True Romance

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True Romance
True romance.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTony Scott
Written byQuentin Tarantino
Produced by
CinematographyJeffrey L. Kimball
Edited by
Music byHans Zimmer
Distributed byWarner Bros.
Release date
  • September 10, 1993 (1993-09-10)
Running time
118 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States[2][3]
Budget$12.5 million[4]
Box office$12.6 million[4]

True Romance is a 1993 American romantic black comedy crime film directed by Tony Scott and written by Quentin Tarantino. It features an ensemble cast led by Christian Slater and Patricia Arquette, with Dennis Hopper, Val Kilmer, Gary Oldman, Brad Pitt, and Christopher Walken in supporting roles. Slater and Arquette portray newlyweds on the run from the Mafia after stealing a shipment of drugs.

True Romance began life as an early script by Tarantino, and he would sell the screenplay for the film after the success of his feature film debut Reservoir Dogs (1992). It is regarded by proponents as a cross-section of writer Tarantino and director Scott's respective individual trademarks, including a Southern California setting, pop cultural references, and stylized violence punctuated by use of slow motion.[5][6]

Upon initial release, the film received positive critical reviews, with critics praising its dialogue, characters, and off-beat style.[7] Though initially a box-office failure, its positive reception earned it a cult following, and it is today considered one of Scott's best films, and one of the best American films of the 1990s.[8][9][10]


At a Detroit theater showing kung fu films, Alabama Whitman strikes up a conversation with Elvis Presley fanatic Clarence Worley. They later have sex at his downtown apartment. Alabama tearfully confesses that she is a call girl hired by his boss as a birthday present but has fallen in love with him. They marry.

An apparition of Elvis visits Clarence, convinces him to kill Alabama's pimp Drexl. Going to the brothel where Alabama worked, he shoots and kills Drexl, and takes a bag he assumes contains Alabama's belongings. Back at the apartment, he and Alabama discover it contains a large amount of cocaine.

The couple visits Clarence's estranged father, Clifford, a former cop and now a security guard, for help. He tells Clarence the police assume Drexl's murder is a gang killing. After the couple leave for Los Angeles, Clifford is interrogated by Vincenzo Coccotti, consigliere to mobster "Blue Lou Boyle", with whom Drexl had been doing business and who now wants the cocaine back. Clifford, realizing he will die anyway, mockingly defies Coccotti who shoots him dead. Clarence's LA address is on the refrigerator.

In LA, Clarence and Alabama meet Clarence's aspiring actor friend Dick, who introduces him to actor Elliot Blitzer. He reluctantly agrees to broker the sale of the drugs to film producer Lee Donowitz. While Clarence is out buying lunch, Coccotti's underboss, Virgil, finds Alabama in her motel room and beats her for information. She fights back and kills him with his shotgun.

Elliot is pulled over for speeding and arrested for drug possession. To stay out of jail, he agrees to record the drug deal between Clarence and Donowitz for the police. Coccotti's crew learn where the deal will take place from Dick's roommate Floyd. Clarence, Alabama, Dick, and Elliot go to Donowitz's suite at the Ambassador Hotel with the drugs. In the elevator, a suspicious Clarence threatens Elliot at gunpoint, but is persuaded by Elliot's pleading.

Clarence fabricates a story for Donowitz that the drugs were given to him by a corrupt cop, and he agrees to the sale. Excusing himself to the bathroom, the vision of Elvis reassures him that things are going well. Donowitz and his bodyguards are ambushed by the cops and the mobsters. Elliot reveals himself to be an informant by asking the cops if he could leave, whereupon a shootout erupts. Dick abandons the drugs and flees. Almost everyone is killed in the gun battle, and Clarence is wounded as he exits the bathroom. He and Alabama escape with Donowitz's money as more police arrive. They flee to Mexico where Alabama gives birth to a son, whom they name Elvis.



The title and plot are a play on the titles of romance comic books such as True Life Secrets, True Stories of Romance, Romance Tales, Untamed Love and Strange Love.[citation needed]

The film was a breakthrough for Tarantino. Released after Reservoir Dogs, it was his first screenplay for a major motion picture, and Tarantino contends that it is his most autobiographical film to date. He had hoped to direct the film, but lost interest in directing and sold the script. According to Tarantino's audio commentary on the DVD release, he was happy with the way it turned out. Apart from changing the nonlinear narrative he wrote to a more conventional linear structure, it was largely faithful to his original screenplay. He initially opposed director Tony Scott's decision to change the ending (which Scott maintained was of his own volition, not the studio's, saying "I just fell in love with these two characters and didn’t want to see them die"). When seeing the completed film, he realized Scott's happy ending was more appropriate to the film as Scott directed it.[11] The film's first act, as well as some fragments of dialogue, were repurposed from Tarantino's 1987 amateur film My Best Friend's Birthday.[citation needed]

The film's score by Hans Zimmer is a theme based on Gassenhauer from Carl Orff's Schulwerk. This theme, combined with a voiceover spoken by Arquette, is an homage to Terrence Malick's 1973 crime film Badlands, in which Sissy Spacek speaks the voiceover, and that also shares similar dramatic motifs.[citation needed]

