Whiplash (2014 film)

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Whiplash poster.jpg
North American theatrical release poster
Directed byDamien Chazelle
Produced by
Written byDamien Chazelle
Based onWhiplash[a]
by Damien Chazelle
Music byJustin Hurwitz
CinematographySharone Meir
Edited byTom Cross
Distributed by
Release date
  • January 16, 2014 (2014-01-16) (Sundance)
  • October 10, 2014 (2014-10-10) (United States)
Running time
107 minutes[2]
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.3 million[3]
Box office$49 million[3]

Whiplash is a 2014 American psychological drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle. It depicts the relationship between an ambitious jazz drummer (Miles Teller) and an abusive perfectionist bandleader (J. K. Simmons) at the fictional Shaffer Conservatory. Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist co-star.

After Chazelle completed the script of Whiplash, Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions helped him turn 15 pages of the script into an 18-minute short film. The short film received acclaim after debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, which attracted investors to produce the complete version of the script.

Whiplash premiered in competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 16, 2014, as the festival's opening film; it won the Audience Award and Grand Jury Prize for drama.[4] Sony Pictures acquired the worldwide distribution rights, releasing the film under its Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films banners for its North American and international releases respectively.[5] The film opened in limited release domestically in the United States and Canada on October 10, 2014, gradually expanding to over 500 screens and finally closing on March 26, 2015. The film grossed $49 million on a production budget of $3.3 million.

The film received critical acclaim, and at the 87th Academy Awards, Whiplash won Best Film Editing, Best Sound Mixing, and Best Supporting Actor for Simmons, and was also nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Picture.


Andrew Neiman is a first-year student at the prestigious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. He has been playing drums from a young age and aspires to become a world-class drummer like Buddy Rich. Terence Fletcher, conductor and bandleader of Shaffer Conservatory Studio Band, invites him into the ensemble as alternate for core drummer Carl Tanner. However, Andrew quickly discovers that Fletcher is relentlessly strict, ruthless and abusive to his students. When the band rehearses the Hank Levy piece "Whiplash" and Andrew struggles to keep the tempo, Fletcher hurls a chair at him, slaps him multiple times and berates him in front of the ensemble.

In a jazz competition, after their first set, Andrew misplaces Tanner's sheet music. When called for their second set, Tanner cannot play without his sheets, but Andrew claims he can perform "Whiplash" from memory. After a successful performance, Fletcher promotes Andrew to core drummer for the Studio Band, but he also recruits Ryan Connolly, the core drummer from a lower-level ensemble within the conservatory. Andrew believes Connolly is a less talented drummer than he and is infuriated when Fletcher promotes Connolly to core. Determined to impress Fletcher, Andrew breaks up with his girlfriend, Nicole, to focus on his musical ambitions, and practices until his hands bleed. After a five-hour session with Tanner and Connolly for the core spot, in which Fletcher hurls objects and screams at them, Andrew finally earns back the core spot.

On the way to their next competition, the bus Andrew is riding breaks down. He rents a car but arrives late and realizes he left his drumsticks at the rental office. After convincing an impatient Fletcher to wait for him, Andrew races back and retrieves them, but his car is hit by a truck on the way back. He crawls from the wreckage and runs back to the theater, arriving just as the ensemble enters stage. Bloody and injured, Andrew struggles to play "Caravan," in which Fletcher halts the performance and dismisses Andrew, who then attacks him on stage, resulting in his expulsion from Shaffer.

At his father's request, Andrew meets a lawyer representing the parents of Sean Casey, a former student of Fletcher, in an ethics complaint against Shaffer. Contrary to Fletcher's prior claim that Sean died in a car accident, the lawyer explains that Sean hanged himself out of depression and anxiety spurred on by Fletcher's abuse. Sean's parents want to see Fletcher forbidden from teaching again; Andrew agrees to testify as an anonymous witness, and Fletcher is fired.

