King of the Hill (1993)

king of the hill poster 1993 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 8/10
Acting: 8/10
Visuals: 8/10

Simple but effective


Movie Info

Movie Name:  King of the Hill

Studio:  Wildwood Enterprises/Bona Fide Productions

Genre(s):  Drama

Release Date(s):  May 19, 1993 (Cannes)/August 20, 1993 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13

king of the hill graduation aaron jesse bradford

Life’s coming at Aaron hard

Aaron Kurlander (Jesse Bradford) and his younger brother Sullivan (Cameron Boyd) are growing up during the depression in a St. Louis hotel while their mother (Lisa Eichhorn) battles tuberculosis and their immigrant father (Jeroen Krabbé) works as a travelling salesman.  When Aaron finds himself alone, he tries to make it on his own with the help of his friend Lester (Adrien Brody) who has the skill to “get things” when he needs it.  The walls are closing in on Aaron and time is running out…can he keep everything going?

Written and directed by Steven Soderbergh, King of the Hill is a coming-of-age drama.  The story is based on A.E. Hotchner’s 1973 memoir.  The film received positive reviews and the Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #698).

king of the hill aaron lester adrien brody jesse bradford

Lester will get you what you need

I hadn’t really heard of King of the Hill.  The second outing of Soderbergh is much more straightforward than some of his other works, but it has a nice charm to it that is very Spielbergian…with a bit more edge at points.

The film has the same tone and feel of something like Empire of the Sun.  Aaron is stuck in a world he halfway understands and is forced to grow-up really quickly to deal with a lot of the immediate problems thrust upon him.  He has friends but keeps them at a distance, and he is wary of everything around him.  The stress of growing up is palpable and it does a good job putting you in Aaron’s shoes no matter what your age.

Jesse Bradford is good as Aaron, but it is frustrating that everyone around him seems so out of touch with him including his parents played by Jeroen Krabbé and Lisa Eichhorn.  They both have their own problems but the welfare of their children is secondary most likely due to their upbringing.  The film has a lot of strong supporting actors including Adrian Brody, Karen Allen, Spalding Gray, Elizabeth McGovern, and young performances by Amber Benson, Katherine Heigl, and Lauryn Hill.

king of the hill aaron eats paper jesse bradford

At least he’s getting his fiber

The movie is pretty simple, but it is shot well.  It largely looks like a couple of locations “de-aged” to the Depression-era, but it isn’t big and dramatic in showcasing St. Louis.  It is smaller and intimate and filled with unique characters that factor into Aaron’s life.

King of the Hill was a surprising and fun find.  I like Soderbergh, but in general, I don’t love Soderbergh.  This movie was closer to loving him as a solid director and storyteller.  King of the Hill might not have a ton of flash and substance, but it has a lot of heart…and a child to carry it all.

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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