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A Time to Kill (1996)

R  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  24 July 1996 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.4/10 from 91,432 users   Metascore: 54/100
Reviews: 232 user | 69 critic | 21 from

A young lawyer defends a black man accused of murdering two men who raped his 10-year-old daughter, sparking a rebirth of the K.K.K.



(novel), (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 7 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Carla Brigance
Tonya Hailey (as RaéVen Larrymore Kelly)
Darrin Mitchell ...
Skip Hailey
LaConte McGrew ...
Slim Hailey


In Canton, Mississippi, 10-year-old Tonya Hailey is viciously brutalized by two white racist rednecks -- James Louis "Pete" Willard and Billy Ray Cobb. Almost immediately after Tonya is found and rushed to a hospital, Pete and Billy Ray are found at a roadside bar, where they had been bragging about what they did to Tonya. Tonya's understandably distraught and enraged father, Carl Lee Hailey, remembers a case from a year ago, when four white men raped an African-American girl in a nearby town, and got acquitted. Carl is determined to not let that happen in this case. While deputy Dwayne Powell Looney is escorting Pete and Billy Ray up a flight of stairs to a court room, Carl emerges from the building's basement with an assault rifle, and he kills Pete and Billy Ray for what they did to Tonya. Carl is later arrested at his house by African-American sheriff Ozzie Walls, and Carl is scheduled to be placed on trial. Despite the efforts of the NAACP and local African-American leaders to ... Written by Todd Baldridge

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


A lawyer and his assistant fighting to save a father on trial for murder. A time to question what they believe. A time to doubt what they trust. And no time for mistakes.


Crime | Drama | Thriller

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for violence and some graphic language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

24 July 1996 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Tiempo de matar  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$40,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$19,630,000 (USA) (26 July 1996)


JPY 419,223,800 (Japan) (24 January 1997)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Donald Sutherland reportedly wanted Lucien Wilbanks to be much more of a radical drunkard. Joel Schumacher wanted a mostly serious drama, and said it would be too much comic relief. See more »


At the diner, Ellen's bra strap is showing in a close-up, but it's under her shirt in the wide shot. See more »


Carl Lee Hailey: You're white, and I'm black. See Jake, you think just like them. That's why I picked you. You're one of them, don't you see? Oh, you think you ain't 'cause you eat in Claude's and you out there trying to get me off on TV talking about black and white. But the fact is you're just like all the rest of them. When you look at me, you don't see a man, you see a black man.
See more »


Referenced in Chappelle's Show: Episode #2.1 (2004) See more »


Written by Richard Paddison
Performed by Jesse Johnson
Courtesy of Dinosaur Entertainment
See more »

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User Reviews

Pretty Strong.
6 July 2002 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

A truly tense film that takes place in present-day Mississippi. A young African-American girl has been raped by two backwoods white men. Her father (Samuel L. Jackson) takes the law into his own hands and kills the two. Now the small town becomes a hot-bed of controversy as a murder trial starts that gets national attention. There is the defense attorney (Matthew McConaughey) and his bright-eyed assistant (Sandra Bullock) against prosecutor supreme Kevin Spacey. A really solid film that works because of a screenplay that pulls no punches and revolutionary direction by Joel Schumacher. A great ensemble cast all excel here and the film captures a place that has turned into a media circus very well. A film that you will watch with clenched fists. An intense experience. 4 stars out of 5.

86 of 113 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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