The film was the fourth collaboration between Dassin and Mercouri, who took the title role. Greek writer Margarita Lymberaki adapted Euripides'Hippolytus into a melodrama concerning the rich society of ship owners and their families, but still containing some of the tragic elements of the ancient drama. The film is set in Paris, London, and especially on the Greek island of Hydra.
Phaedra, second wife of shipping tycoon Thanos (Raf Vallone), falls in love with her husband's son from his first marriage, Alexis (Anthony Perkins). The love is doomed from the very beginning but they are unable to control their feelings.
The movie hit the cinemas in 1962, was a hit in Europe, but a box-office failure in the USA. Although Mercouri and Perkins became friends during the filming, the magazines, and especially Esquire magazine, attacked the film, because of Perkins's vulnerability. Phaedra was the first of several films that teamed Perkins with notable older female stars.
The music was created by Mikis Theodorakis. In the soundtrack, Melina Mercouri sang two songs. The first one was written by Nikos Gatsos, a major Greek poet, and was sung by Mercouri and Perkins after their love scene in Paris. The other one was heard in the film as the main love theme. Both of the songs are popular in Greece and they have been performed by hundreds of singers and actors.