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 18, 2003 (2003-04-18) (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, which was originally published in August 1998. The film stars Sigourney Weaver, Jon Voight, Patricia Arquette, Tim Blake Nelson and, in his film debut, 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 18, 2003, earning $71.4 million worldwide and receiving positive reviews from critics.[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 Texas, the Yelnats family has been cursed to be unlucky, which they blame on their ancestor Elya's failure to keep his promise to carry fortune teller Madame Zeroni up a mountain over a century earlier in Latvia. Stanley Yelnats III is a struggling inventor, trying to solve the mystery of how to prevent foot odor. One day, his son, Stanley Yelnats IV is wrongfully convicted of stealing a pair of sneakers that were donated to a homeless children's shelter by baseball player Clyde "Sweet Feet" Livingston. Though Stanley truthfully says that the sneakers just came flying at him out of nowhere, he chooses to spend 18 months at Camp Green Lake, a juvenile detention camp, in lieu of going to jail.

He arrives to find that the camp is a dried up lake run by warden Louise Walker, her assistant Mr. Sir, and camp counselor Dr. Pendanski. The prisoners are divided into cabins, and are known by their nicknames – including Zero, Zig-Zag, Armpit, Squid, X-Ray, and Magnet. Everyday, the boys are each expected to dig a round hole in the desert, as deep and wide as the shovels they are given. They may earn a day off if they happen to find anything "interesting" while digging. During one night, Mr. Sir rescues Stanley from a yellow-spotted lizard, which he warns Stanley are aggressive, venomous, and lethal. After finding a golden lipstick tube initialed K.B. and a fossil, Stanley is accepted into the group and is given the nickname Caveman.

After taking the blame for Magnet stealing Mr. Sir's sunflower seeds, Stanley is taken to Walker's house where old wanted posters and newspapers lead him to realize that "K.B." stands for Katherine "Kissin' Kate" Barlow, a school teacher turned outlaw from the past. Walker asks Stanley to grab her box of nail polish and mentions that it contains rattlesnake venom. After he and Mr. Sir explain what happened with the sunflower seeds, Walker realizes Stanley didn't steal them and injures Mr. Sir. She then allows Stanley to return to his hole. Stanley and Zero make a deal in which Zero will help Stanley dig his holes and Stanley will teach Zero how to read. Zero reveals that his real name is Hector Zeroni, and that, before coming to the camp, he was living on the streets with his mother, but they lost one another and now he cannot find her.

Camp Green Lake's history is revealed in a series of flashbacks as a flourishing lakeside community in the 19th century. Barlow is involved in a love triangle with the wealthy Charles "Trout" Walker, whom Barlow rejects, and an African-American onion seller named Sam, whom Barlow loves. Sam courts Barlow by trading various handyman jobs for bottles of her spiced peach preserves; Sam always says "I can fix that" when Barlow points out something wrong with the schoolhouse. One night, after the jealous Trout sees Barlow and Sam kissing, Trout and the town's citizens burn down the schoolhouse and kill Sam. In retaliation, Barlow kills the local sheriff who ignored her pleas for help and becomes an outlaw hunting down Trout's men; she leaves her trademark lipstick kiss on each man she shoots down. At one point, she robs a stagecoach in which Stanley Yelnats Sr., Elya's son, is traveling; she steals all the luggage, but allows Stanley, Sr. to live. Stanley, Sr. would eventually tell his son, Stanley Yelnats Jr., that he only survived the ordeal by climbing "God's Thumb", but it is unclear where or what this is. Twenty years later, the now-bankrupt Trout and his spouse track down Barlow and tell her to hand over her treasure. After seeing a vision of Sam, Barlow refuses and tells the Trout he'll have to dig for the treasure, after which Barlow intentionally receives a lizard bite and dies. Trout sets about wasting his life digging for the treasure.

In the present, when Pendanski mocks Zero, the latter hits Pendanski with a shovel and runs off into the desert. After some deliberation, Stanley tries to steal Mr. Sir's truck to search for Zero, but crashes it into one of the many holes. Stanley then runs off into the desert himself, and eventually finds Zero resting under an old overturned stagecoach. Zero had survived by eating the few bottles of spiced peach preserves (which he calls 'sploosh') that he found there. The pair have difficulty surviving in the desert without water. Eventually, Stanley carries the now-ill Zero up the local mountain, the peak of which looks like a thumb, and which is imputed to be "God's Thumb" and Barlow's secret hideout. At the summit, they find a sheltered plateau containing a wild field of onions and a source of spring water, helping them regain strength; at the same time, Stanley has fulfilled his ancestor's promise to Madame Zeroni by carrying her descendant up the mountain and has broken the curse. Stanley's father promptly discovers that peaches and onions are the secret cure for foot odor. While camping on the mountain, Zero tells Stanley that he was the one who stole Sweet Feet's sneakers and threw them off a bridge to evade the police, only for them to inadvertently hit Stanley. After considering, Stanley forgives Zero, saying it was destined to happen.

