Malick's directorial debut follows the star-crossed romance of an aimless small-town couple—hard-bitten garbage man Sheen and fifteen-year-old Spacek—on the lam and joyriding across an eerily vacant pastoral landscape. Based on the true story of Charles Starkweather and his teenage girlfriend Caril Fugate, two Midwesterners behind a 50s killing spree, the film captures the melancholy stillness of South Dakota's vast plains, accentuated by the haunting score by George Tipton. Casting a dream-like spell with an undercurrent of dread, Badlands was likened to a fairy tale by Malick in interviews. Many of the characteristic features of the director's style—dazzling natural-light cinematography, contemplative narration, startling elliptical edits, the theme of innocence lost—are already fully-formed in this other-worldly road movie. "Badlands stills prompts awe. You feel Malick laying hands on a way of seeing, and you marvel at the lyric casualness with which he observes violence, outrage and the deadpan American urge to be famous, and to get away into the distance of horizon and legend before the humdrum cops hunt you down."—David Thomson.
In person: Sissy Spacek