1990s Dark Crime Thriller On Max Still Controversial 30 Years Later

By Robert Scucci | Published

If the 24/7 news cycle has taught us anything, it’s that real-life violence and the reporting of it often creates a self-fulling prophecy that’s hard to ignore. 1994’s Natural Born Killers shamelessly explores this concept, but was so ahead of its time that it still garners controversy for its brutal take on how sensationalist reporting has the potential to disrupt the status quo.

Though the film was met with polarizing reviews upon its theatrical release, it has become a fan-favorite over the years, and its visceral visual elements will warrant repeat viewings.

Natural Born Killers On Max

Natural Born Killers is, in many ways, is a modern-day Bonnie and Clyde. The story primarily focuses on Mickey Knox (Woody Harrelson) and his wife, Mallory Wilson Knox (Juliette Lewis).

In just under two hours, we bear witness to the couple’s murderous crime spree and how tabloid news outlets report the couple’s egregious acts of violence to the general public.

The Body Count Climbs

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From the opening scene to the final credits, Mickey and Mallory embark on a killing spree that is so over-the-top that even Roger Ebert said that viewers will need to watch the film multiple times to take it all in.

Starting with a brutally violent scene at a diner and ending with the murderous couple settling down years after a long string of violent crimes, Natural Born Killers takes you on a journey that condemns tabloid journalism just as much as the actual violence these news outlets are reporting for profit.

Cult Hero Status

natural born killers

As the body count continues to climb, tabloid journalist Wayne Gale (Robert Downey Jr.) reports on their atrocities, not to inform the public but rather to serve his own ambitions as a journalist.

Through Gale’s careless reporting, Mickey and Mallory are elevated to cult-hero status in a way that glorifies the couple’s egregious acts against humanity.

It’s worth noting, however, that Natural Born Killers has a human element. We learn about our protagonist’s traumatic upbringing, which ultimately created the monsters depicted on screen.

Quentin Tarantino And Oliver Stone

natural born killers

Quentin Tarantino wrote the original screenplay for Natural Born Killers. However, the film’s director, Oliver Stone, and associate producer, Richard Rutowski, made several revisions.

Tarantino disowned the final product because its revised storytelling transformed it into a completely different film.

Tarantino hated the movie so much that he wanted his name removed from the credits after watching the opening scene. He went so far as to say that people who liked his movies shouldn’t watch Natural Born Killers.

Significant Controversy

natural born killers

Creative differences aside, Natural Born Killers garnered quite a bit of controversy for inspiring several real life crimes, most notably, the 1997 Heath High School Shooting and the Columbine High School Massacre.

Contemporaneous critical reception notwithstanding, Natural Born Killers was a resounding commercial success, earning $100 million against its reported budget of $34 million.

Though the film’s 50 percent critical score on Rotten Tomatoes leaves a lot to be desired, Natural Born Killers became a fan-favorite, and currently boasts an 81 percent audience score.

Stream Natural Born Killers

natural born killers

Natural Born Killers is a difficult watch for a number of reasons. On one hand, viewers feel naturally inclined to root for the main characters, no matter how horrible they are. On the other hand, the film’s heavy-handed criticism of how the media glorifies violence couldn’t be more true today.

In other words, despite its problematic nature, Natural Born Killers‘ satire is as timely as ever. Thirty years after its release, viewers quickly point out that our current media landscape still operates with an “if it bleeds, it leads” mentality.

Whether you celebrate this timeless classic or have yet to experience it in all its violent glory, you can watch Natural Born Killers on Max right now and arrive at your own conclusion.