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Natural Born Killers is a 1994 satirical crime film directed by Oliver Stone about a pair of mass murderers and the media coverage given to them. It stars Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis, along with Rodney Dangerfield, Robert Downey, Jr., Tom Sizemore, and Tommy Lee Jones.

The film is based on a screenplay by Quentin Tarantino that was heavily revised by Stone with writer Dave Veloz and associate producer Richard Rutowski. Notorious for its violent content, the film was named the 8th most controversial movie of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

Natural Born Killers was promoted with the tagline: "A bold new film that takes a look at a country seduced by fame, obsessed by crime and consumed by the media." It was released theatrically in the United States on August 26, 1994.



Mickey Knox and his wife Mallory go to a roadside café in the New Mexicomarker desert. They seem normal customers, with Mickey eating key lime pie and Mallory dancing to rock 'n' roll on the jukebox. A group of rednecks arrive and one begins dancing and flirting with Mallory. She encourages him for a moment, then attacks him without provocation by smashing his beer bottle as he drinks from it. A fistfight ensues, with Mallory beating the man. When the redneck's friend intervenes, Mickey stabs him. Mickey and Mallory then proceed to murder the diner's patrons, culminating in a morbid game of Eeny, meeny, miny, moe to decide who lives and who dies. After executing their final victim, the couple make sure the only survivor remembers their names before they embrace and declare their undying love.

Part I

Mickey and Mallory are in a desert at night. Mallory is reminiscing of when they first met. A flashback shows Mickey as a deliveryman who came to the house where Mallory lived with her abusive father, her neglectful mother, and her younger brother Kevin. The flashback is portrayed as a 1950s-type sitcom with a canned laughter track, the "audience" laughing hardest when Mallory is subjected to lewd comments and hints of molestation by her father.

Mickey instantly falls in love with Mallory. They leave together and Mickey steals a car that belongs to Mallory's father. Mickey is arrested and imprisoned for grand theft auto, but he subsequently escapes during a tornado and returns to Mallory's house. The two kill her father by drowning him in a fish tank, then burn her mother alive in bed. They spare her ten-year-old brother, Mallory telling him that he is free. They leave to rapturous applause from the "audience."

Mickey and Mallory get "married" on the side of a bridge. They drive to a motel for the night. After watching television, they begin to have sex until Mickey is distracted by a female hostage. Furious with Mickey's notion that they have a threesome, Mallory drives to a nearby gas station, where she flirts with the mechanic. They begin to have sex on the hood of a car, but Mallory is angered by his over-aggressive cunnilingus and shoots him to death.

Part II

The pair continue their killing-spree (which bears similarities to Bonnie and Clyde and the Starkweather-Fugate murders), ultimately claiming 48 victims in New Mexico, Arizona, and Nevada. Pursuing them are two characters who see the murderers as a chance to acquire fame for themselves.

The first is a policeman, Detective Jack Scagnetti, who seems particularly fascinated by Mallory. Scagnetti is already a well-known personality, a published author, whose book Scagnetti on Scagnetti is a best-seller with law enforcement. Scagnetti has a lifelong obsession with mass murderers after witnessing his mother shot and killed by Charles Whitman when he was eight. Despite his heroic facade, he is shown to be psychopathic, strangling a prostitute to death.

The second follower of the killers is journalist Wayne Gale. He is an Australian who hosts a show called American Maniacs, which profiles mass murderers. Various clips of Mickey and Mallory are shown, with Gale acting outraged on-screen as he details the pair's crimes, although off-air he clearly regards their crimes as a fantastic way of increasing his show's ratings. It is Gale who is primarily responsible for elevating Mickey and Mallory to hero status, with his show featuring interviews with people around the world expressing their admiration for the killers.

Mickey and Mallory become lost in the desert and encounter Warren Red Cloud, a Navajo Indian, and his pre-adolescent grandson. After the two fall asleep, the Najavo, hoping to expel the demon he perceives in Mickey, begins chanting beside the fire, invoking nightmares in Mickey about his abusive parents. Mickey wakes up in a rage and fatally shoots the Navajo before he realizes what he is doing. It is the first time Mallory and Mickey feel guilty for a murder. While fleeing from the scene through the desert, they stray into a field of rattlesnakes and are both bitten.

They drive to a drugstore to find snakebite antidote, but the pharmacist sets off the silent alarm before Mickey kills him. Police cars pull up. Mallory is captured immediately and is subsequently beaten by the sadistic and brutish police. A gunfight breaks out between Mickey and the others. Scagnetti arrives. He tells Mickey that unless he surrenders, he'll cut off Mallory's breasts. Mickey gives up his gun, but he attacks Scagnetti with a knife. The police taser him, and the scene ends with Mickey and Mallory being beaten by a group of vengeful policemen.

Part III

The story picks up one year later. The homicidal couple have been imprisoned. They are due to be moved to a mental hospital after being declared insane. Scagnetti arrives at the prison and encounters Warden Dwight McClusky. The two devise a plan to murder the two criminals. McClusky will arrange for Scagnetti to be the driver for the Knoxes' transfer. Alone with the pair, Scagnetti will murder them, then claim that they tried to escape.

