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4.7 4
Director: Terrence Malick

Cast: Martin Sheen, Sissy Spacek, Warren Oates


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"He wanted to die with me and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms." A young couple goes on a Midwest crime spree in Terrence Malick's hypnotically assured debut feature, based on the 1950s Starkweather-Fugate murders. Fancying himself a rebel like James Dean, twentysomething Kit (Martin Sheen) takes off with teen baton-twirler Holly (Sissy Spacek) after


"He wanted to die with me and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms." A young couple goes on a Midwest crime spree in Terrence Malick's hypnotically assured debut feature, based on the 1950s Starkweather-Fugate murders. Fancying himself a rebel like James Dean, twentysomething Kit (Martin Sheen) takes off with teen baton-twirler Holly (Sissy Spacek) after shooting her father (Warren Oates) when he tries to split the pair up. Once bounty hunters discover their riverside hiding place, Kit and Holly head toward Saskatchewan, leaving dead bodies in their wake. As the law closes in, however, Holly gives herself up -- but Kit doesn't hold it against her, as he basks in his new status as a momentary folk hero. Inaugurating the use of voice-over narration that he would continue in Days of Heaven (1978) and The Thin Red Line (1998), Malick juxtaposes Holly's flat readings of her flowery romance-novel diary prose with the banal and surreal details of their journey. Singularly inarticulate with each other, Kit and Holly are more intrigued by mythic celebrity gestures, as Holly peruses her fan magazines and Kit commemorates key moments before orchestrating a properly dramatic capture for himself (complete with the right hat). The sublime visuals lend a dreamlike beauty to the couple's trip even as their actions are treated casually; Malick neither glamorizes Kit and Holly nor consigns them to the bloody end of their fame-fixated predecessors in Bonnie and Clyde (1967). With the couple's opaque dialogue and Holly's fanzine dream narration, Malick further denies an easy explanation for their crimes. Made for under 500,000 dollars, Badlands debuted at the 1973 New York Film Festival, along with Martin Scorsese's Mean Streets, and was released within months of two other outlaw-couple road movies, Steven Spielberg's The Sugarland Express and Robert Altman's Thieves Like Us. Although Badlands did not make an impression at the box office, its pictorial splendor and cool yet disquieting narrative established Malick as one of the most compelling artists to come out of early-'70s Hollywood.

Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Monica McIntyre
The auspicious filmmaking debut of Terence Malick, BADLANDS is a haunting and ferociously intelligent work that probes the collective American psyche. Set in a small town in South Dakota in the late 1950s, the story begins when a garbage collector and James Dean lookalike, Kit (Martin Sheen), meets Holly (Sissy Spacek), a baton-twirling high schooler who lives alone with her father. In a monotone voice-over as flat as the plains that surround them, Holly recounts her life on the run with the murderous Kit. Her language, laced with the purple clichés of pulp romance writers, eerily highlights the couple's essential moral emptiness. Based on the true-life killing spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, BADLANDS' stunning imagery and the exquisitely understated performances from Sheen and Spacek help create a disturbing fable about that most lethal of American brews: the potent combination of isolation, violence, and the cult of celebrity.
All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
What could have been just another story about delinquents on the run was turned into something extraordinary by first-time director Terrence Malick. A uniquely lyrical story of violence and teenage mythos in the 1950s, Badlands is probably the most low-key film ever made about a mass murderer. Twenty-four-year-old Kit Carruthers (played to perfection by Martin Sheen) has so deeply immersed himself in the studied, affectless cool of James Dean that he appears incapable of showing emotions, while his 15-year-old girlfriend, Holly (Sissy Spacek, also excellent), is at once too baffled by Kit to know how to react and too bored and starved for attention to turn him away when he drags her along for a multi-state killing spree; their crimes seem to stem less from anger than from ennui gone wrong. Much as Sergio Leone's spaghetti Westerns featured amoral men in a landscape at once beautiful and desolate, Malick places his murderous couple in an American landscape both stunning and strangely barren; Kit's violence seems less an act of focused rage than a pitiful attempt to make something new of his otherwise plain surroundings, much as Holly's flowery narration tries to derive an exciting story from their arid, sordid lives. (Malick's camera crew, led by Tak Fujimoto, Steven Larner, and Brian Probyn, do brilliant work on a limited budget.) Presenting his killers without judgment (but without approval, either), Malick wrought a strange and unsettling beauty for this first chapter in his remarkable (if not prolific) film career.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
Warner Home Video
Region Code:
[Wide Screen]
[Dolby Digital Mono, Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround]
Sales rank:

Special Features

Closed Caption

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
Martin Sheen Kit Carruthers
Sissy Spacek Holly Sargis
Warren Oates Mr. Sargis, Father
Alan Vint Deputy
Ramon Bieri Cato
Gary Littlejohn Sheriff
John Carter Rich Man
Terrence Malick Salesman
Dona Baldwin Maid
Ben Bravo Gas Station Attendant
Charles Fitzpatrick Clerk
Howard Ragsdale Boss
John Womack Trooper on plane

Technical Credits
Terrence Malick Director,Producer,Screenwriter
Robert L. Estrin Editor
Jack Fisk Art Director
Tak Fujimoto Cinematographer
Stevan Larner Cinematographer
James Nelson Sound/Sound Designer
Edward R. Pressman Executive Producer
Brian Probyn Cinematographer
Ed Richardson Art Director
William P. Scott Production Manager
Louis A. Stroller Associate Producer
George Aliceson Tipton Score Composer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Badlands
1. Little Did I Realize [2:28]
2. Holly Meets Kit [4:39]
3. Go for a Ride? [2:58]
4. Grand Love [5:03]
5. Dad Disapproves [3:44]
6. What it Sounds Like [4:18]
7. For the Record [4:52]
8. Gone in a Blaze [2:06]
9. Big Marble Hall [7:08]
10. Hunting Hunters [2:55]
11. Cato's Place [8:03]
12. Couple in Cellar [2:31]
13. Out of the Sun [1:42]
14. Russian Invasion [1:30]
15. Rich Man's House [2:15]
16. Dreams and Advice [2:21]
17. A Visitor [2:33]
18. Our Headlong Way [3:18]
19. What Direction? [4:53]
20. Headlight Dance [3:39]
21. Today's the Day [3:23]
22. High-Speed Pursuit [4:21]
23. Marking the Site [2:24]
24. Like James Dean [1:50]
25. Pieces of Kit [1:13]
26. Too Bad About Dad [2:40]
27. Quite an Individual [1:48]
28. End Credits [2:55]


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Badlands 4.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Brilliant picaresque tale with a young Spacek and Sheen. Too bad Malick didn't make more features after Days of Heaven until The Thin Red Line 20 years later!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Terence Malick's debut film is his best, telling the Starkweather-esque story of Kit Carruthers and his girlfriend Holly in a strange and hypnotic manner that somehow still manages to feel both naturalistic and right. The lead performances are two of the finest in film history, with Sheen and Spacek capturing the exact mix of wistfulness, childishness, and chilling nonchalance of two sociopaths who see their killing spree as a grand and romantic, though not necessarily exciting, adventure. Spacek's narration and the beautifully bizarre yet oddly appropriate calypso-style score accent the film's dreamy feel, and help make this one of the best from cinema's greatest decade.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago