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Thelma & Louise is a 1991 American road film directed by Ridley Scott and written by Callie Khouri. It stars Geena Davis as Thelma and Susan Sarandon as Louise, two friends who embark on a road trip with unforeseen consequences. The supporting cast include Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt in his first major film role.

Thelma & Louise
Thelma & Louise poster.png
Theatrical release poster
Directed byRidley Scott
Produced by
  • Ridley Scott
  • Mimi Polk Gitlin
Written byCallie Khouri
Music byHans Zimmer
CinematographyAdrian Biddle
Edited byThom Noble
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • May 20, 1991 (1991-05-20) (Cannes)
  • May 24, 1991 (1991-05-24) (United States)
Running time
129 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$16.5 million[1]
Box office$45.4 million[1]

The film became a critical and commercial success, receiving six Academy Award nominations and winning for Best Original Screenplay. Scott was nominated for Best Director, and both Sarandon and Davis were nominated for Best Actress. At its release, the film stirred controversy. At the intersection of several genres, it is now considered a classic. It influenced other films and artistic works and became a landmark of feminist film. In 2016, the United States Library of Congress selected the film for preservation in the National Film Registry, finding it "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant".



Best friends Thelma Dickinson and Louise Sawyer set out for a weekend vacation at a fishing cabin in the mountains to take a break from their dreary lives in Arkansas. Thelma, a ditzy housewife, is married to a disrespectful and controlling man, Darryl, while sharp-tongued Louise works as a waitress in a diner and is on–off dating a musician, Jimmy, who spends most of his time on the road.

On the way, they stop for a drink at a roadhouse bar, where Thelma meets and dances with a flirtatious stranger, Harlan. When he takes her outside to the parking lot to get some fresh air, he starts kissing her and taking her clothes off without her consent. Thelma resists, but Harlan hits her, and then attempts to rape her. Louise finds them and threatens to shoot Harlan with the gun that Thelma brought with her. Harlan stops, but, as the women walk away, he yells that he should have continued the rape and continually insults them. Enraged, Louise shoots him dead, and the pair flee the scene.

At a motel, they discuss how to handle the situation. Thelma wants to go to the police, but Louise fears that no one will believe Thelma's claim of attempted rape and they will be subsequently charged for murder. They decide to go on the run, but Louise insists that they travel from Oklahoma to Mexico without going through Texas. Something happened to Louise in Texas several years earlier, and Thelma suspects it was something similar to what had happened with Harlan but Louise vehemently says she will not talk about it. Heading west, the women come across an attractive young drifter, J.D., who Thelma quickly falls for, and Thelma convinces Louise to let him hitch a ride with them. Louise contacts Jimmy and asks him to wire transfer her life savings to her. When she goes to pick up the money, she finds that Jimmy has come to deliver the money in person, and the two spend the night together. Jimmy proposes to Louise, but she refuses. Meanwhile, Thelma invites J.D. to her room, and they sleep together. She then learns he is a thief who has broken parole.

The following morning, Thelma leaves J.D. in her motel room to meet Louise downstairs for breakfast, and, when they return, they discover J.D. has stolen Louise's life savings and fled. Louise is distraught, so a guilty Thelma takes charge and later robs a nearby convenience store using tactics she learned from listening to J.D. Meanwhile, the FBI is getting closer to catching the fugitives after witnesses at the bar saw Louise's 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible speeding out of the parking lot the night of the shooting. Their whereabouts are also questioned by the owner of the fishing cabin after the women failed to arrive for the weekend. Arkansas State Police Investigator Hal Slocumb leads the investigation and questions both J.D. and Jimmy and taps into the phone line at Darryl's house. He discovers that Louise had been raped years earlier in Texas, so sympathizes with her situation and understands why they didn't report Harlan's murder to the authorities. During a couple of brief phone conversations with Louise, he expresses his sympathy but is unsuccessful in his attempts to persuade her to surrender.

Thelma tells Louise she understands if she wants to go back home, knowing she has Jimmy waiting for her, but explains she cannot go back to Darryl. Louise promises they will keep going together. The pair are later pulled over by a New Mexico state trooper for speeding. Knowing he will soon discover they are wanted for murder and armed robbery, Thelma holds him at gunpoint and locks him in the trunk of his police car, while Louise takes his gun and ammunition. They drive away from the scene and spend the next few nights heading further west. On the road, they encounter a foul-mouthed truck driver who repeatedly makes obscene gestures at them. They pull over and demand an apology from him; when he refuses, they fire at the fuel tanker he is driving, causing it to explode.

Thelma and Louise are finally cornered by the authorities only one hundred yards from the edge of the Grand Canyon. Hal arrives on the scene, but he is refused the chance to make one last attempt to talk the women into surrendering. Rather than be captured and spend the rest of their lives in jail, Thelma proposes that they "keep going". Louise asks Thelma if she is certain, and Thelma says yes. They kiss, Louise steps on the gas, and they accelerate over the cliff.



