JFK (film)

1991 film directed by Oliver Stone

JFK is a 1991 film about a New Orleans DA who believes there's more to the Kennedy assassination than the official story.

Directed by Oliver Stone. Written by Oliver Stone and Zachary Sklar, based on the books Crossfire: The Plot That Killed Kennedy, by Jim Marrs and On the Trail of the Assasins, by Jim Garrison.
The Story That Won't Go Away taglines
  • A single bullet must account for the seven wounds in Kennedy and Connally. But rather than admit to a conspiracy or investigate further, the Warren Commission chose to endorse the theory put forth by an ambitious junior counselor, Arlen Specter, one of the grossest lies ever forced on the American people. We've come to know it as the 'Magic Bullet Theory.'... That's some bullet. Anyone who's been in combat will tell you never in the history of gunfire has there been a bullet this ridiculous. Yet the government says it can prove it, with some fancy physics in a nuclear laboratory. Of course they can. Theoretical physics can prove that an elephant can hang from a cliff with its tail tied to a daisy. But use your eyes, your common sense.
  • This single-bullet explanation is the foundation of the Warren Commission's claim of one assassin. And once you conclude the magic bullet couldn't create all seven wounds, you must conclude there was a fourth shot and a second rifleman. And if there was a second rifleman, then by definition there had to be a conspiracy.
  • We've all become Hamlets in our country, children of a slain father-leader whose killers still possess the throne. The ghost of John F. Kennedy confronts us with the secret murder at the heart of the American Dream. He forces on us the appalling questions: Of what is our Constitution made? What are our lives worth? What is the future of a democracy where a President can be assassinated under suspicious circumstances while the machinery of legal action scarcely trembles? How many more political murders disguised as heart attacks, suicides, cancers, drug overdoses? How many plane and car crashes will occur before they are exposed for what they are?
  • 'Treason doth never prosper,' wrote an English poet, 'What's the reason? For if it prosper, none dare call it treason.' The American public has yet to see the Zapruder film. Why? The American public has yet to see the real X-rays and photographs of the autopsy. Why? There are hundreds of documents that could help prove this conspiracy. Why are they being withheld or burned by the government? Each time my office or you the people have asked those questions, demanded crucial evidence, the answer from on high has always been 'national security.' What kind of national security do we have when we've been robbed of our leaders? What national security permits the removal of fundamental power from the hands of the American people and validates the ascendancy of an invisible government in the United States? That kind of national security, gentlemen of the jury, is when it smells like it, feels like it, and looks like it, you call it what it is: Fascism!
  • It may become a generational affair. Questions passed from father to son, mother to daughter. But someday, somewhere, someone may find out the damned Truth. We better. We better or we might just as well build ourselves another government like the Declaration of Independence says to when the old one ain't working - just - just a little farther out West.
  • Going back to when we were children, I think most of us in this courtroom thought justice came automatically. That virtue was its own reward. That good triumphs over evil. But as we get older, we know this isn't true. Individual human beings have to create justice, and this is not easy because the truth often poses a threat to power and one often has to fight power at great risk to themselves.
  • I have here some $8,000 in these letters sent to my office from all over the country - quarters, dimes, dollar bills from housewives, plumbers, car salesmen, teachers, invalids. These are people who cannot afford to send money but do. These are the ones who drive the cabs, who nurse in the hospitals, who see their kids go to Vietnam. Why? Because they care, because they want to know the truth, because they want their country back, because it still belongs to us, as long as the people have the guts to fight for what they believe in! The truth is the most important value we have because if the truth does not endure, if the government murders truth, if we cannot respect the hearts of these people, then this is not the country in which I was born and this is certainly not the country I want to die in.
