Sling Blade

1996 Drama

Sling Blade marked the directorial debut of country singer turned actor Billy Bob Thornton, who also authored the script (expanding George Hickenlooper's acclaimed short Some Folks Call it a Sling Blade) and stars in the picture. Thornton plays Karl Childers, a mildly retarded man who spent most of his life in a mental institution. When Karl was a boy, he was severely mistreated by his abusive father (Robert Duvall). At age 12, Karl found his mother having intercourse with a man who tormented him endlessly; he snapped, flew into a homicidal rage, and killed both individuals by decapitating them. Years later, as a middle-aged man, Karl is deemed harmless to society and released from the mental institution where he resides. Karl says he has learned his lesson and adds, "I reckon I got no reason to kill no one." He returns to the town of his boyhood, where he's befriended by Frank (Lucas Black), the son of a widowed mother who sees the eccentric but open-hearted Karl as a kindred spirit. Karl also gets a job at a fix-it shop and resides in the backroom, until Frank's mother, Linda (Natalie Canerday), takes a liking to Karl and lets him stay with them. However, Karl also meets Doyle (Dwight Yoakam), Linda's boyfriend, a sadistically cruel, narrow-minded drunk who tosses casual abuse at Frank, treats Linda like dirt, and mocks Karl endlessly. The late John Ritter co-stars as Linda's friend Vaughan, a mild-mannered homosexual who works at the neighborhood dollar store. Musicians Col. Bruce Hampton and Vic Chesnutt are among Doyle's party guests. more..

Director: Billy Bob Thornton

Starring: Billy Bob Thornton,Dwight Yoakam, J.T. Walsh, John Ritter, Lucas Black


  • A story that's startling, soulful and absolutely unforgettable.

    Edward Guthmann - The San Francisco Chronicle

    27 April 2013

  • Sling Blade is about a society barely holding on by its fingernails, the home and hearth hardly a place of respite. Unlike "The Ice Storm" or "The Sweet Hereafter," Sling Blade is devoid of the creature comforts of middle-class life that at least allow people the degraded hobbies that keep them functioning.

    - USA Today

    27 April 2013

  • It's a beautiful contraption of a movie, a gothic backwoods fable that uses its naive yet murderous hero to walk a fine line between sentimentality and dread.

    Owen Gleiberman - Entertainment Weekly

    27 April 2013

  • Catches you up so firmly in its world that you find yourself accepting whatever Thornton presents right up to its deeply ironic finish.

    Kevin Thomas - Los Angeles Times

    27 April 2013

  • There is pain, humor, irony and sweetness in the character, and a voice and manner so distinctive, he is the most memorable movie character I've seen in a long time.

    Roger Ebert - The Chicago Sun-Times

    27 April 2013


  • Best Writing, Screenplay Based on Material Previously Produced or Published

    Academy Awards (1997)

  • Best Performance by a Younger Actor

    Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films (1997)

  • Best Actor

    Chicago Film Critics Association Awards (1997)

  • Special Jury Award

    Chicago International Film Festival (1996)

  • Best Actor

    Chlotrudis Awards (1997)