Badlands (1973)

Dramatization of the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950s, in which a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend slaughtered her entire family and several others in the Dakota badlands.


Some thoughts on Badlands:

This begins a Terence Malick love affair that will stretch for decades.

Badlands is a film of strange personal morality. A beautiful road movie through the waste of America, following the killing spree of two drifting souls. Holly and Kit are creatures of vague motivation. Bored of the tedium of civilisation they break out into the wilderness in a violent spiral towards death. Framed in the macro-beauty of nature.

For Holly it is unclear why she is so willing to follow Kit down this path of self-destruction. This is no Mickey and Mallory relationship. It becomes clear these characters hold no true love for each other. Only an interest (or fascination?). But for Kit it is about forging an element of fame or iconography of himself. He leaves a constant trail of ‘himself’ as they go. A trail of his morality, recording messages to tape for potential child fans who look up to him as an idol. “Listen to your parents and teachers. They got a line on most things, so don’t treat em like enemies.” he says. This whole ordeal is a quest to find importance. To impart a mark on the world.

Kit punctuates each action with strange justification and reasoning that Holly accepts. She doesn’t question him, but doesn’t understand him either. The two blaze out into this personal heaven, knowing that it is all temporary. Knowing and preparing for the explosive end.

Malick as a director has a way of splashing human brutality onto the frame of nature. A film about killing where the takeaway imagery is an aching, fading sun through grass and leaves. Badlands marks the beginning of Malickian cinematography. Film-makers have imitated and emulated this aesthetic style (but never as well) to an extent where it has become pastiche. But it began here.

This is a beautiful film about brutal, disconnected people.

5 years ago


Impressive debut of Terrence Malick!

7 years ago


Sissy is so lovely

8 years ago

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