  • Tennyson wrote, 'Authority forgets a dying king'. This was never more true than for John F. Kennedy, whose murder was probably one the most terrible moments in the history of our country. We, the people, the jury system sitting in judgment on Clay Shaw, represent the hope of humanity against government power. In discharging your duty, in bringing the first conviction in this house of cards against Clay Shaw, 'ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.' Do not forget your dying king. Show this world that this is still a government 'of the people, for the people, and by the people'. Nothing as long as you live will ever be more important. It's up to you.
  • Hitler always said: "The bigger the lie, the more people will believe it."
  • To show you how cosmically irrelevant the Warren Report is for the most part … one of the exhibits is classified in the front as, 'A Study of the Teeth of Jack Ruby's Mother.' Even if Jack Ruby had intended to bite Oswald to death, that still would not have been relevant.
    • Gil Jesus, The Garrison Investigation, video interview.]
  • One of the stated objectives [of the Warren Commission] was to calm the fears of the people about a conspiracy. But in our country, the government has no right to calm our fears, any more than it has, for example, the right to excite our fears about Red China, or about fluoridation, or about birth control, or about anything. There's no room in America for thought control of any kind, no matter how benevolent the objective. Personally, I don't want to be calm about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. I don't want to be calm about a president of my country being shot down in the streets.
    • Part of Garrison's response to a NBC News White Paper, 15 July 1967
  • In retrospect, the reason for the assassination is hardly a mystery. It is now abundantly clear … why the C.I.A.'s covert operations element wanted John Kennedy out of the Oval Office and Lyndon Johnson in it. The new President elevated by rifle fire to control of our foreign policy had been one of the most enthusiastic American cold warriors.... Johnson had originally risen to power on the crest of the fulminating anti-communist crusade which marked American politics after World War II. Shortly after the end of that war, he declaimed that atomic power had become 'ours to use, either to Christianize the world or pulverize it' -- a Christian benediction if ever there was one. Johnson's demonstrated enthusiasm for American military intervention abroad … earned him the sobriquet 'the senator from the Pentagon....
    • On the Trail of the Assassins, Sheridan Square Press, (1988)
Civil rights leaders meet with President John F. Kennedy in the Oval Office (1963)
  • There was a civil war in this country... Kennedy provoked such hostility and hatred. His death was cheered in the South because of his support for Martin Luther King. He was moving to change things on all fronts. He was starting to end the Cold War. He made a deal with Khruschev and Russia in 1962 to end the missile crisis, and he furthered the deal when he signed the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty in 1963. He installed the Hot Line. He... described the Soviets for the first time in American history as mortals, like us, who care about their children. He seemed to have an expanding vision of the world, much like Gorbachev did in Russia in the '80s.
  • People in power are afraid to ask the obvious questions. From Day 1, they accepted the cover story that Oswald did it [assassinated JFK] alone. Oswald said he was the patsy. A lot of people believed him, but not the establishment. Since that day, the media has chanted the mantra that Oswald did it alone. But the American public, which has been brainwashed with that for 28 years, has never accepted it. They smell a rat.
  • The most shocking part [about the assassination of JFK] is...the sequence of the shooting, the timing,... the wounds and the autopsy. It’s all quite shocking when you...think seriously about it. It doesn’t make any sense the way they described it. That’s the most shocking part of the case. When you start to investigate Oswald, of course there are a thousand interesting things that come up. The files on Oswald were much more closely supervised by the CIA then we knew at the time and were omitted by the Warren Commission. They treated it like a routine investigation, but it was hardly so.
  • We draw a line between the cover-up and the assassination. The cover-up is filled with another cast of characters. That is to say, the Warren Commission itself, who is in charge of the investigation; and the main man, Alan Dulles, the ex-chief of the CIA and one of the most powerful figures in government. He was fired by Kennedy, as were all his top officials, two years earlier. He was put in charge of the investigation and buried certain information. That’s part of the cover-up.
    • Quoted in Oliver Stone Looks Back at ‘JFK’, Rolling Stone (4 November 2013)


