Badlands (film)

1973 American crime film directed by Terrence Malick

Badlands is a 1973 film about a teenage girl and her twenty-something boyfriend who slaughters her father and several others in the Dakota badlands. It was loosely based on the Starkweather-Fugate killing spree of the 1950's.

Written and directed by Terrence Malick.
In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people. taglines

Holly Sargis

  • My mother died of pneumonia when I was just a kid. My father had kept their wedding cake in the freezer for ten whole years. After the funeral, he gave it to the yardman. He tried to act cheerful, but he could never be consoled by the little stranger he found in his house. Then, one day, hoping to begin a new life away from the scene of all his memories, he moved us from Texas to Ft. Dupree, South Dakota.
  • Little did I realize that what began in the alleys and backways of this quiet town would end in the Badlands of Montana.
  • He was handsomer than anybody I'd ever met. He looked just like James Dean.
  • Kit went to work in the feedlot while I carried on with my studies. Little by little we fell in love. As I'd never been popular in school and didn't have a lot of personality, I was surprised that he took such a liking to me, especially when he could've had any other girl in town if he'd given it half a try. He said that I was grand, though, that he wasn't interested in me for sex and that coming from him, this was a compliment. He'd never met a fifteen year-old girl who behaved more like a grownup and wasn't giggly. He didn't care what anybody else thought. I looked good to him, and whatever I did was okay, and if I didn't have a lot to say, well, that was okay, too. Of course, I had to keep all this a secret from my dad. He would've had a fit, since Kit was ten years older than me and came from the wrong side of the tracks, so called. Our time with each other was limited and each lived for the precious hours when he or she could be with the other, away from all the cares of the world.
  • In the stench and slime of the feedlot, he'd remember how I looked the night before, how I ran my hand through his hair and traced the outline of his lips with my fingertip. He wanted to die with me, and I dreamed of being lost forever in his arms....I didn't mind telling Kit about stuff like this, cause strange things happened in his life, too, and some of the stuff he did was strange. For instance, he faked his signature whenever he used it, to keep other people from forging important papers with his name.
  • And as he lay in bed, in the middle of the night, he always heard a noise like somebody was holding a seashell against his ear. And sometimes he'd see me coming toward him in beautiful white robes, and I'd put my cold hand on his forehead.
  • Did it go the way it was supposed to?...Is that all there is to it?...Gosh, what was everybody talking about?...Well, I'm glad it's over. For a while, I was afraid I might die before it happened. Had a wreck, or some deal like that.
  • Kit made a solemn vow that he would always stand beside me and let nothing come between us. He wrote this out in writing, put the paper in a box with some of our little tokens and things, then sent it off in a balloon he'd found while on the garbage route. His heart was filled with longing as he watched it drift off. Something must've told him that we'd never live these days of happiness again, that they were gone forever.
  • Then sure enough, Dad found out I'd been running around behind his back. He was madder than I'd ever seen him. As punishment for deceiving him, he went and shot my dog. He made me take extra lessons every day after school and wait there till he came to pick me up. He said that if the piano didn't keep me off the streets, maybe the clarinet would.
  • Kit left a record playing over and over for the District Attorney to find. He was gambling for time.
  • Kit made me get my books from school, so I wouldn't fall behind. We'd be starting a new life, he said. And we'd have to change our names. His would be James. Mine would be Priscilla. We'd hide out like spies, somewhere in the North, where people didn't ask a lot of questions. I could have snuck out the back or hid in the boiler room, I suppose, but I sensed that my destiny now lay with Kit, for better or for worse, and it was better to spend a week with one who loved me for what I was than years of loneliness.
  • We hid out in the wilderness down by a river in a grove of cottonwoods. It being the flood season, we built our house in the trees, with tamarisk walls and willows laid side by side to make a floor. There wasn't a plant in the forest that didn't come in handy. We planned a huge network of tunnels under the forest floor, and our first order of business every morning was to decide on a new password for the day. Now and then, we'd sneak out at night and steal a chicken or a bunch of corn or some melons from a melon patch. Mostly, though, we just lay on our backs and stared at the clouds and sometimes it was like being in a big marble hall, the way we talked in low voices and heard the tiniest sound. They hadn't found but one set of bones in the ashes of the house, so we knew they'd be looking for us. Kit made sure we'd be prepared. He gave me lectures on how a gun works, how to take it apart and put it back together again, in case I had to carry on without him. He said that if the Devil came at me, I could shoot him with a gun.
  • We had our bad moments, like any couple. Kit accused me of only being along for the ride, while at times I wish he'd fall in the river and drown, so I could watch. Mostly though, we got along fine and stayed in love. I grew to love the forest. The cooing of the doves and the hum of dragonflies in the air made it always seem lonesome and like everybody's dead and gone. When the leaves rustled overhead, it was like the spirits were whispering about all the little things that bothered 'em.
  • One day, while taking a look at some vistas in Dad's stereopticon, it hit me that I was just this little girl, born in Texas, whose father was a sign painter and who had only just so many years to live. It sent a chill down my spine, and I thought - Where would I be this very moment if Kit had never met me? Or killed anybody? This very moment? If my Mom had never met my Dad? If she'd have never died? And what's the man I'll marry gonna look like? What's he doing right this minute? Is he thinking about me now, by some coincidence, even though he doesn't know me? Does it show on his face? For days afterwards, I lived in dread. Sometimes, I wished I could fall asleep and be taken off to some magical land, but this never happened.
