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Film / Bonnie and Clyde

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"This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks."

A seriocomic 1967 American biopic directed by Arthur Penn and starring Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty as the eponymous 1930s bank-robbing duo. Beatty also produced the film, from a script by David Newman and Robert Benton.

Bored Texas waitress Bonnie Parker (Dunaway) meets small-time crook Clyde Barrow (Beatty) and decides to run off with him on a lark. The pair soon graduate to bank-robbery and murder and are subsequently joined by Clyde's brother Buck (Gene Hackman), Buck's wife Blanche (Estelle Parsons), and gas-station attendant C. W. Moss (Michael J. Pollard). As the Barrow Gang's exploits earn them press coverage and national infamy, they're pursued by law enforcement, and when they capture, humiliate, and release a Texas Ranger, Frank Hamer (Denver Pyle), he swears vengeance.

An unexpected smash hit, Bonnie and Clyde made huge stars out of Beatty and Dunaway. It earned ten Academy Award nominations, winning the prizes for Best Supporting Actress (Parsons) and Best Cinematography (Burnett Guffey). It is also regarded as part of the first wave of the New Hollywood movement that helped to break down the studio system and usher in a creative rebirth for American cinema, with its increased sex and violence, glorification of anti heroes, and skepticism of authority.

Gene Wilder, in his film debut, has a small part as a kidnap victim of the Barrow Gang.

Compare with The Highwaymen, which tells the story from the perspectives of Frank Hamer and his partner, Maney Gault.


  • Affably Evil: The two are about the nicest bank robbers you'd ever meet.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Bonnie and Clyde are portrayed in a sympathetic light, and their deaths are meant to come off as tragic.
  • All Girls Want Bad Boys: After the first time he holds up a store with her, Bonnie immediately tries to jump Clyde's bones.
  • Anachronistic Soundtrack: Bluegrass music didn't begin until the 1940s, about a decade after the events of the film. Old-time music sounds very similar, however, and was around during the '30s.
  • Anti-Hero: Clyde is a thief and murderer, but is given a sympathetic treatment by the film.
  • Arch-Enemy: Sheriff Frank Hamer has Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, a couple of bank robbers who humiliated him and whom he vows to capture or kill.
  • Asshole Victim: They rob banks, which – after seeing what banks have done to the poor folks of the country by foreclosing on their property – makes them look not as bad after all. However, this better describes John Dillinger than it would the real Bonnie and Clyde. Dillinger (1973) takes numerous shots at the pair.
  • Bang, Bang, BANG: Deliberately done, as Warren Beatty wanted the gunshots to overpower the soundtrack. This lead to at least one case of a projectionist turning down the sound during gunfights, blaming the loud gunshots on bad sound mixing, much to Beatty's annoyance.
  • Bank Robbery: The gang's main source of money and infamy. In reality, the gang didn't do this very often and preferred to rob convenience stores and gas stations instead.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: Both Bonnie and Clyde get riddled with bullets in the closing scene, but strangely enough, neither of them get hit in the head, and they end up bloodstained but otherwise remarkably decorous.
  • Betrayal by Inaction: C. W. betrays Bonnie and Clyde by not telling them about the planned ambush by the law and hiding in town so that they'll leave without him.
  • Big Bad Duumvirate: Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, the Outlaw Couple leaders of a gang of bank robbers.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: C. W.'s dad, who seems like a hospitable guy at first but is an absolute Jerkass to his son and proves to be the undoing of Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Bounty Hunter: The gang believe Frank Hamer to be one. In real-life, he was hired by the Texas prison system administrator, Lee Simmons, to hunt Bonnie and Clyde, but not as a bounty hunter.
  • Bread, Eggs, Milk, Squick: Used in the original trailer: "They're Young. They're In Love. They Kill People." This was also a Tagline.
  • Breather Episode: The sequence with Eugene and Velma is meant to be a comedic interlude to balance things when the story starts getting darker.
  • Character Catchphrase: "We rob banks."