Following his expulsion, Andrew has abandoned drumming and is working in a restaurant. He later discovers Fletcher performing as a pianist at a jazz club. Fletcher spots Andrew and invites him for a drink. Fletcher explains his dismissal from Shaffer and admits that his teaching methods were harsh, but he only wanted his students to push themselves to become their absolute best, referencing Charlie Parker's success story as an example. When Andrew asks if his methods would instead discourage students, Fletcher replies that the next Charlie Parker would never be discouraged. Fletcher invites Andrew to perform with his band at the JVC Jazz Festival, as they would be playing the songs Andrew was confident in from their time at Shaffer, and Andrew accepts. Andrew invites Nicole to the performance, but she declines as she is in a new relationship.

Andrew arrives at JVC and the band goes onstage. Just before they begin their first piece, Fletcher reveals that he knows Andrew testified against him and, as revenge, leads the band with a song Andrew does not know and has not been given the sheet music for. Andrew walks off stage humiliated, but then returns to the stage and cuts off Fletcher's introduction to their next piece by playing "Caravan," cueing in the band himself. Fletcher is taken aback but resumes conducting. After Fletcher cues to the last beat of the piece, Andrew continues playing, performing an extended solo. After a moment of disbelief, Fletcher nods in approval of Andrew's performance before cueing the band finale.


  • Miles Teller as Andrew Neiman, an ambitious young jazz drummer at Shaffer
  • J. K. Simmons as Terence Fletcher, a ruthless jazz instructor at Shaffer
  • Paul Reiser as Jim Neiman, Andrew's father, a high school teacher
  • Melissa Benoist as Nicole, a movie theater employee
  • Austin Stowell as Ryan Connolly, another drummer in Fletcher's band
  • Nate Lang as Carl Tanner, another drummer in Fletcher's band
  • Chris Mulkey as Uncle Frank, Andrew's uncle
  • Damon Gupton as Mr. Kramer
  • Suanne Spoke as Aunt Emma, Andrew's aunt
  • Jayson Blair as Travis, Andrew's cousin
  • Charlie Ian as Dustin, Andrew's cousin
  • Henry G. Sanders as Red Henderson


While attending Princeton High School, writer-director Damien Chazelle was in a "very competitive" jazz band and drew on the dread he felt in those years.[6] He based the conductor, Terence Fletcher, on his former band instructor (who died in 2003) but "pushed it further," adding elements of Buddy Rich and other band leaders known for their harsh treatment.[6] Chazelle said he wrote the film "initially in frustration" while trying to get his musical La La Land off the ground.[7]

Right of Way Films and Blumhouse Productions helped Chazelle turn 15 pages of his original screenplay into a short film starring Johnny Simmons as Neiman and J. K. Simmons (no relation)[8] as Fletcher.[1] The 18-minute short film received acclaim after debuting at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, winning the short film Jury Award for fiction,[9] which attracted investors to produce the complete version of the script.[10] The feature-length film was financed for $3.3 million by Bold Films.[5]

In August 2013, Miles Teller signed on to star in the role originated by Johnny Simmons; J. K. Simmons remained attached to his original role.[11] Early on, Chazelle gave J. K. Simmons direction that "I want you to take it past what you think the normal limit would be," telling him: "I don't want to see a human being on-screen any more. I want to see a monster, a gargoyle, an animal." Many of the band members were real musicians or music students, and Chazelle tried to capture their expressions of fear and anxiety when they were pressed by Simmons. Chazelle said that between takes, Simmons was "as sweet as can be," which he credits for keeping "the shoot from being nightmarish."[6]

Principal photography began in September 2013, with filming taking place throughout Los Angeles, including the Hotel Barclay, Palace Theater, and the Orpheum Theatre,[12][13] with a few exterior shots filmed in New York City to create the setting.[14] The film was shot in 19 days, with a schedule of 14 hours of filming per day.[15][14] Chazelle was involved in a serious car accident in the third week of shooting and was hospitalized with possible concussion, but he returned to set the next day to finish the film on time.[15]


Whiplash (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
ReleasedOctober 7, 2014
LabelVarèse Sarabande

