113 user 83 critic

Down by Law (1986)

1:37 | Trailer
Two men are framed and sent to jail, where they meet a murderer who helps them escape and leave the state.


Jim Jarmusch


Jim Jarmusch
4 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Tom Waits ... Zack
John Lurie ... Jack
Roberto Benigni ... Roberto
Nicoletta Braschi ... Nicoletta
Ellen Barkin ... Laurette
Billie Neal Billie Neal ... Bobbie
Rockets Redglare Rockets Redglare ... Gig
Vernel Bagneris ... Preston
Timothea Timothea ... Julie
L.C. Drane L.C. Drane ... L.C.
Joy N. Houck Jr. Joy N. Houck Jr. ... Detective Mandino (as Joy Houck Jr.)
Carrie Lindsoe Carrie Lindsoe ... Young Girl
Ralph Joseph Ralph Joseph ... Detective
Richard Boes Richard Boes ... Detective
Dave Petitjean Dave Petitjean ... Cajun Detective


DJ Zack and pimp Jack end up in prison for being too laid-back to avoid being framed for crimes they didn't commit. They end up sharing a cell with eccentric Italian optimist Roberto, whose limited command of the English language is both entertaining and infuriating. More useful to them is the fact that Roberto knows an escape route. Written by Michael Brooke <michael@everyman.demon.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It's not where you start - It's where you start again.


Comedy | Crime | Drama


R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


Nicoletta said her cafe was near the border of Texas. That means they would have walked over 200 miles across the entire state of Louisiana to get there. See more »


Zack writes the number of the days that he's spent in cellar on the wall. Before he fights Jack for the first time, he angrily writes two big lines (two days). In the next scene with Roberto they are normal length. See more »


[first lines]
Jack: Julie, what're you doing out here?
Julie: Just watching the light change.
See more »


Tango Till They're Sore
Written and Performed by Tom Waits
from his 'Rain Dogs' album
Courtesy Island Records, Inc.
(end title)
See more »

User Reviews

All the elements that make a Jarmusch film come together to create a beautiful story
14 May 2019 | by pere-25366See all my reviews

I've been binging Jarmusch's filmography this week for the first-time knowing little about his films and style of storytelling. In my opinion, this is his greatest achievement. The cinematography is beautiful; all of the river-boating scenes looked incredible. The performances are all great, especially Benigni's who had me in tears from laughter. The pacing is also solid; how these three very different men form a bond is a marvel to experience. On the whole, the story is a unique take on the 'prison film' and operates in that perfect balance of quirky and realistic. If you're like me and you're ripping through Jarmusch films for the first time, I'd say this is a pretty great introduction to the man and his mind.

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USA | West Germany


English | Italian | French

Release Date:

25 September 1986 (Canada) See more »

Also Known As:

Down by Law See more »

Filming Locations:

Slidell, Louisiana, USA See more »


Box Office


$1,100,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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