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Citizen Ruth (1996)

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An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.


3 wins & 2 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Diane Siegler
Norm Stoney
Dr. Charlie Rollins
Judge Richter
Nurse Pat
Jessica Weiss
Lance Rome ...
Ricky, Ruth's Lover
Jim Kalal ...
Tony Stoops
Shea Degan ...
Arresting Officer
Vince Morelli ...
Dr. George


Ruth Stoops is a poor indigent drug-user (a huffer - inhaling glue and paint for a high) whose down and out existence is complicated once more by becoming pregnant (she has had and lost four children already). When a judge orders that she gets an abortion or face a felony charge, she is befriended by Gail Stoney, a pro-lifer whose husband is president of the local "Babysavers" group. Suddenly Ruth is thrust into the middle of the pro-choice/pro-life struggle, with each side wanting her to take their side as a "message" to others - and the situation escalates... Written by Gary Dickerson <slug@mail.utexas.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


Meet Ruth Stoops...One Bad Mother. See more »


Comedy | Drama

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for substance abuse, strong language and a sex scene | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

13 December 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Meet Ruth Stoops  »

Box Office


$3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$26,709 (USA) (13 December 1996)


$153,155 (USA) (10 January 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


This movie marks the reunion of Laura Dern and Burt Reynolds in a theatrical movie. The 1970s Reynolds movie White Lightning (1973) had been Dern's uncredited film debut. Dern was just six years old when she appeared in a brief non-speaking walk on bit part. In White Lightning (1973), Dern played the daughter of her real life mother Diane Ladd who played Maggie. This time around in Citizen Ruth (1996), it is Dern who has the main part with Reynolds playing a supporting role. See more »


When Norm is lying next to Ruth on her bed, there is a change of camera. He moves his hand to the center of his chest in each camera shot. See more »


Ruth: I don't wanna go back to jail again. Least not for more than a week or two.
See more »

Crazy Credits

About halfway through the credits, we hear the beginning of Tape 2, Side 1. See more »


Referenced in TruInside: Election (2016) See more »

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User Reviews

Underrated Gem
16 January 2005 | by (Michigan, USA) – See all my reviews

In the wake of the huge success "Sideways" is garnering lately, everyone should look back at this incredible film from Alexander Payne, which shows off everything he and writing partner Jim Taylor are best at- the dark skewering of small-town America, rich with satire and heart. I had seen all of Payne's films except this one, and although I really loved all of them, this may be his most fully realized. This is probably because his targets are hit exactly dead-on, and the absurdity of the situations are in fact, achingly real. Laura Dern gives a wonderful and unflinching portrayal of Ruth, and the rest of the cast, especially Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place, and in a small role, Burt Reynolds, are exceptional as the targets of Payne's satire. Payne fills his films with little details of small-town life, and here they add so much to the point of the story. Take for example the grace that Kurtwood Smith's character gives, which is barely heard because of the roaring plane overhead. It is these details that are the crux of a story like this. So as "Sideways" continues to claim many awards (and rightfully so), I urge you to check out this earlier film from Payne, and experience a brilliant little film, and one of the gutsiest movies you may ever see.

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