Returning to the camp, Stanley and Zero expand the hole where Stanley found the lipstick and discover a chest, but they are immediately discovered by Walker, Mr. Sir, and Pendanski. Walker reveals that she is Trout's granddaughter, and that she had been forced as a child to dig alongside him; now, she is using the inmates to search for Barlow's treasure. The adults are unable to steal the chest from the boys, as their hole has swarmed with lizards, passive to Stanley and Hector due to the onions they have been eating for days. The adults decide to wait for the morning, when the lizards will retreat to the shade.

The next morning, the attorney general and Stanley's lawyer arrive, accompanied by Texas Rangers. The chest Stanley found is discovered to have the name of his namesake great-grandfather emblazoned on it, and he is given possession of it. Walker is arrested, along with Mr. Sir, who is revealed to be a paroled criminal named Marion Sevillo, and Pendanski, who is a criminal impersonating a doctor. Stanley and Zero are released and it rains in Green Lake for the first time in over 100 years. The foot odor product developed by Stanley's father is branded as "Sploosh" and Sweet Feet becomes the brand spokesman. The Yelnats family and Zero open the chest, which is full of all of Barlow's stolen treasure -- gold, jewels and stock certificates worth millions. Stanley insists on sharing the treasure with Zero, who uses it to hire private investigators and locates his missing mother. Both families live a life of financial ease as neighbors, and the boys of Camp Green Lake visit often, especially to go swimming.



Holes was filmed in California in the summer of 2002, and produced with a budget of $20 million.[2] When looking for a child actor to play the role of Stanley Yelnats, director Andrew Davis asked for an actor like "a young Tom Hanks". Shia LaBeouf, who ended up receiving the role, first read the film's script before reading the original novel. In the original book, Stanley is depicted as being obese, shedding considerable amounts of 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 loss of weight in a live action film.

The film was shot in several locations, including in Ridgecrest, California. LaBeouf was simultaneously doing work for the Disney Channel show Even Stevens, and would work on his role in the film after doing his filming on Even Stevens. 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 deepness. For the yellow spotted lizards, fourteen bearded dragons were used, four of which were used for the main parts, and the rest of which were used as "background atmosphere lizards".


The film was released theatrically in the United States on April 18, 2003, by Buena Vista Pictures Distribution.

Home media[edit]

The film was released on VHS and DVD on September 23, 2003, by Buena Vista Home Entertainment and Walt Disney Home Entertainment.


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

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.[5] The film would go 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.[6]

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 critics consensus reads: "Faithful to its literary source, this is imaginative, intelligent family entertainment."[7] 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".[8] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A" on an A+ to F scale.[9]

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."[10]


Year Award Category Nominee Result
2002 COLA Production Company of the Year – Features Green Lake Productions Won
2003 COLA Location Professional of the Year – Features Mark Benton Johnson (Shared with S.W.A.T.) Won
Artios Best Casting for Feature Film, Comedy Amanda Mackey Johnson and Cathy Sandrich Nominated
2004 Critics Choice Award Best Family Film – Live Action Nominated
Sierra Award Best Family Film Won
MTV Movie Award Breakthrough Male Performance Shia LaBeouf Nominated
PFCS Award Best Live Action Family Film and Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male Nominated
Young Artist Award 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


  1. ^ Goodridge, Mike (April 22, 2003). "Holes". Screen International. Retrieved September 14, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Holes at Box Office Mojo
  3. ^ McCarthy, Todd (April 16, 2003). "Holes". Variety. Retrieved August 10, 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Scott Plank". variety.com. November 12, 2002. Retrieved September 1, 2020.
  5. ^ "Weekend Box Office Results for April 18-20, 2003". Box Office Mojo. April 21, 2003. Retrieved March 24, 2012.
  6. ^ "Weekend box office 24th October 2003 - 26th October 2003". www.25thframe.co.uk. Retrieved November 4, 2017.
  7. ^ Holes at Rotten Tomatoes
  8. ^ Holes at Metacritic Edit this at Wikidata
  9. ^ "Find CinemaScore" (Type "Holes" in the search box). CinemaScore. Retrieved April 18, 2022.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (April 18, 2003). "Holes". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 24, 2012.

External links[edit]