The movie was heavily censored by the UK BBFC. The majority of the confrontation between Alabama and Virgil was cut as well as much of Floyd's drug use. There was also an alternative ending where Detective Nicky Dimes was not shot by Alabama but by Toothpick Vic, one of the mafia hitmen, instead. This edit was the official 1993 VHS release but subsequently all DVD and Blu-ray releases are of the original uncensored American version.[citation needed]


Critical reception[edit]

On the review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes the film holds an approval rating of 93% with an average rating of 7.5/10, based on 55 reviews. The site's critics consensus states: "Fueled by Quentin Tarantino's savvy screenplay and a gallery of oddball performances, Tony Scott's True Romance is a funny and violent action jaunt in the best sense."[12] On Metacritic the film received a weighted average score of 59 out of 100 based on 19 critics, indicating "mixed or average reviews".[13] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "B-" on an A+ to F scale.[14]

Phil Villarreal of the Arizona Daily Star called it "one of the most dynamic action films of the 1990s".[15] Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave it three stars, saying "it's Tarantino's gutter poetry that detonates True Romance. This movie is dynamite."[16]

Roger Ebert gave the film a positive review remarking that "the energy and style of the movie are exhilarating", and that "the supporting cast is superb, a roll call of actors at home in these violent waters: Christopher Walken, Dennis Hopper, and Brad Pitt, for example".[17] A negative review by The Washington Post's Richard Harrington claimed the film was "stylistically visceral" yet "aesthetically corrupt".[18]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times wrote, "True Romance, a vibrant, grisly, gleefully amoral road movie directed by Tony Scott and dominated by the machismo of Quentin Tarantino (who wrote this screenplay before he directed Reservoir Dogs), is sure to offend a good-sized segment of the moviegoing population".[19]

Box office performance[edit]

Although a critical success, True Romance was a box office failure. It was given a domestic release and earned $12.3 million[4] on a $12.5 million budget. Despite this, the film developed a cult following over the years.[20][21]


Empire ranked True Romance the 83rd greatest film of all time in 2017, writing: "Tony Scott's handling of Quentin Tarantino's script came off like the cinematic equivalent of cocaine-flavoured bubble-gum: a bright, flavoursome confection that had an intoxicatingly violent kick. It also drew some tremendous big names to its supporting cast."[8]

The Hopper/Walken scene, colloquially named "The Sicilian scene", was praised by Oliver Lyttelton of IndieWire, who called it "one of the most beautiful tête-à-têtes in contemporary cinema, wonderfully written and made utterly iconic by the two virtuoso actors".[22] Tarantino himself has named it as one of his proudest moments. "I had heard that whole speech about the Sicilians a long time ago, from a black guy living in my house. One day I was talking with a friend who was Sicilian and I just started telling that speech. And I thought: 'Wow, that is a great scene, I gotta remember that'."[23]

Oldman's villain also garnered acclaim. MSN Movies wrote: "With just a few minutes of screen time, Gary Oldman crafts one of cinema's most memorable villains: the brutal, dreadlocked pimp Drexl Spivey. Even in a movie jammed with memorable cameos from screen luminaries [...] Oldman's scar-faced, dead-eyed, lethal gangster stood out."[24] Jason Serafino of Complex named Spivey as one of the top five coolest drug dealers in movie history, writing: "He's not in the film for a long time, but the few scant moments that Gary Oldman plays the psychotic dealer Drexl Spivey make True Romance a classic ... Oldman gave us a glimpse at one of cinema's most unfiltered sociopaths."[25] Maxim journalist Thomas Freeman ranked Spivey as the greatest performance of Oldman's career.[26]

"Robbers", a song by the English indie rock band The 1975 from their 2013 debut album, was inspired by the film. Vocalist Matthew Healy explained: "I got really obsessed with the idea behind Patricia Arquette's character in True Romance when I was about eighteen. That craving for the bad boy in that film [is] so sexualized."[27]

" True Romance", the 2013 debut album from English pop star Charli XCX was named after the film. [28]

Brad Pitt's stoner character in True Romance, Floyd, was the inspiration for making the film Pineapple Express, according to producer Judd Apatow, who "thought it would be funny to make a movie in which you follow that character out of his apartment and watch him get chased by bad guys".[29]

James Gandolfini landed his iconic role of Tony Soprano on The Sopranos when he was invited to audition for the role after casting director Susan Fitzgerald saw a short clip of his performance in True Romance. Gandolfini ultimately received the role ahead of several other actors including Steven Van Zandt and Michael Rispoli.[30]


True Romance
Soundtrack album by
Various Artists
ReleasedSeptember 7, 1993
LabelMorgan Creek
ProducerHans Zimmer
Professional ratings
Review scores
No.TitleContributing artistLength
1."You're So Cool"Hans Zimmer3:40
2."Graceland"Charlie Sexton3:26
3."In Dreams"John Waite3:45
4."Wounded Bird"Charles & Eddie5:11
5."I Want Your Body"Nymphomania4:18
6."Stars at Dawn"Hans Zimmer2:04
7."I Need a Heart to Come Home To"Shelby Lynne4:21
8."Viens Mallika Sous Le Dome Edais from Lakmé"Léo Delibes3:57
9."(Love Is) The Tender Trap"Robert Palmer2:37
11."Amid the Chaos of the Day"Hans Zimmer4:54
12."Two Hearts"Chris Isaak3:33

Home media[edit]

True Romance was originally released on Warner Home Video VHS September 12, 1994.

