Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Drugstore Cowboy (1989)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Drugstore Cowboy (1989)

In director Gus Van Sant's realistic cult film about drug abuse:

  • the plot told as a long flashback (Bob's opening line: "I was once a shameless full-time dope fiend"), beginning and ending in an ambulance, narrated by young and smart junkie leader Bob Hughes (Matt Dillon), - as he described his life with three other drug-addicted, doped-up teen junkies (considered a "family") who criminally robbed pharmacies of prescription drugs in the early 70s mostly in the area around Portland, Oregon to supply their ever-increasing habits of dope usage and addiction
  • the scene of dope user Bob's hallucinatory experience ("Life was beautiful") after shooting up his arm in the back seat of a getaway car after a drug robbery, with his voice-over and floating, rotating snowflake-images of a cow, a tree, a house, a dog, and a plane on the window glass: "After any kind of drug haul, everyone in the crew indulged. I laughed to myself as I pictured blues and Dilaudid in such great amounts on the spoon that it would literally be overflowing. Upon entering my vein, the drug would start a warm itch that would surge along until the brain consumed it in a gentle explosion. It began in the back of the neck and rose rapidly until I felt such pleasure that the whole world sympathized and took on a soft, lofty appeal. Everything was grand then. Your worst enemy -- he wasn't so bad. The ants in the grass -- they were just, you know, doin' their thing. Everything took on the rosy hue of unlimited success. You could do no wrong, and as long as it lasted, life was beautiful"
  • Bob's description of himself as the "undisputed leader" of the group of losers, including his girlfriend/wife Dianne (Kelly Lynch), their sweet-natured side-kick friend Rick (James LeGros), and Rick's teenaged blonde, runaway /drifter-girlfriend Nadine (Heather Graham): ("She was a piece of work. She had no record, just a smile that caught us all a little off guard")
  • with memorable lines of dialogue about how they were turned on more by drugs than sex: (Dianne: "You never f--k me, and I always have to drive," and Bob: "Most people don't know how they are going to feel from one moment to the next, but a dope fiend has a pretty good idea. All you've got to do is look at the labels on the little bottles")
  • the scene of Bob's conversation about how the two younger members of the "family," Rick and Nadine, were brought up as amoral "TV babies": ("All these kids, they're all TV babies. Watching people killing and f--king each other on the boob tube for so long, it's all they know. Hell, they think it's legal. They think it's the right thing to do") and their belief in 30-day hex-superstitions/curses about No Dogs and Never Put a Hat on a Bed
  • the tragic scene of Dianne and Bob visiting his heartbroken, scolding mother (Grace Zabriskie) when she lowered the blinds and locked doors when he came to get some clothes ("He is a thief and a dope fiend, and that is more important to him than I am")
  • the scene of Bob and Dianne struggling to smuggle Nadine's drug-overdosed, stiffened corpse in a blue garment bag out of their motel room and into the trunk of their car - during a deputy sheriff's convention - so Bob could bury the body in the woods
  • the resolution with Bob turning himself into an authorized methadone treatment program to go straight - and breaking up the family - although he was eventually shot by a drug-demanding kid-pusher wearing a mask in the final scene and taken away on a stretcher and placed in an ambulance, as he mused, in voice-over (the film's final line of dialogue): "I was still alive. I hope they can keep me alive," while there were homemade Super-8 shots of Bob and his friends from earlier, happier times in the credits

Dope User Bob
(Matt Dillon)

Dianne (Kelly Lynch) and Bob

Nadine (Heather Graham) and Rick (James LeGros)

Nadine's Tragic Overdose - in a Body Bag

Bob Shot by Masked Kid-Pusher

Bob on Stretcher


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