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Lone Star (1996)

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When the skeleton of his murdered predecessor is found, Sheriff Sam Deeds unearths many other long-buried secrets in his Texas border town.



4,685 ( 610)
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 16 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Stephen J. Lang ...
Oni Faida Lampley ...
Deputy Travis
Gonzalo Castillo ...
Tony Frank ...
Mercedes Cruz
Charlie Wade
Young Hollis


John Sayles' murder-mystery explores interpersonal and interracial tensions in Rio County, Texas. Sam Deeds is the local sheriff who is called to investigate a 40-year-old skeleton found in the desert....As Sam delves deeper into the town's dark secrets, he begins to learn more about his father, the legendary former sheriff Buddy Deeds, who replaced the corrupt Charlie Wade. While Sam puzzles out the long-past events surrounding the mystery corpse, he also longs to rekindle a romance with his old high-school flame. Sayles' complex characters are brought together as the tightly woven plot finally draws to its dramatic close. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


John Sayles invites you to return to the scene of the crime.


Crime | Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for brief language, sex and violence | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

21 June 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Estrella solitaria  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$3,845,000 (USA) (19 July 1996)


$13,269,963 (USA) (10 January 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Included among the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die", edited by Steven Schneider. See more »


When Pvt Johnson is told she failed the drug test, the rank on her hat is upside down. See more »


[first lines]
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Cliff: Lead mine.
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Featured in Siskel & Ebert: The Best Films of 1996 (1997) See more »


Desde Que Conosco
Written by Ivory Joe Hunter
Performed by Freddy Fender (as Freddie Fender), Duke Levine, Billy Novick, Larry
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User Reviews

A rich tapestry – 2 hours flew by
5 April 2003 | by (United Kingdom) – See all my reviews

The discovery of a skull and a sheriff's badge on a disused military firing range prompts Sheriff Sam Deeds to investigate. Sam has long lived in the shadow of his father Buddy, himself the sheriff at one time. However clues point to the fact that the skull may belong to Charley Wade, the corrupt sheriff who `vanished' to Mexico when Deeds challenged him many years prior. However when Sam begins to ask questions that go deeper than the legends, he finds secrets within the border town that hit very near home.

Having just watched The Hi Lo Country (a modern day western with a sprawling story but focused on one thing), I was put in mind to watch Lone Star again. Lone Star is easily the superior film and is a rich weaving of many characters and stories all around one event. The one event is the uncovering of an old murder (possibly) and this central investigation holds the attention easily. Within this investigation and the lives that Buddy affected we are shown a lot of subplots – some followed through, others just giving us enough background to understand the characters. All of these work very well and as a result you don't feel like the film is wandering when it moves away from the investigation by Sam. The subplots are so well translated that we are given a lot of back story to complex characters in a very short time.

For the script to be able to create so many characters that feel real and that have meaningful things going on is impressive. That it makes them all work is amazing and is due to Sayles both writing and editing. As director he is great as well, avoiding the washed out desert feel many `Mexico related' films have and instead goes for richer colours that reflect the rich mix of communities that are in his story.

The acting is faultless all round. No one actor stands out regardless of screen time simply because no one goes over the top and everyone realises they are playing part of a story – even Cooper (realistically the nearest thing to a lead actor) plays it down rather than taking the film over. Morton is good even if his character is the least connected to the investigation, McConaughey is strong despite being little more than a cameo, likewise with Kristofferson. McDormand has a small role but is very impressive as Deeds' ex-wife. Elizabeth Peña, so often dumped with almost token Espanic roles is given a real good part and works with it well. I could list them all, however if any one person stands out it can only be Sayles himself – he takes all the strands and brings them together. I watched a 90 minutes comedy earlier the same day that had dragged. At 130 minutes this simply flew – it is that engrossing.

Overall some will find it too slow, too character driven, sadly some will just not sit through a good story if that's all there is to it (all!). I think this was reflected in poor box office at the time (comparatively poor anyway). But those who have seen it will generally love it – if only more people would watch it! A final word on the film – the ending is shocking and sensationalist on paper and a lesser man would have made a big deal out of it. Sayles simply ends the film softly and leaves us the audience to take what we will from it. Low key from start to finish – I can't praise it enough.

64 of 67 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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