The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada


The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Critics Consensus

Tommy Lee Jones' directorial debut is both a potent western and a powerful morality tale.



Total Count: 146


Audience Score

User Ratings: 33,714
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Movie Info

A man is shot and quickly buried in the high desert of west Texas. The body is found and reburied in Van Horn's town cemetery. Pete Perkins, a local ranch foreman kidnaps a Border Patrolman and forces him to disinter the body. With his captive in tow and the body tied to a mule Pete undertakes a dangerous and quixotic journey into Mexico.


Tommy Lee Jones
as Pete Perkins
Barry Pepper
as Mike Norton
Julio Cesar Cedillo
as Melquiades Estrada
Julio Cedillo
as Melquiades Estrada
Dwight Yoakam
as Sheriff Belmont
January Jones
as Lou Ann Norton
Levon Helm
as Old Man With Radio
Melvin Rodriguez
as Captain Gomez
Josh Berry
as Border Patrolman
Rodger Boyce
as Salesman
René Campero
as Don Casimiro
Lupe Campos
as Sands Guy 2
Uriel Chavez
as Cowboy 2
Montserrat de Leon
as El Toston Woman 2
Jordan Henderson
as Mary, Soap Opera Girl
Karen Jones
as Dog Lady
Victoria Jones
as Immigrant Girl
Raul Molinar
as Radio Announcer 1
Lonnie Nelson
as Gravedigger
Paulina Reyes
as Piano Player
Sergio Rodriguez
as Radio Announcer 2
Brent Smiga
as Deputy Antonio
Spike Spencer
as John, Soap Opera
Maya Zapata
as El Toston Woman 1
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News & Interviews for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

Critic Reviews for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

All Critics (146) | Top Critics (41) | Fresh (124) | Rotten (22)

  • As an actor Tommy Lee Jones rarely makes a false move. A master of understatement, he conveys a sense of enormous power held in check. The same could be said of his first feature as a director, Three Burials.

    Nov 1, 2007 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • This gripping film about real people is well-worth excavating.

    Mar 21, 2006 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…

    Nev Pierce
    Top Critic
  • This isn't a film that demands to be enjoyed in order to be remembered -- one way or the other, it will stick with you.

    Feb 24, 2006 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • With all due respect to that important, quasi-controversial, most-honored film of last year, this is the best Western of 2005.

    Feb 24, 2006 | Rating: 5/5
  • [A] long, kooky, immensely absorbing picture, which forges the elegiac cruelty of a Cormac McCarthy novel with the two-fisted machismo of a Sam Peckinpah movie, and comes up with an altogether new brand of Western mythology.

    Feb 24, 2006 | Rating: 3/4
  • Funny, tough, filled with cut-to-the-bone moments and bleached in the heat of the Texas sun, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada is a movie that sears itself into the viewer with uncompromising vision and stark approach.

    Feb 24, 2006 | Rating: A | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada

  • May 14, 2015
    An offbeat and odd morality tale that burns in your memory, Tommy Lee Jones' film nonetheless bleeds with all of the bullets and brawn masculinity exhibited in such Sam Peckinpah western classics as The Wild Bunch and Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia. Two years before No Country for Old Men (which Jones starred in) gave filmgoers an instant 21st century classic, one of that film's stars nailed the same serio-comic tone and stripped bare violence in a similar tale of the American West. Topical on the subjects of geopolitics and the Mexican quotient of Mexican-American without being a tutorial, The Three Burials of Melquiades Estrada excellently pits the very U.S. of A genre of western in a very Latin American context. In this R-rated modern western, Ranch hand Pete Perkins (Jones) looks to fulfill the promise to his recently deceased best friend by burying him in his hometown in Mexico with the help of the careless man who shot him (Pepper). From premise to fulfilling the protagonists promise, Tommy Lee Jones delivers an A-Level directorial debut. You can hear the pitch black humor and laid-bare honesty of Cormac McCarthy in dialogue that's exchanged like bullets in a shootout...but it's screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga and not the author of No Country for Old Men, All the Pretty Horses, and Blood Meridian, who's dreamt up this world that's at times stark and raving mad but never completely stark raving mad. Jones' Pete is a man of scruples, as is the actor's direction. He tames Arriagas rugged dusty landscape and nails a role that's just as much a scrupulous oddball. Bottom line: All the Pretty Horsesense
    Jeff B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 30, 2013
    I don't think I really have much to say about this movie but it is a well-written and incredibly well-acted movie. It features one Tommy Lee Jones' more understated and heartfelt performances as this man who's only trying to do right by his friend after he was unjustly murdered by a border patrolman. I think what the movie does well is that, while, Barry Pepper's character is kind of an asshole, at first, what happened really was an accident, as he's clearly haunted by the fact that he killed an innocent man. The film is particularly powerful when you're constantly reminded of Melquiades through the use of flashbacks and seeing how he and Pete develop a close friendship, that adds some depth to the movie. The movie also touches on themes of prejudice, obsession, redemption and morality. So it tackles a lot of issues and it does so in an intelligent manner. I was also surprised by the amount of comedy that is in the film. It's not like it's meant to be a comedy, but the are scenes here and there that keep the movie from feeling too serious. And I thought that was a smart choice. Again, it adds a little light touch to what is an incredibly dark movie. I also thought the ending, or the climactic act of the movie, which sees Tommy's character finding out that Melquiades lied to him about where he lived and about having a family and seeing how his denial leads to him creating his own little town in order to bury Melquiades. I thought this aspect of the film also added a good deal of mystery to the character that you grew so fond of throughout the flashbacks. You're not sure what Melquiades was up to in Mexico and what made him escape to Texas, so that adds a little twist to the film's story, which is already really good. I thought this movie was great. It has some excellent acting, special mention goes to Barry Pepper who did an incredible job, and a great storytelling. I'd definitely recommend this flick, it's certainly underrated.
    Jesse O Super Reviewer
  • Nov 15, 2012
    I have no issue with the supporting cast who are fabulous but Jones appears preachy in his director's debut. Clearly as the director, he was not keeping Jones the actor in check.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Sep 25, 2011
    Featuring Arriaga's traditional broken narrative, Three Burials is a very well pulled drama/western about morality and redemption, though don't expect a dark approach as in 21 Grams or Amores Perros. It actually has some pretty funny moments that help to distract the viewer from the more serious themes. Boosted by another great performance from Tomy Lee Jones and great shots of the desert, Three Burials shouldn't pass unnoticed.
    Francisco G Super Reviewer

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