Citizen Ruth (1996)

Citizen Ruth



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Although her four previous children were taken away by the state, drug-addicted Ruth Stoops is once again pregnant. When a disgusted judge attempts to force her into having an abortion, Ruth finds herself being offered money by both the Pro-Life and the Pro-Choice organizations to serve as their poster child.

Rating: R
Genre: Comedy
Directed By:
Written By: Jim Taylor, Alexander Payne
In Theaters:
On DVD: Apr 8, 2003
Miramax - Official Site


as Ruth Stoops

as Diane Sieglar

as Gail Stoney

as Norm Stoney

as Cheryl Stoney

as Jessica Weiss

as Blaine Gibbons

as Harlan

as Ruth's mother

as Dr. Charlie Rollins

as Judge Richter

as Nurse Pat

as Ruth's Lover

as Tony Stoops

as Arresting Officer

as ER Doctor

as Kathleen

as Bail Clerk

as Party Dude

as Norm's Manager

as Clinic Protester

as Clinic Protester

as Cindy Lindstrom

as News Anchor

as Officer Iverson

as Officer Bundy

as Man in Motel Lobby

as Woman in Motel Lobby

as Anecdote-Telling Man

as Helpful Registration...

as Press Conference Rep...

as Don Mattox

as Surveillance Guy

as Ruth's `Sister'

as Sarah Schneider

as Dr. Cary Milton

as Receptionist

as Guy Hit by Toilet Li...

as Ruth's Kid

as Harlan's Biker Frien...

as Harlan's Biker Frien...

as Harlan's Biker Frien...

as Harlan's Biker Frien...

as Harlan's Biker Frien...
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Critic Reviews for Citizen Ruth

All Critics (44) | Top Critics (15)

It's probably too schematic to reward more than a single viewing, but as a provocative one-time surprise it may become a specialized sleeper.

January 1, 2000
USA Today
Top Critic

Full Review… | September 7, 2011
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

Full Review… | April 12, 2002
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

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

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Citizen Ruth


One of the best political satires to deal with the extremely volatile subject of abortion, first time director Alexander Payne gave a powerhouse first film to his repertoire with this bitterly acid black comedy. What I think everyone appreciates is that both sides of this debate are shown in equally unpleasant terms, but not exactly unrealistic ones. The conservative branch are a set of violent and mean spirited protesters, but they also have women who regret their own abortions, and people who sincerely try to help the less fortunate. The liberal side is characterized as a set of lesbian leaning protestors and a freedom fighting mercenary who care about the right to choose. In the middle of this blood sport for the sake of creation is the character of Ruth (Dern), who doesn't care about the politics that make her center stage in a tumultuous feud. Instead of caring about the sanctity of human life, or about the freedom to choose, she cares about what is best for her. She makes the film enjoyable because she cares about very little except getting a lot of money and getting high behind a convenience store. It's really interesting how each side is fighting for her rights in their own way, trying to give her the freedom to choose and yet both leaning towards a different end-game, and yet she only wants to know what's best for herself. It's this selfish attitude that makes for the best moments, especially because there isn't any morale and certainly not any lessons learned from her experiences. Ruth is continually given the chance to do right, but every time she enables her formal bad behavior so she can get away clean. This film illustrates that human choice precedes morals, intellectual discussion, and politics, and that human choice is subjective based on who the person is. I think this film is good for anyone, on either side of the political spectrum, not for educational purposes, but because it works as a great character study as well as satire for its own sake.

Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

This marked the feature debut of director and co-writer Alexander Payne, and man, did he get off to a good start.

This is a scathing satire on the hot-button issue of abortion, and the ballsiest move that is made is that the film takes neither side, and instead skewers them both equally.

Ruth is an unfit, drug addicted scumbag loser who, after finding out she's pregnant with her fifth child, finds herself unwittingly in the middle of the pro-life/pro-choice war as a hapless pawn who really wants nothing to do with either side, but is willing to play ball once she figures out that either side is willing to give her tons of cash if she joins in,

The film is a tad rough, but makes for a striking debut. It's got nothing but unlikable characters, and takes the best position on an issue where neither side is truly right or truly wrong. The portrayals of the pro-choicers and the pro-lifers are dead on accurate, and that will probably make some people very uneasy.

I think this is a bold film, and one that's also very sharp, funny, and entertaining, It does get a bit repetitive after a while, but overall, proves to be quite solid.

Laura Dern is brilliant as Ruth, and this is easily her most courageous and strong performance. It takes talent to pull off such a tough character, but she absolutely nails it. Other actors such as Kurtwood Smith and Swoosie Kurtz turn in some good work as well, but seem far less well rounded, and veer more often than not towards caricature. It's still some nice work though.

Payne obviously went on to far greater achievements, but this marked a great place for him to begin. Give it a go, it's quite something.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


There aren't to many comedies about abortion out there today, but Alexander Payne attempts on in Citizen Ruth. The movie has guts, but the humor itself doesn't have the shock value I was expecting. The witty Payne could've pulled a few jaw droppers, but didn't even attempt them. The movie still has funny moments, as Ruth is pulled between a poster child of pro-life and pro-choice, when she as a drug addict gets pregnant with her forth child. The espionage reveal was funny, but there aren't to many other laugh out loud moments.

The film has some explorative cinematography, when put in the first person perspective of Ruth. It's nothing ground breaking, but is intriguing.

I felt that Ruth switched from mellow disinterest to extreme passion to often. Perhaps it was to show the ever changing moves of an inhaler addict, but it didn't always make sense. Luara Dern has gotten acclaim for this role, but I didn't see anything special. Little true emotion, and far to much swaying.

Daniel Dolgin
Daniel Dolgin

Super Reviewer

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