Kids (film)

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Theatrical release poster
Directed byLarry Clark
Written byHarmony Korine
Produced byCary Woods
CinematographyEric Edwards
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Music by
  • Independent Pictures
  • The Guys Upstairs
  • Killer Films
  • Shining Excalibur Films
  • Kids NY Limited
Distributed byShining Excalibur Films
Release dates
  • May 17, 1995 (1995-05-17) (Cannes)
  • July 28, 1995 (1995-07-28) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]
Box office$20.4 million[3]

Kids is a 1995 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Larry Clark in his directorial debut and written by Harmony Korine in his screenwriting debut.[4] It stars Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloë Sevigny, and Rosario Dawson, all in their film debuts. Set in 1995, Fitzpatrick, Pierce, Sevigny, Dawson, and other newcomers portray a group of teenagers in New York City. They are characterized as hedonists, who engage in sexual acts and substance abuse, over the course of a single day.

Ben Detrick of the New York Times has described the film as "Lord of the Flies with skateboards, nitrous oxide and hip-hop... There is no thunderous moral reckoning, only observational detachment."[5] The film was deemed controversial upon its release in 1995 and caused public debate over its artistic merit. It received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, but was released without a rating. Critical response was mixed, and the film grossed $20.4 million on a $1.5 million budget.


In an encounter that starts out consensually, a 17-year-old boy named Telly roughly and painfully rapes a 12-year-old girl, despite her pleas for him to stop and be more gentle. Afterwards, Telly meets with his best friend, Casper, and they discuss his sexual experience. He vocalizes his desire to keep "having sex" with virginal girls. They then enter a local store, where Casper shoplifts a bottle of malt liquor. Looking for drugs, food, and a place to hang out, they head to their friend Paul's apartment, despite disliking him. They join the other boys in boasting about their sexual prowess and nonchalant attitudes to unprotected sex and venereal diseases.

Across the city, a group of girls are talking about sex. Their attitudes contradict that of the boys on many topics, particularly fellatio and the significance of the individuals to whom they lost their virginity. Two of the girls, Ruby and Jennie, mention that they were recently tested for sexually transmitted disease: Ruby tests negative, even though she has had multiple sexual encounters, and Jennie tests positive for HIV. She tells the nurse that she has had sex only once, with Telly. Distraught, she tries to find him to prevent him from passing HIV onto another girl. Meanwhile, Telly and Casper walk to Telly's house and steal money from his mother.

After purchasing marijuana, they gather with a few friends, and together taunt a gay couple passing by. As Casper rides on a skateboard, he carelessly bumps into a man who angrily threatens and pushes him. The man is struck in the back of the head with a skateboard by Casper's friend Harold, causing him to collapse. Several other skaters join in, beating the man until he is rendered unconscious by a final blow to the head by Casper. Telly and some of the group then pick up a 13-year-old girl named Darcy—the virginal younger sister of an acquaintance—with whom Telly wants to have sex, but Darcy shows restraint. Afterwards, the group goes to an unsupervised party at the house of their friend Steven.

Jennie meets Misha, a girl who dislikes Telly, who notes Telly's possible whereabouts at the Shelter. When Jennie arrives at the club, she runs into a boy named Fidget, who shoves a depressant into her mouth; she then learns Telly is at Steven's house. When Jennie arrives, Darcy and Telly are already having sex, thus exposing Darcy to HIV. She cries and passes out among the other partygoers. Another partygoer witnesses the assault. A drunk Casper then rapes Jennie unprotected as she sleeps, unwittingly exposing himself to HIV. A voiceover by Telly says that sex is the only worthwhile thing in his life. The following day, a naked Casper says, "Jesus Christ, what happened?"


Additionally, Sarah Henderson portrays the first girl Telly is seen having sex with and Tony Morales and Walter Youngblood portray the gay couple. Julie Stebe-Glorius and Christina Stebe-Glorious appear as Telly's mother and younger brother, respectively. The Rastafari is played by an actor credited as "Dr. Henry". Screenwriter Harmony Korine has an uncredited appearance as Fidget.


I wanted to present the way kids see things, but without all this baggage, this morality that these old middle aged Hollywood guys bring to it. Kids don't think that way...they're living in the moment not thinking about anything beyond that and that's what I wanted to catch.

– Larry Clark[6]

Larry Clark said that he wanted to "make the Great American Teenage Movie, like the Great American Novel."[7] The film is shot in a quasi-documentary style, although all of its scenes are scripted.

In Kids, Clark cast New York City "street" kids with no previous acting experience, notably Leo Fitzpatrick (Telly) and Justin Pierce (Casper). Clark originally decided he wanted to cast Fitzpatrick in a film after watching him skateboard in New York, and cursing when he could not land certain tricks. Korine had met Chloë Sevigny in New York before production began on Kids, and initially cast her in a small role as one of the girls in the swimming pool. She then was given the leading role of Jennie when the actress hired to play Jennie, Mia Kirshner, was fired. Sevigny and Korine went on to make Gummo (1997) and Julien Donkey-Boy (1999) together. Korine makes a cameo in the club scene with Jennie, as the kid wearing Coke-bottle glasses and a Nuclear Assault shirt who gives her drugs, though the part is credited to his brother Avi.

