But really: An initial case of mistaken identity allows Tom Ripley, a working-class young man, to make the acquaintance of Dickie Greenleaf, a wealthy young scion who lives a life of pleasure and amusement in Italy.
Tom quickly becomes infatuated with Dickie, never wanting to leave his side and obsessively studying his tastes, style and mannerisms. He at one point confesses to Dickie that “it’s one big love affair”–“it” referring to his relationship to Dickie and his immersion in Dickie’s high-class, big-spender lifestyle; and he proposes that he and Dickie live together just the two of them, trying to get Dickie to admit that he too is in love with Tom the way Tom is in love with him. Tom’s infatuation also manifests itself as a desire to be Dickie, and in fact circumstances come to pass that give Tom his wish, and allow him to assume Dickie’s identity.
Near the film’s end, Tom falls for another man, Peter, whom he takes on a cruise with him. There is mutual romantic attraction between the two, and they share a bed (as well as a lot of intensely-meaningful eye contact and knowing smiles). Tom seems to be deeply in love; however, when he realizes that his connection to Peter could be the factor that gets him caught for his crimes (he’s killed two people and assumed one of their identities by this point, among other things), he feels compelled to kill his would-be lover in order to protect his secrets.
Meanwhile, Tom has a quasi-romantic relationship with Dickie’s former girlfriend, Marge, and kisses another woman, Meredith Logue.
The story is set in the 50’s, so rather than stated outright, the story’s queer content is heavily coded. Due to Tom’s sociopathic nature and the fact that at his core he cares about no one but himself, it’s hard to determine how much of his romantic attractions to people are real, or coldly-calculated performances on his part, or just extensions of his immense love for himself. Thus, it’s hard to characterize him sexually. He may be gay, bi, or, quite possibly, ace; on the basis of behavior alone, however, he is bi.
Tom Ripley is an example of the depraved bisexual trope.