Sling Blade

1996, Drama, 2h 16m

56 Reviews 50,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

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

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Movie Info

Mentally disabled Karl Childers (Billy Bob Thornton) is released from the mental hospital where he has spent most of his life after murdering his mother and her lover. He soon forms a bond with Frank (Lucas Black), a boy whose father committed suicide. When Frank's mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), lets Karl stay at their house, her cruel boyfriend, Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), tries to get Karl removed. Determined to protect his friend, Karl devises a way to save Frank from years of Doyle's abuse.

Cast & Crew

Dwight Yoakam
Doyle Hargraves
J.T. Walsh
Charles Bushman
John Ritter
Vaughan Cunningham
Lucas Black
Frank Wheatley
Natalie Canerday
Linda Wheatley
James Hampton
Dr. Jerry Woolridge
Robert Duvall
Frank Childers
Rick Dial
Bill Cox
Brent Briscoe
Scooter Hodges
Jim Jarmusch
Frostee Cream Boy
Larry Meistrich
Executive Producer
Daniel Lanois
Original Music
Barry Markowitz
Cinematographer
Clark Hunter
Production Design
Traci Kirshbaum
Set Decoration
Doug Hall
Costume Designer
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Critic Reviews for Sling Blade

All Critics (56) | Top Critics (16) | Fresh (54) | Rotten (2)

Audience Reviews for Sling Blade

  • 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
  • Jul 08, 2012
    Billy Bob Thornton's Sling Blade is a near perfect drama with an incredible cast. Of all his films, this is the best film that I've seen Thornton star in. I thought that this was a compelling drama that was superbly well acted, and possessed a great story as well. This is a terrific film that should be seen. Thornton plays Karl Childers a retarded middle aged man who killed his mother and lover. This is a brilliant film that has an engaging story. The films actors are wonderful, and Thornton's acting and directing are almost perfect. This is a near perfect drama that is entertaining from start to finish. I thought that the film is one of Thornton's greatest films, and he proves that he is able to take on a more serious role. The film is wonderful and manages to be a memorable film. Sling Blade boasts some powerful performances from its cast, and it's what makes this film stand out. If you're in the mood for a stellar drama film, then give this film a look. With a brilliant cast, great story and great directing, Sling Blade is a must see for serious film fans. This is an almost perfect film, and with performances that really stand out, Sling Blade has stood the test of time after all these years. This is a well crafted film, and one of the best drama films of the 90's. Sling Blade is a near perfect piece of cinema, and is Billy Bob Thornton's finest hour as an actor. A stunning film that is quite unforgettable, Sling Blade has heart and charm due to the great performance of Thornton. A film that is hard to forget.
    Alex r Super Reviewer

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