Sight and Sound - 12/01/1974
"...A rich, dark and strange melding of fantasy, allegory and local detail..."
Total Film - 07/01/2003
"...Startling....The lovers-on-the-lam movie to outpace them all..."
Wall Street Journal - 05/27/2011
"Brilliantly controlled and singular in style, the film has come to be viewed as masterly, and the soullessness at its core as a commentary on American culture."
A.V. Club - 04/11/2013
"Working in that most lurid of genres, the 'true crime' yarn, Malick discovered the delicate contrast of beauty and savagery that would later inform his grander visions..."
Terrence Malick's startlingly accomplished debut feature was inspired by the Charles Starkweather and Caril-Ann Fugate murders of the late-1950s. Martin Sheen plays Kit, a 25-year-old garbageman who walks with a James Dean swagger. When he first meets the innocent 15-year-old Holly (Sissy Spacek), he falls head over heels in love with her. Her father (Warren Oates), an overprotective widower, will not allow the relationship to blossom, even after Kit informs him of his decent intentions. This refusal sparks Kit into action, triggering a brutal killing spree across the Midwest. All the while, Holly is there by Kit's side, to witness the senseless crimes and ponder her uncertain future.
BADLANDS is told from the point-of-view of the naive Holly, whose childish musings make the cold, detached killings seem all the more shocking. Malick's truly distinctive style, which combines lush photography and dreamy voiceover with bleak subject matter, has made him one of the world's most revered directors. His influence can be seen in works as wide-ranging as Quentin Tarantino's TRUE ROMANCE and David Gordon Green's GEORGE WASHINGTON. If there is such a thing as a perfect movie, BADLANDS certainly qualifies.
Director Terrence Malick's debut is based on the Charles Starkweather murder spree of the 1950s. A South Dakota garbage collector woos a high school naif away from her father--and kills him--and the two embark on a statewide killing binge. BADLANDS is a slice of demented Americana, made all the more disturbing by Malick's understated direction and Sheen's over-the-top James Dean posturing.