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Badlands (1973)

1:37 | Trailer
An impressionable teenage girl from a dead-end town and her older greaser boyfriend embark on a killing spree in the South Dakota badlands.


Terrence Malick


Terrence Malick
2,683 ( 330)
Nominated for 1 BAFTA Film Award. Another 3 wins. See more awards »





Complete credited cast:
Martin Sheen ... Kit
Sissy Spacek ... Holly
Warren Oates ... Father
Ramon Bieri ... Cato
Alan Vint ... Deputy
Gary Littlejohn Gary Littlejohn ... Sheriff
John Carter ... Rich Man
Bryan Montgomery Bryan Montgomery ... Boy
Gail Threlkeld Gail Threlkeld ... Girl
Charles Fitzpatrick Charles Fitzpatrick ... Clerk
Howard Ragsdale Howard Ragsdale ... Boss
John Womack Jr. John Womack Jr. ... Trooper
Dona Baldwin Dona Baldwin ... Maid
Ben Bravo Ben Bravo ... Gas Attendant


It's the late 1950s. Mid-twenty-something Kit is a restless and unfocused young man with a James Dean vibe and swagger which he has heard mentioned about him more than once. Fifteen year old Holly has a somewhat cold relationship with her sign painter father, if only because she is the primary reminder of his wife, who died of pneumonia when Holly was a child. The two meet when Holly and her father move from Texas to the small town where Kit lives, Fort Dupree, South Dakota. They slowly fall in love, something about which she cannot tell her father because of their age difference and Kit coming from the wrong side of the tracks. When he tries to take Holly away with him, Kit, on an impulse, shoots her father dead. After letting the initial emotions of the situation settle down, Holly decides voluntarily to go with Kit, they trying to make it look like they committed suicide in a house fire. But they soon learn that their plan did not work, there being a bounty on their heads. As such,... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. He was very fastidious. People who littered bothered him. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. She wasn't very popular at school. For awhile they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people. See more »


Action | Crime | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

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Did You Know?


The film's original budget was $300,000. See more »


In one of her voice-overs, Holly refers to the "mountains of Saskatchewan". There are no mountains in Saskatchewan, although there is a Mt. Saskatchewan in the Rockies. See more »


[first lines]
Holly Sargis: [voice over narration] My Mother died of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My Father kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral he gave it to the yard man. He tried to act cheerful but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then one day hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all these memories he moved us from Texas to Port Dupree, South Dakota.
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Featured in Richard Linklater: Dream Is Destiny (2016) See more »


Musik zu einem Puppenspiel
[Music for a puppet play] (uncredited)
by 'Gunild Keetman'
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User Reviews

An Essential Terrence Malick Film!
2 January 2019 | by gab-14712See all my reviews

Terrence Malick's Badlands is an incredible directorial debut and as many people say, one for the ages. In essence, this movie became a cult film because of how picky Malick was when it came to choosing projects to direct. Between 1973 and 1997, he only directed two films. But this review will focus on Malick's 1973 feature. Badlands has everything you want from a Malick film. A story that represents the American lifestyle and culture, beautiful cinematography from Tak Fujimoto, haunting music from the likes of Nat King Cole and Carl Orff, and a story that is held together in narration by one of its main characters. Like most Malick films, this may not be for everyone. Those expecting a traditional Western, look elsewhere. Those looking for a thoughtful, intelligent film about American values (well, values of 1973's Americans), this is the film for you.

Badlands was written by Terrence Malick himself. His source of inspiration for his main characters Kit and Holly was the killing spree by Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate. Starkweather murdered eleven people during the length of the spree, and Fugate claims she just went along for the ride although Starkweather claimed her just to be guilty as he was. Starkweather was executed by the electric chair in 1959 and Fugate was sentenced to life in prison. With my research regarding this murder spree, I can see how this inspired the main characters of the movie. Kit is just someone who kills because he feels like it and the young Holly follows him because she felt it was nice to have someone love her like he did. Certainly, Malick makes no attempt to humanize or psychoanalyze the deeds of these characters, but he does successfully get the viewers to see why these characters make the decisions that they make.

It's the late 1950's, and we are introduced to Kit (Martin Sheen) and Holly (Sissy Spacek). Kit is a former garbage man in his mid-20's. and has an uncanny resemblance of James Dean. Holly is ten years younger, and suffers from a distant relationship with her father and is constantly bullied at school. Their worlds collide when Holly and her father move from Texas to South Dakota, and the two slowly fall in love. One day, Kit decides to shoot her father and they decide to leave town making their escape look like suicide via house fire. Their plan fails, and a bounty is placed on their heads. Kit and Holly now must avoid the authorities as they muse about the significance of their lives.

This is the movie that lit the fire of both Martin Sheen's and Sissy Spacek's respective acting careers. Both actors were fantastic working with each other, but I liked each performance as an individual performance as well. This movie gives off serious "Bonnie and Clyde"-like vibes, but these characters are not like Bonnie and Clyde at all. Sheen's Kit is a villainous character, but he does not out of anger or even evilness. He is just an empty void. A character of coldness, and that makes his character even more chilling. Spacek's Holly tells the story from her point-of-view through a monotonous voiceover. She plays the character as very matter of fact and almost as if she is in awe. Regardless, both characters possess an empty void because they are truly in over their heads as if (and maybe they don't) they cannot understand the consequences of their actions.

Badlands is a very contemplative, thought-provoking feature film debut by Terrence Malick. It is an American film that discusses the values of the time the film was released. It had something to say about fame. After the duo is captured, throngs of people and even the police themselves wants an autograph from the James Dean-wannabe. Take that as you will. Critics compared this debut to the likes of Citizen Kane, although maybe I would tell critics to take a deep breath. I thought this film was a remarkable debut for a director, but sometimes the movie was too contemplative for my taste. Although, I truly believe Malick meant it to be that way. This is a rich movie with striking cinematography and beautiful, haunting music that perfectly resembles the characters of the movie.

My Grade: B+

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Frequently Asked Questions

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English | Spanish

Release Date:

5 January 1974 (Brazil) See more »

Also Known As:

Badlands See more »


Box Office


$450,000 (estimated)

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

Mono | Mono (Glen Glenn Sound)



Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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