Holes (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byAndrew Davis
Screenplay byLouis Sachar
Based onHoles
by Louis Sachar
Produced by
  • Andrew Davis
  • Lowell D. Blank
  • Mike Medavoy
  • Teresa Tucker-Davies
CinematographyStephen St. John
Edited by
  • Thomas J. Nordberg
  • Jeffrey Wolf
Music byJoel McNeely
Distributed by
Release date
  • April 11, 2003 (2003-04-11) (United States)
Running time
117 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$20 million[2]
Box office$71.4 million[2]

Holes is a 2003 American neo-Western comedy-drama film directed by Andrew Davis and written by Louis Sachar, based on his novel of the same name, originally published in August 1998. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson and Shia LaBeouf.

The film was produced by Chicago Pacific Entertainment in association with Phoenix Pictures, presented by Walden Media and Walt Disney Pictures,[3] and distributed in many markets by the distribution company Buena Vista.

Holes was released in the United States on April 11, 2003, earning $71.4 million worldwide and received generally positive reviews from critics, who praised its cast, faithfulness to its source material, and sense of nostalgia.[2] The film is dedicated to Scott Plank, who died in a car accident six months before the film's release in October 2002.[4]


In Green Lake, Texas, the Yelnats family has been cursed to be unlucky, which they blame on their ancestor Elya's failure to keep a promise to fortune teller Madame Zeroni over a century earlier in Latvia. One day, Stanley Yelnats IV is wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers donated to charity by baseball player Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston, and is sentenced to 18 months at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, in lieu of jail time.

The camp is in a dried lake bed where rain never falls and venomous yellow-spotted lizards proliferate. Stanley meets warden Louise Walker; her assistant, Mr. Sir; and camp counselor Dr. Pendanski. Prisoners, known by their nicknames—including Zero, Zig-Zag, Armpit, Squid, X-Ray, and Magnet—dig holes in the desert daily; they may earn a day off if they find anything interesting inside the holes. After Stanley finds a golden lipstick tube initialed K.B. and a fossil, he is accepted into the group and given the nickname Caveman. When Magnet steals Mr. Sir's bag of sunflower seeds, Stanley takes responsibility and is taken to Walker's cabin. Inside, Stanley discovers old wanted posters and newspapers and realizes "KB" stands for Katherine "Kissin' Kate" Barlow, an outlaw his great-grandfather encountered. Walker assaults Mr. Sir for his irrelevant report and allows Stanley to return to work.

Camp Green Lake's history is revealed in a series of flashbacks as a flourishing lakeside community in the 19th century. Kate romantically bonds with Sam, an African-American onion merchant who helps repair her schoolhouse. When the wealthy Charles "Trout" Walker discovers the two kissing, he spreads the word out of jealousy, and the town's citizens burn down the schoolhouse and murder Sam. In retaliation, Kate becomes an outlaw hunting down Walker's men, earning her nickname by kissing the men she murders. As her legend is established, Green Lake goes into decline due to the lake's sudden evaporation. One of Kate's victims is Elya's son Stanley Yelnats Sr., who is robbed of his chest of gold and left to fend for himself in the desert. Years later, Kate has a final confrontation with the now-destitute Walkers; before allowing herself to be lethally bitten by a lizard, she boasts neither Walker nor his descendants will find her buried fortune.

In the present, Pendanski mocks Zero, whose real name is Hector Zeroni, but the latter strikes Pendanski with a shovel and flees. After some deliberation, Stanley searches for Hector. The two have difficulty surviving in the desert without water. Eventually, Stanley carries the ailing Hector up the mountain, where they find a wild field of onions and a source of water, helping them regain strength; at the same time, Stanley unknowingly fulfills his ancestor's promise to the fortune teller and breaks the curse. While camping on the mountain, Hector tells Stanley he stole Livingston's sneakers and threw them over the bridge to evade the police, only for them to inadvertently hit Stanley's head.

Returning to the camp, Stanley and Hector investigate the hole where Stanley found the lipstick and discover a chest before they are discovered by Walker, Mr. Sir, and Pendanski. They soon realize Walker, who is Trout's granddaughter, is using the inmates to search for Barlow's treasure. The adults are unable to steal the chest from the boys, as the hole has swarmed with lizards, which do not bite Stanley and Hector due to the onions they ate earlier. The adults, puzzled, wait for the lizards to kill the boys. The next morning, the attorney general and Stanley's lawyer arrive, accompanied by Texas Rangers; the chest Stanley found is discovered to have belonged to his namesake great-grandfather. Walker, Mr. Sir, who is in truth a paroled criminal named Marion Sevillo, and Pendanski, who is impersonating a doctor, are all arrested for violating various child labor laws. Stanley and Zero are released, and it rains in Green Lake for the first time in over a century.

