A systemically healthy 22-year-old man presented with unilateral acute retinal necrosis (ARN) that featured diffuse retinal whitening throughout the posterior retina, exudative retinal detachment, and a visual acuity of no light perception. Diagnostic vitrectomy revealed necrotic retinal cells containing intranuclear inclusions visible with light microscopy. On electron microscopy, viral particles consistent with a herpes family virus were detected. Culture of the vitrectomy specimen showed herpes simplex, type 1 (HSV 1) and rising convalescent serum ELISA titers to HSV 1 confirmed a recent infection. This case of ARN is unusual for its severity, early macular involvement, and development of exudative retinal detachment. In addition, it represents one of the few reported cases in which HSV 1 has been confirmed by both vitreous culture and serum titers as the etiologic agent. A review of the literature suggests that posterior segment inflammatory conditions secondary to HSV 1 can be associated with exudative retinal detachment, a clinical finding that may help differentiate such conditions from other infectious causes of chorioretinitis.