Thelma & Louise

Thelma & Louise

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Ridley Scott
Produced by
  • Ridley Scott
  • Mimi Polk Gitlin
Written by Callie Khouri
Music by Hans Zimmer
Cinematography Adrian Biddle
Edited by Thom Noble
Distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release dates
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24)
Running time
129 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $16.5 million
Box office $45.4 million (North America)[1]

Thelma & Louise is a 1991 American road film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri. It stars Geena Davis as Thelma and Susan Sarandon as Louise, two friends who embark on a road trip with disastrous consequences. The supporting cast include Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt, whose career was launched by the film.

The film became a critical and commercial success, receiving six Academy Award nominations and winning one for Best Original Screenplay for Khouri. Scott was nominated for Best Director, and both Sarandon and Davis were nominated for Best Actress. At its release the film stirred controversy. At the intersection of several genres, it is now considered a classic, influenced other films and artistic works, and became a landmark of feminist film.


Two friends, Thelma Dickinson (Geena Davis) and Louise Sawyer (Susan Sarandon), set out for a two-day vacation to take a break from their dreary lives in Arkansas. Thelma is married to a controlling man, Darryl (Christopher McDonald), while Louise works as a waitress in a diner, and is dating a musician who spends most of his time on the road. They head out in Louise's 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible.

They stop for a drink at a roadhouse where Thelma meets and dances with Harlan Puckett (Timothy Carhart). Thelma starts to feel sick, so Harlan takes her outside into the parking lot to get some fresh air. He starts kissing her and taking her clothes off. Thelma resists, but Harlan slaps her and begins to rape her. Louise finds them and threatens to shoot Harlan with a gun that Thelma brought with her. Harlan stops, but as the women walk away, he yells profanities and insults them. Louise responds by killing him. Thelma wants to go to the police, but Louise says that because Thelma was drunk and had been dancing with Harlan, no one would believe her claim of attempted rape. Afraid that she will be prosecuted, Louise decides to go on the run and Thelma accompanies her.

Louise is determined to travel from Oklahoma to Mexico, but refuses to go through Texas. Something happened to her in Texas years earlier, but she refuses to say exactly what. Heading west, they come across an attractive young man named J.D. (Brad Pitt), and Thelma convinces Louise to let him hitch a ride with them. Louise contacts her boyfriend Jimmy Lennox (Michael Madsen) and asks him to wire transfer her life savings to her. When she goes to pick up the money, she finds that Jimmy has come to see her to deliver the money in person. Thelma invites J.D. into her room and learns he is a thief who has broken parole. They sleep together, and J.D. describes how he conducted his hold-ups. At the same time, Jimmy asks Louise to marry him, but she declines.

In the morning, Thelma tells Louise about her night with J.D. When they return to the motel room, they discover J.D. has stolen Louise's life savings and fled. Louise is distraught and frozen with indecision, so the guilty Thelma takes charge and robs a convenience store using the tactics she learned from listening to J.D. Meanwhile, the FBI are getting closer to catching the fugitives, after questioning J.D. and Jimmy, and tapping the phone line at Darryl's house. Arkansas State Police Investigator Hal Slocumb (Harvey Keitel) discovers that Louise had been raped years earlier in Texas. During a couple of brief phone conversations with her, he expresses sympathy for her predicament and pledges to protect her, but he is unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade her to surrender.

When they are pulled over by a New Mexico state trooper (Jason Beghe), Thelma holds him at gunpoint and locks him in the trunk of his car, while Louise takes his gun and ammunition. They then encounter a truck driver (Marco St. John) who repeatedly makes obscene gestures at them. They pull over and demand his apology, but when he refuses, they fire at the fuel tanker he is driving, causing it to explode. Leaving the man furious (and stealing his hat), they drive off.

