1990s Award-Winning Crime Thriller Classic Being Left In The Past

By TeeJay Small | Published

In the modern era of streaming services constantly vying for ownership over the most IP humanly possible, it feels as though every film ever made is available in a vast digital library to beam directly into your many home devices. Unfortunately, this is not always the case, as films such as 1996’s Sling Blade have been completely left in the past, with no streaming options or 4K DVD releases whatsoever.

The film was a massive critical success, and currently holds a staggering 97 percent certified fresh critic score on Rotten Tomatoes, leaving many fans to wonder why it’s been seemingly wiped from the internet.

Billy Bob Thornton Stars In Sling Blade

Sling Blade was written, directed, and starred in by Fargo‘s Billy Bob Thornton, based on the 1994 short film Some Folks Call It A Sling Blade, for which Thornton also produced a one-man stage show. The film won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay, and is often cited for launching Thornton into major stardom, despite its complete and total lack of availability to modern audiences. Sling Blade also stars Dwight Yoakam, John Ritter, J.T. Walsh, Lucas Black, Natalie Canerday, and The Godfather‘s Robert Duvall.

Karl Gets A Second Chance

The film centers on a developmentally disabled man from Arkansas named Karl Childers, who has grown up in the care of a state mental hospital since he was just 12 years old. At the age of 12, Karl murdered his own mother with a sling blade after catching her engaged in a sexual affair with his teenage bully. Karl was mentally and physically abused by his parents from a young age, worsening his condition and causing him to lash out violently against others.

In his adulthood, Karl is released from the institution after the state determines he is no longer a danger to those around him. Despite having nowhere to go and no ability to care for himself, Karl’s objections are ignored and he is forced to reenter society with no assistance. Through this portrayal, Sling Blade excellently displays and highlights the plight of the differently abled by showcasing the general lack of structural care offered to those with mental disabilities in modern society.

Karl Gets Caught In A Bad Situation Yet Again

After departing the hospital, Karl comes to befriend a 12-year-old boy named Frank Wheatley and his mother Linda. After Karl opens up about his past, including the violent homicides he committed with a sling blade, his reintegration into society is threatened. Furthermore, Linda’s abusive boyfriend Doyle begins to clash with Karl after Linda invites Karl to live in her garage, sparking a climatic struggle that eventually sees Karl killing Doyle to save his friends.

Sling Blade Is Hard To Find

If you’re interested in catching the critically-acclaimed masterpiece, try searching a few thrift stores or shaking the dust off of your old DVR, because Sling Blade is not available to stream or digitally purchase on any service. The movie was distributed by Miramax Films, which is owned by both Walt Disney Studios and Paramount Global, so there seems to be no clear reason why the film cannot be uploaded to either Disney+ or Paramount+ for fans to enjoy.

Billy Bob Thornton

billy bob thornton goliath

Despite Billy Bob Thornton’s adept screenwriting and directing skills, the 68-year-old has opted to focus primarily on acting in the years since finding mainstream success. His last credit as a writer or director, save for a single 2021 episode of Goliath, was in 2012 with the film Jayne Mansfield’s Car. Hopefully Sling Blade will eventually find its way onto an accommodating modern platform, so that young viewers can experience the groundbreaking work of Thornton’s original passion project.