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Badlands (1973)

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An impressionable teenage girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.

Director:

Terrence Malick

Writer:

Terrence Malick
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Popularity
2,994 ( 320)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins. See more awards »

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Cast

Complete credited cast:
Martin Sheen ... Kit
Sissy Spacek ... Holly
Warren Oates ... Father
Ramon Bieri ... Cato
Alan Vint ... Deputy
Gary Littlejohn Gary Littlejohn ... Sheriff
John Carter John Carter ... Rich Man
Bryan Montgomery Bryan Montgomery ... Boy
Gail Threlkeld Gail Threlkeld ... Girl
Charles Fitzpatrick Charles Fitzpatrick ... Clerk
Howard Ragsdale Howard Ragsdale ... Boss
John Womack Jr. John Womack Jr. ... Trooper
Dona Baldwin Dona Baldwin ... Maid
Ben Bravo Ben Bravo ... Gas Attendant
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Storyline

It's the late 1950s. Mid-twenty-something Kit is a restless and unfocused young man with a James Dean vibe and swagger which he has heard mentioned about him more than once. Fifteen year old Holly has a somewhat cold relationship with her sign painter father, if only because she is the primary reminder of his wife, who died of pneumonia when Holly was a child. The two meet when Holly and her father move from Texas to the small town where Kit lives, Fort Dupree, South Dakota. They slowly fall in love, something about which she cannot tell her father because of their age difference and Kit coming from the wrong side of the tracks. When he tries to take Holly away with him, Kit, on an impulse, shoots her father dead. After letting the initial emotions of the situation settle down, Holly decides voluntarily to go with Kit, they trying to make it look like they committed suicide in a house fire. But they soon learn that their plan did not work, there being a bounty on their heads. As such,... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people. See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Spanish

Release Date:

5 January 1974 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

Badlands - Zerschossene Träume See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$450,000 (estimated)
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

The film's tag line ("In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people") inspired the Zodiac Killer, who had been lying low for years, to write a letter to a newspaper denouncing their flippant attitude to violence in society by running such an ad. See more »

Goofs

At the beginning of the movie, Kit meets Holly after a long day as a garbage man and his white t-shirt is spotless. Kit then asks Holly to take a walk with him, at which point the t-shirt is magically dirty! See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Holly Sargis: [voice over narration] My Mother dies of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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Connections

References The Adventures of Marco Polo (1938) See more »

Soundtracks

Trois Morceaux En Forme De Poire
Erik Satie
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

 
Brilliantly constructed and acted debut feature
14 August 2006 | by FramescourerSee all my reviews

An astonishing film, uncomfortable, bewildering but never less than beautiful. I came away and went straight to my dictionary to look for a definition of 'evil'. My OED uses three words. 'Bad', 'sin' and 'harm'. Neither 'bad' nor 'sin' get a foothold in this morally sterile film. Any impression of wrongdoing is dissolved in Holly's intermittent voice-over, recording Kit's justifications for his actions. All the film is conducted at this remove - even the killings themselves: Kit only uses guns, distancing himself and his impulse from the violence of murder; the victims die silently with little bleeding. Many are shot in the back or out of frame. This way even the idea of 'harm' is removed.

Stripped of a moral framework the film becomes terrifying. The natural inclination is to side with this charming couple falling in love. Then without warning, Kit's unfettered id can lash out with the amplified, impersonalised firearms he carries. The insecurity of whether you're watching the good guys or the bad is as gripping as any individual performance.

That said, Spacek and Sheen are necessarily strong. They have to carry the film, their characters are strangely feral. Untutored, yet modern, Kit's moral framework is gleaned from movie and music personalities (he beams at being called James Dean). In fact I was poleaxed by Sheen's performance, a schizophrenic construction of barbarism and erroneously understood manliness. I'll never watch the awkward energy of Michael J Fox in Back To The Future or Teenwolf in the same way again.

On top of everything Malick films America beautifully. The two senses of Kit's fruitless journey contradict themselves; even the soundtrack oscillates between the aspirational (Nat King Cole) and the bucolic (a capella singing, a marimba). It's so well composed and executed it's possible to feel cut off. It's hard to argue with for a first picture though 8/10


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