Thelma & Louise


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Two women, a turquoise Thunderbird, the ride of a lifetime. With this pop-culture landmark, screenwriter Callie Khouri and action auteur Ridley Scott rewrote the rules of the road movie, telling the story of two best friends who find themselves transformed into accidental fugitives during a weekend getaway gone wrong—leading them on a high-speed Southwest odyssey as they elude police and discover freedom on their own terms. Propelled by irresistible performances from Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis (plus Brad Pitt in a sexy, star-making turn)—and nominated for six Academy Awards, winning one for Khouri—the exhilaratingly cathartic Thelma & Louise stands as cinema’s ultimate ode to ride-or-die female friendship.

Picture 9/10

Ridley Scott’s Thelma & Louise receives a new Blu-ray edition through The Criterion Collection, presented on the first dual-layer disc of a two-disc release. The film is shown in the aspect ratio of 2.39:1 in 1080p/24hz high-definition from a new 4K restoration sourced from the 35mm original camera negative. I am working from the disc included with Criterion’s 4K UHD edition. The two releases share the same Blu-ray discs and come with the same content, though the Blu-ray edition comes in a two-disc Scanavo case while the 4K edition comes in a three-disc Digipak.

Though the 4K UHD presentation is more impressive, the Blu-ray’s high-definition presentation still looks sharp. The restoration has been extensive, cleaning up almost all damage, and the digital encode looks mostly sharp and clean. Grain is rendered very well most of the time, keeping a natural look. Some screen grabs admittedly show some noisy areas (the smokey interior of the bar, for example), but I didn’t notice any blocky patterns during playback, not even in darker areas of the screen. Also, like the 4K edition, some of the screen grabs suggest some sequences have been filtered a bit, but again I can’t say it ever translated negatively to the screen. Like the 4K, the image is sharp and very detailed overall, delivering a film-like consistency.

Colors and black levels are also solid, with blacks looking deep and inky with lovely shadow details in the nighttime shots around Monument Value and in and outside the bar where the whole "journey" begins. The smoke in that bar is also cleanly rendered with nice gradients, though still not as sharp as what the 4K can accomplish, which is expected. There have been concerns expressed online about this restoration having a “teal” push, and while I won’t repeat all of what I said when covering the 4K edition, I don’t know where those concerns are coming from as I don’t see it. Earlier sequences and many interiors have a cooler color palette (with blue being a predominant color throughout), some darker sequences almost going a monochromatic blue. Yet even then, a lot of it looks like it has to do with the lighting within the individual scenes and not any manipulation. The latter portions of the film, primarily in the desert, look hotter in comparison. Most of the time, whites still look white, blues have a lovely hue, as does the reddish/orange hue of the desert, and skin tones look natural, getting a bit warmer during the last portion. As with the 4K’s presentation, there’s no heavy teal push here, as there is with the presentation currently streaming on Amazon Prime, and I thought it looked fantastic as it is here.

In the end, it's not as sharp as the 4K presentation, but it still looks stunningly good.

Audio 9/10

The disc comes with a 5.1 surround soundtrack presented in DTS-HD MA. Considering the year of its release, the film was likely released with a 2.0 surround soundtrack, meaning this is a remix (notes online suggest that as well). I think I noticed some splits in the rear channels regarding the score and some of the more action-focused scenes, but I can’t say anything stood out in a negative way or felt off. The lower frequency was also used to a nice effect, especially when it comes to the film’s soundtrack and one sequence where a tanker explodes.

Range sounds great, with some strong highs without distortion, and voices feature superb range and fidelity. It was a very effective presentation.

