Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Badlands (1973)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Badlands (1973)

In this daring debut film of 29 year-old director/writer and producer Terrence Malick - inspired and based on the murder spree of a killing, loving couple, 19 year-old Charles Starkweather and 14 year-old Caril Ann Fugate, in the late 1950's in Nebraska and bordering states. The disturbing, complex character study, a coming of age crime drama, observed the twisted, strange actions of two young fugitives on a senseless, emotionally-apathetic, and casual homicidal spree from her small South Dakota hometown, and how they ensured their immortality through unplanned or unintentional murders before being apprehended:

  • the opening voice-over, monotone narration of a young, transplanted, motherless South Dakotan living in the small town of Fort Dupree - naive, lackadaisical, starry-eyed, celebrity magazine-addicted and impressionable 15 year old teenager Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek), who was baton-twirling in the street: ("My mother died of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My father had kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral, he gave it to the yardman. 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 his memories, he moved us from Texas to Ft. Dupree, South Dakota. Little did I realize that what began in the alleys and backways of this quiet town would end in the Badlands of Montana")
Two Troubled Teens

Holly Sargis (Sissy Spacek)

Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen)
  • Holly was introduced to the unstable, misfit, social outcast garbage collector who soon became her boyfriend - a charismatic 25 year-old Kit Carruthers (Martin Sheen, a James Dean look-alike), a troubled and violent Korean War vet
  • Holly's widowed, house-painter-employed father Mr. Sargis (Warren Oates) disapproved of his daughter's growing romance with Kit, by coldly executing her beloved pet dog in a field, and ordered Kit to never see Holly again
  • in retaliation, Kit broke into Holly's house and pressured Holly to run away with him; when her over-protective and abusive father protested and threatened to call the police, Kit non-chalantly shot him dead - as Holly impassively observed; Holly seemed ready to become Kit's good-girl-gone-bad partner, when he torched Holly's house (and attempted to fake their fiery suicide with a recorded suicide-note left behind)
  • the two then fled from town after detouring to Holly's high school to pick up her books; at first, the couple hid-out and 'played house' at a treehouse that they constructed by a river bank - equipped with various traps and warning systems to alert them to trespassers, and survived by fishing and stealing chickens; their idyllic time in their temporary home ended when three bounty hunters discovered their hideout and Kit ambushed and killed them
  • Kit and Holly drove to the isolated, solitary farmhouse of Kit's former garbage collector co-worker Cato (Ramon Bieri), but their stay ended badly when Kit killed him and also executed some of his visiting friends who were led to a storm celler and brutally shot; they were now forced to leave a second (or third) crime-murder scene of their own making
  • the two become notorious fugitives in the Midwest, as their romanticized, celebrity folk hero status was being propagated by the popular media. They broke into a four-story Victorian mansion where they held the rich owner (John Carter) and his deaf maid (Dona Baldwin) hostage for awhile, before stealing clothes, supplies, and the man's black Cadillac to continue their cross-country flight toward the Badlands and wild frontier area of Montana - and later into Saskatchewan, Canada
  • during the last leg of their journey, one night, they danced in their Cadillac's headlights (to the tune of Nat King Cole singing A Blossom Fell on the radio), when Kit told Holly: "Boy, if I could sing a song like that, I mean, if I could sing a song about the way I feel right now, it'd be a hit."
  • ultimately, their crime spreed ended when they were spotted by a police helicopter and Holly (who was tired of running) refused to join him and promptly surrendered; Kit led state troopers and a Sheriff on a wild chase before the attention-seeking Kit calmly gave up - he marked the spot where he was apprehended with a rock cairn; both Holly and Kit were detained and handcuffed, and shortly later at an airport hangar, Kit offered souvenirs (some of his personal possessions, such as his comb) to idolizing deputies
  • in the final voice-over as the film concluded, Holly informed everyone that Kit was executed in the electric chair and his body was donated to science, and that she was only considered as an accessory to her partner's crimes (even though she stood by impassively and cooperatively); she pursued her marital dreams by marrying her lawyer's son, and also told how Kit's charming nature could entrance murderers in prison and law officers

Kit Torching Holly's House

Dancing in the Cadillac's Headlights

Kit's Capture by Police


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