The Crossing Guard

The Crossing Guard is a 1995 American independent drama film co-produced, written, and directed by Sean Penn. The film stars Jack Nicholson, David Morse, Robin Wright and Anjelica Huston. It tells the story of Freddy Gale, a man who has been tormented for more than five years by his daughter's death in a car accident. When he finds out that the man who was responsible for the death is being released from prison, he decides to seek vengeance.

The Crossing Guard
Jack Nicholson standing in profile against a black background
Promotional film poster
Directed bySean Penn
Produced by
  • Sean Penn
  • David S. Hamburger
Written bySean Penn
Music byJack Nitzsche
CinematographyVilmos Zsigmond
Edited byJay Cassidy
Distributed byMiramax Films
Release date
  • November 16, 1995 (1995-11-16)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million
Box office$868,979

The film was released on November 16, 1995 and received generally positive reviews from critics. Despite the positive critical reception, the film was a commercial failure, grossing only $869,000 worldwide, against a budget of $9 million.


Freddy Gale (Nicholson) has been tormented for the five years following the death of his daughter Emily. Once a devoted husband and father, he is now an alcoholic who spends his nights hanging out in strip clubs and sleeping with prostitutes. Now the drunk driver who killed her, John Booth (Morse), is released from prison. Freddy immediately reveals to his ex-wife Mary (Huston) that he is going to kill Booth. She begs him not to, and they get into an altercation that ends with her new husband throwing him out of the house.

John Booth is now living in a trailer outside of his parents' house and merely plans to go on with his life, even as he is haunted by remorse for killing Emily. At night Freddy arrives at the Booth residence, armed with a pistol. He clumsily breaks into the trailer trying to shoot, but he forgot to load a magazine. John calmly tells him he won't call the police and will let Freddy kill him, but asks for some time to savor his freedom. Freddy accepts, and gives John three days to live.

John tries to live his life as best as he can before the third day arrives. He meets an artist named JoJo (Wright) at a friend's party and he has a brief romance with her before she realizes that he can't let go of the mistake he made. He reveals to her that when he hit Emily, he came to her side as she was dying and she apologized to him for "not having looked both ways." Freddy goes to Emily's grave and leaves flowers, but leaves when he sees Mary there.

On the third day, Freddy calls Mary and breaks down in tears as he tells her of a terrible nightmare he had. In the nightmare, he is driving by his daughter's school and stops at a crosswalk where children (including a living Emily) wait. He sees that John Booth is the crossing guard. Freddy then sees himself run over all of the children, even Emily. They meet at a diner, and Mary tells him that he is beyond her help; Freddy becomes enraged and curses her. After Mary leaves, Freddy gets drunk and starts to drive to John's house. John waits in his trailer armed with a shotgun. Freddy is pulled over by the police en route to the house and arrested for drunk driving. Before the police can take him in, however, Freddy grabs his gun and runs away. He breaks into a home and hides in a little girl's room. The girl guides the police away, and Freddy thanks her and leaves.

Freddy arrives at John's trailer and waits before he enters. John abruptly jumps from a corner with a rifle in hand. Freddy tells him since he is on the run, on his property, and armed, John should be able to get away with killing him. There is a standoff as they point guns at each other. John however drops his gun and runs away; Freddy follows him. After a lengthy chase across the city, Freddy catches John climbing a fence and fires at him. John is only superficially wounded, however, and continues running. Freddy follows him, until he realizes that John has led him to a graveyard where Emily is buried. John talks silently to the grave and finally says "Your daddy's coming". Freddy gives John the gun and cries over the grave, apologizing to his daughter. John takes Freddy's hand as the sun rises.


Critical receptionEdit

The film received generally positive reviews with the review tallying website Rotten Tomatoes reporting a score of 75% based on 28 reviews.[1]


Anjelica Huston's performance in the film was praised and she received nominations for Best Supporting Actress from the Hollywood Foreign Press and the Screen Actors Guild (SAG). She lost out on the Golden Globe to Mira Sorvino for Mighty Aphrodite and the SAG award to Kate Winslet for Sense and Sensibility.


  1. ^ "The Crossing Guard". Retrieved 29 June 2018.

External linksEdit