Wayne Gale has persuaded Mickey to agree to a live interview, to air immediately after the Super Bowl. Mallory is held in solitary confinement elsewhere in the prison, awaiting her transport to the mental hospital.

During the interview, Mickey gives a speech about how murder provides enlightenment and declares himself a "natural born killer." His words inspire the other inmates (who are watching the interview on TV in the recreation room) and incite them to riot.

McClusky orders the interview terminated over Gale's violent protests. Mickey is left alone with Gale, the film's crew and several guards. Using a lengthy joke as a diversion, Mickey overpowers a guard and grabs his shotgun. He kills most of the guards plus several of Gale's crew. Mickey takes the survivors hostage, leading them through the prison riot. Gale follows, giving a live television report as people are beaten and killed around him. Inmates torture and murder prisoners and guards.

Scagnetti is in Mallory's cell. He attempts to seduce her. Mallory rebuffs his efforts, smashing his face against the wall and breaking his nose. The guards and Scagnetti subdue her.

Still live on national television, Mickey engages in a brief Mexican Standoff with Scagnetti, eventually feigning a concession. Mallory then approaches Scagnetti from behind and slashes his throat with a shank. Mickey then reveals that the shotgun was unloaded, much to Scagnetti's horror. Mallory picks up Scagnetti's loaded gun and kills him.

They continue to escape through the riot-torn prison, with Gale's entire TV crew being killed. Gale himself snaps and begins to shoot at the guards.

After being rescued by a mysterious prisoner named Owen Traft, the trio of Mickey, Mallory and Gale run into Warden McClusky and a heavily armed posse of guards. They take cover in a blood-splattered shower room. Gale calls his wife and tells her he is leaving her. He calls his mistress to tell her he will see her later.

McClusky threatens to storm the shower room. Mickey in turn threatens to kill both Gale and the guard on live TV. The prisoners walk out the front door. McClusky and his guards are massacred by hordes of inmates who burst into the area. They proceed to tear McClusky apart, literally tearing his head off and displaying it on a spike (director's cut only).

After the escape, Owen is never seen or mentioned again. Mickey and Mallory steal a van and kill the last guard. Escaping to a rural location, they give a final interview to Wayne Gale before — much to his surprise and horror — they tell him he must also die. Gale attempts various arguments to change their minds, finally appealing to their trademark practice of leaving one witness to tell the tale. Mickey inform him they are leaving a witness to tell the tale — his camera. Gale accepts his fate and extends his arms as if on a cross as they execute him by shooting him numerous times while his unattended camera continues to roll.

The couple are shown several years later in an RV, with Mickey driving and Mallory (who is pregnant) watching their two children play.



Natural Born Killers was based upon a screenplay written by Quentin Tarantino in which a married couple suddenly decide to go on a killing spree. Tarantino had sold an option for his script to producers Jane Hamsher and Don Murphy for $10,000 after he had tried, and failed, to direct it himself for $500,000. Hamsher and Murphy subsequently sold the screenplay to Warner Bros. Around the same time, Oliver Stone was made aware of the script. He was keen to find something more straightforward than his previous production, Heaven & Earth; a difficult shoot which had left him exhausted, and he felt that Natural Born Killers could be what he was looking for.

Director Oliver Stone, associate producer Richard Rutowski, and writer David Veloz, rewrote the script, keeping much of the dialogue, but changing the focus of the film from journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey, Jr.) to Mickey and Mallory. Indeed, the script was changed so much that as per WGA rules, Tarantino was credited for the film's story only. In a 1993 interview, Tarantino stated that he no longer held any animosity towards Stone, and that he wished the film well;
"It's not going to be my movie, it's going to be Oliver Stone's, and God bless him.
I hope he does a good job with it.
If I wasn't emotionally attached to it, I'm sure I would find it very interesting.
If you like my stuff, you might not like this movie.
But if you like his stuff, you're probably going to love it.
It might be the best thing he's ever done, but not because of anything to do with me.
[...] I actually can't wait to see it, to tell you the truth."

Initially, when producers Jane Hamsher and Don Murphy had first brought the script to Stone's attention, he had seen it as an action movie; "something Arnold Schwarzenegger would be proud of." As the project developed however, incidents such as the O.J. Simpson case, the Menendez brothers case, the Tonya Harding/Nancy Kerrigan incident, the Rodney King incident and the Branch Davidian attack all took place. Stone came to feel that the media was heavily involved in the outcome of all of these cases, and that the media had become an all-pervasive entity which marketed violence and suffering for the good of ratings. As such, he changed the tone of the movie from one of simple action to a satiric critique of the media in general.

During preproduction, to prepare for the role of Wayne Gale, Robert Downey Jr. spent time with Australian TV shock-king Steve Dunleavy. Also during preproduction, Stone tried to convince actress Juliette Lewis to bulk up for the role of Mallory so that she looked tougher, but she refused, saying she wanted the character to look like a pushover, not like a female bodybuilder.

The entire film took only 56 days to shoot, but the editing process went on for 11 months, with the final film containing almost 3,000 cuts (most films have 600-700).