The Yelnats family obtains the chest, which contains jewels, deeds, and promissory notes, which they share with Hector, who uses it to hire private investigators to find his missing mother, and both families live a life of financial ease as neighbors.



Director Andrew Davis chose to direct Holes to show he was capable of making more than action films such as The Fugitive and Collateral Damage.[6] He encouraged author Louis Sachar to participate in the production and adapt the novel into a screenplay.[6] To break down the novel's action into a film, Davis and Sachar storyboarded over 100 scenes on 3-by-5 note cards, each of which had specific time allotments. Sachar said Davis "went through and said, 'Now as you rewrite it, this card should take half a minute, this one should take three minutes, this one should take one minute, and so on.'"[6] Before Sachar was hired, Richard Kelly was given the job to write the screenplay. His draft notoriously diverged from the source material, and had a darker, post-apocalyptic take with sci-fi elements. Kelly admitted he was naive and was told by the production staff that he was "insane" before being booted off the film.[7]

Holes was filmed in California over 10 weeks in the summer of 2002[8] on a $20 million budget.[2] When looking for a child actor to play Stanley, Davis asked for an actor like "a young Tom Hanks".[6] Shia LaBeouf was cast, Frankie Muniz turned down the role due to his commitment on Agent Cody Banks. In the original book, Stanley is depicted as obese, shedding considerable weight as the book progresses. The filmmakers chose to drop this aspect from the movie, as they believed it would have been difficult to convincingly portray the weight loss in a live-action film.[6]

The film was shot in several locations, including Ridgecrest, California.[6] LaBeouf was simultaneously doing work for the Disney Channel show Even Stevens, and worked on the film after taping Even Stevens.[9] To show the seven kids' holes being dug gradually throughout the day, different "phases" were used, for each of which the seven holes were given different levels of depth. For the yellow spotted lizards, fourteen bearded dragons were used, four of which were used for the main parts, and the rest used as "background atmosphere lizards".[10]


The film's music includes the Grammy-winning single "Just Like You" by Keb Mo', and the Dr. Dre and Mike Elizondo-produced "Dig It" by The D Tent Boys (the actors portraying the D Tent group inmates), which included a video that was played regularly on the Disney Channel. The soundtrack also includes contributions by the Eels, Devin Thompson, Dr. John, Eagle Eye Cherry, Fiction Plane, Little Axe, Moby, North Mississippi Allstars, Pepe Deluxé, Shaggy, Stephanie Bentley, and Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps.[11]

The score was composed and conducted by Joel McNeely.

Holes (Original Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
ReleasedApril 15, 2003
LabelWalt Disney Records
  1. "Dig It" – D-Tent Boys
  2. "Keep'n It Real" – Shaggy
  3. "Mighty Fine Blues" – Eels
  4. "Honey" – Moby
  5. "I'm Gonna Be A Wheel Someday" – Teresa James & the Rhythm Tramps
  6. "Just Like You" – Keb' Mo'
  7. "Everybody Pass Me By" – Pepe Deluxé
  8. "I Will Survive" – Stephanie Bentley
  9. "Shake 'Em On Down" – North Mississippi Allstars
  10. "Don't Give Up" – Eagle Eye Cherry
  11. "Happy Dayz" – Devin Thompson
  12. "Let's Make A Better World" – Dr. John
  13. "If Only" – Fiction Plane
  14. "Eyes Down" – Eels
  15. "Down To The Valley" – Little Axe


Box office[edit]

Holes grossed $16.3 million in its opening weekend, finishing #2 at the box office behind Anger Management's second weekend.[12] It went on to gross a domestic total of $67.4 million and an additional $4 million in international revenue, totaling $71.4 million at the box office, against a $20 million budget, making the film a moderate financial success.[2] The film was released in the United Kingdom on October 24, 2003, and opened at #9.[13]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 78% based on 139 reviews, with an average rating of 7/10. The site's critical consensus reads: "Faithful to its literary source, this is imaginative, intelligent family entertainment."[14] On Metacritic, which uses an average of critics' reviews, the film has a 71 out of 100 rating, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[15] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[16]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film 3.5 of four stars and wrote, "Davis has always been a director with a strong visual sense, and the look of Holes has a noble, dusty loneliness. We feel we are actually in a limitless desert. The cinematographer, Stephen St. John, thinks big and frames his shots for an epic feel that adds weight to the story. I walked in expecting a movie for thirteen somethings, and walked out feeling challenged and satisfied. Curious, how much more grown up and sophisticated Holes is than Anger Management",[17] which was released the same month.