The soundtrack album was released on October 7, 2014, via Varèse Sarabande label.[16] The soundtrack consists of 24 tracks divided in three different parts: original jazz pieces written for the film, original underscore parts written for the film, and classic jazz standards written by Stan Getz, Duke Ellington, and other musicians. The actual drummer was Bernie Dresel.[17]

On March 27, 2020, an expanded deluxe edition was released on double CD and 2-LP gatefold sleeve vinyl with new cover art, and featured original music by Justin Hurwitz, plus bonus track and remixes by Timo Garcia, Opiuo, Murray A. Lightburn and more.[18]

Track listing[edit]

I Want to Be One of the Greats

  1. Snare Liftoff (0:43)
  2. Overture – Justin Hurwitz (3:19)
  3. "Too Hip to Retire" – Tim Simonec (3:03)
  4. "Whiplash" – Hank Levy (1:55)
  5. "Fletcher’s Song in Club" – Justin Hurwitz (1:28)
  6. "Caravan" – Duke Ellington and Juan Tizol (9:14)

If You Want the Part, Earn It

  1. "What's Your Name" (1:30)
  2. "Practicing" – Justin Hurwitz (1:43)
  3. "Invited" – Justin Hurwitz (0:54)
  4. "Call From Dad" – Justin Hurwitz (0:40)
  5. "Accident" – Justin Hurwitz (5:21)
  6. "Hug from Dad" – Justin Hurwitz (1:19)
  7. "Drum & Drone" – Justin Hurwitz (1:34)
  8. "Carnegie" – Justin Hurwitz (0:36)
  9. "Ryan / Breakup" – Justin Hurwitz (0:31)
  10. "Drum Battle" – Justin Hurwitz (2:21)
  11. "Dismissed" – Justin Hurwitz (2:51)

He Was a Beautiful Player

  1. "Good Job" (1:28)
  2. "Intoit" – Stan Getz (3:19)
  3. "No Two Words" – Nicholas Britell et Justin Hurwitz (1:41)
  4. "When I Wake" – Justin Hurwitz (3:50)
  5. "Casey's Song" – Justin Hurwitz (1:57)
  6. "Upswingin'" – Tim Simonec (2:12)
  7. "Rehearsal Medley" – First Nassau Band Rehearsal / Second Nassau Band Rehearsal / Studio Band Eavesdrop / Studio Band Rehearsal After Breakup (1:34)


Box office[edit]

In North America, the film opened in a limited release on October 10, 2014, in 6 theaters, grossing $135,388 ($22,565 per theater) and finishing 34th at the box office.[3] It expanded to 88 locations, then 419 locations.[19] After three months on release it had earned $7 million, and finally expanded nationwide to 1000 locations to capitalize on receiving five Academy Awards nominations.[20] Whiplash grossed $13.1 million in the U.S. and Canada and $35.9 million in other territories, for a worldwide total of $49 million against a budget of $3.3 million.[3]

Critical response[edit]

On the review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 94% based on 298 reviews, with a average rating of 8.60/10. The site's critical consensus states, "Intense, inspiring, and well-acted, Whiplash is a brilliant sophomore effort from director Damien Chazelle and a riveting vehicle for stars J. K. Simmons and Miles Teller."[21] On Metacritic the film has a score of 88 out of 100, based on reviews from 49 critics, indicating "universal acclaim."[22] Simmons received wide praise for his performance and won the 2015 Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor.[23][24]

Peter Debruge, in his review for Variety, said that the film "demolishes the cliches of the musical-prodigy genre, investing the traditionally polite stages and rehearsal studios of a topnotch conservatory with all the psychological intensity of a battlefield or sports arena."[25] Todd McCarthy of The Hollywood Reporter praised the performances of Teller and Simmons, writing: "Teller, who greatly impressed in last year's Sundance entry The Spectacular Now, does so again in a performance that is more often simmering than volatile ... Simmons has the great good fortune for a character actor to have here found a co-lead part he can really run with, which is what he excitingly does with a man who is profane, way out of bounds and, like many a good villain, utterly compelling."[26] Whiplash also won the 87th Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing and the 87th Academy Award for Best Film Editing.[27]

