Mississippi Burning (1988)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

Movie Info

Mississippi Burning is an all-names-changed dramatization of the Ku Klux Klan's murders of three civil rights workers in 1964. Investigating the mysterious disappearances of the three activists are FBI agents Gene Hackman (older, wiser) and Willem Dafoe (younger, idealistic). A Southerner himself, Hackman charms and cajoles his way through the tight-lipped residents of a dusty Mississippi town while Dafoe acts upon the evidence gleaned by his partner. Hackman solves the case by exerting his … More

Rating: R (adult situations/language, violence)
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Drama
Directed By:
Written By: Chris Gerolmo, Chris Geroimo, Alan Parker
In Theaters:
On DVD: Feb 25, 1998
Orion Pictures Corporation


as Anderson

as Deputy Pell

as Mayor Tilman

as Sheriff Stuckey

as Frank Bailey

as Lester Cowens

as Agent Bird

as Agent Monk

as Eulogist

as Judge

as Passenger

as Floyd Swilley

as Earl Cooke

as Wesley Cooke

as Curtis Foy

as Connie

as Aaron Williams

as Vertis Williams

as Mrs. Williams

as Pell Maid

as Interviewer & Report...

as SNCC Inteviewer

as Pecan Vendor

as Obie Walker

as Mrs. Walker

as Neighbor Woman

as Trooper

as Agent Stokes

as Beauty Parlor Woman

as Agent MacMillan

as Agent Brodsky

as Agent Nash

as Agent Reilly

as Agent Tubbs

as Grieving Mother

as Interviewee

as Mrs. Cowens

as Gospel Singer

as Beauty Parlor Woman

as TV Commentator

as TV Commentator

as Church Soloist

as Church Soloist

as Interviewee

as Agent Brodsky

as Interviewee

as Interviewee

as Interviewee

as SNCC Interviewee

as SNCC Interviewee

as Fire Bomber

as Fire Bomber

as Fire Bomber

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter

as Reporter
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News & Interviews for Mississippi Burning

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Critic Reviews for Mississippi Burning

All Critics (19) | Top Critics (5)

Parker pushes the picture along at a fervent clip, with the character scenes back-to-back with chases or violence.

Full Review… | June 17, 2008
Top Critic

For once, Parker directs without depending on flashy visual tropes.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

"Mississippi Burning" surveys the geography of racism, sheds light on the dark night of the soul.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

"Mississippi Burning" speeds down the complicated, painful path of civil rights in search of a good thriller.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Washington Post
Top Critic

"Mississippi Burning" feels like a movie made from the inside out, a movie that knows the ways and people of its small Southern city so intimately that, having seen it, I know the place I'd go for a cup of coffee and the place I'd steer clear from.

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

Slick, well-acted thriller that nonetheless distorts the facts and looks at the civil rights movement from a strictly white perspective

Full Review… | March 29, 2009

Audience Reviews for Mississippi Burning

When three civil rights activists go missing in a small Mississippi town, FBI agents Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe arrive to investigate igniting a powder keg of racial tension. Alan Parker's grim indictment of institutional racism is one gut wrenchingly powerful scene after another. Not only a gripping detective story, it also documents the appalling conditions African Americans had to endure in the not-so distant past. The pairing of college educated agent Dafoe who naively thought he could bluster into this insular community and instantly set the world to rights and Hackman's powerhouse performance as an ex-good ol' boy from the deep south himself works brilliantly; particularly the friction caused by Dafoe mistaking Hackman's laid back seen-it-all-before attitude for indifference. Frances McDormand also puts in a performance of quiet dignity as one of the good people of the community forced to keep silent by fear of the deep-seated hatred that surrounds her. Horrifyingly, this story was based on actual events and is for me, one of the best thrillers ever made. It's nice to think that with Obama in the Whitehouse, we are living in a different world. But as they say "You're in Mississippi now, boy. The rest of America don't mean shit."

xGary Xx

Super Reviewer


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

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 Jones‚(TM) mesmerizing score is outstanding. It feels like it is oozing out of the speakers & saturating your bones. This in conjunction with the film‚(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 ‚fight 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 doesn‚(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 Volk

Super Reviewer

Mississippi Burning Quotes

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– Submitted by Annelise R (4 years ago)

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