  • As one of our interviewers... says... once you kill a sitting president in high noon in Dealey Plaza and blow his head off, you're not going to go back to normal and say, "Oh, wow! We found this whacky--this crazy lone nut who killed him." It doesn't work. It doesn't really work as a narrative for this country. What happened was much deeper than that, and there was so many inconsistencies, so many holes in the Warren Commission... The point is that you cannot remove legitimacy from government like that and get away with it, and the people knew something was wrong. They didn't know exactly what was wrong, but they sensed that something had gone astray, like anarchy has set in. Some method of control was being exerted because forces that were more powerful than one person were able to kill him, forces that were somewhat, I mean, clearly related to intelligence agencies, to possible military agencies, and these forces came to dominate American life...


Bill Broussard: None of their testimony is gonna hold up in court, Chief. Hell, all three of them have reputations as low as crocodile piss.
Jim Garrison: That bother you, Bill? I always wonder why it is in court if a woman's a prostitute, she has to have bad eyesight.

Jim Garrison: Mr. Shaw, have you ever been a contract agent with the Central Intelligence Agency?
Clay Shaw: And if I was, Mr. Garrison... do you think I would be here today... talking to somebody like you?
Jim Garrison: People like you don't have to.
Clay Shaw: May I go?
Jim Garrison: People like you walk between the raindrops.
Clay Shaw: May I go?
Jim Garrison: Yes.
Clay Shaw: Regardless of what you may think of me, I am a patriot first and foremost. I've spent half my life in the military defending my country.
Jim Garrison: You're the first person I've met who considers it an act of patriotism to kill his own President.

Jim Garrison: Who killed the President?
David Ferrie: Oh, man, why don't you fucking stop it? Shit! This is too fucking big for you, you know that? Who did the President? Who killed Kennedy? Fuck, man! It's a mystery! It's a mystery wrapped in a riddle inside an enigma! The shooters don't even know! Don't you get it?! Fuck, man! I can't keep talking like this! They're gonna fucking kill me! I'm gonna fucking die! [smokes a joint, then cracks] Son of a bitch!

FBI Agent Frank: [intercepting Bill] Hey, Bill.
Bill Broussard: [trying to walk away and ignore him] Hey, where you at, Frank? You're wasting your time here. Big Jim gave strict orders. No FBI allowed.
FBI Agent Frank: It's you I want to, Bill.
Bill Broussard: [walking to his parked car and putting some stuff away] No, no. Boss would fry me in hog fat if he knew I talked to you.
FBI Agent Frank: Your boss just got a serious problem, Bill. Real serious. We know what's going on over at your office.
Bill Broussard: Yeah, I guess you do.
FBI Agent Frank: You got nothing, Bill. I'm talking to you as a friend now. You're riding on the Titanic. Time to jump off before you get destroyed, too, along with Garrison.
Bill Broussard: [trying to get to his apartment] Frank, I don't want to hear this.
FBI Agent Frank: [cornering Bill] We're talking about your career, Bill. Your life. You're a young guy. We know you're working on that Castro thing.
Bill Broussard: [shaking his head] No, I'm not. No.
FBI Agent Frank: Yes, you are. Look, we know Oswald didn't pull that trigger. Castro did. But if that comes out, there will be a war. Millions of people will die. And, that's a hell of a lot more important than Jim Garrison. [Slapping Bill, who's trying to escape] Goddammit, look at me when I talk you! You're too goddamn selfish!
Bill Broussard: [yelling] I can't!
FBI Agent Frank: SHUT UP! Shut up! If you got a brain in that thick skull of yours, listen to me. You listen real hard. Now, get in the car.
[Bill does so, with FBI Agent Frank following close behind]

Jim Garrison: I never realized Kennedy was so dangerous to the Establishment. Is that why?
X: Well, that's the real question, isn't it? Why? The 'How' and the 'Who' is just scenery for the public. Oswald, Ruby, Cuba, the Mafia, keeps 'em guessing like some kind of parlor game. Prevents 'em from asking the most important question: Why? Why was Kennedy killed? Who benefited? Who has the power to cover it up? Who?...