Amber Wilkinson of The Daily Telegraph praised the direction and editing, writing: "Chazelle's film has a sharp and gripping rhythm, with shots, beautifully edited by Tom Cross... often cutting to the crash of Andrew's drums."[28] James Rocchi of Indiewire gave a positive review and said, "Whiplash is ... full of bravado and swagger, uncompromising where it needs to be, informed by great performances and patient with both its characters and the things that matter to them."[29] Henry Barnes of The Guardian gave the film a positive review, calling it a rare film "about music that professes its love for the music and its characters equally."[27]

Forrest Wickman of Slate said the film distorted jazz history and promoted a misleading idea of genius, adding that "In all likelihood, Fletcher isn’t making a Charlie Parker. He’s making the kind of musician that would throw a cymbal at him".[30] In The New Yorker, Richard Brody said "Whiplash honors neither jazz nor cinema."[31] Jazz bassist Adam Neely said the film presented an inaccurate depiction of modern music education, as well as the tastes, attitudes, and subculture of actual jazz musicians.[32]

Top ten lists[edit]

The film appeared on many critics end of year lists. Metacritic collected lists published by major film critics and publications, and in their analyiss recorded that Whiplash appeared on 57 lists and in 1st place on 5 of those lists. Overall the film was ranked in 5th place overall for the year.[33]


The film received the top audience and grand jury awards in the U.S. dramatic competition at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival;[37] Chazelle's short film of the same name took home the jury award in the U.S. fiction category one year prior.[9] The film also took the grand prize and the audience award for favorite film at the 40th Deauville American Film Festival.[38]

Whiplash was originally planned to compete for the Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay, but on January 6, 2015, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS) announced that the film would instead be competing in the Adapted Screenplay[a] category[39] to the surprise of many, including Chazelle.[40] Although the Writers Guild of America categorized the screenplay as original, AMPAS classed it as an adaptation of the 2013 short version.[40]

At the 87th Academy Awards, J. K. Simmons received the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance, Tom Cross won the Academy Award for Best Film Editing and Craig Mann, Ben Wilkins and Thomas Curley won the Academy Award for Best Sound Mixing. In December 2015, the score received a Grammy nomination, and the film was nominated for the NME Award for Best Film.[citation needed]


  1. ^ a b The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences recognizes Whiplash as being based on the short film of the same name by Chazelle, due to the short being premiered in the Sundance Film Festival a year prior to the theatrical film being released. In reality, the short film was actually based on scenes of the original full-length script written before, and was created to attract investors into creating the full-length film.[1]