  • Composite Character: C. W. Moss is a composite of two members of the Barrow Gang, W. D. Jones and Henry Methvin. The real W. D. Jones was not amused by this, and attempted to sue Warner Bros. for defamation. There is no known record that his case was ever heard.
  • Cool People Rebel Against Authority: The laxer standards in censorship when this was made allowed far more of this attitude than most earlier films got away with.
  • Damn, It Feels Good to Be a Gangster!: Whenever the Barrow gang runs from the law after a heist, upbeat bluegrass music plays, making the outlaw lifestyle seem like a wild adventure. The film also acknowledges how the gang liked to pose for pictures with their guns.
  • Downer Ending: The titular Outlaw Couple ends up on the receiving end of an absolutely disproportionate amount of dakka. Truth in Television.
  • Dumb Blonde: Averted. Bonnie is as mature and as active a participant as Clyde and Buck.
  • Eye Scream: Blanche gets shot in the eye and later ends up blind in a hospital. In real-life, she actually got it from shards of flying glass due to a shootout in Platte City in July 1933.
  • Gaussian Girl: The scene of the family reunion picnic is shot in soft focus for an idyllic, dreamlike effect.
  • Gorn: Although not impressive by modern standards, for its time (right after the removal of The Hays Code), this was a very violent movie and among the first to show actual blood splatter on screen.
  • The Great Depression: The backdrop for the film, and, as Clyde believes, the main reason for the gang's vocation.
  • Hidden Depths: Bonnie writes poetry about their misdeeds, which was Truth in Television.
  • Historical Badass Upgrade: Bonnie takes an active role in the gang's robberies in the film. In real-life, there is no evidence she participated in any of the gang's robberies. While there are multiple eyewitness accounts of her participating in several of the gang's gunfights against the police, there is no known evidence anyone was hit or killed by her gunfire.
  • Historical Beauty Update:
    • While the real Bonnie and Clyde weren't ugly, they didn't hold a candle to Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, two of Hollywood's most glamorous heartthrobs of the era.
    • Inverted with Blanche and Buck Barrow. Estelle Parsons and Gene Hackman were considerably dumpier-looking than their real-life counterparts; in 1933, Blanche was in her early 20s, pretty and petite (Parsons was 40 at the time) and Buck was a good-looking guy age around 30. The producers wanted ordinary-looking people for the non-headline parts.
  • Historical Hero Upgrade: A big offender. The film's Bonnie and Clyde have more in common with fellow bank robbers John Dillinger and "Pretty Boy" Floyd, who were also active at the time and held considerably more public sympathy, whereas the public eventually grew tired of the real Bonnie and Clyde's constant violence and called for their deaths.
    • The real Clyde Barrow was a Control Freak with a Hair-Trigger Temper bordering on Ax-Crazy at worst. He often robbed and assaulted bystanders during bank robberies, killed both police and civilians at the slightest provocation, and left hostages tied to trees in the woods. His gang members noted this ruthlessness; In an interview with Playboy, W. D. Jones described Clyde as willing to kill anyone "in a hot instant" and claimed Clyde had once threatened to kill him over not changing a tire quickly enough. One gang member not portrayed in the film, Raymond Hamilton, left the gang out of disputes over money and viewed Clyde as too violent to stay with.
    • Buck also gets this treatment. He was described as the most hot-tempered of the Barrows, often advocated killing hostages, and once tied two police officers they had captured to a tree with barbed wire, something that even Clyde found distasteful. Buck often got into heated arguments with Clyde, as he was uncomfortable taking orders from his younger brother.
    • Contemporary writers made note of how far the film goes in this regard; Newspaper columnist Mike Royko, shortly after the film came out, printed a number of angry letters from relatives of the gang's real-life victims offended by their romanticization. One said, "They got my father. They did him with shotguns. He lived for three days."
  • Historical Villain Upgrade: Frank Hamer is portrayed in the film as a bumbling, spiteful idiot who allows himself to be made into a jackass by the protagonists and their friends. In real life, he was a Texas Ranger hired out of retirement by prison system administrator Lee Simmons to hunt them down after the gang led a prison break, and never personally interacted with them before the shootout in May 23, 1934 where Bonnie and Clyde were killed. The film shows Hamer and his men gunning down Clyde when he is unarmed and outside his car, while in real life both Bonnie and Clyde were inside their car when they were shot, and the vehicle was filled with weapons.note  Hamer's surviving family was so outraged at the negative, buffoonish portrayal they filed a lawsuit against Warner Bros. for defamation; the movie studio settled out-of-court.
  • Hobos: The gang stops by a Hooverville and after a shootout to ask for water; they get a lot of attention and are given soup as well as water.
  • Hollywood History: Lots.
    • For starters, C. W. Moss is a composite of W. D. Jones and the man who is believed to have betrayed Bonnie and Clyde, Henry Methvin. Other gang members are omitted.
    • Most historians agree that Bonnie wasn't heavily involved in the robberies the gang committed, at least not to the extent that is shown in the film.
    • Bonnie Parker was actually married to a man named Roy Thornton in 1926, when she was 16. The marriage failed due to his frequent absences and brushes with the law. They never divorced, but by January 1929 the marriage was for all purposes over.
    • In the film, Bonnie encounters Clyde for the first time when he tries to steal her mother's car and he sees her naked in the window of her mother's house. In real life, it's believed the two actually met because of a mutual friend with a broken arm for whom Bonnie was caring at the time; Clyde happened to show up at the friend's house while Bonnie was in the kitchen making hot cocoa.
    • Clyde's prison time is largely glossed over, and his motive for the crime spree is shown as anger towards the corruption of the banks. Historians now believe that his prison time had a severe effect on him due to the brutality that he suffered while serving his sentence, and his crime spree was a Roaring Rampage of Revenge against the Texas prison system and perhaps society at large. Admittedly, the details behind Clyde's prison time only came out well after the film's release, and it is highly unlikely the filmmakers could have known about it at the time.
    • A nasty car accident on the night of June 11, 1933 that left Bonnie with a permanently lame leg is not in the film, despite being a pivotal event in the gang's history.
    • The gang's preferred weapons in reality were Browning Automatic Rifles stolen from military armories that left police outgunned in confrontations, whereas the film has them using Thompson sub-machine guns, likely to evoke the classic Hollywood "Gangster" image of the time.
    • Frequent visits to their families and the fact that Bonnie and Clyde were together for two years before starting their crime spree are omitted.
    • The couple is shown as robbing several banks, but even though they did rob some banks, in reality they tended to rob gas stations and mom-and-pop grocery stores, for little return.
    • Clyde's impotence as portrayed in the film has no known basis in reality, though it is likely the filmmakers based this on risque rumors of both Bonnie and Clyde having sexual relationships with other members of their gang.note  Such rumors were printed as fact in the 1963 book The Dillinger Days, which may have been the source for the idea.
    • The events the film covers have a number of details changed to make the pair more sympathetic. For example, the butcher robbery in the film is based off a real incident where Clyde executed an unarmed shopkeeper during a robbery because the man had talked back to him. The sequence with Eugene and Velma is very loosely based on a real incident where a man and woman were kidnapped by Bonnie and Clyde for unintentionally foiling a bank robbery. They intended to take the two into the woods to kill them, but were talked out of murder by the hostages themselves.
    • The film leaves out the Grapevine shootings, where Clyde and Henry Methvin killed two passing police officers without provocation. This event was the point where the public lost all remaining sympathy for Bonnie and Clyde and was a deciding factor in their deaths by ambush, in part due to an eyewitness claiming that Bonnie had walked up and executed one of the officers For the Evulz.
    • The ambush that kills Bonnie and Clyde is portrayed considerably differently than reality. The film's ambush has Clyde outside the car and unarmed by the time the shooting starts, and the motivation for an ambush is primarily Hamer's revenge for his previous treatment as their hostage. The real ambush was conducted by a six-man posse including Hamer, each armed with an automatic rifle, shotgun, and pistol. As soon as Clyde's car was spotted and identified, the posse emptied all of their weapons into the car as it passed by. There's some dispute from witnesses and participants whether Hamer or another member of the posse ordered Bonnie and Clyde to halt and surrender beforehand; if so, the order went unheeded by the outlaws. The gang had been credited with the deaths of nine police officers by this point, most of whom had been killed outside of robberies. With prior confrontations having ended with the gang escaping, police weren't interested in taking further chances.
  • Homage: Warren Beatty pitched the film to Jack L. Warner as an homage to the classic Warner Bros. gangster films of The '30s. Warner looked at him and said, "What the fuck is an homage?"
  • The Loins Sleep Tonight: Clyde is portrayed by the film as impotent.
  • Lost in the Maize: Bonnie runs away through one because she misses her momma.
  • Lured into a Trap: C. W.'s father flags down Bonnie and Clyde under the pretense of asking for help with his car, where lawmen are waiting to ambush them.
  • Mood Whiplash: Used to give the graphic violence more impact. For example; The bank robbery scene, where Moss parks the car, first plays out as comedy as the trio bumble around trying to escape, but turns deadly when the banker jumps onto the running board and Clyde graphically shoots him in the face.
  • Moral Myopia: The gang don't think they're doing anything particularly wrong, but those jerks who try to stop them from robbing banks, they were totally asking to be shot. (Of course, some of their enemies are jerks, but it isn't trying to stop murderous robbers that makes them so.)
  • More Dakka: How the title characters went down, in the movie and in reality.
  • Multiple Gunshot Death: How Bonnie and Clyde get killed by the police. Truth in Television — the police went for There Is No Kill Like Overkill because they were that much of The Dreaded.
  • Name and Name
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • Eugene, when he realizes that he's charging into a confrontation with a bunch of outlaws who might be armed. Even more-so when the outlaws start chasing him.
    • Bonnie and Clyde, when they realize they are about to be ambushed.
  • Outlaw Couple: The Trope Codifier.
  • Parallel Parking: While the title characters rob a bank, C.W. parallel parks down the street and has trouble getting out as they make their getaway. This gives one of the bank tellers enough time to jump on the car's running board, and when Clyde shoots him he becomes the first murder victim of their crime spree.
  • Phallic Weapon: The impotent Clyde first woos Bonnie by showing her his revolver. She reaches out and strokes the barrel.
  • Present-Day Past: The writers and director deliberately downplayed period accuracy to make the film more of a commentary on the '60s. The world of the movie is partly inspired by the '30s and partly by the movies of the French New Wave.
  • Real Women Don't Wear Dresses: Blanche Barrow is portrayed as The Load in contrast to Bonnie Parker and, in the real Blanche's own words, "a screaming horse's ass". Significant in that the two male leads, Clyde Barrow and Buck Barrow, aren't foiled against each other to the same extreme.
  • Riddled and Rattled: The Trope Maker itself: The title characters are seated in their car rather than standing, but maintain their posture remarkably well despite being pelted with bullets.
  • Rule of Symbolism:
    • Clyde's pistol is long, hard and caressed by Bonnie within the first few scenes of the film. The first time the audiences see a gun, Clyde holds it at crotch level and Bonnie strokes it, murmuring "Yeah." To make the innuendo levels more disturing, we see that Clyde has a match held between his teeth. As he holds his pistol near his fly, he moves his teeth in such a way that this (very erect) matchstick waggles up and down. Bonnie states that Clyde didn't have the courage to use it, and when he proves he does in robbing a general store, Bonnie starts smooching him as they drive away. But once they get to a secluded spot, Clyde jumps out of the car saying he's not much of a lover boy to which Bonnie snarkily replies, "[his] advertising is just dandy. Folks wouldn't guess [he doesn't] have a thing to sell. She's clearly referring to the "advertising" of the gun. Guns are so synonymous with penises that Bonnie assumes when a man shows off his gun, he's intimating that he'd like to show off something else, as well. There are more than just phallic guns in this film. You can't rob a bank without firing off a few warning shots, and the police that track and ultimately kill B & C are locked and loaded.
    • One point of the film has Buck Barrow tell a cheesy joke about a boy's sick mother and the boy having to feed her a fresh quart of a milk every day with brandy in it. She would drink a little more every day for nearly a week, then on the final day, she'd swallow the whole thing down and then tell him not to sell their cow. The joke has a dark undercurrent. It's about something poisonous being slipped into something wholesome and going undetected. The old woman doesn't want to drink alcohol — she's a teetotaler who doesn't believe in drinking. But by drinking fresh milk laced with brandy, she not only chokes it down, but she begins to love it. There are some serious parallels between the story of Bonnie and Clyde and the relationship of this woman to her milky brandy. The woman drinks a little more brandy every day, and she begins to crave it so much she can't think of doing without it— "don't sell that cow!" Bonnie and Clyde experience a similar progression. They start out small — Clyde commits armed robbery, and Bonnie's an accomplice. They get in a little deeper — Clyde kills a man, and Bonnie aids in armed robbery. Finally, they're both wanted for multiple crimes that include the murder of police officers, Clyde's brother is dead, and they're both wounded. Clyde's so used to the crime that informs his life that he's not able to think of a life without it. Like the woman in the joke, he can't make a distinction between wholesome milk (or an honest life) and poisonous brandy (or a life full of bank robbery).
  • Scenery Censor: Bonnie is introduced sleeping naked, and a helpful sewing machine protects Faye Dunaway's modesty while she runs around getting ready to meet Clyde.
  • Screaming Woman: Blanche, much to the chagrin of the rest of the gang (especially Bonnie), as well as to the real-life Blanche. The film deliberately played this up in order to make Bonnie seem "cooler". It angered the real Blanche so much that she sued Warner Bros. over her portrayal.
  • Sexless Marriage: A non-married variant; Bonnie and Clyde behave as a couple, even though Clyde cannot have sex. On the day before their deaths, however, Clyde finally manages to perform.
  • Small Town Boredom: Bonnie's introduction has her flopping around her bed in boredom. Clyde acknowledges that boredom was her primary reason to join him.
  • Spiteful Spit: After Bonnie kisses Hamer for the posed photo, he spits in her face.
  • Stop, or I Will Shoot!: Bonnie and Clyde are gunned down without warning in a police ambush. This was Truth in Television. It should be noted that Barrow had shot his way out of several previous attempts to capture him, and his gang had killed nine lawmen and several civilians during their crime spree.
  • Surprisingly Realistic Outcome: Robert Towne wanted to include things he'd never seen in movies before. For example, he noted that in movies, characters always seem to find parking spaces with no problems. Here, C.W. has dificulty finding a space and nearly bungles the getaway when the car gets stuck to another car.
  • There Is No Kill Like Overkill: The final scene, where a posse guns down Bonnie and Clyde and fires many, many shots at them. Truth in Television, too- that was how their death was in real life.
  • Verbal Business Card: "This here's Miss Bonnie Parker. I'm Clyde Barrow. We rob banks."
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Beyond the significant Historical Hero Upgrade it gives the titular Outlaw Couple and the equally significant Historical Villain Upgrade it gives to Frank Hamer, many things in the film were flatly made up. The film's C. W. Moss is a Composite Character of two actual gang members, W.D. Jones and Henry Methvin, and omits many other gang members. Clyde is portrayed in the film as impotent, though there's no basis for this in reality. A nasty car accident that left Bonnie with a permanently lame leg is not in the film, nor is the frequent visits they made to their families. Clyde's motivation for the gang's crime spree is portrayed as anger at the banks for their role in The Great Depression, but in reality it was over his abuses at the hands of both guards and inmates during his two-year imprisonment at Eastham Prison Farm, and the gang often targeted small stores and gas stations over banks.
  • Villain Protagonist: The title characters are robbers and killers. even so, the film's portrayal of them is considerably softer than the real Bonnie and Clyde.
  • Working on the Chain Gang: Clyde chopped off two of his toes to avoid this. Truth in Television, although most sources say that another inmate did it for him.