The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2005)

R  |   |  Adventure, Crime, Drama  |  24 February 2006 (USA)
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Ratings: 7.5/10 from 33,128 users   Metascore: 77/100
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Ranch hand Pete Perkins looks to fulfill the promise to his recently deceased best friend by burying him in his hometown in Mexico.


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Cast overview, first billed only:
Melquiades Estrada (as Julio César Cedillo)
Ignacio Guadalupe ...
Irineo Alvarez ...
Manuel (as Irineo Álvarez)
Border Patrolman


A man is shot and quickly buried in the high desert of west Texas. The body is found and reburied in Van Horn's town cemetery. Pete Perkins, a local ranch foreman, kidnaps a Border Patrolman and forces him to disinter the body. With his captive in tow and the body tied to a mule, Pete undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico. Written by Anonymous

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Nobody is beyond redemption. See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:







Release Date:

24 February 2006 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

The 3 Burials of Melquiades Estrada  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$759,792 (France) (2 December 2005)


$5,023,275 (USA) (2 June 2006)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| | (TV)

Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


The producers tried to sway Tommy Lee Jones from using Mexican pastel colors for the title cards, but he told them he wouldn't budge on his decision. See more »


After Pete exits the hospital where Mel's body was taken, the sign says Cibolo County General Hospital. There is a Cibolo County (Grants), New Mexico, but none in Texas. Cibolo County, NM is about 450 NNW of the movie setting. See more »


Mike Norton: [reassuring Lou Ann] You're my red hot mamma...
See more »

Crazy Credits

The title of the film and the various title cards are in both English and Spanish. See more »


Referenced in Three Burials: Making the Music (2006) See more »


Courtesy of José Stephens (as Pepe Stephens)
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User Reviews

Dead man riding
21 December 2005 | by (New York) – See all my reviews

"The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada" is a surprise. Directed by Tommy Lee Jones, marking his first time behind the camera, with a screen play by Guillermo Arriaga, this is a film that tells a story about an murder in a troubled border area between the US and Mexico. The film is loosely based on a true story that happened in that part of the country some years ago.

Pete Perkins is a decent man. When his ranch hand is killed under mysterious circumstances, Pete jumps into action. Pete wants to take his friend, Melquiades Estrada, across the border to Mexico to make sure he receives the proper burial he deserves. A coyote has lead to the first burial site and the following investigation involves the local sheriff, Belmont, but Pete will have none of that.

Pete's investigation leads him to the corrupt border guard Mike Norton. Perkins captures the man and with the body strapped to a horse and his captive in another, Pete begins the long journey to Mexico. He passes the hot land between the two countries in a voyage that will bring Melquiades to his home.

The separate narratives at the beginning of the film are somehow confusing and the viewer is advised to pay close attention to it since it has multiple stories going on at a time when we don't know much of what is happening. We get to meet the cruel Norton and his bored wife Lou Ann. It also serve as the way to tell us how Pete and Norton meet.

Tommy Lee Jones, with his rugged looks, brings a tremendous presence to his own film. Mr. Jones is a decent man who can't stand the injustice his hired hand suffered as he delves into solving the mystery of Melquiades' death. Barry Pepper is quite good as the nasty Mike Norton, a man who gets much more than what he bargained for. Dwight Yoakam, January Jones and Melissa Leo are seen in minor roles. Julio Cedillo plays the dead man, Melquiades Estrada.

Tommy Lee Jones is blessed to be working on his first venture with the great cinematographer Chris Menges. Mr. Menges' take on the scenery is one of the best things in the film. The musical score by Marco Beltrami is also another asset. The editing of Roberto Silvi sets the tone for the early part of the movie.

"The Three Deaths of Melquiades Estrada" shows us a mature Tommy Lee Jones who has learned his lesson well in front of the camera. Now, working behind, as well as directing himself and his amazing cast, he shows a humongous talent that ought to be seen in future ventures.

122 of 162 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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