Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

'Movies Made Me Murder'

If they Can, We can

Mickey and Mallory Knox (Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) are the two brutal killers in Oliver Stone's 1994 release, Natural Born Killers.  Intended as a statement about the level of violence tolerated by American society and the way criminals are turned into heroes, Stone used the one-time exploits of real-life spree killers Charles Starkweather and his girlfriend Caril Ann Fugate, as well as Bonnie and Clyde, to develop a couple of characters whose murderous exploits (over fifty victims) propel them into international stardom.  A tabloid journalist follows them, promoting them and hoping to get an exclusive interview, to his peril.

Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather
Caril Ann Fugate and Charles Starkweather

The movie is filled with graphic images of violence and gore, as the two psychopathic lovebirds use murder and torture as an aphrodisiac.  They claim that violence makes them feel alive.  Thus, they equate murder with power, control, bravado, and status.  Not only that, the killers, who look like heroes contrasted to abusive parents and corrupt justice systems, never have to pay for what they've done, although just about everyone else does.  Including some viewers.

Kimveer Gill
Kimveer Gill

Kimveer Gill, who shot at people at Dawson College in Montreal in September 2006, killing one and wounding nineteen before killing himself, said this movie was one of his favorites, and Natural Born Killers was reportedly viewed by eighteen-year-old Sarah Edmondson and Benjamin Darras in 1995 before they went on their own crime spree.

Benjamin Darras
Benjamin Darras

Sarah Edmondson
Sarah Edmondson

On March 5, they spent the evening together dropping LSD and repeatedly viewing the film.  Taking a .38 revolver with them, they got in the car the next morning and took off across Oklahoma to Mississippi, where they killed a man at a cotton mill.  Then they went to a convenience store in Louisiana, where they shot Patsy Byers in the head, leaving her paraplegic.  Her husband filed a lawsuit against Edmondson and Darras, then added Time Warner, Oliver Stone, and others associated with making and distributing the film.  They claimed that everyone associated with it should have realized it could have inspired murder.  They also called it pornography.

The suit was dismissed against Stone and the production companies, but on appeal, was reinstated.  The Louisiana State Supreme Court declined to review the decision, as did the U.S. Supreme Court.  Finally, in March 2001, the wrongful death suit was dismissed against Stone and Time Warner, etc. because there was no evidence that they had intended to incite violence.  The Court of Appeals upheld this ruling in 2002.

Other crimes listed by that may have found some inspiration in NBK include:

  • a 14-year-old Texas boy who decapitated a 13-year-old girl
  • A gang who watched the film 19 times killed a truck driver in Georgia
  • Michael Carneal's slaughter of fellow students in Paducah, Kentucky
  • Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold used the movie title's initials as a code — "going NBK" when they felt it was time for violence.

Even before that, another psychotic film scene had possibly launched an even deadlier attack.


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