The Peanut Butter Falcon

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The Peanut Butter Falcon
Three people on a raft
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
  • Tyler Nilson
  • Michael Schwartz
Written by
  • Tyler Nilson
  • Michael Schwartz
Produced by
CinematographyNigel Bluck
Edited by
Music by
Distributed byRoadside Attractions
Release dates
  • March 9, 2019 (2019-03-09) (SXSW)
  • August 9, 2019 (2019-08-09) (United States)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$6.2 million[1]
Box office$23.3 million[2][3]

The Peanut Butter Falcon is a 2019 American comedy-drama film written and directed by Tyler Nilson and Michael Schwartz, in their directorial film debut, and starring Zack Gottsagen, Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and John Hawkes. The plot follows a young man with Down syndrome who escapes from an assisted living facility and befriends a wayward fisherman on the run. As the two men form a rapid bond, a social worker attempts to track them.[4] Filming took place in North Carolina and Georgia.

The film premiered at South by Southwest on March 9, 2019, and was given a limited theatrical release in the United States on August 9, 2019, by Roadside Attractions. The film went on to become a sleeper hit, grossing over $23 million, making it the highest grossing independent film of the year, and received praise from critics.[5]


Zak, a young man with Down syndrome, escapes from a state-run care facility with the help of his elderly roommate, to train as a professional wrestler under the tutelage of his hero, the Salt Water Redneck. Meanwhile, Tyler, a man fired for bringing in illegal crab catches, decides to burn the gear of his rivals, Duncan and Ratboy, and flees himself.

While on the run, Zak and Tyler meet, and embark on a journey to the Salt Water Redneck's wrestling school in North Carolina. Zak's caretaker at the nursing home, Eleanor, sets out to find Zak and return him safely to the facility. Zak and Tyler become friends while travelling. Tyler teaches Zak various life skills, including how to use a shotgun, and eventually takes on the role of his coach, getting him in shape for his wrestling endeavors. They build a raft and begin traveling by water. Eleanor soon finds them, but after learning her boss intends to send Zak to a more severe form of confinement, joins them to travel south. That night, Duncan and Ratboy catch up with the trio, and Zak defends them with the shotgun.

When they reach Ayden, North Carolina, Tyler learns that the Salt Water Redneck has retired and closed the school, but convinces him to resurrect his alter ego for Zak. Salt Water trains Zak as a wrestler, and quickly puts Zak on a local fight card, which he believes he has rigged for Zak's safety and success. However, when the fight happens, Zak's opponent, Sam, does not hold back, and proceeds to beat him. As Tyler attempts to intervene, Duncan and Ratboy arrive, and Duncan hits Tyler on the head with a tire iron, knocking him unconscious right as Zak manages to lift Sam overhead and throw him forcefully out of the ring, something Salt Water had told him was impossible.The film ends with Tyler healing from the injury, as Eleanor drives him and Zak to Florida, implying the start of a new life for the three of them as a family.



The film is a modern retelling of the Huckleberry Finn story, which takes Gottsagen's own desire to be an actor and changes it into a quest to become a wrestler.[6] Nilson and Schwartz met Gottsagen at a camp for actors with disabilities around 2011 in Venice, California, and he expressed interest in them making a film with him. After shooting a $20,000 proof-of-concept video, with producer David Thies, the duo received funding for the film to star Gottsagen.[7] Shia LaBeouf, Dakota Johnson and Bruce Dern joined the cast for the film in June 2017.[8] In July 2017, production began in Georgia.[9] Later that month, John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal, Thomas Haden Church, Mick Foley, Jake Roberts and Yelawolf joined the cast of the film.[9]


