320. Natural Born Killers

Movie: Natural Born Killers

Release Date: August 26, 1994

Director: Oliver Stone

Starring: Woody Harrelson, Juliette Lewis, Robert Downey Jr., Tommy Lee Jones, Tom Sizemore.

Tag Lines: “The Media Made Them Superstars.”

“In the media circus of life, they were the main attraction.”

“A bold new film that takes a look at a country seduced by fame, obsessed by crime and consumed by the media.”

Relevance: I wouldn’t consider myself a huge Oliver Stone fan, despite him having a fantastic first name. This is his second movie on my list (see 335. Born on the Fourth of July), but it is also his last movie to make it. It’s not that I don’t like all of his other movies, it’s just that these are the only two that greatly impacted me.

A satirical, black comedy with glorified violence, ‘Natural Born Killers’ is not a movie for everyone. It was considered a box-office hit in 1994, but it is known more for its controversies and “copycat crimes” than its artistic intent. I didn’t see the movie until it was released as a rental in 1995. I am not one to shy away from violence on screen and satire and irony are two of my favorite forms of humor, so I was all in. I not only enjoyed the fast, frenetic pace of the movie and the way it was shot, but loved the themes and ideas that the movie was trying to spotlight.

The over-the-top violence in the film as well as the performances by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis are what stood out most when I first watched it. Mr. Harrelson, mostly known then for his comedic role on the television show “Cheers” was definitely showing a side of him a lot of people hadn’t seen before. He was dark and brooding and, well, crazy. And he played it marvelously. Juliette Lewis was a little more known for darker and quirkier roles, so she fit right in to this Oliver Stone (Quentin Tarantino envisioned) ride.

Does mass media glorify violence? Do we make heroes out of criminals? ‘Natural Born Killers’ is not a movie I have visited often over the years, but nonetheless its vision and message, as well as the questions it provokes, has stayed with me.

Today’s Thoughts: It’s hard to imagine a time without reality television and 24-hour news coverage, but in 1994 most of that was either brand new or on the horizon. Oliver Stone was very perceptive in where things were headed.

Watching ‘Natural Born Killers’ today, I laughed a whole lot more than I remember laughing when I first watched it way back in 1995. I found a lot more of the dialogue ironic and humorous than I did the first time around. The performances are still fun to watch. Even Rodney Dangerfield as Juliette Lewis’ character’s father is impressive. Of course, the scene is played as a “sitcom,” laugh track included, so it’s easy to accept him in that role.

The themes and message of the film are still very relevant today, however the movie has lost some of its “shock” value. Maybe it’s just that I have become numb to the violence portrayed on the screen. In America, with all of the gun violence and mass shootings we endure on a weekly basis, haven’t we all become a little numb to it? A sad statement. But I fear it’s a true statement, as well as a point that Oliver Stone and ‘Natural Born Killers’ was trying to make way back in 1994.

Awards: Golden Globe Award for Best Director, Oliver Stone (nomination).

Ways to Watch: YouTube, iTunes, Amazon Prime, Hulu, Vudu, Google Play, DVD Availability.


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