Filming locations included the Rio Grande Gorge Bridgemarker just west of Taos, New Mexicomarker, where the wedding scene was filmed, and Stateville Correctional Centermarker in Joliet, Illinoismarker, where the prison riot was filmed. In Stateville, 80% of the prisoners were there for violent crimes. For the first two weeks on location at the prison, the extras were actual inmates with rubber weapons. For the subsequent two weeks, 200 extras were needed because the Stateville inmates were on lockdown. According to Tom Sizemore, during filming on the prison set, Stone would play African tribal music at full blast between takes to keep the frantic energy up. Whilst shooting the POV scene where Mallory runs into the wire mesh, director of photography Robert Richardson broke his finger, and the replacement cameraman cut his eye. According to Oliver Stone, he wasn’t too popular with the camera department on set that day. For the scenes involving rear projection, the projected footage was shot prior to principal photography, then edited together, and projected onto the stage, behind the live actors. For example, when Mallory drives past a building and flames are projected onto the wall, this was shot live using footage projected onto the facade of a real building.

The famous Coca-Cola polar bear ad is seen twice during the movie. According to Stone, Coca-Cola approved the use of the ad without having a full idea of what the movie was about. When they saw the completed film, they were furious.

The soundtrack for the film was produced by Stone and Trent Reznor, who reportedly watched the film over 50 times to "get in the mood". When putting together the music for the film, Stone and Reznor both wanted to get Snoop Dogg involved, but Warner wouldn't allow it, as Snoop was on trial for murder at the time.


Natural Born Killers is shot and edited in a frenzied and psychedelic style consisting of black and white, animation, and other unusual color schemes, and employing a wide range of camera angles, filters, lenses and special effects. Much of the movie is told via parodies of television shows, including a scene ('I Love Mallory') presented in the style of a sitcom about a dysfunctional family. Commercials which were commonly on the air at the time of the film's release make brief, intermittent appearances. In his DVD Director's commentary, Oliver Stone goes into great detail about the look of the film, explaining scene by scene why a particular look was chosen for a particular scene. A selection of quotations from that commentary can be found at the IMDb FAQ for the film, located here.

Stone considered Natural Born Killers his road film, specifically naming Bonnie and Clyde as a source of inspiration. The famous death scene in Bonnie and Clyde used innovative editing techniques provided by multiple cameras shot from different angles at different speeds; this sporadic interchange between fast-paced and slow-motion editing that concludes Arthur Penn's film is used throughout the entirety of Natural Born Killers.

Furthermore, both films fall under the road movie genre through their constant challenges of the society in which the characters live. While Bonnie and Clyde attempt to disintegrate the weakened economic and social landscape of the 1930s, Mickey and Mallory try to free America from the overarching conventions which influence the common masses, primarily the media. However, whilst Bonnie and Clyde concludes with a pessimistic outlook regarding individual freedom within the American sphere of influence, Oliver Stone sees Natural Born Killers as having an optimistic finale. In Bonnie and Clyde, the police's ambush of the couple exhibits the empirical control of law enforcement over the individual. Natural Born Killers however, ends with the couple symbolically destroying the mass media, as represented by Wayne Gale, and successfully fleeing together to live a relatively normal life. As Stone himself says, "In its own way, Natural Born Killers is ultimately a very optimistic film about the future. It's about freedom, and the ability of every human being to get it."

Recurring images

Television frequently appears in the film, including real television sets and television images that play on the sky, windows, or the sides of passing buildings. Furthermore, the story is often told via TV programmes, and the characters think about their own stories through the filter of TV. One example is Mallory's flashback to her first meeting with Mickey, which is presented as an episode of a sitcom called I Love Mallory (obviously a spoof of the real sitcom I Love Lucy), in which Mallory's abusive home life is played out to the canned laughter and "aw shucks" attitude of 1950s sitcoms. Much of the pair's violence is only shown as replayed or recreated on television. During the prison interview, Mickey is shown talking on a little television in an idealized 1950s Leave it to Beaver-type living room, and on the prison television in the canteen. The last scene of the film flicks away from Mickey and Mallory as if the viewer has begun to flip channels. It flicks through a variety of images including the O.J. Simpson trial, the Menendez brothers trial, and the burning Branch Davidian compoundmarker. Intermittent breaks from the film show popular commercials from the 1990s, thus making a direct relation between the diegetic (fictional) audience and the cinematic audience. By challenging the mass media throughout the film, Mickey and Mallory represent the idolized products of a society of spectacle; by including glimpses of real life angry and violent celebrities, Stone concludes the film as a modern satire on the mass media's exploitation of violence. As Mickey and Mallory literally walk out of the media's frame at the end of the film, it suggests that only a teleological advanced being can transcend the created establishments that influence common Americans.

The story of Frankenstein is referenced twice. Firstly, when Warden McClusky is explaining to Jack Scagnetti that they plan to have Mickey and Mallory undergo electroshock therapy, footage of Frankenstein is shown. Subsequently, explaining why he's going to shoot Wayne Gale, Mickey says "Frankenstein had to kill Dr. Frankenstein," implying that Gale is in some way responsible for Mickey's creation.