Schwartz and Nilson wanted to play the music that inspired them while writing, and on set used a boombox to play the same music before performing a scene. The soundtrack brings together bluegrass, folk songs, and spirituals, for a mix of contemporary and timeless. The soundtrack contains original music composed by Zach Dawes, Jonathan Sadoff of Thenewno2, and Noam Pikelny and Gabe Witcher of Punch Brothers, as well as new and classic songs from Sara Watkins, Chance McCoy of Old Crow Medicine Show, Gregory Alan Isakov, Ola Belle Reed, and the Staple Singers. They were surprised to be able to secure the rights to many of the songs they used at a fraction of the cost they expected.[6]


The film had its world premiere at South by Southwest on March 9, 2019.[10] Shortly after, Roadside Attractions acquired distribution rights to the film, and released it in theaters on August 9, 2019.[11]


Box office[edit]

The Peanut Butter Falcon grossed $20.5 million in the United States and Canada, and $2.6 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $23.1 million.[2]

In its limited opening weekend on August 9, the film grossed $205,200 from 17 theaters.[12] The studio reported that the film was number one in more than half of the theaters it played at, including "a big commercial multiplex in Salt Lake City," and locations in Los Angeles, Dallas, Charlotte, Denver and Austin, with "lots of sellouts in various markets."[13] The film expanded wide on August 23, to 991 theaters, and grossed $3 million for the weekend, finishing 12th.[14] It went on to become a sleeper hit,[15] expanding the following weekend to 1,249 theaters and earning $3 million, as well as $1.1 million on Labor Day.[16] The film grossed $115,420 in its 11th week of release, crossing the $20 million mark.[17]

Critical response[edit]

The film was met with positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 95% based on 220 reviews, with an average rating of 7.5/10. The website's critical consensus reads, "A feelgood adventure brought to life by outstanding performances, The Peanut Butter Falcon finds rich modern resonance in classic American fiction."[18] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 70 out of 100, based on 28 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[19] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film a rare average grade of "A+," while those at PostTrak gave it an average 4.5 out of 5 stars and a 62% "definite recommend".[12][14]

Peter Debruge of Variety praised the performances, saying "In Gottsagen, we get a performer who appears to be playing an earnest, unfiltered version of himself, while in LaBeouf, there are layers at play. Oddly enough, both approaches result in a kind of spontaneous unpredictability." He called the film "a feel-good niche indie with its priorities in the right place."[20] Sheri Linden of The Hollywood Reporter wrote, "[Gottsagen's] sensibility infuses the modern-day fable with an engaging forthrightness. But the unequivocal material often sticks close to the surface, and the film built around him, for all its physical sweep, can feel constricted by obviousness."[21]

David Ehrlich of IndieWire called it "a warm (if somewhat overcooked) dramedy" while David Fear of Rolling Stone felt that the climax veered close to magical realism.[22][23]


In other media[edit]

LaBeouf and Gottsagen appeared as themselves presenting Best Live Action Short Subject at the 92nd Academy Awards.[30]


