Natural Born Killers (1994)

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A frenetic, bloody look at mass murder and the mass media, director Oliver Stone's extremely controversial film divided critics and audiences with its mixture of over-the-top violence and bitter cultural satire. At the center of the film, written by Stone and Quentin Tarantino, among others, are Mickey (Woody Harrelson) and Mallory (Juliette Lewis), a young couple united by their desire for each other and their common love of violence. Together, they embark on a record-breaking, exceptionally gory killing spree that captivates the sensation-hungry tabloid media. Their fame is ensured by one newsman, Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.), who reports on Mickey and Mallory for his show, American Maniacs. Even the duo's eventual capture by the police only increases their notoriety, as Gale develops a plan for a Super Bowl Sunday interview that Mickey and Mallory twist to their own advantage. Visually overwhelming, Robert Richardson's hyperkinetic cinematography switches between documentary-style black-and-white, surveillance video, garishly colored psychedelia, and even animation in a rapid-fire fashion that mirrors the psychosis of the killers and the media-saturated culture that makes them popular heroes. The film's extreme violence -- numerous edits were required to win an R rating -- became a subject of debate, as some critics asserted that the film irresponsibly glorified its murderers and blamed the filmmakers for potentially inciting copy-cat killings. Defenders argued that the film attacks media obsession with violence and satirizes a sensationalistic, celebrity-obsessed society. Certain to provoke discussion, Natural Born Killers will thoroughly alienate many viewers with its shock tactics, chaotic approach, and disturbing subject matter, while others will value the combination of technical virtuosity and dark commentary on the modern American landscape. ~ Judd Blaise, Rovi
Rating:
R (for extreme violence and graphic carnage, for shocking images, and for strong language and sexuality.)
Genre:
Action & Adventure , Drama , Mystery & Suspense
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
 wide
On DVD:
Runtime:
Studio:
Warner Bros. Pictures

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Cast

Juliette Lewis
as Mallory
Red West
as Cowboy Sheriff
Arliss Howard
as uncredited
Robert Downey Jr.
as Wayne Gale
Mark Harmon
as Mickey Knox in Wayne Gale's reconstruction (uncredite
Rodney Dangerfield
as Mallory's Father
Tommy Lee Jones
as Dwight McClusky
Jared Harris
as London Boy
Balthazar Getty
as Gas Station Attendant
Tom Sizemore
as Jack Scagnetti
Phil Neilson
as Mickey's Dad
Edie McClurg
as Mallory's Mother
Marshall Bell
as 1st Deputy
Russell Means
as Old Indian
Maria Pitillo
as Deborah
Steven Wright
as Dr. Emil Reingold
Glen Chin
as Druggist
Josh Richman
as Soundman
Carl Ciarfalio
as 2nd Mallory's Guard
Dale Dye
as Dale Wrigley
Emmanuel Xuereb
as 2nd French Boy
Salvator Xuereb
as 1st French Boy
Kirk Baltz
as Roger
Joe Grifasi
as Duncan Homolka
Saemi Nakamura
as 1st Japanese Kid/Japanese Reporter
O-Lan Jones
as Mabel
Matthew Faber
as 1st Kid
Natalie Karp
as French Girl
Bob Swan
as Napolatoni
Jerry Gardner
as 1st Work Boss
Terrylene
as Julie
Douglas Crosby
as 1st Mallory's Guard
Robert "R.J." Jordan
as Wgn Newscaster
Sean Stone
as Kevin
John M. Watson Sr.
as Black Inmate
Jim Carrane
as Smithy
Sally Jackson
as Mickey's Mom
Jeremiah Bitsui
as Young Indian boy
Peter Crombie
as Intense Cop
Everett Quinton
as Wurlitzer
Melinda Ramos Renna
as Antonia Chavez
Ed White
as Pinball Cowboy
Jake Beecham
as 3rd Kid
Brian Douglas Barker
as Young Mickey
Seiko Yoshida
as 2nd Japanese Kid
Jack Caffrey
as 2nd Work Boss
Carol-Renee Modrall
as Short Order Cook
Leon Skyhorse Thomas
as 3rd Work Boss
Corey Everson
as TV Mallory
Eddie 'Doogie' Conna
as Gerald Nash
Jamie Herrold
as 2nd Kid
Katharine McQueen
as London Girl
Jessie Rutowski
as Young Girl
Corinna Laszlo
as Emily (Hostage in Motel)
Gerry Runnels
as Indian Cop
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Critic Reviews for Natural Born Killers

All Critics (35) | Top Critics (8)

As a satirist, [Stone's] an elephant ballerina.