Snakes reappear throughout the film. One of the first images in the film is of a rattlesnake. The couple later exchange wedding rings of intertwined snakes, and Mickey has a tattoo of two snakes forming a heart on his chest. When Mickey is attempting to escape from prison during the tornado, it is a snake which aids him, by snapping at the horse pursuing him, thus allowing him to make a clean getaway. When Mallory and Mickey cut themselves on the bridge to show their love for one another, their blood becomes animated and changes into a red and green snake, entwined and hissing. There are also recurring shots of a seven headed dragon, like the one depicted in the Book of Revelation. In the couple's car, there is a toy snake. Mickey and Mallory first meet a real snake at the Navajo's: a rattlesnake is coiled in the corner, a scene which Mickey recalls with fondness and admiration in his prison interview. Mickey and Mallory are then bitten whilst walking through a field of rattlesnakes, which leads them to the drug store (above which can be seen a neon sign of the Caduceus of Mercury). According to Oliver Stone, snakes represent wisdom and knowledge in the film; on his DVD commentary, he refers to the snake as "a creature of knowledge," and he points out that every time Mickey encounters a snake directly, he learns something from it. This is in tandem with Buddhist beliefs (Oliver Stone converted to Buddhism after Vietnam), where snakes have always been seen as symbolic of wisdom and knowledge.

Mickey repeatedly uses nature and evolution to justify his killings, saying that "The wolf don't know why he's a wolf, the deer don't know why he's a deer. God just made 'em that way." He explains that he is the next step in human evolution, concluding that he's a "natural born killer". Shots of nature open the film and reoccur throughout (particularly wolves), both on television and in reality, often with a violent or disturbing undertones (a shot of an insect eating another insect is seen several times for example).

Yin and Yang, an ancient symbol of moral equivalence appear more than once. Mickey and Mallory have Yin and Yang tattoos on opposite arms. Mickey's tattoo is opposite and below another tattoo of the face of Christ. Mallory's tattoo is opposite and above a tattoo of a scorpion. Mickey's left earring is a Yin Yang. During Mickey's television interview he suggests that he and Mallory are "dark and light", compatible only with one another, as they function as a single force, intending to destroy the "demons" of mass media, corrupt law enforcement and the commonalty's obsession with violence.

A glowing lime green light is used throughout the film, symbolizing the sickness in Mickey's mind. It first appears in the film's opening sequence, as lights in the diner jukebox. Green is also present in the key lime pie Mickey orders. It appears again when Mallory kills a gas station attendant, and absorbs almost the entire screen during the drug store sequence. Lime green lights are last seen in the shower room in the prison, as Mickey and Mallory make their plans for a final escape.

The number 666 is also seen in certain areas of the film - for example Route 666 is featured in one of Wayne Gale's shows, and there is a brief glimpse in the first scene of a diner patron, who will later appear in the prison riot scene as Owen (Arliss Howard), holding a newspaper with the headline "666 Death".

Alternate versions

Oliver Stone's original cut of the film was refused an R rating by the MPAA, meaning it would have to be released either unrated (many theatres won't carry unrated films) or with an NC-17 rating. This was a problem because Stone's contract with Warner Brothers stipulated the final film would earn an R. As such, Stone was forced to edit the film to ensure the MPAA dropped the NC-17. In total, roughly 4 minutes of footage was cut from the film prior to release. In 2001 however, Stone released his preferred cut of the film on DVD and home video. Some of the newly restored footage includes:

  • three additional shots during the fight in the diner. The first is when Mallory knocks Sonny (Richard Lineback) over the small partition. In the theatrical cut, after Sonny hits the ground, the scene cuts to Sonny's friend (James Gammon) standing up. In the Director's Cut however, there is an additional shot of Mallory slamming Sonny's head into a table, and blood spraying everywhere. The second shot is when Mickey slits Sonny's friend's stomach; there are three additional slashes not found in the theatrical cut. The third shot occurs when Mallory jumps up and down on Sonny's back; there is an additional shot of her grabbing his blood soaked head and pounding it into the ground several times.
  • the death of Ed Wilson (Rodney Dangerfield) has one additional shot. As Wilson is leaning up against the wall, Mickey hits him with the tire-iron across the back of the head.
  • as Mallory drives to the garage after arguing with Mickey about the hostage (Corinna Laszlo), there is a shot of Mickey raping the hostage in the motel room, which is strongly implied but not shown in the theatrical version.
  • Jack Scagnetti's (Tom Sizemore) murder of Pinky (Lorraine Farris) contains an additional shot of Scagnetti with his hands around her throat and her struggling beneath him.
  • when Mickey kills the pharmacist (Glen Chin), there are two additional shots; one showing blood spraying onto the glass divide, the other showing the clerk falling to his knees and dying.
  • the scene where the police beat up Mallory outside the pharmacy contains a few extra shots of policemen punching her.
  • after Mickey has taken control of the TV crew, he breaks Kavanaugh's (Pruitt Taylor Vince) fingers.
  • the prison riot sequences contain quite a bit of additional material. Four particularly controversial scenes are: a guard is shoved into a washing machine, which is then turned on; a guard has his head pushed in under a steam press, which is then closed; a guard is thrown into an industrial oven, which is then turned up full; a guard is flung from the top story of the prison with bed linen tied around his neck, snapping his neck.
  • the scene where Scagnetti sprays mace in Mallory's eyes is longer.
  • a tracking shot in a barber's during the riot show inmates slitting the throats of other inmates.
  • during the riot, the scene where the prisoner throws a stick of dynamite into a doorway is extended; after the dynamite has been thrown, there is a shot of the explosion and a prisoner being flung from the room and rebounding off the far wall.
  • in the scene where Mickey rescues Mallory from Jack Scagnetti, there are additional shots of the bullets hitting the two guards.
  • there are more shots of Scagnetti thrashing about on the ground after being stabbed.
  • when Mallory holds the gun to Scagnetti's head and asks him if he still wants her, in the theatrical version, she pulls the trigger immediately. In the Director's Cut, there is a shot of Scagnetti looking directly into the camera and then screaming.
  • as Mickey, Mallory, and the others flee Mallory's cell, they are ambushed, and the remainder of Wayne Gale's crew is wiped out. In the theatrical version, little is seen of this, but in the Director's Cut, there are clear shots of his crew being gunned down, especially Julie (Terrylene), who is killed in slow motion.
  • during the standoff at the stairs, Warden Dwight McClusky (Tommy Lee Jones) orders the guards to open fire at Mickey because Kavanaugh, who Mickey is using as a shield, is already dead. In the theatrical version, when McClusky gives the order to fire, nothing happens, and the scene cuts to Mallory holding Gale out as a shield. In the Director's Cut however, the guards do open fire, riddling Kavanaugh's (still living) body with bullets.
  • after Mallory shoots Gale's hand, there is the infamous shot through the hole created by the bullet, looking down at McClusky. The shot was always intended to be darkly comedic, but the theatrical version sequence did not come across as funny.
  • McClusky's death is far more explicit. After being dragged down from the gate by the inmates, in the theatrical version, we never seen him again, but in the Director's Cut, there are several oblique shots of him being torn apart, and after a moment, a prisoner raises a spear, with McClusky's severed head perched on top.
  • Gale's death scene is longer and includes more bullet hits.

NOTE: A common error made in relation to the Director's Cut of this film is that it contains the deleted scenes from the original DVD (such as the court room scene with Ashley Judd and Rachel Ticotin, the Denis Leary scene, the extended Steven Wright scene, and the alternative ending - all described below). However, the official Director's Cut contains only four minutes of reinstated footage, and none of the deleted scenes from the DVD have been restored to the film.

Deleted scenes

  • An alternative version of the scene where Mickey and Mallory meet the Indian Shaman (Russell Means). After Mickey makes his speech about how '90s men need choices, Mallory loses her temper with him, and forces him at gunpoint onto his knees. She then orders him to remove his pants. At this point, the Shaman appears on a hill with a herd of sheep, one of which chases after Mickey as he screams at Mallory to shoot it. After escaping the sheep, Mickey and Mallory follow the Shaman home. In his introduction to this scene, director Oliver Stone says he deeply regrets cutting this scene, which he did in an attempt to make the film shorter.
  • A nine minute courtroom scene showing Mickey cross-examining one of the survivors of his and Mallory's rampage, Grace Mulberry (Ashley Judd). She recounts the events of the night when Mickey killed all of her girlfriends and her brother. After Mickey is finished questioning her, he attacks her with a pencil and stabs her to death in full view of the courtroom. Stone says he cut this scene because it brought Mickey and Mallory in the wrong direction. He says that the accidental killing of the shaman had changed something in them, but the murder of Mulberry was more like the old Mickey and Mallory, and he felt it didn't follow the arc that they two characters were going through at the time.
  • A scene where Jack Scagnetti (Tom Sizemore) disposes of the body of the murdered prostitute behind a drive-in theatre. As Scagnetti dumps the body, the camera pans upwards and we see that Mickey and Mallory are parked nearby, watching the movie, and trying to figure out what they supposed to be doing (they are on their way to get snake juice, having just been bitten by the rattlesnakes). Stone cut the scene because it was too bizarre and illogical that they would stop to watch a movie whilst dying.
  • A much longer conversation between Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) and Dr. Emil Reingold (Steven Wright). Stone cut the scene because it simply went on too long and slowed the film down too much.
  • A scene involving the Hun Brothers (played by the Barbarian Brothers), professional body builders and still-living victims of the Knoxes' killing spree. They talk to Wayne Gale about their admiration for their attackers. (who cut off one of each of their legs) because now they are going to be forced to work even harder than before to be the best. Ironically, the Knoxes' admiration for the Huns is what kept them from killing the twins in the first place. Stone says he deleted this scene because he misdirected it, it goes on too long, slowing the movie down too much, and the brothers are overacting (something for which he himself takes sole responsibility).
  • A deranged inmate (Denis Leary) delivers a rapid-fire monologue about how the Pittsburgh Pirates are responsible for Mickey and Mallory's killing spree, the ultimate cause being attributed to the Pirates, because they didn’t draft Fidel Castro. Stone cut it because it was too long and slowed the movie down.
  • After Mickey and Mallory escape and kill Wayne, they are travelling with Owen (Arliss Howard), who asks to accompany them. When Mickey informs him that they will be dropping him off, Owen begins making sexual advances towards Mallory. When she begins to mock him, and pulls a gun on him, he shoots Mickey, then turns the gun on Mallory; the screen cuts to black, and we hear Mallory. The film then ends the same way as the theatrical cut, with the montage of driving shots. Stone says that the idea behind the scene was that he felt audiences would want Mickey and Mallory to get their comeuppance, but he felt it couldn't come from society or the law; rather, it had to come from "one of their own ilk" (i.e., another serial killer).

