Whiplash (2014 film)


Theatrical release poster
Directed by Damien Chazelle
Produced by
Written by Damien Chazelle
Music by Justin Hurwitz
Cinematography Sharone Meir
Edited by Tom Cross
Distributed by Sony Pictures Classics
Release dates
  • January 16, 2014 (2014-01-16) (Sundance)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (United States)
Running time
106 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $3.3 million[2]
Box office $49 million[2]

Whiplash is a 2014 American independent drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Miles Teller and J. K. Simmons, the film depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz student (Teller) and an abusive instructor (Simmons). Paul Reiser co-stars as the student's father. The film opened in limited release domestically in the US and Canada on October 10, 2014, gradually expanding to over 500 screens and finally closing after 24 weeks on March 26, 2015. Over this time the film grossed $49 million, against a production budget of $3.3 million.

Whiplash premiered in competition in the US Dramatic Category at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the festival's opening film.[3] Sony Pictures Worldwide acquired the international distribution rights.[4] At the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash won Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


Andrew Neiman is a first-year jazz student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York. He has been playing drums from a young age and aspires to become one of the greats like Buddy Rich. Famed conductor Terence Fletcher discovers Andrew practicing in the music room late one night and eventually invites him into his studio band as the alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. Fletcher is abusive toward his students, mocking and insulting them; when the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece "Whiplash" and Andrew struggles to keep the tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him, and berates him in front of the class.

At a jazz competition, Andrew misplaces Carl's sheet music. Since Carl cannot play without it, Andrew steps in, telling Fletcher that he can perform "Whiplash" from memory. After a successful performance, Fletcher promotes him to core drummer. Soon after, Fletcher recruits Ryan Connolly, the core drummer from Andrew's former lower-level class. Andrew believes Connolly is the less talented drummer, and is infuriated when Fletcher promotes him to core. Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew practices until his hands bleed and breaks up with his girlfriend Nicole, believing she will hold him back.

Fletcher tearfully reveals in class that a talented former student of his, Sean Casey, has died in a car accident. The band rehearses "Caravan", but Ryan struggles with the tempo. Fletcher puts Andrew, Ryan and Carl through gruelling auditions until nearly 2:00 a.m. while the rest of the class waits outside. After kicking furniture and throwing instruments across the room, Fletcher gives the position to Andrew.

On the way to another competition, Andrew's bus breaks down. He rents a car but arrives late, and realizes he left his drumsticks at the rental office. After a dressing-down from Fletcher, Andrew races back to the rental office to retrieve the drumsticks, but his car is broadsided by a semi-trailer. He crawls from the wreckage and arrives on stage bloody and injured. When he struggles to play "Caravan" due to his injuries, Fletcher halts the performance to tell Andrew he is "done". Enraged, Andrew attacks Fletcher in front of the audience and is dismissed from Shaffer Conservatory.

Andrew meets with a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey. Contrary to Fletcher's claim that Sean died in a car accident, the lawyer explains that Sean hanged himself, having suffered anxiety and depression during his time as Fletcher's student. Sean's parents want to prevent Fletcher from teaching again. Andrew agrees to testify on the condition of anonymity, and Fletcher is fired from Shaffer Conservatory.

Months later, Andrew has abandoned drumming and is working in a restaurant while applying to different colleges. One evening he discovers Fletcher performing at a jazz club. After the performance, Fletcher invites Andrew to drink with him. He explains that he pushed his students beyond the expected so that they might achieve greatness and become the next Louis Armstrong or Charlie Parker. He invites Andrew to replace the current drummer in his band at the upcoming JVC Jazz Festival. Andrew agrees. He invites Nicole to the performance, but she is in a new relationship.

On stage at the jazz festival, moments before the performance is about to start, Fletcher reveals that he knows Andrew testified against him, and leads the band with a piece Andrew does not know. Unable to follow the cues without sheet music, Andrew leaves the stage humiliated. After being consoled by his father, he defiantly returns to the drum kit, begins playing "Caravan", and cues the band to follow his lead. Infuriated, Fletcher reluctantly follows suit. As the piece ends and the lights go down, Andrew continues his own solo. Fletcher is taken aback but begins to guide Andrew. They share a smile and Fletcher cues the band finale.



