JFK (1991)

jfk poster 1991 movie kevin costner
8.5 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 9/10
Visuals: 9/10

Raises interesting questions about what is seen as history

Many of the theories have been debunked

Movie Info

Movie Name: JFK

Studio: Warner Bros.

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): December 19, 1991

MPAA Rating: R

jfk kennedy dies jim garrison kevin costner

Learning the news

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas, Texas.  As the world mourns, New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison (Kevin Costner) realizes that not everyone is upset by the loss.  Surrounding Kennedy was controversy and the murder of the accused assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman) left many questions unanswered.  When Jim and his associates begin to uncover a conspiracy plot tied to a local businessman named Clay Shaw (Tommy Lee Jones), they trace the evidence and realize it could be bigger than they ever expected.  Ignoring the requests of his wife Liz (Sissy Spacek), Jim is out for justice and to restore the belief in America that he believes has been shattered.

Written and directed by Oliver Stone (with additional scripting by Zachary Sklar), JFK is a historic conspiracy drama.  Following Stone’s The Doors also released in 1991, the movie is based on the 1988 book On the Trail of the Assassins by Jim Garrison and the 1989 book Crossfire:  The Plot that Killed Kenney by Jim Marrs.  It was released to critical acclaim and resulted in the Assassination Records Review Board (ARRB) to pass the JFK Act in 1992 which called for the release of more records sooner than originally scheduled (most records were released by 2017).  It won Academy Awards for Best Cinematography and Best Film Editing with nominations for Best Picture, Best Supporting Actor (Jones), Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Sound, and Best Original Score.

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A conspiracy is afoot!!!

When JFK was released, it was all the buzz.  Everyone was convinced that JFK was assassinated by the government, and the conspiracy theories branched out of the movie at even greater numbers.  With the assassination happening years before I was born, and so many names and numbers being thrown out, JFK is a difficult movie to follow, but it is still worthy to seek out.

Was Kennedy assassinated by someone other than Lee Harvey Oswald?  That is the bottom line of JFK, and while Garrison raises many valid points and questionable events surrounding the assassination, the chain of events presented in the movie seems unlikely.  Since JFK was released, aspects of the story have been debunked outright and even “facts” presented in the movie have been demonstrated to not add up.  What the film succeeds in doing is revealing that the Warren Commission maybe shouldn’t have been the be-all-and-end-all record of the assassination.  There are lots of lingering questions and many of them deserve answers.

jfk clay shaw bertrand tommy lee jones

Tommy steals the show

Kevin Costner is Kevin Costner.  He generally doesn’t have much variety in his roles and here he is the staunch supporter of liberty which doesn’t feel much different than other roles (even in movies like Dances with Wolves where he is fighting against the United States’ actions).  What is impressive about JFK is the number of actors involved in the movie.  You have a lot of actors who were given the opportunity to play different types of dramatic roles like Laurie Metcalf, Kevin Bacon, Brian Doyle-Murray, Wayne Knight, John Larroquette, and John Candy, but you also have players like Tommy Lee Jones who nails the bravado of Clay Shaw and Gary Oldman who morphs into Lee Harvey Oswald.  In addition you have roles by Michael Rooker, Joe Pesci, Jack Lemmon, Walter Matthau, Edward Asner, Donald Sutherland, Vincent D’Onofrio, Bob Gunton, and Ron Rifkin.  Jim Garrison himself appears in the film as Earl Warren which is a fun little casting joke.

jfk magic bullet theory demonstration kevin costner wayne knight

The magic bullet is feasible, but it is problematic

The movie also is put together slickly.  The clips of old footage is combined with newly shot footage that matches up.  You also get the chilling “Magic Single Bullet” explanation which has become a classic and even had Wayne Knight returning to the moment in a recreation on Seinfeld (aka the single-spitter).  This is also boosted by the nice soaring John Williams’ soundtrack that moves the film.

JFK is long.  It is complex.  It is also probably mostly untrue, but it does raise the questions.  With big biopic epics rising again in the 1990s, JFK was helping lead the pack.  Like many of Stone’s film, the director released a longer cut (adding eighteen minutes) which expands on some of the ideas.  It is still an interesting and rather important movie in that it had an effect on law…unfortunately, the answers might never really be known.  Stone followed JFK with Heaven & Earth in 1993.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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