Lone Star (1996)



Critic Consensus: Smart and absorbing, Lone Star represents a career high point for writer-director John Sayles -- and '90s independent cinema in general.

Movie Info

Reminiscent of a fine novel in depth and complexity, writer-director John Sayles' acclaimed drama uses the investigation of a 25-year-old murder as the framework for a detailed exploration of life in a Texas border town. The nominal center of the film is Sheriff Sam Deeds (the superb, subtle Chris Cooper), the chief law officer of the town of Frontera. The low-key Sam is also the son of the late Buddy Deeds (played in flashbacks by Matthew McConaughey), who also served as town sheriff and still … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language, nudity, violence)
Genre: Western, Drama, Romance, Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By: John Sayles
In Theaters:
On DVD: Nov 9, 1999
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment


as Sam Deeds

as Delmore Payne

as Otis Payne

as Hollis Pogue

as Charlie Wade

as Mercedes Cruz

as Young Hollis

as Young Otis

as Young Pilar

as Young Sam

as Chet Payne

as Priscilla Worth

as Athena Johnson

as Shadow

as Enrique

as Fenton

as Ben Wetzel

as Deputy Travis

as Roderick Bledsoe

as Minnie Bledsoe

as Chucho Montoya

as Wesley Birdsong

as Anglo Mother

as Mexican-American Fat...

as Anglo Father

as Principal

as Mexican-American Mot...

as Waitress

as Young Chucho

as Marisol

as Young Mercedes

as High School Principa...
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for Lone Star

Friend Ratings

No Friends? Inconceivable! Log in to see what your friends have to say.


Critic Reviews for Lone Star

All Critics (55) | Top Critics (12)

[A] complex and rewarding new Texas murder mystery.

Full Review… | March 22, 2013
Seattle Times
Top Critic

A richly textured and thoroughly engrossing drama that ranks with indie filmmaker John Sayles' finest work.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

Sayles' witty, vividly demotic dialogue knocks even Tarantino for six, the characterisations are uniformly colourful and credible, the soundtrack and the widescreen camerawork exemplary ...

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Sayles' latest never bores during its 21/4-hour unreeling. But neither does it soar, despite finessing a complex flashback narrative set in 1957 and present-day.

January 1, 2000
USA Today
Top Critic

John Sayles' "Lone Star" contains so many riches, it humbles ordinary movies.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

The great, stirring epic "Lone Star" stands as a peak in the career of John Sayles, who already has such admirably serious films to his credit.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
New York Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Lone Star

The sheriff of a small Texas border town who languishes in the shadow of his legendary father investigates the murder of a corrupt predecessor who disappeared 40 years previously when his skeleton is discovered buried in the desert. John Sayles' complex murder mystery uses a criminal investigation as a foundation of an intimate exploration of the complexities of tribalism, racial tension and prejudice in the melting pot of seemingly disparate cultures that inhabit the borderlands of the United States. It's a very clever and insightful film as the brilliant Chris Cooper's investigation peels back the layers of secrecy and mistrust to reveal a set of relationships that are more like an intricately interwoven patchwork of greys than the blacks and whites that appear on the surface. Reminiscent of some of the Coen brother's best work as well as The Wire in its detailed examination of race and culture on both sides of the law, Lone Star is a much deeper, richer experience than the usual whodunnit. A forgotten minor classic that deserves more recognition than it currently enjoys.

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


A near-masterpiece of the noir genre, detailing the dirty underpinnings of a close-knit town in Texas, specifically a respected sheriff (Chris Cooper) who stumbles upon a long-buried mystery that his late father (Matthew McConaughey, played in flash-backs) might have been involved in. What makes this film so impressive is its assured consistent plotting and character detailing throughout. It is not focused on wowing you for most of it is entirety, instead moreso on telling a story concerning race, loyalty, and family all in one two-hour spread. Then, like a freight train, the locks become unhinged, and the truth becomes clear, and it strikes with resolute force. Cooper's brilliant subtle turn may be the very best of his career, and McConaughey, in the few scenes he is in, also gets to show off his charisma and undeniable on-screen presence. Most impressively, the directing remains controlled and confident throughout its entirely. The only thing you could make a complaint about is that it may run a little too long (135 minutes), but outside of that, this film is dead-on.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Far too long for what it is, I just couldn't concentrate on it and couldn't understand what was going on. Not my type of movie.

Sophie Burgess

Super Reviewer

Lone Star Quotes

– Submitted by Fanli Y (2 years ago)

Discussion Forum

Discuss Lone Star on our Movie forum!