Box office and critical response

In its opening weekend, the film grossed a total of $11,166,687 in 1,510 theaters. As of January 12, 2007, the film has grossed a total of $50,282,766 domestically, compared to its $34 million budget. In the UK, it grossed £3,923,239 during its theatrical run.

The film had a mixed critical response. As of November 26, 2008, the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes records an average response of 52%, based on 29 reviews. However, Metacritic records a score of 74 out of 100 based on 20 reviews.

Roger Ebert, a film critic for the Chicago Sun-Times gave the movie four stars out of four and wrote, "Seeing this movie once is not enough. The first time is for the visceral experience, the second time is for the meaning."

Other critics however, found the film unsuccessful in its aims. Hal Hinson of The Washington Post claimed that "Stone's sensibility is white-hot and personal. As much as he'd like us to believe that his camera is turned outward on the culture, it's vividly clear that he can't resist turning it inward on himself. This wouldn't be so troublesome if Stone didn't confuse the public and the private." Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote,"for all its surface passions, Natural Born Killers never digs deep enough to touch the madness of such events, or even to send them up in any surprising way. Mr. Stone's vision is impassioned, alarming, visually inventive, characteristically overpowering. But it's no match for the awful truth."James Berardinelli gave the film a negative review, but his dislike of the film was different from most of the unflattering reviews from other critics, who tended to focus on the film's decrying of violence and the media while sensationalizing both of those elements. Berardinelli said that the film "hit the bullseye" as a satire of America's lust for bloodshed, but repeated this argument so often and so loudly that it became unbearable.



When the film was first handed in to the MPAA, they told Stone they would give it an NC-17 unless he cut it. As such, Stone toned down the violence by cutting approximately four minutes of footage, and the MPAA re-rated the film as an R. The original cut is now available on DVD.

The film was banned completely in Ireland.

The UK home video release was delayed due to the Dunblane massacre in Scotland.

Stone has continually maintained that the film is a satire on how serial killers are adored by the media for their horrific actions and that those who claim that the violence in the movie itself is a cause of societal violence miss the point of the movie.

Entertainment Weekly ranked the film as the 8th Most Controversial Movie Ever.

'Copycat' crimes

From almost the moment of its release, the film has been accused of encouraging and inspiring numerous murderers in North America. For example:

  • In 1994, a 14-year-old boy from Dallas, Texas decapitated a 13-year-old classmate. When asked why he did it, he allegedly said it was because he "wanted to be famous. Like the Natural Born Killers."

  • In October 1994, 17-year-old Nathan Martinez from Bluffdale, Utahmarker, shot and killed his stepmother and 10-year-old half-sister while they slept. He was apprehended several days later in O'Neill, Nebraskamarker, following a nationwide manhunt. Martinez was allegedly obsessed with the film and claims to have seen it at least 10 times in the week prior to the murders. He had even shaved his head the way Mickey does at the end of the movie, and he had taken to wearing the same style of round sunglasses as Mickey.

  • In 1995, after allegedly watching the movie 19 times, a gang of four people in their twenties killed a truck driver and made their getaway in his rig.

  • On March 5, 1995 in Senoia, Georgiamarker, 15-year-old Jason Lewis shot and killed his parents after allegedly deciding he wanted to emulate Mickey and Mallory. Lewis was on the telephone talking to a friend discussing how he was planning to kill his mother and father and leave for the road, when he suddenly announced, "I'm going to do it." According to the friend, as he listened on the phone, he heard Lewis shooting his parents. He grabbed his father's 12-gauge shotgun, and shot his mother, sitting in a recliner watching television. The shot didn’t kill her, and as she screamed, he fired again, hitting his father, lying on a nearby couch. A third shot to his mother’s face killed her, and a fourth shot to his father's forehead killed him. According to Lewis' friend, Lewis then calmly returned to the phone and announced "I did it. It's done." It was subsequently discovered that Lewis was one of four young boys who planned to kill their parents, and embark on a cross country killing spree similar to that seen in the film. All four boys were arrested. During interrogation, when asked why he did it, Lewis told investigators that it was because his parents had imposed a midnight curfew on him.

