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Mississippi Burning

4.5 out of 5 stars 299 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Product Description

Starring two-time OscarÂ(r) winner* Gene Hackman and Academy AwardÂ(r) nominee** Willem Dafoe, Mississippi Burning ranks as one of the most potent and insightful views of racial turmoil yet produced (Variety). Nominated*** for six OscarsÂ(r) and winner of an Academy AwardÂ(r) for Best Cinematography, this emotionally charged film vividly captures acrucial chapter in American history (Time)! As three civil rights activists drive down a desolate stretch of highway, headlights ominously draw near. Telling each other to stay calm, they have no way of knowing that in minutes they will disappear into the night and spark one of the most explosive murder investigations in history. Enter straight-laced Ward (Dafoe) and deceptively easy-going Anderson (Hackman). Can these two philosophically opposed FBI agents overcome their differences and uncover the chilling mystery of a small Ku Klux Klan-ridden community before an entire town is torn apart by racism?

Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe star in this well-intentioned and largely successful civil rights-era thriller. Mississippi Burning, using the real-life 1964 disappearance of three civil rights workers as its inspiration, tells the story of two FBI men (Hackman and Dafoe, entertainingly called "Hoover Boys" by the locals) who come in to try to solve the crime. Hackman is a former small-town Mississippi sheriff himself, while Dafoe is a by-the-numbers young hotshot. Yes, there is some tension between the two. The movie has an interesting fatalism, as all the FBI's best efforts incite more and more violence, which becomes disturbing--the film's message, perhaps inadvertently, seems to be that vigilantism is the only real way to get things done. The brilliant Frances McDormand, here early in her career, is not given enough to do but still does it well enough to have racked up an Oscar® nomination for Best Supporting Actress. (Hackman also received a nomination for Best Actor, and the film won an Academy Award for Cinematography). The story line of Mississippi Burning is ultimately unsatisfying--it is, after all, the story of white men coming in to rescue poor blacks--but it is beautifully shot and very watchable and features a terrific cast playing at the top of their games. --Ali Davis

Special Features


Product Details

  • Actors: Gene Hackman, Willem Dafoe, Frances McDormand, Brad Dourif, R. Lee Ermey
  • Directors: Alan Parker
  • Writers: Chris Gerolmo
  • Producers: Frederick Zollo, Robert F. Colesberry
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Anamorphic, Closed-captioned, Color, NTSC, Subtitled, Widescreen
  • Language: English (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), French (Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo), Spanish (Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono)
  • Subtitles: Spanish, French
  • Dubbed: Spanish
  • Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only. Read more about DVD formats.)
  • Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
  • Number of discs: 1
  • Rated:
  • Studio: MGM (Video & DVD)
  • DVD Release Date: May 8, 2001
  • Run Time: 128 minutes
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (299 customer reviews)
  • ASIN: B000059TFO
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,060 in Movies & TV (See Top 100 in Movies & TV)
  • Learn more about "Mississippi Burning" on IMDb

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: DVD
Mississippi Burning captures the American South of the 1960s and its turbulent race relations by telling a story that, while technically fictional, is inspired by actual events that took place. It succeeds by all at once being gripping, emotional, and contemplative. Despite being made in 1988 and taking place in 1964, the film holds up to this day quite well.

The story begins with the murder of three young civil rights activists--two of them white and one of them black--in a small town in Mississippi. Two FBI agents are soon assigned to this as a missing persons case; these are, as they formally refer one another, Mr. Anderson (Gene Hackman) and Mr. Ward (Willem Dafoe). Ward is the younger of the two, and also the agent in charge of the case. The local law enforcement and the town in general is hesitant to accept these big shots from up north, and their views don't much change when Ward decides they need a lot more men, and that this is more than just a simple missing persons case.

The Ku Klux Klan factors prominently into the case, but Anderson and Ward don't have much means for proving that they had any involvement, let alone which members, if any, contributed to the crime. It doesn't help much that nobody in town seems to want to help out--white or black. The FBI men are a little surprised to see such segregation and bigotry still taking place, but trying to explain it to some of the people in town is like trying to sell a newspaper to a dog. Ward's by-the-book style of gathering information isn't exactly producing the results he had hoped, and as a last resort, he decides to allow Anderson to use his more unconventional ways to get some answers out of some suspects.
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This is a great movie on the grounds that Jim Crow Mississippi was a fascist state, where Blacks were subjected to second-class "citizenship" (or, as Malcolm X rightfully called "20th Century Slaves"). THAT historical viewpoint was correct. However, like nearly all Hollywood films depicting historical events (Like Nixon, JFK, Malcolm X, etc), the writers and directors can't help but to add Hollywood in the films. The way Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman died was way off. They weren't simply shot (as if THAT'S not bad enough), the three kids were dragged out the car, and beat with chains, pistol whipped, and the scum who carried out the murder made them beg for their lives...then shot them. This movie totally romanticized the role the FBI played in their forced "fight" against the Klan. When the FBI witnessed crimes, and police brutality, all they did was take notes, and did nothing else. Also, the Black people were so impersonal. Though the movie revolved around their treatment, they just stood in the background as impersonal objects. Don't get me wrong now; I think EVERYONE should see this movie. Just know that Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney were not at all protected by the FBI, and that it took a mass movement for the government to finally cave in (or there REALLY would have been trouble in the streets) and pass a so-called "Civil Rights Bill" that took only 100 years to sign. The actors in the movie were excellent. Hackman was great. Dafoe was great. It made you mad, sad and happy. Definitely see the movie. Just don't take it as a historical reference. Watch Murder in Mississippi to find out the lives of the three, and what they did. Also, read Three Lives for Mississippi.

One last thing, I hope that SOB Edgar Ray Killen faces a death squad. In case you don't know, Killen was the one who orchestrated the murder of Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner, and was conviced exactly 41 years after the act committed on June 21st, 1964.

Anton Batey
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Format: DVD
This is a powerful movie. Movies of this genre are bound to receive various political perspectives. But that doesn't lessen the impact of this movie. In many ways you feel Mississippi during the era involved. Not just in the politics and bigotry, but in the countryside presented itself. There are some subtle allusions that assist in creating a feel for the town this movie takes place in. Gene Hackman and William DaFoe are fabulous in their lead roles, as is Frances McDormand. But to me, the real reason to watch this movie is the incomparable collection of character actors, my favorite movie in that category. it's a treasure trove. You can debate the angle of many of the most popular civil rights movies, their message, be it explicit or implied. But the performances by this ensemble cast and the backdrop of Mississippi make this one of the most watchable movies of the genre. From R. Lee Ermey (Gunnery Sgt. in "Full Metal Jacket") and Stephen Tobolowski (Needle Nose Ned in "Groundhog Day") - 2 of the most renowned character actors playing the mayor and Clayton Townley, head of the Klan, respectively- to Brad Dourif, Michael Rooker, Gailard Sartain, Pruitt Taylor Vince- all playing loathsome bigots. Tobin Bell will be a familiar face as well in his small role as an FBI agent in the latter part of the film. Even James F. Moore who plays a simple barber with a pittance for dialogue is essential to the feel of this moving film. It's the character actors who steal this show. it's an outstanding film with crystal clear DVD remastering in sound and quality, There are several memorable scenes integral to the story (Hackman's encounter with Frank Bailey at "the club") and naturally the scenes that accompany such a film that stir the audience into righteous outrage.Read more ›
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