying Game is famous for its shocking twist, but this thoughtful, haunting mystery grips the viewer from start to finish."
Awards and nominations
The film received 6 Academy Award nominations, and winning one:
- Best Original Screenplay – Neil Jordan (Win)
- Best Picture – Stephen Woolley
- Best Director – Neil Jordan
- Best Actor – Stephen Rea
- Best Supporting Actor – Jaye Davidson
- Best Film Editing – Kant Pan