Surly James Dean wanna-be Kit Carruthers (Sheen) collects garbage for a pittance in small-town South Dakota. One day, he spots cute, quirky teenage redhead Holly Sargis (Spacek) on her front lawn twirling a baton, and immediately falls in love. But Holly's father (Oates) disapproves of the rough twenty-something drifter dating his young daughter, so Kit murders him and the two lovers go on the lam to do some more killing.
Why we love it
Loosely based on the 1958 Starkweather-Fugate murder spree that left ten dead in Nebraska, Malick's astonishingly beautiful and accomplished debut marked him as a filmmaker with a unique artistic vision. With Spacek's matter-of-fact voice-over and deliriously gorgeous natural imagery to go alongside the fervid subject matter, "Badlands" was a pastoral renegade epic unlike any other. Spacek is alien-odd and eerily child-like as Holly, but Malick's ace in the hole is Sheen, whose simmering, cock-strutting portrayal of Kit has a strange, perverse beauty all its own.