Mississippi Burning

1988, Crime/Mystery & thriller, 2h 5m

25 Reviews 25,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Mississippi Burning draws on real-life tragedy to impart a worthy message with the measured control of an intelligent drama and the hard-hitting impact of a thriller. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

When a group of civil rights workers goes missing in a small Mississippi town, FBI agents Alan Ward (Willem Dafoe) and Rupert Anderson (Gene Hackman) are sent in to investigate. Local authorities refuse to cooperate with them, and the African American community is afraid to, precipitating a clash between the two agents over strategy. As the situation becomes more volatile, the direct approach is abandoned in favor of more aggressive, hard-line tactics.

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Critic Reviews for Mississippi Burning

All Critics (25) | Top Critics (6) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (4)

Audience Reviews for Mississippi Burning

  • May 18, 2021
    Gene Hackman leads a nice crop of newcomers (like Willem Dafoe and Francis McDormand) in this taut drama about the early Civil Rights movement. Three Northern social activists disappear in the heart of the South and nobody has a clue as to where, particularly the local civic authorities, so the ("goddamn interfering") FBI comes to town to investigate. Interesting to note that what might have been another rote buddy cop movie take gains cred by switching up the dynamic and giving the young, emotional guy the authoritarian, by-the-book suit, while the older, experienced, knows-the-ins-and-outs suit has to take orders.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 30, 2013
    It's hard to believe that Willem Dafoe was young and not quite so strange looking at one point. He and Hackman have excellent chemistry as they attempt to investigate not just a crime but an entire culture.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Nov 18, 2013
    There are many movies that do not stand the test of time, but this isn't one of them. Great direction, story, and acting. A moving must see depiction of the state of affairs in the United States in the 1960's. A time of change.This is filmmaking at it's best. Appalling to me, however, that the culprits received such little jail time at the end (and had to be convicted of lesser crimes JUST to convict them of something).
    Cynthia S Super Reviewer
  • Sep 12, 2012
    Mississippi Burning is a movie with it's heart in the right place. Parker & company do their very best to immerse the viewer into a time and place unimaginable by many Americans of a younger generations. For the most part they pull it off. This is aided by great performances from Hackman who plays a shrewd detective that has been around the block a few times & a young Dafoe, an ideologue who cannot comprehend how this sort of madness has come to pass. The film at times feels like a horror film, which I found fitting as this was a truly terrifying time for Southern blacks. Trevor Jonesâ(TM) mesmerizing score is outstanding. It feels like it is oozing out of the speakers & saturating your bones. This in conjunction with the filmâ(TM)s dark & gritty look leaves the viewer with an overall unsettling feeling. My main problem with the film unfortunately has to do with the script. While entertaining, I couldn't help but feel a bit confused by the "love" story that was awkwardly forced in. Also, while there is a satisfaction that comes with watching a little revenge porn, having the detectives stoop to such low levels in order to bring the criminals to justice felt a bit wrong. I understand the old adage that one must âfight fire with fire.❠However, this type of racial subjugation was sustained due to the use of macabre terror tactics. The film seems to suggest that the only way to end evil is to partake in it. It doesnâ(TM)t explore the consequences of this course of action and everything seems to fall into place after the detectives embrace these brutal tactics. A message a found a bit disconcerting. Overall, Mississippi Burning is an entertaining, albeit one-dimensional, look at the ruthlessness of the Southern Civil Rights Movement.
    Reid V Super Reviewer

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