Extras 8/10

Criterion puts together a solid special edition for the film, spreading features across the two dual-layer discs. First is Ridley Scott’s 1996 audio commentary for the film. Like most of his tracks, it ends up being very technical. Scott shows little interest in getting into themes and character outside of a moment where he explains how he viewed their relationship when structuring the film. He also doesn’t get into its release (outside of talking about its Oscar nominations), instead focusing on the background of the project, how he eventually came to be involved, the casting process, and then finding locations, all the while talking about specific scenes and his “visual language.” He tried to do a lot of editing in camera (at least where it worked) by moving the camera appropriately during longer dialogue sequences, and he explains how and why he changed how the characters and the film look as it gets closer to its ending. I also rather enjoyed his comments on capturing the American landscape, which, as a Brit, he finds just stunning. He tried to work from that outsider's perspective to capture the beauty of what he feels most Americans find uninteresting or ugly, and I’d say he was successful.

The second commentary track—featuring actors Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis and screenwriter Callie Khouri—proves to be a little disappointing at first but thankfully picks up. Khouri, who does comment on writing the script, getting it sold, and her concerns about how it was adapted, ends up taking more of a backseat to Sarandon and Davis, who spend the early portions of the track talking about coming on to the film, developing their characters (Khouri having written out backstories for each one), and what it was like constantly shooting in the desert in that car day after day (they say they were absolutely filthy at the end of every day).

As fine as that all is, the track initially feels like we’re just listening in on a group of people watching the film, commenting here and there as they go down memory lane, and I wasn’t all that engaged with it, to be honest. Eventually, the three discuss the film’s release and the controversies it stirred, all of which they still don’t understand, particularly Khouri, who was shocked at several criticisms lobbed at the film, especially that it was “man-hating.” This is where the conversation picks up and becomes engaging, and from there, the three seem to find a rhythm, and the rest of the track moves at a better pace.

The first disc then continues with a section devoted to director Ridley Scott entitled Ridley Scott: Beginnings. A new 22-minute interview between Scott and critic Scott Foundas opens things up. Scott spends most of it talking about his background and his long journey to becoming a filmmaker, including stops as a graphic designer and an advertisement director. There are comments about Thelma & Louise, but the discussion is more about becoming a filmmaker and applying the sensibilities he picked up from previous work and careers to making a film.

To accompany this, Criterion also includes one of his Guinness advertisements, entitled Ploughman (about as working-class British an ad campaign as I could imagine), alongside his first film from 1965, the 27-minute experimental short entitled Boy and Bicycle. The film isn’t as concerned about narrative as it is with technique and “learning the ropes,” so to speak. Still, the basic premise revolves around a schoolboy (played by Ridley’s brother, Tony) skipping school and taking his bike to various locations, from local shops to an empty carnival and the beach. Along the way, we hear his voice-over narration commenting on what he sees and struggling with his existence and purpose. More or less, anyways. Ultimately, I can’t say it matters much. Scott is using the film to figure out how to tell this character-driven story visually through camera positioning (like an early POV shot where the main character approaches a mirror) and editing (the back and forth of a dog chasing him on his bike for example), so everything else takes a backseat. It’s interesting to watch on a technical level but not so much as a narrative feature, as the character’s narration isn’t all that interesting or insightful. Still a great inclusion on Criterion’s part, though. (The film can also be found on BFI’s all-region Blu-ray edition of Tony Scott’s Loving Memory.)

Criterion has also managed to get a new interview with writer Callie Khouri, who first talks about writing the script and then getting it to people who could get to others in Hollywood, though with the original intention for her to direct (it sounds like she imagined it as some small budget indie picture). She gets a bit more into writing the story here than she does in the commentary, going over how she had key moments planned but then just had to work through how to get to them. She also talks more about her concerns around the film’s ending being changed (it’s clear she was incredibly stressed about that, though Scott elsewhere on the disc mentions he purposefully avoided the studio around the ending) and then the adverse reactions to the film that she is still shocked and confused by (she was also horrified when audiences reacted positively to the rapist’s death). She also gets a little into her career afterward, including the script for Something to Talk About (a title she still hates), making this a far more satisfying contribution from her than the commentary.