May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

This is one of my all time favorite movies, and it put Oliver Stone on my list of 'Best Directors Ever,' right along with Stanley [Kubrick].

May 12, 2001
Rolling Stone
Top Critic

Stone...doesn't know the meaning of moderation or subtlety, and opts instead for something that is excessive and self-indulgent. It's as if he wants to shout out the statement: 'Look at what I can do! I'm an artist!'

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
ReelViews
Top Critic

The main problem with Killers...is that it degenerates into the very thing it criticizes.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Welcome to Natural Born Killers, Stone's empty, manic meditation on society's glorification of violence and the ugly heroes it loves to hate.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Washington Post
Top Critic

Seeing this movie once is not enough. The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning.

Full Review… | December 31, 1999
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Natural Born Killers

One of the most controversial films of the past twenty years, "Natural Born Killers" incited a frothy debate on the role of violence in mass media, and how it affects young children. The actual controversy surrounding the film included a lawsuit that stated that the film had incited violence by showing satirized depictions of violence, going against the actual point of the film. The original screenplay was by Quentin Tarantino, though later bought and heavily changed by Oliver Stone and his collaborators, though the inspiration is still very clear. The film stars Woody Harrelson and Juliet Lewis as mass murderers who are also a couple, the story taking heavily from the exploits of Starkweather, the beating of Rodney King, and sensationalized news coverage. Their story, while seeming out of this world strange, is memorable for its proximity to true American crime stories, and the media coverage that did surround them. Robert Downey Jr. plays an Australian reporter with a crime TV show (a la Geraldo Rivera) who gets way too into the story he is reporting on, and finds it all very exciting rather than horrifying. It's a scathing indictment of the media, and their inability to show murder and violence without a bit of excitement, maybe even envy. There's this gross, almost pseudo-erotic tendency that crime shows have towards their subject matter. Everything has to be pulse thumping and exploitative, even though these are real people dying. Besides its core message, this film is also amazing for its shocking use of parody, sex, and violence. Though the events in the film can be the basis for an action film, it's framed so that you feel queasy, that you see the grotesque of society while also seeing inside the minds of these killers. This film is riveting, gross, and bloody, while also being insightful.

Spencer S.
Spencer S.

Super Reviewer

This is Oliver Stone's masterful, hallucinatory, stylish, surreal, and biting satirical look at mass murderers and the media/folk culture surrounding them. It was somewhat inspired by the story of Charles Starkweather, whose life also influenced Terrence Malick's debut Badlands. Loosely based on a story by Quentin Tarantino, what we get here is the saga of Mickey and Mallory Knox- a pair of mass murderers who rampage across the American Southwest before getting imprisoned, where they somehow still manage to get their (violent) kicks. All the while the media hones in on them, making them out to be veritable folk heroes, with the main media figure being slimy Aussie television journalist Wayne Gale. On the other side of the story are determined detective Jack Scagnetti who is almost as psychos as the people he's after, and prison warden Dwight McClusky who just relishes the idea of being able to bring Mickey and Mallory to the reaper. This is a wild, sometimes messy, and always over the top film that is all over the place, but definitely makes an impression. It's kinda hard to pin this film down, but, even if you don't agree with the message of how it's done, you can't deny that this film is worth seeing and discussing. It's one of those bitter and scathing satires, but there's also a darkly comedic undercurrent going on. I'll admit that this is a disturbing film, but there is a point to it, and it's done with intelligence. Woody Harrelson and and Juliette Lewis are terrific as Mickey and Mallory, Robert Downey Jr. is a delight as Wayne Gale, Tommy Lee Jones is a gloriously scenery chewing delight as Dwight McClusky, and Tom Sizemore is kidna scary as Scagnetti. This film also features Rodney Dangerfield's only dramatic turn as Mallory's sleazy abusive dad. The film is shot almost exclusively in Dutch angles using a variety of formats including, color, black and white, animation, super 8, 16, and 35 mm film stocks, and a whole lot more. It's all done to add style, but also substance, and its all discussed by Stone at length on the commentary track. Or you could just read about it online if you'd prefer. From a technical perspective, this film is a dizzying and ambitious marvel. It's perhaps pretentious, and naysayers will call it overbearing, but I think it's all part of the overall experience. The soundtrack is likewise suitably manic and eclectic, and one of my favorites. All in all, this is a landmark of 90s cinema and a film you should definitely see.

Chris Weber
Chris Weber

Super Reviewer

½

I've seen it but I've never REALLY seen it.

Bob Stinson
Bob Stinson

Super Reviewer

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