The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Themes

The Talented Mr. Ripley (Film) Themes

Violence and Irrationality

Violence and irrational behaviours are central to the film's plot. Tom's character is excessively violent, as he beats Dickie up in a fit of rage and unintentionally kills him. This is reinforced through numerous close ups on blood throughout the film. This murder prompted Tom to act irrationally and impulsively, killing both Freddie and Peter because he feared they would expose him as a murderer. It appears that Tom lacks remorse for his killings, and many critics consider Tom a multifaceted sociopath with deep psychological issues, stemming from his bitterness and resentment regarding his low status in society. In this way, the film focuses on the worst aspects of the human condition, such as the urge to kill and harm others, referenced in Tom's speeches about the metaphorical "dark basement." Hence, 'The Talented Mr Ripley' is a psychological thriller, as it focuses on extreme violence and bloodlust.

Human Flaws

All the major characters in the film are deeply flawed in different ways. Tom's primary flaws are his temper, violence and lack of concern for others. He is hypocritical and self-centred and holds no responsibility for his actions. Dickie is also flawed as he is egotistical and quickly dismissive of others, as he tells Tom "Who are you? Huh? Some third class mooch? Who are you? Who are you to say anything to me?" From this exchange, it is apparent that Dickie takes his wealth for granted and looks down upon people that he considers inferior. Furthermore, Marge is extremely naive and often encourages Dickie's dangerous and harmful activities. The emphasis on flawed characters ties into the references to religion and ethics, by presenting characters with warped moral codes. This suggests that all people, even those who appear nice and generous, are inherently flawed, a message which deliberately confronts the viewer to evaluate their personal moral standing.


The film explores important ideas about wealth, social class and privilege. Emphasis is placed on the strong divide between the rich and the poor, and how such a division is unfair. This can be seen through the parallel between Tom and Dickie. Dickie is a man born into wealth and luxury, who enjoys a number of benefits without having earned them himself. By contrast, Tom works a number of menial jobs just to get by. This juxtaposition promts the viewer to question whether it is fair for two individuals to be subject to such different fates, due to circumstances beyond their control.


Desire is a core theme in the film, and individuals' desires often cause them to act irrationally and impulsively. All the characters, despite their level of material wealth, yearn for things that they do not have. Tom's desire is perhaps the greatest, as he desires admiration, riches and to share in Dickie's life. This desire is so encompassing that it drives him to kill Dickie and assume his identity, allowing him to life the life he always wanted. Although Marge and Dickie are extremely rich and well off, they are also characterised by a desire for more. Marge wishes Dickie would commit to her and devote for time to their relationship. Dickie craves constant attention and admiration, and yearns for the respect of others.

A key message of the film is to avoid excessive desire and be content with what you have, as the film warns that a desire for more can have disastrous consequences.


The film explores notions of identity in a number of ways. One way is the link between identity and social class. In the film, the character's sense of self worth is directly tied to their social status. This is why Dickie has excessive confidence and pride, whereas Tom is shy, self confident and insecure. Furthermore, notions of identity become complicated when Tom begins to see himself as Dickie. By acting like Dickie, dressing in his clothes and spending time with his friends, Tom essentially usurps Dickie's identity. Ironically, it is only when Tom pretends to be Dickie that he feels a strong, positive sense of self.

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