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The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada (2006)



Average Rating: 7.5/10
Reviews Counted: 140
Fresh: 119 | Rotten: 21

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut is both a potent western and a powerful morality tale.


Average Rating: 7.5/10
Critic Reviews: 37
Fresh: 30 | Rotten: 7

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut is both a potent western and a powerful morality tale.



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Average Rating: 3.7/5
User Ratings: 33,096

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Movie Info

Veteran screen star Tommy Lee Jones makes his directorial debut with the fractured tale of murder and injustice on the U.S.-Mexico border scripted by Amores Perros and 21 Grams screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga. Mike Norton (Barry Pepper) is a fresh-faced Border Patrol officer in Cibolo County, TX, whose dedication to his new job leaves his lonely wife, Lou Ann (January Jones), with little to do but spend her days at the local diner, where she strikes up a friendship with waitress Rachel (Melissa


Western, Drama

Guillermo Arriaga, Guillermo Arriaga Jordan

Jun 6, 2006


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All Critics (146) | Top Critics (39) | Fresh (119) | Rotten (21) | DVD (15)

This isn't a film that demands to be enjoyed in order to be remembered -- one way or the other, it will stick with you.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Globe and Mail
Globe and Mail
Top Critic IconTop Critic

With all due respect to that important, quasi-controversial, most-honored film of last year, this is the best Western of 2005.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Orlando Sentinel
Orlando Sentinel
Top Critic IconTop Critic

[A] long, kooky, immensely absorbing picture, which forges the elegiac cruelty of a Cormac McCarthy novel with the two-fisted machismo of a Sam Peckinpah movie, and comes up with an altogether new brand of Western mythology.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Miami Herald
Miami Herald
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Funny, tough, filled with cut-to-the-bone moments and bleached in the heat of the Texas sun, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a movie that sears itself into the viewer with uncompromising vision and stark approach.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It boasts genuinely and uniformly fine performances -- a credit to Jones the director and the actor, as well as his costars -- some stunning cinematography by the great Chris Menges and a uncompromising script by [Guillermo] Arriaga.

February 24, 2006 Full Review Source: Detroit Free Press
Detroit Free Press
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Tommy Lee Jones' big-screen directorial debut might not be the easiest film to watch, but its payoff makes it one of the better trips to the movies of the past year.

February 23, 2006 Full Review Source: Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Top Critic IconTop Critic

In The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, there is heartbreak, loss, and adultery, all of it general and all of it far more affecting than any self-righteous ethics or anachronistic western codes.

March 5, 2014 Full Review Source: Stop Smiling
Stop Smiling

An offbeat, tonal take on the Western, Tommy Lee Jones' The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is best described as soulful and creative, if scattered and overambitious.

June 14, 2010 Full Review Source: Film and Felt
Film and Felt

Exerts considerable, groggy power

August 30, 2009 Full Review Source: CinePassion

Tommy Lee himself must be mentioned, as he pulls a nuanced role with a craggy, sunburnt face that's impressive to behold. He's at the top of his game in this flick, all the more remarkable as he's literally wearing many hats on the production.

June 21, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Scouts
Film Scouts

Part character study, part Peckinpah-esque border Western, part mystic epic, Three Burials traverses its uncharted territories with a humour and humanity that lighten the burden of its sadness.

June 15, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

Breathtaking tableaus, colorful characters, and a moving message about redemption end up overshadowed by wanton insanity one might normally associate with a sadistic snuff film.

May 31, 2007 Full Review Source:

A stunningly offbeat and finely controlled directorial debut.

March 1, 2007 Full Review Source: Film Journal International
Film Journal International

The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a spiritual exploration so profound and complex that it's impossible to take it all in with one viewing.

November 2, 2006 Full Review Source: Christianity Today
Christianity Today

one of those offbeat dramas that would never have gotten produced without the clout of a major star behind it. ...a challenging, unpredictable film that never allows the audience to get too comfortable.

May 19, 2006 Full Review Source: Kalamazoo Gazette
Kalamazoo Gazette

A parable, buddy movie, western myth and road movie all rolled into one %u2013 one excellent one

May 13, 2006 Full Review Source: Urban Cinefile
Urban Cinefile

You owe it to yourself to saddle up with them.

May 12, 2006 Full Review Source: RTE Interactive (Dublin, Ireland)

A stiff shows up with gruesome repetition in The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada, and some will be surprised to learn that it isn't Tommy Lee Jones' former college roommate, Al Gore.

May 5, 2006
Bangor Daily News (Maine)

It attempts to cover a lot of territory just like the American border patrol in Texas, but its results are mixed, perhaps, not unlike the border patrol.

April 29, 2006 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The film skitters along the lives of sad people in low places.

April 29, 2006 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

A fotografia ressalta a secura e o aspecto rochoso das locações como forma de estabelecer uma metáfora visual da própria existência daquelas pessoas retratadas pelo roteiro.

April 22, 2006
Cinema em Cena

Intriguingly structured, beautifully shot and superbly acted Western - this is one of the highlights of the year.

March 30, 2006 Full Review Source: ViewLondon

This gripping film about real people is well-worth excavating.

March 21, 2006 Full Review Source: BBC

They say good things come in threes: burials, for one, and Tommy Lee Jones (for another).

March 11, 2006 Full Review Source:

A messy drama that digs up a made-to-order villain (the racist U.S. authorities) and a dead hero (an illegal Mexican immigrant) ... Jones doubles-back on the story repeatedly, running roughshod over his characters to shovel in his political points.

March 10, 2006 Full Review Source: Boulder Weekly

A safe, satisfying drama steeped in classic notions of loyalty and friendship.

March 10, 2006

Audience Reviews for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut fits right into his oeuvre, sometimes even feels like the brother of one of his masterpieces, "No country for old men". It tells the story of a ranger trying to solve the murder of his illegal Mexican worker, who was on the verge of becoming a real friend, and a special journey he's taking with the perpetrator. That's beautifully filmed, but very slowly told. The fact that the vigilante and the killer hardly ever speak, and probably realistically so, makes the final act a little less believable but still a pretty decent ending. Worth seeing and a brave attempt, but certainly not an easy film to consume.
December 19, 2011

Super Reviewer

This is one of Tommy Lee Jones best films. About a Mexican hand he hires who is murdered and what he goes through to prove his killer and to gets revenge. A very long movie one reason it didn't get much airplay. a 5 star independent film.
June 6, 2011
Bruce Bruce

Super Reviewer

Thought this was a western not sure what you class it as, quite an odd film.
April 3, 2011

Super Reviewer

Exceptional screenplay plus a great directorial debut for Tommy Lee Jones.
March 23, 2011

Super Reviewer

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Latest News on The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

July 13, 2007:
Charlize Theron to Visit "The Burning Plain"
The Oscar-winning blonde will anchor the directorial debut of one of the hottest screenwriters...
October 4, 2006:
"21 Grams," "Babel" Creators Innaritu and Arriaga on the Outs?
Rumor has it that the long-standing and successful partnership between Mexican director Alejandro...
December 20, 2005:
Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics 2005 Awards

Foreign Titles

  • Trois enterrements (FR)
  • Los tres entierros de Melquiades Estrada (ES)
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