The organizing principle of any society, Mr. Garrison, is for war. The authority of the state over its people resides in its war powers. And Kennedy wanted to end the Cold War in his second term. He wanted to call off the moon race in favor of cooperation with the Soviets. He signed a treaty with the Soviets to ban nuclear testing. He refused to invade Cuba in 1962 and he set out to withdraw from Vietnam. But all of that ended on the 22nd of November, 1963. As early as 1961, they knew Kennedy was not going to war in Southeast Asia. Like Caesar, he is surrounded by enemies and something's underway, but it has no face. Yet everybody in the loop knows...

Everything is cellularized. No one has said, 'He must die.' There's been no vote. Nothing's on paper. There's no one to blame. It's as old as the crucifixion. A military firing squad: five bullets, one blank. No one's guilty, because everyone in the power structure who knows anything has a plausible deniability. There are no compromising connections except at the most secret point. But what's paramount is that it must succeed. No matter how many die, no matter how much it costs, the perpetrators must be on the winning side and never subject to prosecution for anything by anyone. That is a coup d'état....

Jim Garrison: I don't, I can't - I can't believe they killed him because he wanted to change things. In our time. In our country.
X: Well, they've been doing it all through history. Kings are killed, Mr. Garrison. Politics is power, nothing more! Oh, don't take my word for it, don't believe me. Do your own work, your own thinkin'....
Jim Garrison: The size of this is beyond me. Testify...Testify.
X: No chance in hell. No, I'd be arrested and gagged, maybe sent to an institution, maybe worse, you too. I can give you the background, but you have to find the foreground, the little things. Keep digging. Remember, you're the only person to bring a trial in the murder of John Kennedy. That's important, it's historic.
Jim Garrison: I haven't yet. I don't have much of a case.
X: You don't have a choice anymore. You've become a significant threat to the national security structure. They would have killed you already but you got a lot of light on you. Instead, they're trying to destroy your credibility. They already have in many circles in this town. Be honest. Your only chance is to come up with a case. Something. Anything. Make arrests. Stir the shit storm. Hope to reach a point of critical mass that'll start a chain reaction of people coming forward. Then the government'll crack. Remember, fundamentally, people are suckers for the truth, and the truth is on your side, Bubba. I just hope you get a break.