Although the setting for the film is a fictional route between Arkansas and the Grand Canyon, it was filmed almost entirely in the states of California and Utah. The primary filming locations were rural areas around Bakersfield, California and Moab, Utah. The Grand Canyon scenes were actually filmed just south of Dead Horse Point State Park in Utah.[2] Parts of the film were also shot at Shafer Overlook, Monument Valley, La Sal Mountains, La Sal Junction, Cisco, Old Valley City Reservoir, Thompson Springs, Arches National Park, and Crescent Junction in Utah.[3]


The film was screened out of competition at the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.[4]


The film received critical acclaim. Janet Maslin of The New York Times had only praise for the film in her review:

Mr. Scott's Thelma and Louise, with a sparkling screenplay by the first-time writer Callie Khouri, is a surprise on this and many other scores. It reveals the previously untapped talent of Mr. Scott (best known for majestically moody action films like Alien, Blade Runner and Black Rain) for exuberant comedy, and for vibrant American imagery, notwithstanding his English roots. It reimagines the buddy film with such freshness and vigor that the genre seems positively new. It discovers unexpected resources in both its stars, Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, who are perfectly teamed as the spirited and original title characters.[5]

Roger Ebert also praised the film but withheld a perfect score on the basis of "the last shot before the titles begin. It's a freeze frame that fades to white, which is fine, except it does so with unseemly haste .... It's unsettling to get involved in a movie that takes 128 minutes to bring you to a payoff that the filmmakers seem to fear."[6]

After watching the film, singer-songwriter Tori Amos wrote "Me and a Gun", the story of her rape several years earlier.[7][8]

The final scene, where the two embrace before driving off a cliff, has become iconic.[9] Numerous homages and parodies of the scene have appeared, including alternate film endings, cartoon parodies,[10] video game "Easter eggs",[11] and as a tragic ending to television series, music videos,[12] and commercials.[13][14]

The film also received harsh and significant criticism from those who thought it was biased against men and that its depictions of men were unfairly negative.[15][16]

Metacritic lists a composite critical score of 88 out of 100.[17]


Numerous critics and writers have remarked on the strong feminist overtones of Thelma & Louise. Film critic B. Ruby Rich praises the film as an uncompromising validation of women's experiences,[18] while Kenneth Turan calls it a "neo-feminist road movie".[19] In her essay "The Daughters of Thelma and Louise", Jessica Enevold argues that the film constitutes "an attack on conventional patterns of chauvinist male behavior toward females". In addition, it "exposes the traditional stereotyping of male–female relationships" while rescripting the typical gender roles of the road movie genre.[20]

In her review for the Los Angeles Times, film critic Sheila Benson objects to the characterization of the film as feminist, arguing that it is more preoccupied with revenge and violence than feminist values.[21]

In his review for the New York Post, film critic Kyle Smith describes the film as "a misogynist tale about unbelievably ditzy women who lose what remains of their reason under pressure and suffer the ultimate punishment."[22] Smith's review focused less on the fact that the film stars strong female characters and instead points out the terrible decisions these strong female characters make throughout the entire film.[22]

In an article commemorating the film's 20th anniversary in 2011, Raina Lipsitz called it "the last great film about women" and said that it heralded the achievements of women that caused 1992 to become "the year of the woman".[23] However, she also said that women-themed films have since been losing ground.[23]


Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis both received various accolades for their performances, including nominations for the Academy Award for Best Actress.

Khouri won an Academy Award for Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen; Scott, Davis, Sarandon, cinematographer Adrian Biddle, and film editor Thom Noble were nominated for Oscars.

Award Category Nominee Result
Academy Award Best Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Original Screenplay Callie Khouri Won
Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon Nominated
Best Cinematography Adrian Biddle Nominated
Best Film Editing Thom Noble Nominated
BAFTA Award Best Film Nominated
Best Direction Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Screenplay – Original Callie Khouri Nominated
Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon Nominated
Best Cinematography Adrian Biddle Nominated
Best Editing Thom Noble Nominated
Best Original Film Score Hans Zimmer Nominated
Golden Globe Award Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Screenplay – Motion Picture Callie Khouri Won
Best Actress – Drama Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon Nominated
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Actress Geena Davis Won
British Society of Cinematographers Best Cinematography Award Adrian Biddle Nominated
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
NBR Award Best Actress Susan Sarandon Won
Geena Davis Won
Top Ten Films Won
Saint Jordi Award Best Foreign Actress Susan Sarandon Nominated
Golden Spike Award Ridley Scott Won
(tied with The Adjuster)
Bodil Award Best Non-European Film Ridley Scott Won
Chicago Film Critics Association Best Actress Geena Davis Nominated
Susan Sarandon Nominated
Best Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Best Picture Nominated
Best Screenplay Callie Khouri Nominated
César Award Best Foreign Film Ridley Scott Nominated
David di Donatello Award Best Foreign Actress Geena Davis Won
Susan Sarandon Won
Best Foreign Film Ridley Scott Nominated
DGA Award Outstanding Directorial Achievement Ridley Scott Nominated
Silver Ribbon Best Female Dubbing Rossella Izzo
(voice of Louise)
Best Foreign Director Ridley Scott Nominated
Critics' Circle Film Awards Actress of the Year Susan Sarandon
(also for White Palace)
Director of the Year Ridley Scott Won
Film of the Year Won
MTV Movie Award Best Female Performance Geena Davis Nominated
Best On-Screen Duo Geena Davis & Susan Sarandon Nominated
NSFC Award Best Supporting Actor Harvey Keitel
(also for Bugsy and Mortal Thoughts)
Best Actress Susan Sarandon Nominated
Literary Award Screenplay Callie Khouri Won
Writers Guild of America Award Best Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen Won

