7.8/10
75,687
196 user 56 critic

Mississippi Burning (1988)

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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
2,692 ( 289)
Won 1 Oscar. Another 16 wins & 24 nominations. See more awards »

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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
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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 »
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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 »

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Box Office

Budget:

$15,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$225,034, 11 December 1988, Limited Release

Gross USA:

$34,603,943, 31 December 1989
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Production Co:

Orion Pictures See more »
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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Dolby SR

Color:

Color (DeLuxe)| Color

Aspect Ratio:

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

Trivia

The only Best Picture Oscar nominee that year to be also nominated for Best Sound. See more »

Goofs

In the barbershop when Agent Anderson is beating up Deputy Pell, the boom mic is clearly visible. 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.
[...]
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Connections

Referenced in Veep: D.C. (2013) See more »

Soundtracks

Walk on by Faith
Words and Music by James Cleveland
Performed by Lannie Spann McBride
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Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

The Best Film of 1988
19 June 1999 | by DanB-4See all my reviews

Great movies are ones that invoke a strong emotional response that lingers long after the movie is over. Mississippi Burning is that kind of film. You may love it, you may hate it. You may think that it is an accurate depiction of the south in 1964, you may think its pure fiction. No matter what you will respond strongly.

Director Alan Parker has been down this road before with Midnight Express, another crushing, gut-wrenching tale based on a true story. In both cases, a great deal of liberty is taken with the facts, but that doesn't matter. Mississippi Burning is not a docudrama or an A & E special, it is at its heart, a police drama, and a near perfect one at that.

It is criticized by some for its depiction of southerners of the time as a group of brain-dead racists with no moral fiber whatsoever. I don't believe that is the movie's intention, but it spends time showing this side of society to make us understand how hate breeds itself, and how it becomes a way of life and an accepted standard. As one character states, "When we were seven years old, they told us that segregation was in the bible. You hear that long enough, you start to believe it".

Mississippi Burning won a (well-deserved) Oscar for cinematography, but sat and watched Rain Main take home the majors. It was clearly the best film of 1988 and stands as one of the great works of American cinema of the 80's. Hackman and Dafoe are at their best, and Frances McDormand delivers a beautifully understated, powerful performance as the deputy's wife - a woman at war with her sense of right and wrong, struggling with fear and loyalty. Her character is the centerpiece of the movie.

This is not a preachy or melodramatic movie. You won't get a lecture on why racism is wrong. You will get an rich, engaging crime drama depicting a pivotal time in American History, and you will never forget it.

**** out of ****.


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