Bill Broussard: [after hearing the FBI/Oswald story] I don't buy it, Chief. Why would the FBI cover it up? A telex that disappears from every single FBI office in this country?
Jim Garrison: There's a word, Bill. Orders.
Susie Cox: Or a cover up. Jesus, Bill. Don't you have enough proof of the FBI's complicity yet?
Bill Broussard: I respect this country's institutions, like you do, Susie! How the hell can you keep a conspiracy going between the mob, the CIA, the FBI, the Army Intelligence, and who the hell knows what else when you can't keep a secret in this room between 12 people? I mean, we got leaks everywhere. We are going to trial, y'all! What the hell do we really got? Oswald, Ruby, Bannister and Ferrie are dead. Shaw? Maybe he's an agent, I don't know. But, as a covert operator in my book, he is wide open for blackmail because of his homosexuality.
Jim Garrison: Shaw's our toehold, Bill. I don't know exactly what he is or where he fits, and I don't really care. But I do know he's lying through his teeth and I'm not gonna let go of him.
Bill Broussard: And that's why, for those reasons, you're going to trial against Clay Shaw, chief? Well, you're gonna lose! Let's investigate our Mafia leads here in New Orleans. Now, I can buy that a hell of a lot easier than I can the government. Ruby's all mob, knows Oswald, sets him up. Hoffa, Trafficante, Marcello, they hire some guns and they do Kennedy. And, uh, the government doesn't want to open up a whole can of worms because it used the mob to try to get to Castro. Castro assassinated by the mob, by us, sounds pretty wild to John Q. Citizen. So they close the book on JFK. Makes perfect sense to me.
Jim Garrison: I don't doubt their involvement, Bill, but at a low level. Could the mob change the parade route? Or eliminate the protection for the President? Could the mob send Oswald to Russia and get him back? Could the mob get the FBI, the CIA, and the Dallas Police to make a mess of the investigation? I mean, could the mob get the Warren Commission appointed to cover it up? Could the mob wreck the autopsy? Could the mob influence the national media to go to sleep? And since when has the mob used anything but .38s for hits up close? The mob wouldn't have the guts or the power for something of this magnitude. Assassins need payrolls, schedules, times, orders. This was a military style ambush from star to finish. A coup d'etat with Lyndon Johnson waiting in the wings.
Bill Broussard: OK. So now you're saying Lyndon Johnson was involved? The President of the United States?
Jim Garrison: I know this, Bill. Lyndon Johnson got $1 billion dollars for his Texas friends, Brown and Root, to dredge Cam Ranh Bay for the military in Vietnam.
Bill Broussard: Boss...
Jim Garrison: That's just for openers...
Bill Broussard: [yelling] Boss, are you calling the President a murderer?!?
Jim Garrison: If I'm so far from the truth, why is the FBI bugging our offices? Huh? Why are our witnesses being bought off and murdered? And why are the federal agencies blocking our extraditions and subpoenas like we were never before?
Bill Broussard: I don't know. I don't know. Maybe there's some rogue element in the government or something, but you're not...
Jim Garrison: With a full-blown conspiracy to cover it up? You ever read Shakespeare, Bill?
Bill Broussard: Yeah, I do.
Jim Garrison: Julius Caesar? "Brutus and Cassius, they, too, are honorable men." Who killed Caesar? Ten or twelve senators. All it takes is one Judas, Bill. A few people on the inside. Pentagon, CIA, you name it.
Bill Broussard: This is Louisiana, chief. How the hell do you know who your daddy is? 'Cause your mama told ya so. You are taking a crap in the wind, boss. And I, for one, am not going along on this one.
[Bill grabs his briefcase and angrily throw some things, including a telephone, out of the way and slams the door behind him]
Lou Ivon: Boss, I've had my doubts all along about Bill. He's been fighting us all along.
Jim Garrison: Well, we need him back.
Al Oser: Boss, Broussard wasted a whole damn month trying to prove that mob boys like Jack Ruby and Brady are kind of hooked up with Hunt Oil.
Lou Ivon: I don't trust this guy.
Jim Garrison: I will not hear this, gentlemen. Now, I value Bill as much as any person here. It's time we all made room for someone else's ideas, including me. Maybe Oswald is what everybody says he is and I'm just plain dumb about it.
Al Oser: [trying to discuss this situation] I've seen him copying files, leaving here late at night.
Lou Ivon: I just don't trust him.
Jim Garrison: Didn't you two hear what I said?! I said I will not tolerate infighting among the staff!
Lou Ivon: Then I'm afraid I cannot work with Bill Broussard anymore.
Jim Garrison: Is this an ultimatum you're giving me, Lou?
Lou Ivon: What?!
Jim Garrison: Are you giving me an ultimatum?
Lou Ivon: Well, if that's what you want to call it. I never thought it would come to this. [sighs] I guess I am.
Jim Garrison: Well, then I won't have any more ultimatums put to me, Lou. I'll accept your resignation.
Lou Ivon: Well, you sure got it. You are one stubborn son of a bitch. And you... are making a very big mistake.
[Lou walks away, Jim and his staff are stunned.]
Susie Cox: Boss, aren't you being a little hard?
Jim Garrison: No, I don't think I am, Susie. Anyone else?


  • The Story That Won't Go Away
  • He's a District Attorney. He will risk his life, the lives of his family, everything he holds dear for the one thing he holds sacred... the truth.



See also

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