Sling Blade


Sling Blade

Critics Consensus

You will see what's coming, but the masterful performances, especially Thornton's, will leave you riveted.



Total Count: 51


Audience Score

User Ratings: 56,016
User image

Sling Blade Photos

Movie Info

Sling Blade marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton, who also authored the script (expanding George Hickenlooper's acclaimed short Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade) and stars in the picture. Thornton plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who spent most of his life in a mental institution. When Karl was a boy, he was severely mistreated by his abusive father (Robert Duvall). At age 12, Karl found his mother having intercourse with a man who tormented him endlessly; he snapped, flew into a homicidal rage, and killed both individuals by decapitating them. Years later, as a middle-aged man, Karl is deemed harmless to society and released from the mental institution where he resides. Karl says he has learned his lesson and adds, "I reckon I got no reason to kill no one." He returns to the town of his boyhood, where he's befriended by Frank (Lucas Black), the son of a widowed mother who sees the eccentric but open-hearted Karl as a kindred spirit. Karl also gets a job at a fix-it shop and resides in the backroom, until Frank's mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), takes a liking to Karl and lets him stay with them. However, Karl also meets Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), Linda's boyfriend, a sadistically cruel, narrow-minded drunk who tosses casual abuse at Frank, treats Linda like dirt, and mocks Karl endlessly. The late John Ritter co-stars as Linda's friend Vaughan, a mild-mannered homosexual who works at the neighborhood dollar store. Musicians Col. Bruce Hampton and Vic Chesnutt are among Doyle's party guests. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi

Watch it now


Billy Bob Thornton
as Karl Childers
Dwight Yoakam
as Doyle Hargraves
Lucas Black
as Frank Wheatley
Natalie Canerday
as Linda Wheatley
J.T. Walsh
as Charles Bushman
John Ritter
as Vaughn Cunningham
James Hampton
as Jerry Woolridge
Robert Duvall
as Karl's Father
Rick Dial
as Bill Cox
Brent Briscoe
as Scooter Hodges
Christy Ward
as Melinda
Sarah Boss
as Marsha Dwiggins
Kathy Sue Brown
as Theresa Evans
Vic Chesnutt
as Terence
Jim Jarmusch
as Dairy Queen Boy
Ian Moore
as Randy Horsefeathers
Judy Pryor Trice
as Mrs. Woolridge
Scott Stewart
as Bubba Woolridge
Mickey Jones
as Monty Johnson
Tim Holder
as Albert
Tom Kagy
as Freddy
Stacy Barrow
as Woolridge Secretary
Jamie Stewart
as Teenage Boy
D.J. Royston
as Housekeeper
Raymond Lewallen
as Ticket Agent
View All

News & Interviews for Sling Blade

Critic Reviews for Sling Blade

All Critics (51) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (49) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Sling Blade

  • Apr 09, 2019
    Peter B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 09, 2013
    What's most impressive about this film is the fact that Billy Bob Thorton manages to look and sound like a completely different person. And the fact of the matter is that this transformation is simple as hell, sticking your jaw out and changing your voice. Simple, yet highly effective. What can I say about this movie that hasn't been said in the last 17 years since it came out? First things first, I've owned this movie for years now and today was the first time watching. I have the special edition director's cut, which means that the version I watched runs about 2 and 20-some odd minutes long. And not for one second does this movie ever drag or feel like it's running for too long. So that's definitely a positive. The movie tells the story of Karl Childers, who's been in a mental institute for over 25 years for having murdered his wife and her lover, is released and the friendships he develops with a boy, his mother and pretty much everyone he meets, other than Doyle. I thought the writing was excellent and while all characters are really well-written, it doesn't make Karl look like a muppet. He's not someone to be pitied or mocked, he's actually a very kind-hearted, gentle and insightful man. The fact that he did murder his mother and lover isn't really even in your mind once you get to know this man. But, at first, when you meet Karl and he explains to the interviewer how he managed to find himself in that situation, the way this scene is set-up makes Karl sound horrifying. The scene is well-shot and taut. I do think that you can pretty much, right from the beginning of the film, figure out how the film is gonna end. If you've watched more than 20 movies in your life then you'll know. That doesn't mean that the movie isn't compelling, because it's a movie that commands your attention from beginning to end. I must also make special mention of Dwight Yoakam's performance, I thought he was a top-notch asshole in this movie. But, at the same time, he really isn't as bad as you'd have thought. I mean yea, he is a drunk and he yells a lot, but he was never physically abusive, outside of one shoving incident. He is an absolute jerk to Frank though, and he definitely needed to be removed from the equation so Frank and his mother could live happily without having to worry that Doyle was going to go after them. Did he deserved to be murdered? I don't know, it's a moral grey area. I didn't feel horribly sad that Doyle was murdered, but did he deserve it? That's where the dilemma comes in. Another part of the movie I was surprised at was the amount of comedy that was actually in the film. It's not hilarious, it's only a few scenes here and there, but they were a welcome surprise. The comedic highlight would have to be when Doyle and his band return to the house from buying alcohol and they're discussing the band, music, lyrics, etc. So I loved this movie, even if it is a little predictable. This is an excellent movie with a heartfelt story.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Feb 11, 2013
    Its a Hollywood gimme: feature a mentally/physically challenged soul as the central character in a picture and, bingo, Oscar time. And the twist? We learn to forgive and love ourselves through the big, wide open heart of the poor pathetic lug who's more human than us despite their infirmities. In this one the crazy murderering guy who's actually been committed turns out to be the nicest guy in the town! Thornton went Hollywood with this ... and never looked back. Yoakam's good as the bad guy, too.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Oct 10, 2012
    This be a good movie...mmm hmmm.
    John B Super Reviewer

Sling Blade Quotes

News & Features