When the skeleton of his murdered predecessor is found, Sheriff Sam Deeds unearths many other long-buried secrets in his Texas border town.


John Sayles


John Sayles
Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 15 wins & 18 nominations. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Stephen Mendillo ... Cliff
Stephen J. Lang Stephen J. Lang ... Mikey
Chris Cooper ... Sam
Elizabeth Peña ... Pilar
Oni Faida Lampley Oni Faida Lampley ... Celie
Eleese Lester ... Molly
Joe Stevens ... Deputy Travis
Gonzalo Castillo Gonzalo Castillo ... Amado
Richard Coca ... Enrique
Clifton James ... Hollis
Tony Frank ... Fenton
Miriam Colon ... Mercedes Cruz
Kris Kristofferson ... Charlie Wade
Jeff Monahan ... Young Hollis
Matthew McConaughey ... Buddy Deeds


John Sayles' murder-mystery explores interpersonal and interracial tensions in Rio County, Texas. Sam Deeds is the local sheriff who is called to investigate a 40-year-old skeleton found in the desert....As Sam delves deeper into the town's dark secrets, he begins to learn more about his father, the legendary former sheriff Buddy Deeds, who replaced the corrupt Charlie Wade. While Sam puzzles out the long-past events surrounding the mystery corpse, he also longs to rekindle a romance with his old high-school flame. Sayles' complex characters are brought together as the tightly woven plot finally draws to its dramatic close. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


John Sayles invites you to return to the scene of the crime.


Drama | Mystery

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

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

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


The hands seen laying out the bones in this movie belong to David Glassman, a forensic anthropologist at Southwest Texas State University. See more »


When Otis draws a beer he pours it straight-in, creating a large head. The correct way is to hold the glass at an angle, which creates a smaller head. A bar owner (particularly one who has been at it for over thirty years) would know this. See more »


[first lines]
Cliff: [cataloging the flora] We got cenizo, that's purple sage, agave, nopal... What's that stuff? Yeah that's it, that's whatchamacallit. That's horse crippler.
Mikey: This place is a gold mine.
Cliff: Lead mine.
See more »


Featured in The 69th Annual Academy Awards (1997) See more »


The Night's Too Long
Written by Lucinda Williams
Performed by Lucinda Williams
See more »

User Reviews

Perhaps Sayles' best film
30 April 2008 | by ametaphysicalsharkSee all my reviews

John Sayles is not only a great director, but he is also a truly great writer, and "Lone Star" is simply one of the best-written films of all time. Out of the 30+ scripts I studied in script analysis classes, this was, other than "Manhattan", the most interesting, involving, evocative screenplay I read during that period, and probably the one with the most depth. I saw the film a few months after reading its screenplay, and found that it far surpassed the mental image I had in my head of the film.

"Lone Star" could have been a standard mystery. It could have been a 'modern Western', or it could have been a superficial race drama, but it is none of those things (at least not exclusively), it is a fascinating, subtle look at race relations in Texas, as well as at basic human nature. Unlike the contrived writing one would find in an 'Oscar bait' drama film, Sayles' interwoven plots don't feel forced simply because he sets them up so well. The depth and scale of the writing here is remarkable, especially because the film, with all its subplots and characters, never feels cluttered or unnatural. This is a character study of the highest order, and there's no point in discussing the actual events of the film further because this is a film that is best seen (or, indeed, read) with fresh eyes, and I'd hate to spoil that for readers who haven't seen the film.

It's a sad fact of life that directors like Sayles, who see films as stories that must be told, and direct them well, but without intrusive and obvious stylistic quirks, are less noticed than directors who practically beg for attention. That's not to say that this film is not well-made, because anyone with any sort of experience with technical details of cinema could tell you that it is a very well-shot and very well-edited film with excellent use of music. That said, this film is ultimately about the writing, and the acting, and both are absolutely superb, the standout from the latter category being Chris Cooper, who gives what is probably one of the nineties' best performances in this film.


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English | Spanish

Release Date:

21 June 1996 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Lone Star See more »

Filming Locations:

Coupland, Texas, USA See more »


Box Office


$5,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$232,184, 23 June 1996

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Dolby Digital



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See full technical specs »

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