Pssst, want to check out Badlands in our new look?
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Some thoughts on Badlands: https://16miles.wordpress.com/2015/05/19/badlands-1973/
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.
Impressive debut of Terrence Malick!
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In 22 official lists
View all lists this movie is in
This movie ranks #2 in BFI's 100 Road Movies
This movie ranks #4 in BFI's 100 American Independent Films
This movie ranks #8 in Quentin Tarantino's Coolest Movies of All Time
This movie ranks #53 in The New York Times's Book of Movies
This movie ranks #59 in Time Out's 1000 Films to Change Your Life
This movie ranks #71 in The Guardian's 1000 Films to See Before You Die
This movie ranks #86 in Spike Lee's Essential List of Films for Filmmakers
This movie ranks #87 in Time Out's The 100 Best Romantic Films
This movie ranks #121 in Library of Congress's National Film Registry
This movie ranks #132 in TSPDT's 1,000 Greatest Films
This movie ranks #140 in Sight & Sound's The Greatest Films of All Time
This movie ranks #155 in Empire's The 500 Greatest Movies of All Time
This movie ranks #189 in Halliwell's Top 1000: The Ultimate Movie Countdown
This movie ranks #227 in Harvard's Suggested Film Viewing: Narrative Films
This movie ranks #229 in Jennifer Eiss's 500 Essential Cult Movies
This movie ranks #327 in Mark Cousins's The Story of Film: An Odyssey
This movie ranks #382 in Roger Ebert's Great Movies
This movie ranks #559 in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die
This movie ranks #637 in Jonathan Rosenbaum's Essential Cinema
This movie ranks #753 in The Criterion Collection
This movie ranks #755 in David Thomson's Have You Seen?
This movie ranks #768 in TSPDT's 1,000 Noir Films