  • Kit felt bad about shooting those men in the back, but he said they'd come in like that, and they would've played it as down and dirty as they could. And besides, he'd overheard them whispering about how they were only interested in the reward money. With lawmen, it would've been different. They were out there to get a job done and they deserved a fair chance. But not a bounty hunter.
  • Kit never let on why he'd shot Cato. He said that just talking about it could bring us bad luck and that right now, we needed all the luck we could get.
  • Suddenly, I was thrown into a state of shock. Kit was the most trigger happy person I'd ever met. He claimed that as long as you're playing for keeps and the law is coming at ya, it's considered OK to shoot all witnesses. You had to take the consequences, though, and not whine about it later. He never seemed like a violent person before, except for once, when he said he'd like to rub out a couple of guys whose names he didn't care to mention. It all goes to show how you can know a person and not really know him at the same time.
  • At this moment, I didn't feel shame or fear, but just kind of blah, like when you're sitting there and all the water's run out of the bathtub.
  • The whole country was out looking for us, for who knew where Kit would strike next. Sidewalks cleared out, stores closed their doors and drew their blinds. Posses and vigilance committees were set up from Texas to North Dakota. Children rode back and forth to school under heavy guard. A famous detective was brought in from Boston. He could find no clues. People left their lights on when they went to sleep. My clarinet teacher said I probably wasn't responsible, but others said I was. Then, on Thursday, the Governor of Oklahoma sent out the National Guard to stand watch at the Federal Reserve Bank in Tulsa when word got out that Kit meant to rob it. It was like the Russians had invaded.
  • The day was quiet and serene but I didn't notice, for I was deep in thought, and not even thinking about how to slip off. The world was like a faraway planet to which I could never return. I thought what a fine place it was, full of things that people can look into and enjoy.
  • Sometimes he acts like there's something wrong with his bean. Hope nothing ever goes wrong with mine...He's kind of odd. They claim I've got him wrapped around my little finger, but I never told him to shoot anybody.
  • Fearing there'd be roadblocks on the highways, we took off across that region known as the Great Plains. Kit told me to enjoy the scenery - and I did. "Rumor: Pat Boone is seriously considering giving up his career so he can return to school full-time and complete his education. Fact: Pat has told intimates that so long as things are going well for his career, it's the education that will have to take a back seat...Rumor: Frank Sinatra and Rita Hayworth are in love. Fact: True, but not with each other." Through desert and mesa, across the endless miles of open range, we made our headlong way, steering by the telephone lines toward the mountains of Montana. Kit would sometimes ram a cow to save on ammo, and we'd cook it. Once we had to eat a bunch of salt grass. It tasted like cabbage. For gas, we used the leakage from the valves of the pipelines we found along the way. Drip gas is what it's called in that part of the country. Little by little, we approached the border. Kit was glad to leave South Dakota behind and cursed its name. He said that if the Communists ever dropped the atomic bomb, he wished they'd put it right in the middle of Rapid City.
  • We lived in utter loneliness, neither here nor there. Kit said that solitude was a better word, 'cause it meant more exactly what I wanted to say. Whatever the expression, I told him we couldn't go on living this way... "I feel like a, kind of like an animal living out here. There's no place to bathe and not any place to get anything good to eat."...In the distance, I saw a train making its way silently across the plain, like a caravan in The Adventures of Marco Polo. It was our first taste of civilization in weeks, and I asked Kit if we could have a closer look.
  • He took and buried some of our things in a bucket. He said that nobody else would know where we'd put 'em, and that we'd come back someday, maybe, and they'd still be sitting here, just the same, but we'd be different. And if we never got back, well, somebody might dig 'em up a thousand years from now and wouldn't they wonder!
  • We took off at sunset, on a line toward the mountains of Saskatchewan, for Kit a magical land beyond the reach of the law. He needed me now more than ever, but something had come between us. I'd stopped even paying attention to him. Instead, I sat in the car and read a map and spelled out entire sentences with my tongue on the roof of my mouth, where nobody could read them. That night we moved closer to the border, and clear across the prairie, at the very edge of the horizon. We could make out the gas fires of the refineries at Missoula, while to the south, we could see the lights of Cheyenne, a city bigger and grander than I'd ever seen. I felt all kind of things looking at the lights of Cheyenne, but most important, I made up my mind to never again tag around with a hell-bent type, no matter how in love with him I was. Finally, I found the strength to tell Kit this. I pointed out that even if we got to the Far North, he still couldn't make a living.
  • Kit knew the end was coming. He wondered if he'd hear the doctor pronounce him dead, or if he'd be able to read what the papers would say about him the next day, from the other side. He dreaded the idea of being shot down alone, he said, without a girl to scream out his name. Then, for an instant, the sight of the mountains in the dawn light got his hopes back up.
  • Often, I've wondered what was going through Kit's head before they got him, and why he didn't make a run for it while he still had the chance. Did he figure they'd just catch him the next day? Was it despair? He claimed to having a flat tire, but the way he carried on about it, I imagine this is false.
  • Kit and I were taken back to South Dakota. They kept him in solitary, so he didn't have a chance to get acquainted with the other inmates, though he was sure they'd like him, especially the murderers. Myself, I got off with probation and a lot of nasty looks. Later, I married the son of the lawyer who defended me. Kit went to sleep in the courtroom while his confession was being read, and he was sentenced to die in the electric chair. On a warm spring night, six months later, after donating his body to science, he did.

