These bank robbers are among the most notorious of all time. Many great films have been inspired by Bonnie and Clyde since their debut in 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde.
Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde is a major influence on contemporary films about outlaws and outcasts. The cinematic retelling of the legendary bank robbers’ lives and deaths during the Great Depression changed not only crime fiction, but also Hollywood. By openly defying authority and praising rebellion in response to the 1950s conformist social order, Bonnie and Clyde broke every rule of decency.
Following the success of the film that launched Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway’s careers, other films depicting criminal anti-heroes as the last defenders of true liberty appeared, continuing the legacy of the genre’s most influential outlaw lovers in cinematic terms. Filmmakers haven’t stopped imitating the titular couple’s crime-ridden road trip despite the romanticization of the couple that persists to this day. This list includes both sincere and satirical adaptations of the 1967 film Bonnie and Clyde.
11. Special Mention: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)
Robert Rodriguez’s caper is known and adored for its abrupt shift in genre, but it does follow the Bonnie and Clyde model until that point. It looked like From Dusk Till Dawn, which focused on the two psychotic Gecko brothers, was an up-to-date take on a criminal road trip before vampires and comical amounts of gore made an appearance.
A subversive film, but not like the Beatty and Dunaway classic of the same name because it chose to focus on the inner workings of a vampire rather than on social anxieties. Even so, this cult classic deserves praise for introducing the enduring Geckos – a Bonnie and Clyde-styled duo that stood out in a decade filled with forgettable crime films.
10. The Doom Generation (1995)
Despite being a period piece, Gregg Araki’s black comedy about Bonnie and Clyde captures the generational angst of the 1960s. The Doom Generation depicts a group of impulsive, reckless, and hedonistic teenagers and is known for its pessimistic outlook on life and denial of a boring future.
A lot of people love Araki’s “Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy,” but it also divides opinion. Some people hate it because it’s cruel, while others love it because it’s kind. Similarly to its predecessor, The Doom Generation presents a gloomy perspective on liberation, its enablers, and the never-ending quest to find it.
9. Natural Born Killers (1994)
“The most expensive student film ever made” is an apt description of Oliver Stone’s satire on crime and celebrity culture, which is essentially Bonnie and Clyde on a bad drug trip. Surreal visuals and psychedelic delivery elevate what could have been another moralizing, cynical stab at society to a masterpiece of “style over substance” (which it is).
It’s an understatement to say this movie is “controversial.” Quentin Tarantino, the film’s screenwriter, despised it and disowned it, taking credit only for the characters’ names Mickey and Mallory. Regardless of how you feel about it, you should see Natural Born Killers at least once.
8. Easy Rider (1969)
Easy Rider is the counterculture movement’s swan song, not Bonnie and Clyde. Dennis Hopper’s classic film, like Sean Penn’s, is about a pair of disillusioned rebels (i.e. hippies) who embark on a cross-country road trip to New Orleans in search of liberation.
When it comes to questioning authority and chasing the American Dream, the bikers have a lot in common with Bonnie and Clyde, which makes this an especially somber farewell to those ideals. Easy Rider, which was made possible by the massive amounts of drugs flowing through the system of Hopper, could be viewed as a true freedom funeral dirge as well.
7. The Wild Bunch (1969)
The Wild Bunch is frequently held responsible for the demise of the classic Western genre, but it has remained one of New Hollywood’s most outspoken critiques of authority and what passes for civilisation. Instead of waiting to be killed, the aging outlaws in The Wild Bunch argue that dying fighting the changing times was preferable to waiting to lament the loss of freedom.
Peckinpah’s cynical Western, which is more violent and depressingly poignant than Penn’s film, which is hardly a barrel of sunshine, marked the end of an outlaw genre that both Hollywood and real life were moving away from. There’s a good reason why we don’t see as many traditionally heroic Westerns these days.
6. The Devil’s Rejects (2005)
If you were put off by Bonnie and Clyde’s romanticism, you’ll appreciate how The Devil’s Rejects doesn’t waste time trying to make its serial killers likable; instead, it revels in their sadistic yet pitiful nature.
As a (unofficial) feature-length version of the 1967 film’s closing minutes, Rob Zombie’s critically acclaimed exploitation film shows what really happens after a violent crime spree where the perpetrators seem to escape justice. The follow-up to House of 1000 Corpses is a grindhouse remake of Sean Penn’s classic, and it’s as brutal and tragic as it should be in both respects….
5. God Bless America (2011)
This dark comedy, directed by Pain in Hercules’ voice actor, takes the basic plot of Bonnie and Clyde and amps up the satire. In God Bless America, teenagers and middle-aged people play the roles of Bonnie and Clyde’s counterparts, respectively.
When compared to Bonnie and Clyde, God Bless America takes aim at those who are allegedly tainting America’s conservative values rather than those who are actively defending them. This film, in contrast to Penn’s, goes out of its way to condemn and expose the hypocrisy of its unruly heroes.
4. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)
The Coen Brothers’ (extremely loose) adaptation of Homer’s Odyssey, set during the Great Depression in the Deep South, has many historical, thematic, and visual similarities to Bonnie and Clyde, with the exception of the fact that it is a comedy.
O Brother, Where Art Thou? takes on the same issues that Beatty and Dunaway tackled in their 1967 film, but with the help of music and humor (i.e. racism). The project of the year 2000, on the other hand, makes fun of the arrogant and inflexible elite instead of lamenting their oppressive rule. In addition to that, the soundtrack is absolutely stunning.
3. True Romance (1993)
The closest film on this list to a Bonnie and Clyde remake is Tony Scott’s action-packed love story. True Romance is more idealistic and sentimental than its source material, and as such reads more like a story than a statement. A heartwarming love story, albeit one with an edge, emerges, giving its lovers the happy ending that eluded Bonnie and Clyde.
Because Tarantino wrote the script and Scott directed it, it helped establish him as a director to watch out for. When Oliver Stone made Natural Born Killers, Tarantino was furious, but he liked Scott’s version better because of the way he changed the movie’s depressing ending.
2. Heathers (1988)
This bleak comedy recasts Bonnie and Clyde as students at a public high school and proceeds to mock them instead of praising their criminal antics.
Like the outlaw love story, Heathers shows how deranged and stupid someone has to be to think that inflicting violence is romantic or an effective way of making a statement, but Heathers doesn’t do that. As an unavoidable time capsule of the late 1980s, Heathers is a darker, more self-aware version of the Bonnie and Clyde story.
1. Thelma & Louise (1991)
When following in the footsteps of Bonnie and Clyde, most films focus on amoral outcasts who unjustly find redemption in the end. However, Thelma & Louise stands out for its heartbreaking conclusion.
The titular women are oppressed from the outset. It’s not a reason to conflate freedom with violence and pessimism, it’s a chance to live the life and find love they’ve only ever wished for. Although Bonnie and Clyde sparked the revolution, it was Thelma & Louise who heard the people’s cries for help.