The DVD was released on September 24, 2002, as a Two-Disc set.[31] It was later released on Blu-ray on May 26, 2009.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "TRUE ROMANCE (18)". British Board of Film Classification. 1993-10-08. Archived from the original on 2020-12-11. Retrieved 2012-11-16.
  2. ^ "True Romance (1993) - Overview". 2015-03-05. Archived from the original on 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  3. ^ "TRUE ROMANCE | American Cinematheque". Archived from the original on 2017-01-06. Retrieved 2017-01-05.
  4. ^ a b c "True Romance (1993)". The Numbers. Archived from the original on 2013-10-12. Retrieved 2011-08-18.
  5. ^ "You're So Cool: Looking Back On 'True Romance' 20 Years Later". UPROXX. 2014-05-14. Archived from the original on 2019-05-07. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  6. ^ "Classic Film Review: True Romance Remains a Sweet, Distinctly Male Movie". Consequence of Sound. 2018-09-09. Archived from the original on 2019-05-07. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  7. ^ True Romance (1993), archived from the original on 2019-04-02, retrieved 2019-05-04
  8. ^ a b "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies Of All Time". Empire. June 23, 2017. Archived from the original on September 24, 2015. Retrieved March 16, 2018.
  9. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver (2012-08-20). "The Essentials: The 5 Best Tony Scott Films". IndieWire. Archived from the original on 2020-12-11. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  10. ^ "Celebrating the Films of Tony Scott". Film School Rejects. 2018-06-22. Archived from the original on 2019-05-07. Retrieved 2019-05-04.
  11. ^ Spitz, Marc (25 April 2008). "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Archived from the original on 16 August 2011. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  12. ^ "True Romance". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Archived from the original on 2015-12-11. Retrieved 2016-01-21.
  13. ^ "True Romance Reviews". Metacritic. Archived from the original on 2020-08-20. Retrieved 2020-09-18.
  14. ^ "CinemaScore". Archived from the original on 2018-01-02. Retrieved 2020-12-11.
  15. ^ Villarreal, Phil. "Review: True Romance". Arizona Daily Star. Archived from the original on December 22, 2008.
  16. ^ Travers, Peter (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Movie Review". Rolling Stone. Archived from the original on 27 February 2015. Retrieved 16 January 2012.
  17. ^ "True Romance". 10 September 1993. Archived from the original on 2013-06-08. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  18. ^ Harrington, Richard (10 September 1993). "True Romance". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on 2012-11-04. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  19. ^ Maslin, Janet (10 September 1993). "True Romance: Desperadoes, Young at Heart With Gun in Hand". The New York Times. Archived from the original on 2012-04-16. Retrieved 2011-01-17.
  20. ^ Spitz, Marc. "True Romance: 15 Years Later". Maxim. Archived from the original on 12 February 2013. Retrieved 23 April 2013.
  21. ^ "You Need To Rewatch These '90s Cult Classics". Bustle. Archived from the original on 2018-09-24. Retrieved 2018-09-23.
  22. ^ Lyttelton, Oliver. The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances, On What Would Have Been His 76th Birthday Archived 2016-03-05 at the Wayback Machine. IndieWire. May 17, 2012. Retrieved December 5, 2012.
  23. ^ True Romance Unrated Director's Cut DVD commentary
  24. ^ True Romance (1993) - Drexl Spivey. MSN Movies. 2011. Retrieved December 17, 2012.
  25. ^ Serafino, Jason. The 25 Coolest Drug Dealers In Movies Archived 2012-12-27 at the Wayback Machine. Complex. October 24, 2012. Retrieved December 21, 2012.
  26. ^ Freeman, Thomas (March 21, 2018). "Gary Oldman Is Turning 60, So Revisit His 10 Best Roles of All Time". Maxim. Archived from the original on July 5, 2019. Retrieved July 5, 2019.
  27. ^ Murray, Robin (April 28, 2014). "The 1975 – Robbers (Explicit)". Clash. Archived from the original on July 16, 2014. Retrieved June 29, 2014.
  28. ^ {{cite web |url= Archived 2022-02-07 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ Svetkey, Benjamin (April 18, 2008). "'Pineapple Express': High hopes for James Franco". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Archived from the original on October 3, 2008. Retrieved July 15, 2008.
  30. ^ Biskind, Peter (March 31, 2007). "An American Family". Vanity Fair. Archived from the original on January 15, 2016. Retrieved August 19, 2012.
  31. ^ Indvik, Kurt (July 3, 2002). "Warner Bows First Premium Video Line". Archived from the original on August 28, 2002. Retrieved September 13, 2019.
  32. ^ "True Romance Blu-ray". Archived from the original on 2019-07-07. Retrieved 2019-07-07 – via

External links[edit]