  • On March 5, 1995, Sarah Edmondson and her boyfriend Benjamin James Darras (both 18) spent a night alone together at her family's cabin in Muskogee, Oklahomamarker, taking LSD and watching Natural Born Killers. The following morning, they left the cabin armed with a .38-caliber revolver. On March 7, they arrived at Hernando, Mississippimarker, when Darras killed cotton-mill manager William Savage by shooting him twice in the head at point blank range. They then travelled to Ponchatoula, Louisianamarker, where Edmondson shot Patsy Byers, a convenience store cashier. Byers survived the attack, being rendered paraplegic. It subsequently transpired that Savage had been a friend of author John Grisham; Grisham publicly accused Stone of being irresponsible in making the film, claiming that filmmakers should be held accountable for their work when it incites viewers to commit violent acts. In July 1995, Byers took legal actions against Edmondson and Darras, however in March 1996, she amended her lawsuit to include to Oliver Stone and the Time Warner company. With the advice of Grisham, Byers used a "product liability" claim, stating that the filmmakers "knew, or should have known that the film would cause and inspire people […] to commit crimes such as the shooting of Patsy Ann Byers." Grisham himself stated in an article called "Unnatural Killers" in the April 1996 edition of the Oxford American magazine, "The last hope of imposing some sense on Hollywood will come through another great American tradition, the lawsuit. A case can be made that there exists a direct causal link between Natural Born Killers and the death of Bill Savage. It will take only one large verdict against the likes of Oliver Stone, and then the party will be over." On January 23, 1997, on the grounds that filmmakers and production companies are protected by the First Amendment, the case was dismissed, but Byers immediately appealed the decision, and on May 15, 1998, the Intermediate Louisiana Court of Appeals overturned that decision, claiming that Byers did indeed have a valid case against the filmmakers (However, Byers herself died of cancer in late 1997). However, on March 12, 2001, judge Robert Morrison dismissed the case on the grounds that there was no evidence that either Time Warner or Oliver Stone intended to incite violence. In June 2002, the Louisiana Court of Appeal turned down an appeal from Byers' attorneys, and the suit was officially closed.

  • In Avon, Massachusettsmarker in June 1995, three men, ages 18 and 20, killed a physically handicapped 65-year-old man by stabbing him 27 times with a Bowie knife whilst he lay sleeping in his bed. The attack was so ferocious that both of the man's wrists were broken due to the force of the attacks, and his body was split open from clavicle to spine. After the murder, the ringleader bragged to his girlfriend about the murder. When she expressed horror at his actions, he asked her "Haven't you ever seen Natural Born Killers before?". During the interrogation, one of the murderers told police "We know what we did was bad, but we didn't know this guy so we weren't going to cry about it."

  • On January 3, 1997, New York firefighter James Halverson was running at the high school track at Centereachmarker, Long Islandmarker when William Sodders (21) shot and killed him in an act of random violence. Sodders had purchased a 9 mm pistol and he and his friend Eric Calvin, had gone to the track to practice shooting. When they got there, Sodders encountered Halverson. He went out onto the track, and bent over pretending to tie his shoelaces. As Halverson approached, Sodders stood up and shot him at point blank range. He also shot and killed Halverson's dog. The next day, Sodder's father, Patrick, turned him into police, after Sodder's girlfriend, Nicole, told Patrick that she thought William had something to do with the killing. According to Patrick Sodders, Natural Born Killers was his son's favorite film, and he deeply admired Mickey and Mallory. According to his father, ever since seeing the film, Sodders had even begun to act like Mickey. Sodders was sentenced to life in prison.

  • On December 1, 1997, in Paducah, Kentuckymarker, 14-year-old Michael Carneal went to school carrying four .22 rifles, 2 .30-30 Winchester rifles and a Ruger .22 handgun. Upon arriving at the school, he inserted a pair of earplugs and opened fire with the handgun at a prayer meeting, killing three of his classmates and wounding five others. After he was finished shooting, Carneal calmly dropped the gun and surrendered to the school principal. Carneal was charged with murder and attempted murder and initially sentenced to three life sentences for murder plus 150 years for five counts of attempted murder. Following appeal, this was altered to life in prison with no possibility of parole. In April 1999, Jack Thompson, attorney for the parents of the murdered children filed a $33 million lawsuit against Time Warner, Polygram Film, Palm Pictures, Island Pictures, New Line Cinema, Atari, Nintendo and Sony Computer Entertainment. Specifically mentioned were Natural Born Killers and the 1995 film The Basketball Diaries, as well as the video games Doom and Mortal Kombat. Thompson argued that the films and games had encouraged Carneal to act the way he did, and that Doom had provided him with excellent target practice. The case was dismissed in July 2001 by the US Court of Appeals.

  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine High School Massacremarker were allegedly both fans of Natural Born Killers. Prior to the massacre, they had used the initials 'NBK' as their code. In a journal entry dated, April 10, 1998, Harris wrote "When I go NBK and people say things like "Oh, it was so tragic," or "oh he is crazy!" or "It was so bloody", just because your mommy and daddy told you blood and violence is bad, you think it's a fucking law of nature? Wrong, only science and math are true, everything, and I mean every fucking thing else is Man made. Before I leave this worthless place, I will kill whoever I deem unfit for anything at all, especially life." Harris also referred to April 20 as "the holy April morning of NBK", and in an undated journal entry, Klebold wrote "I'm stuck in humanity. Maybe going NBK w. Eric is the way to break free".