Kit Carruthers

  • Somebody dropped a bag on the sidewalk. Everybody did that, the whole town'd be a mess.
  • I got it all planned - and, uh, I'm taking Holly off with me.
  • [to Mr. Sargis] Suppose I shot you. How'd that be?
  • [on a recording] My girl Holly and I have decided to kill ourselves, same way I did her Dad. Big decision, huh? Uh, the reasons are obvious, and I don't have time to go into them right now. But uh, one thing, though. He was provoking me when I popped him. That's what it was like, a Pop! We're sorry, I mean, uhm, nobody's coming out of this thing happy, especially not us. I can't deny we've had fun, though. I mean, uhm, that's more than I can say for some. That's the end of the message. I run out of things to say. Thank you.
  • I'll give you a dollar if you eat this collie.
  • [on a recording] Listen to your parents and teachers. They got a line on most things, so don't treat 'em like enemies. There's always an outside chance you can learn something. Try to keep an open mind. Try to understand the viewpoints of others. Consider the minority opinion, but try to get along with the majority of opinion once it's accepted. Of course, Holly and I have had fun, even if it has been rushed, and uh, so far, we're doing fine, hadn't got caught. Excuse the grammar.
  • You get a little money in your pocket, you think all your problems are solved. Well, let me tell you, they're not.
  • Name's Carruthers. Believe I shoot people every now and then. Not that I deserve a medal.
  • [to his arresting officers] Well, you boys have performed like a couple of heroes. And don't think I'm not gonna pass it around when we get to town.
  • Don't worry now, I'm gonna get you off these charges. There's a whole lot of other boys out there waitin' for ya. You're gonna have a lot of fun. Boy, we rang the bell, didn't we? I'll say this though, that guy with the deaf maid? He's just lucky he's not dead, too. Course, uh, too bad about your dad...We're gonna have to sit down and talk about that sometime.