  1. ^ Rice, Brianna (August 23, 2019). "The Cincinnati connection to Shia LaBeouf and Dakota Johnson's 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'". Retrieved August 23, 2019.
  2. ^ a b "The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved August 2, 2020.
  3. ^ "The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)". The Numbers. Retrieved December 2, 2019.
  4. ^ Dorwart, Laura (August 31, 2019). "'The Peanut Butter Falcon' Resists Stereotypes, Illustrates The Importance Of Chosen Family". Forbes.
  5. ^ a b McNary, Dave (December 4, 2019). "'Peanut Butter Falcon' Star Zack Gottsagen to Receive Palm Springs Festival Honor". Variety.
  6. ^ a b Monagle, Matthew (August 7, 2019). "Bluegrass, Low Budgets, and Professional Wrestling: How the Indie Sensation 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' Was Made". /Film. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  7. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (March 15, 2019). "'The Peanut Butter Falcon's Shia LaBeouf, Zack Gottsagen And Filmmakers Talk Non-Cutesy Authenticity Of SXSW Film". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  8. ^ Busch, Anita (June 14, 2017). "Dakota Johnson, Bruce Dern Joining 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  9. ^ a b N'Duka, Amanda (June 24, 2017). "John Hawkes, Jon Bernthal & Thomas Haden Church Board 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved June 24, 2017.
  10. ^ Kilday, Gregg (January 16, 2019). "SXSW: Olivia Wilde, Seth Rogen, Charlize Theron and Matthew McConaughey to Premiere New Work". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved January 16, 2019.
  11. ^ Hipes, Patrick (May 15, 2019). "SXSW Audience Winner 'The Peanut Butter Falcon' Acquired By Roadside Attractions For Summer Bow". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved January 15, 2019.
  12. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 11, 2019). "'Hobbs' Hauls $25M; 'Scary Stories' Frighten 'Dora'; 'Kitchen' Sinks Melissa McCarthy & Tiffany Haddish To Career B.O. Lows – Saturday AM Update". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  13. ^ Brooks, Brian (August 11, 2019). "'The Peanut Butter Falcon' Leads Mixed Weekend; Music Doc 'Bring The Soul' Croons; 'The Farewell' Salutes $10M: Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 11, 2019.
  14. ^ a b D'Alessandro, Anthony (August 25, 2019). "'Angel Has Fallen' Still Ascending Close To 'London' With $20M; Tarantino's 'Hollywood' Beating 'Basterds' – Saturday AM B.O." Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved August 25, 2019.
  15. ^ Thompson, Gary (August 22, 2019). "How 'Friends' inspired Conshohocken's Aaron Scotti to start making movies, like the delightful 'Peanut Butter Falcon'". The Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved October 9, 2019.
  16. ^ D'Alessandro, Anthony (September 1, 2019). "'Angel Has Fallen' Still In Flight At Sluggish Labor Day Box Office With $16M+ 4-Day". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved September 3, 2019.
  17. ^ Ramos, Dino-Ray (October 27, 2019). "'Synonyms' And Kanye West's 'Jesus Is King' Have Solid Premieres, 'Frankie' Debuts Soft – Specialty Box Office". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved October 27, 2019.
  18. ^ "The Peanut Butter Falcon (2019)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved October 10, 2021.
  19. ^ "The Peanut Butter Falcon Reviews". Metacritic. Retrieved October 1, 2019.
  20. ^ Debruge, Peter (March 10, 2019). "Film Review: 'The Peanut Butter Falcon'". Variety. Retrieved August 19, 2019.
  21. ^ Linden, Sheri (March 13, 2019). "'The Peanut Butter Falcon': Film Review SXSW 2019". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  22. ^ ‘The Peanut Butter Falcon’ Review: Shia LaBeouf Anchors a Sweet Indie that Survives its Own Quirkiness|IndieWire
  23. ^ 'Peanut Butter Falcon' Review: A River (and Wrestlers) Run Through It - Rolling Stone
  24. ^ Rossi, Rosemary (March 16, 2019). "'Running With Beto,' Shia LaBeouf's 'Peanut Butter Falcon' Win SXSW Audience Awards". TheWrap. Retrieved August 29, 2019.
  25. ^ Littleton, Cynthia (June 24, 2019). "'The Peanut Butter Falcon,' 'For Sama' Win Top Awards at Nantucket Film Festival". Variety.
  26. ^ "2019 Truly Moving Picture Award winners". Heartland Film Festival. Archived from the original on September 14, 2019.
  27. ^ "CBFF Award-Winning Films". Crested Butte Film Festival.
  28. ^ "The Peanut Butter Falcon". Deauville Film Festival (in French). 2019. Archived from the original on December 10, 2019.
  29. ^ Peña, Jessica (January 3, 2020). "'Parasite' Wins Best Film & Director From North Carolina Film Critics Association". Awards Circuit. Archived from the original on January 4, 2020.
  30. ^ "The Neighbors' Window" wins Best Live Action Short Film - Oscars on YouTube

External links[edit]