Sling Blade (1996)

Sling Blade

TOMATOMETER

AUDIENCE SCORE

Critic Consensus: You will see what's coming, but the masterful performances, especially Thornton's, will leave you riveted.


Movie Info

Sling Blade marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton, who also authored the script (expanding George Hickenlooper's acclaimed short Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade) and stars in the picture. Thornton plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who spent most of his life in a mental institution. When Karl was a boy, he was severely mistreated by his abusive father (Robert Duvall). At age 12, Karl found his mother having intercourse with a man who tormented … More

Rating: R
Genre: Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Billy Bob Thornton
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 1, 1998
Runtime:
Miramax Films

Cast


as Karl Childers

as Doyle Hargraves

as Frank Wheatley

as Linda Wheatley

as Charles Bushman

as Vaughn Cunningham

as Jerry Woolridge

as Karl's Father

as Bill Cox

as Scooter Hodges

as Melinda

as Dairy Queen Boy

as Marsha Dwiggins

as Theresa Evans

as Terence

as Monty Johnson

as Randy Horsefeathers

as Mrs. Woolridge

as Bubba Woolridge

as Albert

as Freddy

as Woolridge Secretary

as Teenage Boy

as Housekeeper

as Ticket Agent
Show More Cast

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Critic Reviews for Sling Blade

All Critics (63) | Top Critics (20)

A masterpiece of Southern storytelling.

Full Review… | May 8, 2002
Washington Post
Top Critic

An abundance of long, flat medium shots that rob the film of intimacy and give it a sleepy pace.

Full Review… | May 8, 2002
New York Times
Top Critic

A mesmerizing parable of good and evil and a splendid example of Southern storytelling at its most poetic and imaginative.

Full Review… | February 14, 2001
Los Angeles Times
Top Critic

In Sling Blade, Thornton lays claim to the title of hyphenate of the year.

January 1, 2000
Film.com
Top Critic

By its midpoint, however, Thornton has begun forcing both the film's poetry and the preternatural goodness of its simple-minded protagonist, and Sling Blade's sweet charms begin to curdle.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Salon.com
Top Critic

Much of the audience appeal relies on the film's simplicity

Full Review… | February 15, 2012
Old School Reviews

Audience Reviews for Sling Blade

Its a Hollywood gimme: feature a mentally/physically challenged soul as the central character in a picture and, bingo, Oscar time. And the twist? We learn to forgive and love ourselves through the big, wide open heart of the poor pathetic lug who's more human than us despite their infirmities. In this one the crazy murderering guy who's actually been committed turns out to be the nicest guy in the town! Thornton went Hollywood with this ... and never looked back. Yoakam's good as the bad guy, too.

ApeneckFletcher
Apeneck Fletcher

Super Reviewer

½

This is the film that made Billy Bob Thornton an icon. He pulls triple duty as the star, writer, and director (his debut in this particular area) of this haunting tale based on an acclaimed short film he also authored and starred in.

Set in a small Arkansas town, we follow Karl Childers (Thornton) a mildly retarded man who, for the past 25 years has been in a state hospital for murder. He's deemed stable, and released back into the world. We follow him as he returns to the town he grew up in a d tries to move on with his life. He begins a friendship with a young boy, his mother, and her gay friend. Things get greatly hampered thanks to the mother's vile, alcoholic, and abusive boyfriend, and it's not long before Karl realizes that a change is in order.

The character of Karl is one of the most fascinating and memorable ever. I can't help but break out my imitation of him every time I see this movie, or hear it mentioned. He's just a joy to watch, and he's got a really interesting take on the world that is great to experience. He's not the only one who shines here though. J.T. Walsh is chilling as a fellow patient at the hospital, John Ritter is great as the gay friend Vaughan, and Dwight Yoakam is terrific as the loathsome boyfriend.

The film is equal parts funny, sad, and unnerving. It's extremely compelling and unforgettable, and makes for a great watch, although it's probably not something you really want to endure all that often, as it does get very uncomfortable to bear at times.

This one really impresses me, and it's a shame that Thornton hasn't reached the level of greatness that he does here since.

cosmo313
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

A depressing, arresting character story involving a former killer, who is let back into society once he serves his time. Billy Bob Thornton's incredibly restrained performance is what keeps this movie interesting, he creates a character so broken from his former life, and now his new one, that the only thing that matters in his life (that being Lucas Black's character) is worth fighting for. You'll probably see the ending coming from a mile away, but it is definitely a fitting one. Great acting all-around, from Thornton, Dwight Yoakam, John Ritter, and Lucas Black as the boy who befriends Thornton, this is an impressive movie. Don't watch it if you don't like sad stories, this is definitely a somber tale of a man who doesn't know where he fits in a world that is "to big" for him, as he says himself.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

Sling Blade Quotes

– Submitted by Michael H (9 months ago)
– Submitted by Brendan C (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Shanna M (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Brian R (2 years ago)

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