While attending Princeton High School, writer/director Damien Chazelle was in a "very competitive" jazz band and drew on the experience of "just dread" that he felt in those years.[5] He based the conductor, Terence Fletcher, on his former band instructor (who died in 2003) but "pushed it further" adding in bits of Buddy Rich as well as other notorious band leaders.[5] Chazelle would later admit, to writing the film " initially in frustration,” while trying to get his musical film La La Land off the ground. However various aspects of that film, most notably a dance sequence that takes place on a freeway, made filming such a movie impractical. [6]

Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions produced, and in order to secure financing for the feature, helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of his original screenplay into a short film starring Johnny Simmons in the role of the drummer and J. K. Simmons (no relation) in the role of the teacher.[7] The 18-minute short film went on to receive much acclaim after screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival,[8] which ultimately attracted investors to sign on and produce the complete version of the script.[9] The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.[4]

In August 2013, Miles Teller signed on to star in the role originated by Johnny Simmons; J. K. Simmons remained attached to his original role.[10] Principal photography began the following month with filming taking place throughout Los Angeles, including the Hotel Barclay, Palace Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre.[11][12]

Early on Chazelle gave J. K. Simmons direction that "I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be", telling him: "I don't want to see a human being on-screen anymore. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal." Many of the band members in the movies were real musicians or music students and Chazelle tried to capture real moments of terror from them. However, Chazelle noted that in between takes Simmons was "as sweet as can be" which Chazelle credits for keeping "the shoot from being nightmarish."[5]

The film was shot in 19 days, with a schedule of 14 hours of filming per day.[13][14] Chazelle was involved in a serious car accident in the third week of shooting and was hospitalized with a diagnosis of possible concussion, but he returned to filming the next day to finish the film in time.[13] Despite being set in New York City, the film was filmed in Los Angeles with a few exterior shots filmed in New York City.[14]


Box office

Whiplash grossed $13.1 million in North America and $35.9 million in other territories for a worldwide total of $49 million, against a budget of $3.3 million.[2]

In North America, the film opened in a limited release on October 10, 2014 in six theaters, grossing $135,388 ($22,565 per theater) and finishing 34th at the box office.[2]

Critical response

Director Damien Chazelle at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival.

Whiplash received critical acclaim, with Simmons' performance receiving universal praise. The film has a score of 94% on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, based on 256 reviews, with a rating average of 8.6/10. The site's critics consensus states, "Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller."[15] On Metacritic, another review aggregator, the film has a score of 88 out of 100, based on 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[16]

J.K. Simmons received unanimous praise for his performance, and won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[17][18] Peter Debruge, in his review for Variety, said that the film "demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena."[19] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of Teller and Simmons, writing: "Teller, who greatly impressed in last year’s Sundance entry The Spectacular Now, does so again in a performance that is more often simmering than volatile ... Simmons has the great good fortune for a character actor to have here found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling."[20] Whiplash also won the 87th Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and the 87th Academy Award for Best Film Editing.[21]

Amber Wilkinson from The Daily Telegraph praised the direction and editing, writing: "Chazelle's film has a sharp and gripping rhythm, with shots, beautifully edited by Tom Cross... often cutting to the crash of Andrew's drums."[22] James Rocchi of Indiewire gave a positive review and said, "Whiplash is ... full of bravado and swagger, uncompromising where it needs to be, informed by great performances and patient with both its characters and the things that matter to them."[23] Henry Barnes from The Guardian gave the film a positive review, calling it a rare film "about music that professes its love for the music and its characters equally."[21]

Forrest Wickman of Slate accused the film of distorting jazz history and promoting a misleading idea of genius.[24] In The New Yorker, Richard Brody argued that "Whiplash honors neither jazz nor cinema".[25]

Top ten lists


The film received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival;[27] Chazelle's short film of the same name took home the jury award in the U.S. fiction category one year prior.[8] The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.[28] Whiplash was originally planned to compete for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but on January 6, 2015, it was announced that the film would be competing in the Adapted Screenplay category.[29] At the 87th Academy Awards, J. K. Simmons received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, Tom Cross won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing and Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing. In December 2015, the score received a Grammy nomination, and the film was nominated for the NME Award for Best Film.