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  4. ^ Cohen, Sandy (January 17, 2014). "Sundance Film Festival 2014 opens with premiere of 'Whiplash,' Damien Chazelle's tale of a brutal drumming instructor and his protege". The Oregonian. Associated Press. Archived from the original on July 20, 2018. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
  5. ^ a b Horn, John (January 16, 2014). "Sundance 2014: Sony grabs international rights to 'Whiplash'". Los Angeles Times. Tribune Company. Archived from the original on January 18, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  6. ^ a b c Dowd, A.A. "Whiplash maestro Damien Chazelle on drumming, directing, and J. K. Simmons". The A.V Club. Archived from the original on January 3, 2015. Retrieved December 30, 2014.
  7. ^ Hammond, Pete. "Damien Chazelle's La La Land, An Ode To Musicals, Romance & L.A., Ready To Launch Venice And Oscar Season". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 22, 2018. Retrieved September 20, 2016.
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  9. ^ a b "2013 Sundance Film Festival Announces Jury Awards in Short Filmmaking". www.sundance.org. January 23, 2013. Archived from the original on January 24, 2017. Retrieved January 21, 2019.
  10. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (May 14, 2013). "Cannes: Bold, Blumhouse, Right Of Way Strike Up Band For Feature Version Of Sundance Short Whiplash". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on February 23, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  11. ^ Fleming Jr., Mike (August 5, 2013). "The Spectacular Now's Miles Teller Gets Whiplash". Deadline Hollywood. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on February 15, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  12. ^ McNary, Dave (September 19, 2013). "Jake Gyllenhaal's Nightcrawler Gets California Incentive (Exclusive)". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Archived from the original on November 1, 2013. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  13. ^ "Tuesday, Sept. 24 Filming Locations for The Heirs, Undrafted, Dumb & Dumber To, Focus, Shelter, & more!". On Location Vacations. September 24, 2013. Archived from the original on January 9, 2014. Retrieved January 19, 2014.
  14. ^ a b "Producer: Whiplash was filmed in 19, 14-hour days". Page Six. February 9, 2015. Archived from the original on March 15, 2015. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  15. ^ a b "Making of 'Whiplash': How a 20-Something Shot His Harrowing Script in Just 19 Days". The Hollywood Reporter. December 9, 2014. Archived from the original on May 22, 2020. Retrieved March 4, 2015.
  16. ^ "Whiplash Soundtrack Details". filmmusicreporter.com. Archived from the original on May 23, 2017. Retrieved April 10, 2017.
  17. ^ Van de Sande, Kris (February 5, 2016). "Talking animals with Zootopia's Creative Minds". Endor Express. Archived from the original on February 26, 2020. Retrieved February 26, 2020.
  18. ^ Micucci, Matt (February 20, 2020). "Listen to a Bonus Track from New Expanded "Whiplash" Soundtrack Album". JAZZIZ Magazine. Archived from the original on June 22, 2020. Retrieved June 19, 2020.
  19. ^ Ray Subers (November 16, 2014). "Weekend Report: 'Dumb' Sequel Takes First Ahead of 'Big Hero 6,' 'Interstellar'". Box Office Mojo.
  20. ^ Ray Subers (January 22, 2015). "Forecast: Bombs Away for 'Mortdecai,' 'Strange Magic'". Box Office Mojo.
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  22. ^ "Whiplash". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Archived from the original on January 1, 2019. Retrieved April 17, 2020.
  23. ^ Smith, Nigel M (October 15, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on His Whiplash Oscar Buzz and Abusing Miles Teller". indieWire. Archived from the original on October 18, 2014. Retrieved October 15, 2014.
  24. ^ Riley, Jenelle (September 3, 2014). "J. K. Simmons on Playing a 'Real' Villain in Whiplash". Variety. Archived from the original on September 5, 2014. Retrieved September 3, 2014.
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  31. ^ Brody, Richard (October 13, 2014). "Getting Jazz Right in the Movies". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on April 20, 2020. Retrieved February 5, 2015.
  32. ^ Whiplash (as reviewed by a jazz musician). Archived from the original on October 17, 2020. Retrieved October 15, 2020.
  33. ^ "Best of 2014: Film Critic Top Ten Lists". Metacritic.
  34. ^ Chris Nashawaty (December 4, 2014). "10 Best/5 Worst Movies of 2014". Entertainment Weekly. Archived from the original on March 28, 2021. Retrieved March 28, 2021.
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  36. ^ "The 2014 Village Voice Film Critics' Poll". Archived from the original on December 10, 2015. Retrieved August 26, 2020.
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  38. ^ Richford, Rhonda (September 13, 2014). "'Whiplash' Takes Top Prize in Deauville". The Hollywood Reporter. Archived from the original on September 14, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2014.
  39. ^ Tapley, Kristopher (January 6, 2015). "Oscar surprise: 'Whiplash' deemed an adapted screenplay by Academy". HitFix. Archived from the original on January 6, 2015. Retrieved January 6, 2015.
  40. ^ a b Hammond, Peter (January 6, 2015). "Academy & WGA At Odds Over 'Whiplash' Screenplay; Will It Hurt Oscar Chances?". Deadline Hollywood. Archived from the original on June 12, 2018. Retrieved December 28, 2017.

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Fruitvale Station
Sundance Grand Jury Prize: U.S. Dramatic
Succeeded by
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl