Film: The Crow

Goth children rejoice! The last costume you will EVER need is here!

"Buildings burn, people die, but real love is forever."

The Crow, released in 1994, adapts James O'Barr's comic book of the same name for the silver screen. David J. Schow and John Shirley wrote the screenplay, Alex Proyas directed, and Brandon Lee starred in the film (his final role; see below).

The film loosely follows the Magical Native American theme of the comic, in which crows serve as a totem which lead souls to the afterlife, as well as resurrecting a 'lost soul' if they suffered an unjust death and crave a little payback. After gang-bangers kill him and his fiancee on their wedding night, Eric Draven rises from his makeshift grave and rubs out his attackers one-by-one. His supernatural ability to resist pain becomes linked to the crow: if someone harms the crow, Eric becomes vulnerable to injury. The screewriters made several alterations to the comic's story for the adaptation, including development/expansion of both the supporting characters and Eric, who comes off as a little more animated and relatable than the antihero of the comics. Eric also received a meaningful surname as a result of the changes.

The accidental death of lead actor Brandon Lee during filming ended up overshadowing the film; because of this, The Crow is a textbook example of Adaptation Displacement in action. Even now, some fans don't know that the lead character is supposed to be a mechanic (not an indie rock guitarist) or that the "resurrected soul putting wrongs to right" mythology is a little more opaque in the comics (though the structure of the film could easily fit into the Crow series).

Numerous plans for a reboot to the film franchise have dropped into Development Hell. At various points, writers such as Nick Cave had their names attached to the screenplay and actors such as Mark Wahlberg, Bradley Cooper, and Channing Tatum all came up in talks over who would play the role of Eric. As of March 2013, the reboot has a director (Francisco Javier Gutierrez) and a lead actor (Luke Evans) attached; Edward R. Pressman, who produced the three sequel films in the franchise, will produce this one as well.

The 1996 sequel The Crow: City of Angels features a new protagonist and an adult Sarah; fan reaction proved mixed. The TV series The Crow: Stairway to Heaven also followed the plot of the movie, though it returned Eric Draven to life (but not Brandon unfortunately) so he could serve as its protagonist.

Subsequent sequels The Crow: Salvation and The Crow: Wicked Prayer have no relation to the plots and characters of the first two films.


This film contains examples of the following tropes:

  • Adaptation Expansion / Adaptation Distillation:
    • Eric and Shelly aren't the random victims of a drive-by crime. In the film, they are brutalised and killed after Shelly protests against wrongful tenant relocation.
    • Top Dollar was changed from just being a low-level drug dealer to being a twisted crime overlord with the gang as his hit squad and Myca and Grange backing him up.
    • Sherri in the comic book becomes Sarah in the film, and has a much larger role. She was friends with Eric and Shelly while they were alive, and at the climax of the film Eric has to save her life when she is threatened by Top Dollar and Myca. Sarah's drug-addicted mother (now called Darla) is much the same character in the comic, but a scene shows her having turned over a new leaf after Eric confronts her over her neglect of Sarah, and hints a reconciliation between mother and daughter.
    • A lot of drama was added to the climax, unlike in the comic where Eric just rampages unstoppably through the criminal underworld. On the other hand, Tom-Tom was removed, Funboy was given a much smaller role and any scenes of Eric in the afterlife were excised.
  • Adaptational Heroism: Eric Draven is more human and less amoral than his comic book counterpart.
  • Adorably Precocious Child: Sarah
  • Agony Beam: Eric defeats the Big Bad with this trope by Agony Beaming his fiancée's experience of being gang raped, beaten and dying from her injuries over 30 hours later into the Big Bad, rendering the Big Bad incapacitated and vulnerable to the final death-dealing blow.
  • All There in the Manual: Top Dollar, Myca, and Grange are never named in the actual film itself.
  • Arc Words: "It can't rain all the time."
  • Ascended Extra: Sarah has much more focus in the movie than her comic counterpart, Sherri; also, Sherri never knew Eric while he was alive, and called him "Mr. Clown Face". See also Adaptation Expansion above.
  • Award Bait Song: It Can't Rain All the Time by Jane Siberry.
  • Badass Longcoat: Eric takes one off the first thug he kills, and wears it for the rest of the film.
  • Battle in the Rain: Despite being set in a city of perpetual rain, this only happens during the climatic fight between Top Dollar and Draven.
  • Big Bad: Top Dollar reveals he was behind everything near the end. He ordered Eric and Shelly's murders, and even started Devil's Night in the first place.
  • Big Damn Hero: Albrecht.
  • Black Dude Dies First: Tin-Tin, the one black member of T-Bird's posse, is the first to die.
  • Brother-Sister Incest: Myca and Top Dollar.
  • Brother-Sister Team: Top Dollar and Myca are a villainous variation of this. They're the closest members in Top Dollar's criminal syndicate, and she serves as his advisor on supernatural matters. Because they're villains, their relationship is openly incestuous.
  • Bloodstained Glass Windows:
    • The final showdown takes place inside and on top of a great Gothic church.
    • The focal point of Eric and Shelly's home is a large circular glass window, which Eric was thrown out of to his death.
  • Break Out the Museum Piece: Top Dollar is a collector of antique weapons, and he uses a rapier to execute Gideon. Also see Katanas Are Just Better below.
  • But for Me, It Was Tuesday: Played with. Tin-Tin didn't seem to recognize Eric, nor his description of the rape and murder of his girlfriend Shelly, handwaving it as if he does that stuff all the time, but it doesn't stop him from taunting Eric about it. Funboy was the only one Eric didn't bring it up to, not that it mattered since he killed him in the middle of a Morphine bender. T-Bird does remember, but considers it ancient history, playing the trope somewhat straight. Skank remembers enough to know that he's next after seeing Eric kill T-Bird. Top Dollar, seeing as he was the one who cleared that building, does remember it vividly but treats it as business, only apologizing for spoiling Eric and Shelly's wedding plans.
  • Canon Foreigner: Top Dollar's henchman Grange and his sister-consort Myca, were created for the movie.
  • The Cast Showoff: The final fight makes good use of Brandon Lee's Kung Fu skills.
  • Catch and Return: Eric to Tin-Tin, after dodging his first two knives. Then he closes in for the kill with this memorable line: "Victims... aren't we all?"
  • The Commissioner Gordon: Officer Albrecht is lower on the totem pole, and eventually gets suspended for helping Eric, but the feeling is there.
  • Composite Character:
    • Officer Albrecht in the comic is a white rookie patrolman, and reports to a black detective by the name of Captain Hook (ha, ha). If you're gonna pay for Ernie Hudson, you might as well use him.
    • Top Dollar in the film was also sort of a mash-up of several gangster characters from the comic - though his role in the story mostly stands him in for T-Bird (who, in turn, was relegated to being Top Dollar's lieutenant) and turns him from a drug kingpin into an almost ludicrously depraved monster.
  • Cool Old Guy: Mickey, who runs a hotdog stand across the street from Gideon's pawn shop.
  • Cool Sword: The sword crafted for a certain six-fingered man is the weapon of choice for Top Dollar.
  • Creator Cameo: O'Barr himself appears in the film as one of the looters robbing Gideon's store: he's the long-haired guy with the tv.
  • Cultured Badass: The Crow. He's a guitar playing undead ninja who quotes Poe's The Raven and Thackeray's Vanity Fair.
  • Dark Is Not Evil
  • Deadpan Snarker: Eric in Gideon's shop. Gideon himself too. And Top Dollar. And Albrecht. You know what, pretty much everybody.
  • Digital Head Swap: Brandon Lee's face was digitally grafted onto a stunt performer's body for a small smattering of scenes not yet shot at the time of his death. Most notable is the Becoming the Mask scene. From the time Eric enters the apartment until the end of the obligatory "runs along the rooftops" scene, a stunt man was playing Brandon Lee.
  • Disc One Final Boss: Eric kills off the members of the gang, only to find out Top Dollar wants a piece of him. Oh, and it turns out he was the one who gave the orders to kill him and Shelly anyway.
  • The Don: Top Dollar apparently has authority over all major crime in the city.
    Top Dollar: Nothing happens in this town without my say-so.
  • The Dragon: Grange.
  • Dragon Lady: Top Dollar's incestuous consort (whose back is seen to sport a giant, colorful dragon tattoo during her character's introduction) is played by Bai Ling. Enough said.
  • Dragon Their Feet: Eric kills off the gang who attacked him and Shelly, eventually killing the leader, T-Bird. Skank, his right hand man, is the last member of the gang to die. While the gang might be considered a Quirky Miniboss Squad to Top Dollar, they were Eric's initial targets.
  • Empathic Environment: It finally stops raining after Top-Dollar is dead, and Eric returns to his grave at peace.
  • Equal-Opportunity Evil: The criminal gangs in the various movies were pretty ethnically diverse. Even the brother/sister team in the first film were of different ethnicities (they were half-siblings).
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: In a rather twisted way. Top Dollar, as depraved a villain as he already is, seems to genuinely love his sister despite the incestuous nature of their relationship.
    • Although this is subverted at the end. When she dies he express no grief or sadness showing that is still a selfish monster with no sympathy for anyone expect himself.
  • Eye Scream: Myca has a fondness for eyes. The first eyes she cuts out were from somebody already dead, making it a slightly less horrific example. We later see two eyeballs which are hopefully from this person, otherwise it means she's cut out even more eyes.
  • Fake Shemp: Since Brandon Lee died in an accident with dummy bullets, they had to use a stand-in for some of the scenes and used CGI to composite Brandon's face over his. It mostly worked unless you were paying close attention.
  • Fat Bastard: Gideon. Possibly also an incompetent one.
  • Flaming Emblem: Eric did this using explosives and gasoline to turn T-Bird's own car into a bomb. When the car explodes, a trail of flames spread across the pier in a pattern created by Draven's accelerant, creating the crow emblem. This is an interesting case in that the character did not really have an emblem in-universe. The emblem was used in marketing and the film's logo.
  • For the Evulz: Top Dollar's speech about Devil's Night is about his belief that Devil's Night should be about pointless destruction, not profit.
  • Four Eyes, Zero Soul: Grange sports a rather stylish pair of round frame glasses.
  • Good Scars, Evil Scars: Eric Draven's return from the grave gifts him with a healing factor that prevents him from gaining any new scars - but the scars from the bullet wounds that killed him remain clearly visible on his chest when shirtless.
  • Good Thing You Can Heal: Eric's default strategy despite his fighting prowess. Officer Albrecht even lampshades this when his plan is for Eric to draw the bad guys' fire until they run out of ammo. Too bad his Healing Factor has been disabled at this point.
  • Groin Attack: Where does Eric place the stick of dynamite when he blows up one of Shelly's rapist-murderers? Between the legs, of course.
  • Guns Akimbo: Eric blasts off with both guns blazing during the boardroom shootout, while Top Dollar gets his moment during the church shootout near the end of the movie.
  • Guttural Growler: Top Dollar. Even in other foreign dubs of the movie he maintains this kind of voice.
  • Heel Realization: T-Bird, an unrepentant rapist and murderer throughout the film, is visibly shaken and on the verge of tears after recognizing Eric Draven, a man he had killed.
  • Hell-Bent for Leather: Eric.
  • Heroic Bloodshed: The action in this movie is very reminiscent of Hong Kong Blood Opera. It certainly helps that Brandon Lee's first movie was a Heroic Bloodshed flick.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Top Dollar is defeated by the misery he caused to Eric and Shelly.
    • Also, Tin Tin is killed by his own knives, Fun Boy by his own gun and syringes, and T-Bird by his T-Bird and explosives. The only member of the Quirky Miniboss Squad who isn't Hoist by His Own Petard is Skank, who's merely thrown out a window
  • Horror Doesn't Settle for Simple Tuesday: Eric's death and return from the grave take place on Devil's Night. City of Angels had its resurrection scene on All Saints' Day, and its climax at a Day of the Dead festival.
  • "I Am Becoming" Song: The Cure's "Burn" (the movie's unofficial anthem) thunders on during the sequence where Eric makes himself into the Crow.
    • Although if you listen to the lyrics closely, it's clear that the song was written from the comic's plot, not the movie's.
  • Impaled Palm: Eric Draven first demonstrates his regenerating powers by getting shot through the middle of the palm of his hand.
    • Actually, he impales his hands on shards of glass lining the broken window he was thrown through.
  • Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Eric kills Tin-Tin by stabbing all of his major organs. In alphabetical order, no less.
  • Improvised Weapon: During his final duel with Top Dollar on the roof of a cathedral, Eric rips off an ornate iron spire to use as an improvised sword against Top Dollar's katana.
  • In the Back: During Eric and Top Dollar's battle on the church rooftops, Eric is momentarily distracted by a distressed Sarah. Top Dollar takes a cheap shot by sneaking up behind him and stabbing Eric through the back with his sword.
  • It Always Rains at Funerals:
    • Inverted. It's raining when Eric crawls out of his grave.
    • Subverted at the end of the film after Eric returns to the grave, the rain is easing off when the crow gives Shelly's ring to Sarah. It can't rain all the time, after all.
  • I Think You Broke Him: Used in a disturbingly unfunny way (unless you've got a sick sense of humor) when Top Dollar and Myca inadvertently kill a woman during a threesome. Hardly nonplussed, Myca decides to keep the woman's eyes as a souvenir.
  • Just Between You and Me: At the end, crime lord Top Dollar gives the avenging Eric Draven the speech after he impales him through the back. He admits that he's ultimately responsible for the death of Eric and his girlfriend Shelly, and expresses admiration for what he considered a Worthy Opponent. As he gets ready to slit Eric's throat, Eric gives back what Top Dollar's owed - the combined memories of 30 hours of pain experienced by Shelly as she died on the operating table.
  • Karmic Death: "I have something for you. I don't want it anymore".
    • Also, the Crow pecking out Myca's eyes.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Top Dollar has an entire cabinet full of swords, but uses a katana to fight Eric during the climax. Eric grabs one from the cabinet himself during the gang boss massacre. Ironic since Michael Wincott, the actor who plays Top Dollar, is an accomplished fencer in real life. The trope is somewhat averted earlier in the film, when a rapier (the Six Finger Sword) is shown to be the centrally placed in Top Dollar's sword cabinet, and is selected to kill Gideon.
  • Knife Nut: Tin Tin.
  • Lack of Empathy: Top Dollar cares absolutely nothing of the pain he causes to others. It's is shown in his treatment towards Gideon and the fact he sadistically confesses to Eric that he's responsible for his death and Shelly's. Even when Myca, his own sister and lover, dies he sheds no tears and on the contrary shows enjoyment for the thrill.
  • Large Ham: Top Dollar, especially in his Motive Rant scene.
    • Eric himself on occasion, such as when he tortures Gideon for information.
    • T-Bird and his gang.
  • Le Parkour: Eric leaps and sprints across the city rooftops in two highly atmospheric scenes.
  • Lighter and Softer: Comparably speaking. The movie is very dark, but the character is less manically sociopathic than his comic book counterpart, and the violence is less extreme. For example, the film has a touching scene where Eric gives Albrecht a meaningful speech about how "nothing is trivial" and how you have to treasure each moment as they come. In the comic he shoots up drugs and self-mutilates in a frenzy of grief and anger, repeatedly.
  • Madness Mantra: T-Bird's "There ain't no comin' back, there ain't no comin' back...." And for him, this was true.
  • Man of Wealth and Taste: Top Dollar.
  • Meaningful Echo: "It can't rain all the time".
  • Meta Casting As Himself: O'Barr supposedly based the look of Gideon in the comic on the actor Jon Polito. Jon Polito played the part of Gideon in the film.
  • Mind Rape: "Thirty hours of pain! All at once! All for you!"
  • Mook Horror Show: Just about the whole movie.
  • No Name Given: Top Dollar, Myca and Grange are not referred to by name until the end credits.
  • Obfuscating Stupidity: Myca (Top Dollar's Chinese half-sister, played by Bai Ling) normally speaks in a childish manner that suggests a Cloudcuckoolander and sometimes borders on You No Take Candle. ("I like the pretty lights.") Yet she is really every bit as crafty as her brother, and she even comes up with a scheme to blunt Eric's supernatural power. Plus, she proves herself a capable Dark Action Girl when she shoots Lieutenant Albrecht.
  • One Last Smoke: Subverted. Eric helps a wounded Albrecht have one, but he survives. And (supposedly) quits smoking. Eric's "You shouldn't smoke these, they'll kill ya" line after taking a puff was ad-libbed by Brandon.
  • One-Man Army: Eric, when taking out the gangsters in Top Dollar's headquarters. Being invincible probably helped.
  • Quirky Miniboss Squad: The gang who killed Eric and Shelly were employees of Top Dollar. Played with in that while Top Dollar is technically the Big Bad of the film, they are the targets of Eric's revenge.
  • Percussive Therapy: Eric plays his guitar and then smashes it in a fit of grief and anger.
  • Pet the Dog: A rare anti-hero centric example, as Eric's relationships with Sarah and Officer Albericht humanizes him and keeps him from becoming the borderline monster that he is in the comics.
  • Post Humous Character: Eric's girlfriend Shelly Webster was given this treatment, both in flashbacks and from the other characters, such as Eric himself, who came Back from the Dead in order to avenge them both:
    Eric: Little things used to mean so much to Shelly. I always thought they were kind of trivial. Believe me, nothing is trivial.
  • Post Rape Taunt: Tin-Tin taunts Eric Draven, whose girlfriend was raped by him and his friends. He comes to regret these words.
  • Properly Paranoid: Skank while not very smart and a coward. The Second he sees a picture of Eric without the make up he instantly knows who it is and reacts in fear.
  • Psycho for Hire: Tin-Tin, Funboy, T-Bird and Skank, Eric Draven's targets of vengeance, who do particularly brutal jobs for the city's kingpin, Top Dollar. In something of a subversion of the trope, Top Dollar is far more evil than even these psychotic killers.
  • Psychopathic Manchild: Skank is a rapist, a murderer, and a car thief. He also frequently acts like a brain-dead hillbilly and is treated as a Butt Monkey mascot for the rest of the gang, and he cries like a little boy whenever he's in danger. He eventually becomes so cowardly and pathetic that he essentially turns into an Ineffectual Sympathetic Villain, and the film has to flash back briefly to Skank's rape of Eric Draven's girlfriend in order to justify Eric's killing of him.
  • Pyro Maniac: Crime lord Top Dollar is a gangster who institutionalized the yearly arsons of Devil's Night that plague Detroit by starting the first fires and then expanding the idea each year while reaping profits on the side. At a conference between the major gang leaders he announces that he's grown bored of it all, and to top himself declares that he's going to burn down the whole city purely for his own amusement.
  • Race Lift: T-Bird, who is vaguely African-American or Pacific Islander-American in the comic, is played in the movie by Irish-American actor David Patrick Kelly.
  • Relative Button: Tin-Tin doesn't seem to recognize Eric's description of the rape and murder of Shelly, but he uses a Post Rape Taunt to distract Eric and briefly gain an advantage in their fight.
    Eric: Her name was Shelly. You cut her. You raped her.
    Tin-Tin: Shelly, yeah. I shanked her pink ass and she loved it! *headbutts a distracted Eric*
  • Reusable Lighter Toss: "How awful goodness is..."
  • Rise from Your Grave
  • Shaped Like Itself/This Is Reality: "This is the really real world! We killed you dead!"
  • Shower Scene: Myca, Top Dollar's consort/sister is introduced taking a shower.
  • The Slow Walk: Eric fighting Tin-Tin. Averted after Tin-Tin takes a knife to the shoulder. The speed in which Eric is on him is.... scary.
  • Something Only They Would Say: "It can't rain all the time."
  • Stuff Blowing Up: What Top Dollar and his Devil's Night gang like to do. Eric blows up Gideon's pawnshop as well as T-Bird's car with him inside.
  • Stealth Hi/Bye: Eric does that alot to people. It's lampshaded by Albrecht four times. Special mention goes to the part where a freshly suspended Albrecht rescues Eric from the swat team.
    Albrecht: I knew you were gonna do that.
  • Tempting Fate: When confronting Eic, Tin-Tin takes out his knifes and boasts he never misses. Eric dodges his first throw, slaps his second one aside, and and pulls a Catch and Return on the third.
  • Too Dumb to Live: Gideon, literally so. Just could not shut up when dealing with either Eric or Top Dollar. Eric blew up his shop. Top Dollar rammed a rapier through his throat and shot him twice.
  • Tranquil Fury: The beginning of Eric's fight with Tin Tin, he never says a single word or expresses a sound, even when Tin Tin punches him. Then when he finally has Tin Tin pin to the walls he screams, "Fuck you... murderer!"
  • Unhand Them, Villain!: Top Dollar.
  • Villainous Breakdown: T-Bird pretty much loses his mind the moment he recognizes Eric. Considering the verses he's quoting from John Milton's Paradise Lost ("Abashed the Devil stood ..."), this might also qualify as a Heel Realization.
  • Villainous Valour: Top Dollar braves Draven's fury by refusing to hand over Skank, a low-level thug and Boisterous Weakling.
  • Worthy Opponent: This is Top Dollar's feeling towards Eric by the end.
    Top Dollar: You've got a lot of spirit son. I am gonna miss you.