Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

JFK (1991)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

JFK (1991)

In Oliver Stone's masterpiece about the possibility of a massive conspiracy and coverup (allegedly led by local businessman Clay Shaw) surrounding JFK's shooting in Dallas' Dealey Plaza on November 22, 1963, argued by a doggedly-skeptical Louisiana DA:

  • the film's key quote about the possibility of an overwhelming and mysterious conspiracy, spoken to New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) - voiced by crazed and edgy David Ferrie (Joe Pesci), one of the possible conspirators: "Oh man, why don't you f--kin' stop it? S--t, this is too f--kin' big for you, you know that? Who did the president, who killed Kennedy, f--k man! It's a mystery! It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The f--kin' shooters don't even know! Don't you get it?"
  • one of the scenes of Garrison's detailed investigation - the re-enactment of the rifle shooting with Lou Ivon (Jay O. Sanders) inside the Texas School Book Depository in Dealey Plaza - to see if they could verify the Zapruder film ("The Zapruder film establishes three shots in 5.6 seconds") - Ivon came to the conclusion that Oswald, acting alone, couldn't have possibly shot President Kennedy three times: ("The key is, the second and third shots came almost right on top of each other. It takes a minimum 2.3 seconds to recycle this thing. The other problem is, there was a tree there, blocking the first two shots at the time they occur in the Zapruder film...You take this Carcano, the world's worst shoulder weapon, and you try to hit a moving target at 88 yards through heavy foliage. No way. Yeah. FBI tried two sets of tests. Not one of their sharpshooters could match Oswald's performance. Not one. And Oswald was at best a medium shot. The scope was defective on it too. I mean, this is the whole essence of the case to me. The guy couldn't do the shooting. Nobody could. And they sold this lemon to the American public"); Garrison responded: "The Zapruder film was the proof they didn't count on, Lou. We gotta get our hands on it"
  • the scene of the secret rendezvous of Jim Garrison with "Mr. X" (Donald Sutherland) and his spellbinding, 15-minute long monologue to encourage Garrison to continue to pursue his investigation of the JFK assassination: ("Well, that's the real question, isn't it? Why? The 'How' and the 'Who' is just scenery for the public. Oswald, Ruby, Cuba, the Mafia, keeps 'em guessing like some kind of parlor game. Prevents 'em from asking the most important question: Why? Why was Kennedy killed? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up? Who?......Everything is cellularized. No one has said, 'He must die.' There's been no vote. Nothing's on paper. There's no one to blame. It's as old as the crucifixion. A military firing squad: five bullets, one blank. No one's guilty, because everyone in the power structure who knows anything has a plausible deniability. There are no compromising connections except at the most secret point. But what's paramount is that it must succeed. No matter how many die, no matter how much it costs, the perpetrators must be on the winning side and never subject to prosecution for anything by anyone. That is a coup d'état...Your only chance is to come up with a case. Something. Anything. Make arrests. Stir the s--t storm. Hope to reach a point of critical mass that'll start a chain reaction of people coming forward. Then the government'll crack. Remember, fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth, and the truth is on your side, Bubba. I just hope you get a break")
  • the masterful jigsaw-like assembly and merging of various sources of material (newsreels, photos, black and white, color, 8 mm, 16 mm, etc., miniature models, and re-enactments) into one film
Garrison's Debunking of the Single or "Magic Bullet Theory"
  • the final third of the film in the courtroom, in which the obsessed and dogged Garrison first debunked the single or "Magic Bullet Theory" with a detailed examination of the Zapruder film and a walk-through - using diagrams of the highly-unlikely or impossible zig-zag path of the bullet, and the use of a scale model of the Plaza area to bolster his arguments; he also discussed the improbability of the Warren Commission's official report and their open and shut case of "three bullets, one assassin" - to disprove the idea that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) had acted alone - "the time frame of 5.6 seconds established by the Zapruder film left no possibility of a fourth shot"; junior counselor Arlen Spector also gave a theoretical description of the 'Magic Bullet Theory' as "one of the grossest lies ever forced on the American people"
  • the impassioned closing-statement monologue scene - Garrison's delivery of a final summation of the case to the jury - with his damnation of the entire US military-industrial complex and alleged New Orleans conspirator Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones): ("The truth is the most important value we have because if the truth does not endure, if the government murders truth, if we cannot respect the hearts of these people, then this is not the country in which I was born and this is certainly not the country I want to die in. Tennyson wrote, 'Authority forgets a dying king'. This was never more true than for John F. Kennedy, whose murder was probably one the most terrible moments in the history of our country. We, the people, the jury system sitting in judgment on Clay Shaw, represent the hope of humanity against government power. In discharging your duty, in bringing the first conviction in this house of cards against Clay Shaw, 'ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' Do not forget your dying king. Show this world that this is still a government 'of the people, for the people, and by the people'. Nothing as long as you live will ever be more important. It's up to you")

Possible Conspirator David Ferrie (Joe Pesci)

Re-Enactment of the Shooting from the Texas School Book Depository Building

Rendezvous Between Garrison and "Mr. X"

The Zapruder Film

Other B/W Footage

Closing Summary: An Indictment of the Military-Industrial Complex and Clay Shaw


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