  • On December 23, 2004, in Jacksonville, Floridamarker, Angus Wallen and Kara Winn, both 27, shot and killed their roommate Brandon Murphy (22) before setting him and the apartment on fire in an attempt to cover up the crime. Wallen and Winn had only recently moved in with Murphy, and had decided to steal his debit card. When he resisted, Winn shot him in this shoulder, and Wallen shot him in the head, killing him. They had allegedly watched Natural Born Killers the night before the murder, and prosecutors argued that the crime resembled a similar crime in the film where a couple kill a man, light his remains on fire, and then escape together (the prosecutors have these facts slightly wrong; the film's protagonists murder a woman, not a man; they don't shoot her and set her remains on fire, they burn her alive – so the real life murder is in fact slightly different from the scene in the film which inspired it). They were arrested the next day in Biloxi, Mississippimarker, and during the subsequent trial, they turned on one another, each saying the murder was the other's idea. They were both sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

  • On April 23, 2006, Jeremy Allan Steinke, (23) and his 12-year-old girlfriend, murdered her parents, Marc and Debra Richardson, as well as her 8-year-old brother, Jacob in Medicine Hat, Alberta, in an incident which has become known as the Richardson family murders. Steinke and Richardson were arrested the next day in Leader, Saskatchewanmarker, and were charged with three counts of first-degree murder. Apparently, just prior to the incident, her parents had forbidden her from seeing Steinke. On July 9, 2007, Richardson was found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder and was sentenced to ten years in prison, which is the maximum penalty for a person under 14 years of age. On December 5, 2008, Steinke was also found guilty of three counts of first-degree murder, and on December 15, he was sentenced to life in prison with no possibility for parole for at least 25 years. The Natural Born Killers connection is to be found in the fact that Steinke had allegedly watched the film the night before the incident. However Steinke's mental stability was highly questionable even prior to watching the film; he would allegedly tell friends that he was a 300 year old werewolf.

  • On July 19, 2008, in Milwaukeemarker, Eric Tavulares strangled his girlfriend, Lauren Aljubouri to death. Tavulares and Aljubouri, both 18, had been watching the movie, and stopped it about half way through before going to bed. According to Tavulares, he and Aljubouri were lying in bed talking, when he "switched mentally" and began strangling her. Upon arriving at the scene, Tavulares told police "I did it, I can't believe it. I did it." He later claimed that he had seen Natural Born Killers between 10 and 20 times. On January 31, 2008, Tavulares (who pleaded guilty during the trial) was sentenced to a minimum of 40 years in prison.


The soundtrack was released August 23, 1994 by Interscope Records.

  1. "Waiting for the Miracle" (Edit) - Leonard Cohen
  2. "Shitlist" - L7
  3. "Moon Over Greene County" (Edit) - Dan Zanes
  4. "Rock N Roll Nigger" (Flood Remix) - Patti Smith
  5. "Sweet Jane" (Edit) - Cowboy Junkies
  6. "You Belong to Me" - Bob Dylan
  7. "The Trembler" (Edit) - Duane Eddy
  8. "Burn" - Nine Inch Nails
  9. "Route 666" - BB Tone Brian Berdan feat. Robert Downey, Jr.
  10. "Totally Hot" - Remmy Ongala & Orchestre Super Matimila
  11. "Back in Baby's Arms" - Patsy Cline
  12. "Taboo" (Edit) - Peter Gabriel and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  13. "Sex is Violent" - Jane's Addiction and Diamanda Galas (based on "Ted, Just Admit It...")
  14. "History Repeats Itself" (Edit) - A.O.S.
  15. "Something I Can Never Have" (Edited and Extended) - Nine Inch Nails
  16. "I Will Take You Home" - Russell Means
  17. "Drums a Go-Go" (Edit) - The Hollywood Persuaders
  18. "Hungry Ants" - Barry Adamson
  19. "The Day the Niggaz Took Over" - Dr. Dre
  20. "Born Bad" - Juliette Lewis
  21. "Fall of the Rebel Angels" (Edit) - Sergio Cervetti
  22. "Forkboy" - Lard
  23. "Batonga in Batongaville" (Edit) -
  24. "A Warm Place" (Edit) - Nine Inch Nails
  25. "Allah, Mohammad, Char, Yaar" - Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan
  26. "The Future" (Edit) - Leonard Cohen
  27. "What Would U Do?" - Tha Dogg Pound

Tracks 10, 13, 18, 21, 23, 25 are assembled from various recordings and dialogue from the film.



  • Hamsher, Jane (1998). Killer Instinct. Broadway.
  • Hanley, Jason. (2001) “Natural Born Killers: Music and Image in Postmodern Film,” in Postmodern Music/ Postmodern Thought, Routledge. ed. Joseph Auner and Judy Lochhead, pp. 335-359.


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