Kit: Just thought I'd come over and say hello to ya. I'll try anything once....Listen, Holly, you, uh, I don't know, want to take a walk with me?
Holly: What for?
Kit: Aw, I got some stuff to say. Guess I'm kind of lucky that way. Most people don't have anything on their minds, do they? Oh, incidentally, my last name is Carruthers. Sounds a little too much like 'druthers,' huh?
Holly: It's OK.
Kit: Ah, well, nobody asked me what I thought. They just hung it on me.
Holly: You still in school?
Kit: Nah, I have a job.
Holly: Doin' what?
Kit: Well, I don't mind getting up early, so I got a job throwing garbage. I'm not in love with the stuff, OK?
Holly: I know what my daddy's gonna say...well, that I shouldn't be seen with anybody that collects garbage.

Clerk: Why did you leave?
Kit: I just felt like it.
Clerk: What kind of work do you think you'd be qualified for? I just gotta get this.
Kit: I can't think of anything at the moment. I want you to write me out a slip, though, proving I came down here.

Kit: Hi.
Holly: Well, stop the world.
Kit: Hey, I quit my job.
Holly: Great.
Kit: It seemed like the right move...Well, I'm gonna work as a cowboy now... or thinking about it. It's a routine, like anything. What do you think?
Holly: I don't know.

Kit: [after suggesting they crunch their hands with a rock] That way, we'd never forget what happened today.
Holly: But it would hurt.
Kit: Well, that's the point, stupid.
Holly: Don't call me stupid.
Kit: OK, but I'm gonna keep it for a souvenir - or maybe one that's lighter.

Kit: You know Holly, well, she means an awful lot to me, sir...Look, I got a lot of respect for her, too, sir. That's about as good a one as I know to tell ya.
Mr. Sargis: Well, it's not good enough...I don't want you to hang around any more. I don't want to see you again. Do you understand? You're something.

Holly: Listen, maybe we ought to tell somebody about this.
Kit: You said that once already. Too late now.
Holly: Why?
Kit: They're not gonna listen to me. You either. Are you kidding?
Holly: Suppose the neighbors heard the noise?
Kit: Wouldn't be funny. Listen, uh, I'll be back after a while. Oh, uh, you want to call the police, that's fine. Just won't be so hot for me.

Holly: [about Cato, after Kit shoots him] How is he?
Kit: I got him in the stomach.
Holly: Is he upset?
Kit: He didn't say nothing to me about it.

Girl: What's going to happen to Jack and me?
Holly: You have to ask Kit. He says 'frog,' I jump.
Girl: OK.
Holly: What's your friend's name?
Girl: Jack.
Holly: You love him?
Girl: I don't know.
Holly: I've got to stick by Kit. He feels trapped.
Girl: Yeah, I can imagine.
Holly: Well, I've felt that way, hadn't you?

Kit: You tired?
Holly: Yeah.
Kit: Yeah, you look tired... Listen, honey. when all this is over, I'm going to sit down and buy you a big, thick steak.
Holly: I don't want a steak.
Kit: Well, we'll see about that.

Deputy: Hell, he ain't no bigger than I am.
Kit: You're gonna give me a cauliflower ear, Sheriff.
Deputy: He should've thought about that before he got caught. Shouldn't he?

Deputy: You like people?
Kit: They're OK.
Deputy: Then why'd you do it?
Kit: I don't know. I always wanted to be a criminal, I guess. Just not this big a one. Takes all kinds, though.
Deputy: [to Sheriff] You know who that sombitch looks like? You know, don't you?
Sheriff: No.
Deputy: I'll kiss your ass if he don't look like James Dean.

Voice: Hey, Kit, who's your favorite singer?
Kit: Eddie Fisher. Who's yours?
Voice: Eddie Fisher.
Kit: Damn...
Voice: How old are you?
Kit: Don't you read the papers?
Voice: You ever been married?
Kit: No sir, I hadn't.
Voice: You afraid of death?
Kit: I hadn't thought about it much.

Kit: [about the Trooper's hat] Boy, I'd like to buy me one of them.
Trooper: You're quite an individual, Kit.
Kit: Think they'll take that into consideration?


  • In 1959 a lot of people were killing time. Kit and Holly were killing people.
  • He was 25 years old. He combed his hair like James Dean. She was 15. She took music lessons and could twirl a baton. For a while they lived together in a tree house. In 1959, she watched while he killed a lot of people.


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