The British Film Institute published a book about the film in 2000[24] as part of a Modern Classics series. On the Writers Guild of America Award's list of 101 best screenplays, it made No. 72.[25] The film was ranked on the Australian program 20 to 1, in the episode Magnificent Movie Moments.

American Film Institute lists


Pete Haycock on slide guitar contributed to Thunderbird, the theme music for the film.[26] In addition to Glenn Frey's "Part of Me, Part of You", which became the film's primary theme song, the soundtrack included songs by Chris Whitley, Martha Reeves, Toni Childs, Marianne Faithfull, Charlie Sexton, Grayson Hugh, B.B. King, and Michael McDonald.


  1. ^ a b "Thelma and Louise (1991)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  2. ^ "Movies filmed in the Moab area". Moab Area Travel Council. Retrieved July 29, 2008.
  3. ^ D'Arc, James V. (2010). When Hollywood Came to Town: A History of Moviemaking in Utah (1st ed.). Layton, Utah: Gibbs Smith. ISBN 9781423605874.
  4. ^ "Festival de Cannes: Thelma & Louise". Retrieved August 12, 2009.
  5. ^ Maslin, Janet (May 24, 1991). "Review/Film; On the Run with 2 Buddies and a Gun". New York Times. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  6. ^ Ebert, Roger (1991). "Thelma & Louise". Archived from the original on June 5, 2015. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  7. ^ "Chasing Away the Demons". 20/20. February 15, 1999. Archived from the original on June 25, 2001.
  8. ^ "Tori Amos on Her New Album and the "Muses" That Inspire Her Songs". CBS This Morning. November 11, 2017.
  9. ^ Valentine, Genevieve (2 July 2017). "How Thelma & Louise Drove Hollywood 'Off The Cliff'". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  10. ^ "References Thelma and Lousie". Retrieved 26 August 2018.
  11. ^ Jenkins, Steve (1 November 2013). "Best GTA 5 Easter Eggs: UFOs, Bigfoot, Playboy Mansion, and more!". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  12. ^ Gorton, Thomas (2 July 2015). "All the cult film references in 'Bitch Better Have My Money'". Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  13. ^ Ouzounian, Richard (June 6, 2011). "Driving off a cliff into movie lore". The Star. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  14. ^ "Couple die in 'Thelma & Louise suicide' off 350ft cliff". The Daily Mirror. 7 February 2012. Retrieved 25 August 2018.
  15. ^ Carlson, Margaret (June 24, 1991). "Is This What Feminism Is All About?". Time. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018. (Subscription required (help)).
  16. ^ Sawyers, June (July 7, 1991). "Callie Khouri Answers Critics of 'Thelma and Louise'". Features. Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on July 9, 2012. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  17. ^ "Thelma & Louise Reviews, Ratings, Credits, and More". Metacritic. Retrieved June 15, 2012.
  18. ^ Rich, B. Ruby (February 18, 2003). "Two for the Road". The Advocate. pp. 48–49.
  19. ^ Dunne, Michael (2001). Intertextual Encounters in American Fiction, Film, and Popular Culture. Bowling Green State University Popular Press. p. 89. ISBN 0-87972-848-5.
  20. ^ Enevold, Jessica (2004). "The Daughters of Thelma and Louise". Gender, Genre & Identity in Women's Travel Writing. New York. pp. 73–95. ISBN 0-8204-4905-9.
  21. ^ Sturken 2000, p. 11.
  22. ^ a b Smith, Kyle (April 7, 2016). "As a Feminist Film, 'Thelma & Louise' Fails Miserably". Entertainment. New York Post. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  23. ^ a b Lipsitz, Raina (August 31, 2011). "'Thelma & Louise': The Last Great Film About Women". Culture. The Atlantic. Archived from the original on July 4, 2014. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  24. ^ Sturken 2000.
  25. ^ Writers Guild of America West. "101 Greatest Screenplays". Writers Guild of America West. Archived from the original on November 22, 2016. Retrieved July 7, 2018.
  26. ^ Perrone, Pierre (November 22, 2013). "Pete Haycock: Guitarist with the Climax Blues Band Who Went On to Write Film Music for John Badham and Franc Roddam". Obituaries. The Independent. Archived from the original on July 7, 2018. Retrieved July 7, 2018.

Works citedEdit

  • Sturken, Marita (2000). Thelma and Louise. London: British Film Institute. p. 11. ISBN 0-85170-809-9.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit