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Great Balls of Fire!

3.7 out of 5 stars 126 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

They called it "the devil's music." To this, Jerry Lee Lewis whooped: "If I'm going to hell, I'm going there playing the piano!" Dennis Quaid gives a "rousing performance" (Gene Shalit, "The Today Show") as the defiant rock 'n' roll superstar who broke all the rules. Co-starring Winona Ryder as Jerry Lee's teenage bride and Alec Baldwin as Jerry Lee's evangelical cousin Jimmy Swaggart, and featuring scorching piano and vocals re-recorded by the legendary Lewis himself, Great Balls of Fire! is a wild ride back to the early days of rock 'n' roll that will leave you "B-B-B-Breathless"! In 1956, Louisiana bad boy Jerry Lee Lewis (Quaid) moves to Memphis, determined to dethrone Elvis with his "ferocious, God-given talent." When Jerry Lee bangs out the bass chords with his feet,fans howl for more. When he finishes a performance by setting his piano ablaze, they mob the stage.But when he marries his 13-year-old second cousin Myra (Ryder)...the scandal nearly kills "The Killer's" career.


Dennis Quaid's delightfully over-the-top performance dominates this 1989 biopic about the life, times, and music of rocker Jerry Lee "the Killer" Lewis. It's all here: his snazzy threads, his devil-may-care Southern charm, his mane of golden hair, his underage girlfriends (Lewis's infamous marriage to his 13-year-old cousin, played here by Winona Ryder, and its effect on his career is a big part of the story), his fascination with "the devil's music" (much to the chagrin of cousin Jimmy Swaggart, portrayed by Alec Baldwin), and of course the classic tunes like "Great Balls of Fire" and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On." Director Jim McBride plays the whole thing broadly, for laughs, much like Quaid plays Lewis. The result is tongue-in-cheek entertainment with a strong musical component, made all the more so by the fact that all the singing and playing on the soundtrack is done by Lewis himself. --Sam Graham

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Dennis Quaid, Winona Ryder, John Doe, Stephen Tobolowsky, Trey Wilson
  • Directors: Jim McBride
  • Writers: Jim McBride, Jack Baran, Murray Silver Jr., Myra Lewis
  • Producers: Adam Fields, Art Levinson, Jack Baran
  • Format: Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, Dubbed, Full Screen, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo)
  • Subtitles: English, Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: French
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
    Parents Strongly Cautioned
  • Studio: MGM Home Entertainment
  • DVD Release Date: June 4, 2002
  • Run Time: 108 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (126 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000063JDI
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #60,847 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Great Balls of Fire!" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Zorikh Lequidre on December 31, 2000
Format: VHS Tape
As Myra Gale Lewis herself said, this story is "true as far as it goes," but does not tell the whole story. It covers the main events of Jerry Lee Lewis' life from his meeting of Myra and geting a contract with Sun Records to the birth of his son Steve Allen Lewis during the midst of his blacklisting. It leaves out a lot of the more unsavory and darker details of the lives and characters of hese two young lovers.
That having been said, it's a fun romp that follows the typical Hollywood rock & roll musical bio-pic formula: young man has a new sound, while performing someone says "we can't play that music here, these people will kill us!" He does anyway and it becomes a big hit, then scandal strikes and his career takes a tumble. There are the typical scenes of performing, watching the music charts, montages of Jerry Lee's career, screaming fans, and so forth. Several legendary incidents are receated, such as burning the piano when he has to perform before Chuck Bery and Elvis showing up at the Sun studios as he leaves for the army. This is all done at a breakneck pace, with humor and fun. Music from the period is used liberally throughout the film, adding to the mood and the humor.
Through all this is the impression the Jerry Lee is desparate for attention. He lives for the spotlight and being noticed. He is truly happy when people are going crazy over him, and gets very upset if he is not accepted as he is.
The question of the morality of a 23-year-old, twice married but only once divorced man marrying his 13-year-old 2nd cousin is not truly answered. Though it does cause the big scandal, the characters are played as so naive and in love, one can sympathize with them even as certain people may recoil.
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Format: VHS Tape
As far as recreating the rock and roll related events of Jerry Lee's life, this movie is tops. Dennis Quade gives 110% as the hard rocking musician. Under the instruction of the man himself, Dennis quade learns how to play all the great songs on the piano. As your watching the movie...you are actually watching Dennis play that piano. Jerry Lee was a fireball in his early days and this movie shows how crazy he really got to be. Entertaining, insightful and as rocking as you could ask for; this movie shows there IS a whole lot more to Jerry Lee Lewis than Great Balls of Fire. Seeing him rock out with Dennis Quade at the end of the movie was an added bonus...the Killer still has it!
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By A Customer on September 22, 2002
Format: VHS Tape
Goodness, gracious.. Great Balls of Fire is one of the best movies I have ever seen. Based on the life of Jerry Lee Lewis, responsible for such classic oldies as (obviously) "Great Balls of Fire," and "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," it truly keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Dennis Quaid stars as 'The Killer' himself and portrays the ups and downs of Lewis' rocky road to success quite superbly. Staying with relatives, Jerry Lee meets and quickly moves in on his thirteen year old cousin, Myra (played by Winona Ryder, who gives Quaid a run for his money with her own stunning performance), immediately after his first song plays on the radio. People automatically love the song, and so begins the story of unbelievable success, love, and scandals -- every plot twist and turn that you would expect from a soap opera -- but these events actually DID happen! Keeping that in mind throughout the movie only makes it that much better. At times quite serious and dramatic, Great Balls of Fire keeps it just light enough to be absolutely hilarious at just the right times. In addition to the quite intriguing plot, this movie is also an in-depth look into the lifestyle of the fifties and sixties, and how what we don't give as much as a second thought to these days is what made heads spin back then. A definite must-see for fans AND non-fans of Jerry Lee Lewis, as it is a very informative and extremely entertaining movie.
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Format: DVD Verified Purchase
I do love this movie, if only because I have always loved Jerry Lee Lewis, and think that he is so incredibly hokey as to be fantastically, uniquely great.
I mean, his "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin On" has been one of the very greatest rock and roll anthems ever.
And he is without peer as a country artist. Nobody has ever sung a more significant country song than "Another Place, Another Time," or "She Still Comes Around To Love What's Left Of Me."
But what I can't understand is why Dennis Quaid played him to be as squirrely as he comes across.
Because if Jerry Lee had any say-so as to how he was portrayed, I just can't see him giving the OK to what came out on film.
I could see arrogant, or supremely self-assured, or cock-sure, or brash, or even pushy, but not strangely almost effeminate, as Dennis Quaid has portrayed him.
Jerry Lee was and is supremely talented, but I can't believe that he ever had a single day where he acted as off-the-wall as Dennis Quaid made him out to be.
And the fact that he married his 13 year-old 2nd cousin, I think she was, was not even that far-fetched, given the time and place.
But anyway, the movie is terrific, just seeing the history of how Jerry Lee was exposed to the kind of music that formed his background. Also, seeing the cars that were commonplace in the fifties, such as the Olds 98s and the Cadillac El Dorados makes it a fun movie to watch.
Oh, for those good old days, when we really did drive those cars, and listen to and dance to that music.
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