Thelma and Louise are finally cornered by the authorities only one hundred yards (91 m) from the edge of the Grand Canyon. Hal arrives on the scene, but he is refused the chance to make one last attempt to talk the women into surrendering themselves. Rather than be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail, Thelma proposes that they "keep going" (over the cliff). Louise asks Thelma if she is certain, and Thelma says yes. They kiss, Louise steps on the accelerator, and they ride the car over the cliff to their presumed deaths.



Although the setting for the film is a fictional route between Arkansas and the Grand Canyon, the movie was filmed almost entirely in the states of California and Utah. The primary filming locations for the movie are rural areas around Bakersfield, California and Moab, Utah. The Grand Canyon scenes were actually filmed just south of Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.[2]



The film was an overwhelming critical success. Metacritic lists a composite critical score of 88 out of 100.[3] Rotten Tomatoes rates Thelma & Louise 83% "Fresh". Janet Maslin of The New York Times had only praise for the film in her review: "Mr. Scott's Thelma and Louise, with a sparkling screenplay by the first-time writer Callie Khouri, is a surprise on this and many other scores. It reveals the previously untapped talent of Mr. Scott (best known for majestically moody action films like Alien, Blade Runner and Black Rain) for exuberant comedy, and for vibrant American imagery, notwithstanding his English roots. It reimagines the buddy film with such freshness and vigor that the genre seems positively new. It discovers unexpected resources in both its stars, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, who are perfectly teamed as the spirited and original title characters."[4] Roger Ebert also praised the film, but withheld a perfect score on the basis of "the last shot before the titles begin. It's a freeze frame that fades to white, which is fine, except it does so with unseemly haste... It's unsettling to get involved in a movie that takes 128 minutes to bring you to a payoff that the filmmakers seem to fear."[5]

The film was screened out of competition at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[6] After watching the film, singer-songwriter Tori Amos wrote "Me and a Gun", the story of her rape six years earlier, which she had told only a few people about before watching this film. Affected by a scene in the movie, Amos began sobbing publicly in a crowded movie theater and writing the lyrics to the song in her head.[7]

Argentinian singer and musician Fito Páez wrote a hit song called "Dos días en la vida" ("Two days in one lifetime") after watching this movie. The lyrics tell the story of the main characters, with verses played by singers Fabiana Cantilo (in the role of Thelma) and Celeste Carballo (Louise). It was one of the most successful singles from his 1992 album "El amor después del amor".

The final scene, where the two embrace each other before driving off a cliff, has become iconic. Numerous homages and parodies of the scene have appeared, including alternate movie endings, cartoon parodies, video game "Easter Eggs", and as a tragic ending to television series, music videos and commercials.

The film also received harsh and significant criticism from those who thought it was anti-male and that its depictions of men were unfairly negative.[8][9]


Numerous critics and writers have remarked on the feminist overtones of Thelma & Louise. Film critic B. Ruby Rich praises the film as an uncompromising validation of women's experiences,[10] while Kenneth Turan calls it a "neo-feminist road movie".[11] In her essay "The Daughters of Thelma and Louise", Jessica Enevold argues that the movie constitutes "an attack on conventional patterns of chauvinist male behavior toward females". In addition, it "exposes the traditional stereotyping of male–female relationships" while rescripting the typical gender roles of the road movie genre.[12]

In her review for The Los Angeles Times, film critic Sheila Benson objects to the characterization of the film as feminist, arguing that it is more preoccupied with revenge and violence than feminist values.[13]

In an article commemorating the film's 20th anniversary in 2011, Raina Lipsitz called it "the last great film about women" and said that it heralded the achievements of women that caused 1992 to become "the year of the woman". However, she also said that women-themed films have since been losing ground.[14]

Awards and honors

Khouri won an Academy Award for Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen; Scott, Davis, Sarandon, cinematographer Adrian Biddle, and film editor Thom Noble were nominated for Oscars.