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2002 California on Location Awards[18] Production Company of the Year – Features Green Lake Productions Won
2003 California on Location Awards Location Professional of the Year – Features Mark Benton Johnson (Shared with S.W.A.T.) Won
Artios Awards[19] Best Casting for Feature Film, Comedy Amanda Mackey Johnson and Cathy Sandrich Nominated
2004 Critics’ Choice Awards[20] Best Family Film – Live Action Nominated
Las Vegas Film Critics Society Awards[21] Best Family Film Won
MTV Movie Awards[22] Breakthrough Performance Shia LaBeouf Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards[23] Best Live Action Family Film and Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male Nominated
Young Artist Awards[24] Best Family Feature Film – Drama Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Leading Young Actor Shia LaBeouf Nominated
Best Performance in a Feature Film – Supporting Young Actor Noah Poletiek Nominated
Khleo Thomas Nominated

Possible television series[edit]

In April 2023, producer Mike Medavoy told Collider that Disney might be considering adapting Holes as a television series, adding, "I think it's a tribute to the material and a tribute to the people who made it."[25]


  1. ^ Goodridge, Mike (April 22, 2003). "Holes". Screen International. Archived from the original on September 14, 2021. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Holes at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ McCarthy, Todd (April 16, 2003). "Holes". Variety. Archived from the original on July 24, 2021. Retrieved August 10, 2021.
  4. ^ "Scott Plank". variety.com. November 12, 2002. Archived from the original on September 18, 2020. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  5. ^ La Jeunesse, Marilyn (April 12, 2022). "18 things you probably didn't know about 'Holes'". Insider. Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  6. ^ a b c d e f Debruge, Peter (April 18, 2003). "Dig Deeper". The Austin Chronicle. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  7. ^ McKelly, Alex (July 3, 2018). "The Original 'Holes' Screenplay Was by the Donnie Darko Writer and It Was Insanely Dark". Bookstr. Retrieved April 18, 2023.
  8. ^ Flynn, Gillian (April 18, 2003). "Holes: Behind-the-scenes look". EW.com. Archived from the original on April 18, 2023. Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  9. ^ Weiss, Josh (April 11, 2019). "Author Louis Sachar Digs Up Fond Memories Of 'Holes' Film Adaptation 16 Years Later". Forbes. Archived from the original on March 9, 2023. Retrieved March 9, 2023.
  10. ^ "9 'Holes' Movie Secrets From Star Khleo Thomas". International Business Times. April 18, 2018. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  11. ^ "Holes Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Archived from the original on November 25, 2017. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  12. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for April 18-20, 2003". Box Office Mojo. April 21, 2003. Archived from the original on December 28, 2011. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  13. ^ "Weekend box office 24th October 2003 - 26th October 2003". 25thframe.co.uk. Archived from the original on November 7, 2017. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  14. ^ Holes at Rotten Tomatoes
  15. ^ Holes at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  16. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Holes" in the search box). CinemaScore. Archived from the original on April 13, 2022. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  17. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 18, 2003). "Holes". Chicago Sun-Times. Archived from the original on May 31, 2020. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  18. ^ "2002 COLA Awards". colaawards.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  19. ^ "2003 Artios Awards". Casting Society of America. Archived from the original on January 18, 2021. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  20. ^ "9th Critics' Choice Awards (2004)". DigitalHit.com. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  21. ^ "2004 Awards". lvfcs.org. Archived from the original on December 25, 2013. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  22. ^ Green, Willow (April 22, 2004). "MTV Movie Award Nominations 2004". Empire. Archived from the original on September 30, 2018. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  23. ^ "Holes Review". WPI Tech News. No. April 1, 2021. Archived from the original on February 10, 2023. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  24. ^ "25th Annual Young Artist Awards". YoungArtistAwards.org. Archived from the original on August 2, 2011. Retrieved February 10, 2023.
  25. ^ Gates, Taylor (April 15, 2023). "'Holes' Producer Mike Medavoy Reflects on the Film's 20-Year Legacy & Why Disney Feared It Would Flop". Collider. Archived from the original on April 15, 2023. Retrieved April 15, 2023.

External links[edit]