Korine reportedly wrote the film's screenplay in 1993, at the age of 18, and principal photography took place during the summer of 1994. Contrary to the perception of many viewers, the film, according to Korine, was almost entirely scripted, with the only exception being the scene with Casper on the couch at the end, which was improvised.[8] Gus Van Sant had been attached to the film as a producer. After insufficient interest had been generated in the film, he left the project. Under incoming producer Cary Woods, the project found sufficient independent funding for the film. Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, wary of parent The Walt Disney Company's opinion of the risky screenplay, declined to involve Disney in funding the production of the film. After Woods showed him the final cut, Miramax paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights of this film.[9]


Miramax, which was owned by The Walt Disney Company, paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights.[9] Later, Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the co-chairmen of Miramax) were forced to buy back the film from Disney and created Shining Excalibur Films (a one-off company) to release the film, due to Disney's policy, that at the time, forbid the release of NC-17 rated films (and the fact their appeal to the MPAA to lower it to R was denied). Eamonn Bowles was hired to be the chief operating officer of Shining Excalibur Films.[10]

The film, which cost $1.5 million to produce, grossed $7.4 million in the North American box office[3] and $20 million worldwide.[11] According to Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures, Eamonn Bowles had stated that Harvey and Bob Weinstein might have personally profited up to $2 million each.[12]

Australian distributor Umbrella Entertainment announced a Blu-Ray scheduled to release in July.[citation needed]


The film received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 47% based on 58 critic's reviews, with an average rating of 5.70/10. The site's consensus reads, "Kids isn't afraid to test viewers' limits, but the point of its nearly non-stop provocation is likely to be lost in all the repellent characters and unpleasant imagery".[13] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 63/100 based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14]

The film was championed by some prominent critics, including Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times, who gave the film three and a half out of four stars. "Kids is the kind of movie that needs to be talked about afterward. It doesn't tell us what it means. Sure, it has a 'message', involving safe sex. But safe sex is not going to civilize these kids, make them into curious, capable citizens. What you realize, thinking about Telly, is that life has given him nothing that interests him, except for sex, drugs and skateboards. His life is a kind of hell, briefly interrupted by orgasms."[15]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film a "wake-up call to the modern world" about the nature of present-day youth in urban life.[16] Some critics have labeled it exploitative (in the lascivious sense) as borderline "child pornography".[17] Other critics derided the film, with the most common criticism relating to the perceived lack of artistic merit.

Feminist scholar bell hooks spoke extensively about the film in Cultural Criticism and Transformation: "Kids fascinated me as a film precisely because when you heard about it, it seemed like the perfect embodiment of the kind of postmodern, notions of journeying and dislocation and fragmentation and yet when you go to see it, it has simply such a conservative take on gender, on race, on the politics of HIV."[18]


Year Award Category Recipients Result Ref.
May 1995 Cannes Film Festival Palme d'Or Larry Clark Nominated [19]
Golden Camera Nominated
1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Picture Kids (Shining Excalibur) Dishonourable Mention [20][21]
March 23, 1996 Independent Spirit Awards Best Supporting Female Chloë Sevigny Nominated [22][23][24][19]
Best First Screenplay Harmony Korine Nominated
Best First Feature Kids (Shining Excalibur) Nominated
Best Debut Performance Justin Pierce Won

AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains

  • Telly - Nominated Villain


The documentary We Were Once Kids, released in 2021 and directed by Eddie Martin, explores how the movie was made and the lives of some of the cast afterwards. Most of the teenagers that participated in the film signed a contract without knowing what they were doing and were left on their own after the production finished. The documentary was awarded at the Tribeca Film Festival (Best Editing category).[25][26]

In popular culture[edit]

  • American rapper Wale references Kids in his song titled "Legendary" from his album Ambition.[27]
  • In August 2010, American rapper Mac Miller released the mixtape K.I.D.S., and its cover art, title, and some musical themes pay homage to the film. Some audio clips from the film are also part of the mixtape in between songs.[28]
  • American rapper and record producer Dr. Dre references the film by name in "Guilty Conscience". In the second verse, he voices against the "guilty conscience" of a fictional character within the song who is about to commit statutory rape, a main theme in the movie.[29]
  • Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd described his childhood as "Kids without the AIDS."[30]
  • Metal band Emmure released a song on their album Felony called "I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me Into Casper".
  • French rapper Orelsan has a line about the movie in the song "La quête" where he says "J'ai 15 ans, je regarde Kids en boucle, je traîne avec des gars comme Casper", which can be translated to "I'm 15 years old, I watch Kids on loop. I hang out with guys like Casper."


Kids Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
  • Brian Beattie
  • Randall Poster
  • Tim O'Heir
Singles from Kids Original Soundtrack
  1. "Natural One"
    Released: November 21, 1995

The soundtrack was released in 1995.

On September 8, 2023, Folk Implosion, the band comprised of Lou Barlow and John Davis, released Music For Kids, a compilation of songs from the film, many of which had never been released for streaming, and others that had since become unavailable due to licensing issues. The album also included songs that did not make the final cut, and alternate versions of the material present in the film.[32][33]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Entertainment WeeklyA[34]

Creation of the film's soundtrack was overseen by Barlow.

  1. Daniel Johnston – "Casper"
  2. Deluxx Folk Implosion – "Daddy Never Understood"
  3. Folk Implosion – "Nothing Gonna Stop"
  4. Folk Implosion – "Jenny's Theme"
  5. Folk Implosion – "Simean Groove"
  6. Daniel Johnston – "Casper the Friendly Ghost"
  7. Folk Implosion – "Natural One"
  8. Sebadoh – "Spoiled"
  9. Folk Implosion – "Crash"
  10. Folk Implosion – "Wet Stuff"
  11. Lo-Down – "Mad Fright Night"
  12. Folk Implosion – "Raise the Bells"
  13. Slint – "Good Morning, Captain"


  1. ^ "KIDS (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  2. ^ "Kids (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Kids (1995) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  4. ^ " – Kids". Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  5. ^ Detrick, Ben (July 21, 2015). "'Kids,' Then and Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  6. ^ Annear, Judy (2007). Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection. Art Gallery of New South Wales. p. 260. ISBN 9781741740066.
  7. ^ Bowen, Peter. Summer 1995. "The Little Rascals." Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  8. ^ Lyons, Tom. 1997-10-16. "Southern Culture on the Skids". The Eye. Retrieved 2009-11-6.
  9. ^ a b "Controversy: 'Kids' for Adults", Newsweek, February 20, 1995
  10. ^ Roman, Monica (January 7, 1998). "Roman, Monica; "Bowles distrib'n prez for Shooting Gallery: Ex-Goldwyn arthouse exec brings sound instincts to Gallery"; January 8, 1998". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Klady, Leonard. "Bookie bets on 'Paradise'" Daily Variety May 7, 1997
  12. ^ Biskind, Peter (2004). Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. Simon & Schuster. p. 215.
  13. ^ "Kids (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved May 14, 2022.
  14. ^ "Kids". Metacritic.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 28, 1995). "Kids Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 21, 1995). "FILM REVIEW: KIDS; Growing Up Troubled, In Terrifying Ways". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Kempley, Rita (August 25, 1995). "'Kids' (NR)". Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2007.
  18. ^ Jhally, Sut. "bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation" (PDF). Retrieved March 31, 2013.
  19. ^ a b "Kids - Awards". IMDB. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  20. ^ "Q & A with the Stinkers". The Stinkers. Archived from the original on April 13, 2001. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  21. ^ "Past Winners Database". Archived from the original on August 15, 2007. Retrieved March 6, 2022.
  22. ^ "Film Nominations Are Independent-minded". Chicago Tribune. January 12, 1996. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  23. ^ "'Leaving Las Vegas' Arrives in Big Way at Spirit Awards". Los Angeles Times. March 25, 1996. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  24. ^ "Independent Spirits Give Awards All Own". Chicago Tribune. March 25, 1996. Retrieved August 16, 2012.
  25. ^ "We Were Once Kids". Americana Film Fest. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  26. ^ Grobar, Matt (December 20, 2021). "Lightyear Entertainment Acquires Tribeca Docs 'A-ha: The Movie' And 'We Were Once Kids'". Deadline. Retrieved August 13, 2023.
  27. ^ "Legendary". Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  28. ^ "'Jesus Christ. What happened?': Larry Clark's 1995 'Kids' turns 20". MSNBC. July 31, 2015. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  29. ^ "Guilty Conscience". Kids is a movie about sexually promiscuous teenagers. In the movie, Jennie has HIV, and her friend Casper rapes her while she's passed out due to a drug at a party. We're left to assume Casper contracts HIV from this, so Dre is warning not to end up like Casper.
  30. ^ Caramanica, Jon (July 27, 2015). "Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?". The New York Times. Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  31. ^ a b Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Kids [Original Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  32. ^ Gordon, Jeremy (September 4, 2023). "The Folk Implosion's Music From 'Kids' Is Returning. The Band Is, Too". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved September 11, 2023.
  33. ^ "The Folk Implosion: Music for KIDS". Pitchfork. Retrieved September 11, 2023.
  34. ^ Entertainment Weekly (8/18/95, p.55) - "... it is as dark, beautiful, and uncommercial as the film it accompanies. ... But the haunting, gritty results are surprisingly addictive for a score ..." - Rating: A
  35. ^ NME (Magazine) (4/13/96, p.49) - 7 (out of 10) - "... a splendid record [that] ... pull[s] off the effortlessly cool dance fusion of rattly hip-hop beats and copyright-Barlow sonic doodles. ... [it] works, both as a collection of songs `inspired by' the film, and as a Folk Implosion extravaganza."
  36. ^ Spin (10/95, p.120) - 8 - Very Good - "... the music to ... KIDS is an inextricable component. It provides a crucial emotional center in a brutally cold picture. ... Lou Barlow seems an unlikely choice to score the bulk of this street flick, but he's modified his music to fit KIDS's urban vibe ..."

External links[edit]