7.8/10
84,706
209 user 65 critic

Mississippi Burning (1988)

Trailer
1:34 | Trailer
Two F.B.I. Agents with wildly different styles arrive in Mississippi to investigate the disappearance of some civil rights activists.

Director:

Alan Parker

Writer:

Chris Gerolmo
Reviews
Popularity
2,272 ( 2)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 16 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

Videos

Photos

Edit

Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
Gene Hackman ... Anderson
Willem Dafoe ... Ward
Frances McDormand ... Mrs. Pell
Brad Dourif ... Deputy Pell
R. Lee Ermey ... Mayor Tilman
Gailard Sartain ... Sheriff Stuckey
Stephen Tobolowsky ... Townley
Michael Rooker ... Frank Bailey
Pruitt Taylor Vince ... Lester Cowens
Badja Djola ... Agent Monk
Kevin Dunn ... Agent Bird
Frankie Faison ... Eulogist
Thomas B. Mason Thomas B. Mason ... Judge (as Tom Mason)
Geoffrey Nauffts ... Goatee
Rick Zieff ... Passenger
Learn more

More Like This 

Biography | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Billy Hayes, an American college student, is caught smuggling drugs out of Turkey and thrown into prison.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Brad Davis, Irene Miracle, Bo Hopkins
Angel Heart (1987)
Horror | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A private investigator is hired by a man who calls himself Louis Cyphre to track down a singer named Johnny Favorite. But the investigation takes an unexpected and somber turn.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Mickey Rourke, Robert De Niro, Lisa Bonet
Action | Crime | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A pair of NYC cops in the Narcotics Bureau stumble onto a drug smuggling job with a French connection.

Director: William Friedkin
Stars: Gene Hackman, Roy Scheider, Fernando Rey
Crime | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A black police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.

Director: Norman Jewison
Stars: Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

In Canton, Mississippi, a fearless young lawyer and his assistant defend a black man accused of murdering two white men who raped his ten-year-old daughter, inciting violent retribution and revenge from the Ku Klux Klan.

Director: Joel Schumacher
Stars: Matthew McConaughey, Sandra Bullock, Samuel L. Jackson
Comedy | Drama | Music
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

When Jimmy Rabbitte wants to start a band, he has open auditions at his house.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Robert Arkins, Michael Aherne, Angeline Ball
Drama | Romance | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

The passionate romance between an Irish-American man and a Japanese-American woman is threatened when the Pearl Harbor attacks happen and the woman is forced into a prison camp because of her ethnicity.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Dennis Quaid, Tamlyn Tomita, Sab Shimono
Witness (1985)
Crime | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

When a young Amish boy is sole witness to a murder, policeman John Book goes into hiding in Amish country to protect him until the trial.

Director: Peter Weir
Stars: Harrison Ford, Kelly McGillis, Lukas Haas
Birdy (1984)
Drama | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

After two friends return home from the Vietnam War one becomes mentally unstable and obsesses with becoming a bird.

Director: Alan Parker
Stars: Matthew Modine, Nicolas Cage, John Harkins
JFK (1991)
Drama | History | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison discovers there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

Director: Oliver Stone
Stars: Kevin Costner, Gary Oldman, Jack Lemmon
Rain Man (1988)
Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

Selfish yuppie Charlie Babbitt's father left a fortune to his savant brother Raymond and a pittance to Charlie; they travel cross-country.

Director: Barry Levinson
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Tom Cruise, Valeria Golino
Runaway Jury (2003)
Crime | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

A juror on the inside and a woman on the outside manipulate a court trial involving a major gun manufacturer.

Director: Gary Fleder
Stars: John Cusack, Rachel Weisz, Gene Hackman
Edit

Storyline

Two FBI agents investigating the murder of civil rights workers during the 60s seek to breach the conspiracy of silence in a small Southern town where segregation divides black and white. The younger agent trained in FBI school runs up against the small town ways of his former Sheriff partner. Written by Keith Loh <loh@sfu.ca>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

1964. When America was at war with itself.


Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
Edit

Did You Know?

Trivia

The BBC's former film critic, Barry Norman, described the opening of the film as "pure cinema, something no other medium could do so effectively" in a review for Radio Times. See more »

Goofs

When the agents visit deputy Pell's house in the evening, he is watching baseball on television. In 1964, only afternoon games were televised on Saturday. See more »

Quotes

[first lines]
Driver: Uh, oh.
Passenger: What is it?
Passenger: [seeing the car behind them] What do they want?
Driver: I don't know... just pass me... pass me...
Driver: [trying to identify the following car] Is it a cop?
Passenger: I can't see.
[they are hit from behind]
Driver: What the fuck are these jokers playin' at?
Rear passenger: Oh, they ain't playin', you better believe it.
[...]
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Fletch Lives (1989) See more »

Soundtracks

Take My Hand Precious Lord
Words and Music by Thomas A. Dorsey
Performed by Mahalia Jackson
Courtesy of CBS Records
See more »

User Reviews

 
Underestimated
11 August 2004 | by WindWoman3See all my reviews

Well, I guess this is why movies are so personal to the viewer.

I've read some of the other comments here and have seen words like "condescending" and "mediocre."

I couldn't disagree more. "Mississippi Burning" is an intellectually challenging movie. It demands that you immerse yourself in the worst of southern culture, whether you like it or not.

Based on a true story, the film takes place in 1964 (my birth year, incidentally) in a small town ugly and virulent with racism. The good ol' boy sheriff and his stoolies ambush and in cold blood murder three civil rights workers. The world's a-changing, but the power-brokers in this place refuse to let that happen. They'll do anything to prevent blacks from taking their rightful place at the table - literally.

The FBI sends a couple of mismatched agents in to search for the three missing young men. One agent (Hackman) is 'old school', sly, and knows his enemies a little too well. The other (Dafoe) is a naive Kennedy fire-eater, ready to bring the full force of the FBI and military down upon this small town's head. Although he is easy to underestimate at first, he grows into his role, showing astonishing decisiveness and strength.

The relationship between the town's blacks and whites is complicated and fraught with rules - spoken and unspoken. It's a not-so-secret secret that the civil rights workers have been murdered. Hackman and Dafoe just have to get the bodies and the evidence, that's all. Fear and loathing prevent that from happening, until the wife of a deputy (the amazing Frances McDormand) throws herself on the fire and blows her slimy husband's alibi.

There is justice - of a sort - in the end. It's not enough. Real change crawls on it's belly in the south.

"Mississippi Burning" is a movie of operatic gestures. The script is spongey with regional color and snappy, powerful dialogue.

Hackman and McDormand are simply magical. They don't take or make a false step from the first frame to the last. As she would go on to prove in later films, McDormand doesn't just 'play' a character - she IS that character. And Hackman is never more affecting that in this film. One syllable from him is more subtle than an entire Shakespeare speech when delivered by a lesser actor. Hackman is a national treasure.

IMO, Dafoe is a well-meaning revelation until circumstances forces him to cave into Hackman's just-get-it-done ways. He comes to see that idealism must relent to pragmatism in extreme cases, although that knowledge repulses him. He wants nothing more than to get out of the south and go home to a world he believes is cleaner and more simple.

The conclusion of "Mississippi" is more bitter than sweet. The guilty are arrested and convicted, although their various punishments are a joke. (R. Lee Ermey is the only one in the bunch who meets a just fate.) McDormand is brutally beaten to within an inch of her life for betraying the status quo and doing the right thing. Although she and Hackman have fallen in love, she refuses to leave with him because "this" - gesturing to the vandalized ruins of the house she was born in - "is my home."

I know the history, and I know this movie inside and out. And yet I still bawl like a baby every time I see it. The power of this film and the fact that "Mississippi" is based on ACTUAL EVENTS never fails to get to me.

"Mississippi Burning" has a place in my 'Top 50 Dramas.'


86 of 95 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you? | Report this
Review this title | See all 209 user reviews »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more »
Edit

Details

Official Sites:

MGM

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

27 January 1989 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Three Lives for Mississippi See more »

Edit

Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$225,034, 11 December 1988

Gross USA:

$34,603,943

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$34,603,943
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Orion Pictures See more »
Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

Contribute to This Page

Your Next Binge Watch Awaits

Looking for something to watch? Check out IMDb's "What to Watch" series to find out what's really worth watching.



Recently Viewed