The remaining features are found on the second disc and are primarily archival. That includes the 2001 one-hour making-of Thelma & Louise: The Last Journey, which is divided into three parts with the option to watch the parts altogether. Featuring interviews with Scott, Khouri, Sarandon, Davis, Stephen Tobolowsky, Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, John Beghe, Brad Pitt, and other members of the cast and crew, it’s similar to other MGM-produced making-of featurettes of the era, thoroughly covering the film’s production from inception to eventual release. It covers many of the same details about the production brought up elsewhere in the previous features. However, it is still great to get the perspectives of others involved, including Pitt, who goes over his star-making appearance (and it’s a bit wild to think he got it because some other poor soul dropped out). There is also mention of deleted scenes, including an extended love scene between Pitt and Davis, and there are a few more comments around the film’s release.

The disc also features the original 5-minute theatrical featurette from 1991, which features cast and crew talking about the film, but it’s clearly promotional and not terribly insightful. Following it are extended and deleted scenes. The extended scenes are just that, a collection of scenes that do exist in the film but edited differently with more material, including the scenes between Madsen and Sarandon and then Pitt and Davis in their respective hotel rooms (though this doesn’t include the extended love scene brought up in the making-of). This section also consists of the extended ending, which essentially plays out the same but shows more of the aftermath, all of which is edited to B.B. King’s Better Not Look Down (appropriately enough). The ending is mentioned a few times throughout the features (including Scott’s commentary for the alternate scene, which is presented after the scene plays out here), and why it was decided to cut it down to how it plays out in the finished film; ultimately the still shot the film closes on is far more positive than what follows.

The deleted scenes (10 of them running for 14 minutes) are fun, though they were rightfully cut. Madsen’s police interrogation is here (he’s approached in the finished film, but that’s the last we see of him), as is a look into Keitel’s character’s home life. Funny enough, Keitel’s wife is played by the one and only Catherine Keener!

There is also a section devoted to the storyboards for the film’s finale, which are shown here in a slideshow format, ported over from the previous editions. But Criterion also adds a new 6-minute interview with Scott talking to Scott Foundas about how he storyboards his films and figures out the geometry and placement within a scene, all while the two watch the ending on a laptop. Interestingly, they got the final shot in a single take, even though they had multiple cars ready, which Foundas finds impressive since the scene is, as he states, one of the most iconic ones ever filmed.

The disc then closes with some standards: a collection of trailers and TV spots (one of which I’m sure is a home video trailer), and then a music video for Glenn Frey’s “Part of Me, Part of You” which plays out more like an ad for the film. The release also includes a 32-page booklet featuring essays by Jessica Kiang, Rachel Syme, and Rebecca Trasiter, all looking at the film from multiple perspectives, including the performances of the film’s leads and its legacy.

The release packs in a good set of extras, though the lack of any academic material or new interviews with the film’s two leads proves unfortunate. Still, the features cover the film’s production and legacy to a solid extent, with a nice look into the early career of director Ridley Scott.


A nice set of features and a solid new presentation make this a worthwhile upgrade.


Directed by: Ridley Scott
Year: 1991
Time: 129 min.
Series: The Criterion Collection
Edition #: 1180
Licensor: MGM Home Entertainment
Release Date: May 30 2023
MSRP: $39.95
2 Discs | BD-50
2.39:1 ratio
English 5.1 DTS-HD MA Surround
Subtitles: English
Region A
 Audio Commentary featuring director Ridley Scott   Audio commentary featuring screenwriter Callie Khouri and actors Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon   New interview with Ridley Scott   New interview with Callie Khouri   Documentary featuring Davis, Khouri, Sarandon, Scott, actors Michael Madsen, Christopher McDonald, and Stephen Tobolowsky, and other members of the cast and crew   Boy and Bicycle (1965), Scott’s first short film   Original theatrical featurette   Storyboards   New interview with Ridley Scott about the film's storyboards   Deleted and extended scenes   Extended ending with director’s commentary   Music video for Glenn Frey’s “Part of Me, Part of You,” from the film’s soundtrack   Original theatrical trailer   TV spots   Essays by critics Jessica Kiang and Rachel Syme and journalist Rebecca Traister