Sling Blade

This 1996 movie is about a mentally challenged man from the South named Karl Childers who is in a mental hospital after he kills the town bully and his mom when he is 12 years old. He thought the man was taking advantage of his mom but she was encouraging it so he killed her also.

Karl is very southern, slow, absurd, sympathetic, and frightening. The movie was written, directed, and starred Billy Bob Thornton. Karl spends most of his life in the “nervous” hospital and is released with nowhere to go to. He goes back to the small town he was from and with the help of one sympathetic staff member he got a job at a small engine shop. He is great at repairing engines. He then makes friends with a young boy named Frank who has a single mom with a rather nasty boyfriend named Doyle Hargraves (Dwight Yoakam).

At first, you first meet Charles Bushman at the mental hospital in mostly a one-way conversation with Karl. Charles is beyond creepy and it’s an interesting character contrast between the two. They both killed other people and are institutionalized …Charles because he feels like he is entitled to kill and Karl because he thought he was protecting his mother and then she becomes a victim because he thought she was wrong in taking part in the affair.

Karl is likable and you do feel sympathetic to his situation. He grew up alone in an old shed outside of his parent’s house. He is basically dumped on society after 25 years in a mental hospital and you pull for him to make it through.

Karl sees things in very simplistic terms…in fact, he sees things better than some others. There is one scene that shows this best. Karl is called over to look at a tiller to see what is wrong with it…no one could figure out why the thing would not start after it was taken apart and put back together…Karl takes one look at it and said: “It ain’t got no gas in it”

Billy Bob Thorton on who Karl was based on:  “I was raised in a place where a guy who was kinda deformed, and couldn’t talk plain, was made to live out in back of his parents’ house. They fed him like a dog. The story was that the mother thought he came out the way he did — and he struggled, just to walk — his mother said she was scared by a snake when she was pregnant, and it caused him to come out like that — he was the devil’s child. It turned out he had polio. That’s all it was. That’s where I got the setup for where Karl comes from.

Here is the cast.

Billy Bob Thornton as Karl Childers

Dwight Yoakam as Doyle Hargraves

J. T. Walsh as Charles Bushman

John Ritter as Vaughan Cunningham

Lucas Black as Frank Wheatley

Natalie Canerday as Linda Wheatley

James Hampton as Jerry Woolridge

Robert Duvall as Karl’s father

Jim Jarmusch as Deke, the Frostee Cream employee

Vic Chesnutt as Terence

Brent Briscoe as Scooter Hodges

Mickey Jones as Johnson

From Wiki…Awards and Nominations

  • Academy Awards
    • Won for Best Adapted Screenplay (Thornton)
    • Nominated for Best Actor (Thornton)
  • Chicago Film Critics Awards
    • Won for Best Actor (Thornton)
  • Edgar Awards
    • Won for Best Motion Picture Screenplay (Thornton)
  • Independent Spirit Awards
    • Won for Best First Feature
  • Kansas City Film Critics Awards
    • Won for Best Actor (Thornton)
  • National Board of Review Awards
    • Won for Special Achievement in Filmmaking (Thornton)
  • Satellite Awards
    • Nominated for Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama (Thornton)
    • Nominated for Best Original Screenplay (Thornton)
  • Screen Actors Guild Awards
    • Nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Cast
    • Nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role (Thornton)
  • Writers Guild of America Awards
    • Won for Best Adapted Screenplay (Thornton)
  • Young Artist Award
    • Won for Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film (Black)
  • YoungStar Award
    • Won for Best Young Actor in a Drama Film (Black)


Author: Badfinger (Max)

Power Pop fan, Baseball fan, old movie and tv show fan... and a songwriter, bass and guitar player.

17 thoughts on “Sling Blade”

  1. Great movie- and Dwight Yoakam was outstanding as Doyle! .. off topic- when is Seager’s bat going to wake up? He’s killing my fantasy team [along with Kris Bryant}

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Tell me about it… Turner now just started to hit again. I guess the hip and Tommy John surgeries are taking a while to recover from.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve never seen it. Interesting premise and good cast , although it looks a little dark for my taste perhaps.
    At least Bellinger is coming through for you bigtime this year!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It can be dark in parts.
      Bellinger is playing like his rookie season. It took him last season to adjust to the adjustments made by the pitchers but now he seems on a roll. I still say my hope for him is to be a Shawn Green type.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. In my 60 years on this earth, if there’s anything I’ve learned it’s that humans are deceptively simple and unfathomably complex at the same time. It’s a great movie, and people are put in those situations all of the time, either mentally or physically. For the monsters who put that kid out back in the shed, the best I can do is shake my head, because if I let the thought go any farther, they don’t go to a good place. In Karl’s mind, there were no barriers to taking it to the next place. What is so frustrating about humans is that there’s a Dwight/Doyle in every crowd, so it’s best to figure out how to deal with them…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The contrast between the creepy guy at the institute talking to Karl is interesting. Karl unlike Charles was decent and believed in the right thing but like you said…he had no barriers.

      A true story… back in the early seventies…I asked my sister to verify this. We lived 25 miles from Nashville at least. We would pass this house on the way to Nashville on the main highway and this family would have their mentally handicapped son tied to a tree because he would vanish if he didnt. We would pass by and see him everytime.
      I’d forgotten about this until I was in my 20s and thought…what the hell?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I need to re-watch the movie. Billy Bob was unrecognizable in it. It would be interesting to have a conversation with him to see what it felt like to channel Karl, because that’s what I see it as, as he wrote, directed, and starred in it. The thought of any human tied up gives me the creeps. I understand maybe he would vanish, but if they kept an eye on him and cared enough to watch him, they would see where he was going when he was going. When I see people at the mall “on a leash” I want to scream. My ex-husband tried to tie our son to a brick when he was a toddler so he wouldn’t wander close to the busy street we lived on. You might understand why he is my EX husband from that one fact alone.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes there had to be a better way… like watching the kid. It is amazing child services didn’t do anything.

        Of course when I saw the kid tied up I didn’t think a damn thing about it. It wasn’t until I got older and I realized.
        They had a cast reunion in the 2000s and there are clips on YouTube about it. The kid was just awesome totally natural. He did win a couple of awards.

        Yeah I can see why he is your ex..

        Liked by 1 person

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