  1. "Whiplash". British Board of Film Classification. August 5, 2014. Retrieved November 12, 2014.
  2. 1 2 3 4 "Whiplash (2014)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved November 9, 2015.
  3. Cohen, Sandy (17 January 2014). "Sundance Film Festival 2014 opens with premiere of 'Whiplash,' Damien Chazelle's tale of a brutal drumming instructor and his protege". The Oregonian. Associated Press. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  4. 1 2 Horn, John (January 16, 2014). "Sundance 2014: Sony grabs international rights to 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  5. 1 2 3 Dowd, A.A. "Whiplash maestro Damien Chazelle on drumming, directing, and J. K. Simmons". The A.V Club. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  6. Hammond, Pete. "Damien Chazelle's 'La La Land', An Ode To Musicals, Romance & L.A., Ready To Launch Venice And Oscar Season". Deadline. Retrieved 20 September 2016.
  7. Bahr, Lindsey (May 14, 2013). "'Whiplash': Sundance-winning short to become full-length feature -- BREAKING". Entertainment Weekly. CNN. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  8. 1 2 "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Jury Awards in Short Filmmaking". Sundance Film Festival. Sundance Institute. January 22, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  9. Fleming, Jr., Mike (May 14, 2013). "Cannes: Bold, Blumhouse, Right Of Way Strike Up Band For Feature Version Of Sundance Short 'Whiplash'". Deadline.com. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  10. Fleming, Jr., Mike (August 5, 2013). "'The Spectacular Now's Miles Teller Gets 'Whiplash'". Deadline.com. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  11. McNary, Dave (September 19, 2013). "Jake Gyllenhaal's 'Nightcrawler' Gets California Incentive (EXCLUSIVE)". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  12. "Tuesday, Sept. 24 Filming Locations for The Heirs, Undrafted, Dumb & Dumber To, Focus, Shelter, & more!". On Location Vacations. September 24, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  13. 1 2 "Making of 'Whiplash': How a 20-Something Shot His Harrowing Script in Just 19 Days". Hollywood Reporter website. Hollywood Reporter. 9 December 2014. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  14. 1 2 "Producer: 'Whiplash' was filmed in 19, 14-hour days". Page Six. 9 February 2015. Retrieved 4 March 2015.
  15. "Whiplash (2014)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 7, 2015.
  16. "Whiplash". Metacritic.
  17. Smith, Nigel M (October 15, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on His 'Whiplash' Oscar Buzz and Abusing Miles Teller". indieWire. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  18. Riley, Jenelle (September 3, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on Playing a 'Real' Villain in 'Whiplash'". Variety. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
  19. "Sundance Film Review: 'Whiplash'". Variety. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  20. "Whiplash: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  21. 1 2 "Whiplash: Sundance 2014 – first look review". The Guardian. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  22. "Sundance 2014: Whiplash, review". The Telegraph. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  23. "Sundance Review: 'Whiplash' Starring Miles Teller Leads With The Different Beat Of A Very Different Drum". indieWire. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  24. Wickman, Forrest (October 11, 2014). "What Whiplash Gets Wrong About Genius, Work, and the Charlie Parker Myth". Slate. Retrieved October 13, 2014.
  25. Brody, Richard (13 October 2014). "Getting Jazz Right in the Movies". The New Yorker. Retrieved 5 February 2015.
  26. http://www.villagevoice.com/filmpoll/view/critics/David+Ansen/2014
  27. Zeitchik, Steven; Mark Olsen (January 25, 2014). "Sundance 2014 winners: 'Whiplash' wins big". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 27, 2014.
  28. Richford, Rhonda (September 13, 2014). "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  29. Tapley, Kristopher (January 6, 2015). "Oscar surprise: 'Whiplash' deemed an adapted screenplay by Academy". HitFix. Retrieved January 6, 2015.

External links

Wikiquote has quotations related to: Whiplash (2014 film)
Preceded by
Fruitvale Station
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
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