Award Category Nominee Result
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actress Geena Davis Won
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Award Adrian Biddle Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
NBR Award Best Actress Susan Sarandon Won
Geena Davis
Top Ten Films Won
Saint Jordi Award Best Foreign Actress Susan Sarandon Nominated
Golden Spike Award Ridley Scott Won
(tied with The Adjuster)
Academy Award Best Original Screenplay Callie Khouri Won
Best Actress in a Leading Role Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon
Best Cinematography Adrian Biddle Nominated
Best Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Film Editing Thom Noble Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon
Best Cinematography Adrian Bibble Nominated
Best Direction Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Editing Thom Noble Nominated
Best Film Ridley Scott
Mimi Polk Gitlin
Best Original Film Score Hans Zimmer Nominated
Best Screenplay – Original Callie Khouri Nominated
Bodil Award Best Non-European Film Ridley Scott Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon
Best Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Picture Nominated
Best Screenplay Callie Khouri Nominated
César Award Best Foreign Film Ridley Scott Nominated
David di Donatello Award Best Foreign Actress Geena Davis Won
Susan Sarandon
Best Foreign Film Ridley Scott Nominated
DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Ridley Scott Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Callie Khouri Won
Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture – Drama Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon
Silver Ribbon Best Female Dubbing Rossella Izzo
(voice of Louise)
Best Foreign Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Critics' Circle Film Awards Actress of the Year Susan Sarandon
(also for White Palace)
Director of the Year Ridley Scott Won
Film of the Year Won
MTV Movie Award Best Female Performance Geena Davis Nominated
Best On-Screen Duo Geena Davis
Susan Sarandon
NSFC Award Best Supporting Actor Harvey Keitel
(also for Bugsy and Mortal Thoughts)
Best Actress Susan Sarandon Nominated
Literary Award Screenplay Callie Khouri Won
Writers Guild of America Award Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Won

The British Film Institute published a book[13] about the film in 2000, as part of a Modern Classics series. On the Writers Guild of America Award's 101 Best Screenplays List it made No. 72.[15] The film was ranked on the Australian program 20 to 1, in the episode Magnificent Movie Moments.

American Film Institute lists


Pete Haycock on slide guitar contributed to Thunderbird, the theme music for the film.[16] In addition to Glenn Frey's "Part of Me, Part of You", which became the film's primary theme song, the soundtrack included songs by Chris Whitley, Martha Reeves, Toni Childs, Marianne Faithfull, Charlie Sexton, Grayson Hugh, B.B. King, and Michael McDonald.

See also


  1. "Thelma and Louise (1991)". Box Office Mojo. 1991-08-06. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  2. "Movies filmed in the Moab area". Moab Area Travel Council. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  3. "Thelma & Louise Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved 2012-06-15.
  4. "Thelma & Louise (1991)" The New York Times. May 24, 1991.
  5. Roger Ebert. "Thelma & Louise". Chicago Sun-Times.
  6. "Festival de Cannes: Thelma & Louise". Retrieved 2009-08-12.
  7. "Chasing Away the Demons, 20/20 Interview with Tori Amos". Healthy Place Inc. 1999-02-15. Retrieved 2008-11-08.
  8. "Is This What Feminism Is All About?" Time, June 24, 1991.
  9. "Callie Khouri Answers Critics Of 'Thelma And Louise'" Chicago Tribune. July 7, 1991.
  10. Rich, B. Ruby (February 18, 2003). "Two for the Road". The Advocate: 48–49.
  11. Dunne, Michael (2001). Intertextual Encounters in American Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-87972-848-5.
  12. Enevold, Jessica (2004). "The Daughters of Thelma and Louise". Gender, Genre & Identity in Women's Travel Writing. New York. pp. 73–95. ISBN 0-8204-4905-9.
  13. 1 2 Sturken, Marita (2000). Thelma and Louise. London: British Film Institute. p. 11. ISBN 0-85170-809-9.
  14. "'Thelma & Louise': The Last Great Film About Women" The Atlantic, August 31, 2011.
  15. Writers Guild of America, West: 101 list
  16. Pierre Perrone (November 22, 2013). "Pete Haycock: Guitarist with the Climax Blues Band who went on to write film music for John Badham and Franc Roddam". The Independent. Retrieved 27 March 2015.

Further reading

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