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Bandits promotional movie poster
Directed by Barry Levinson
Produced by Michael Birnbaum
Written by Harley Peyton
Starring Bruce Willis
Billy Bob Thornton
Cate Blanchett
Editing by Stu Linder
Distributed by USA:
20th Century Fox
Constantin Film
Release date(s) October 12, 2001
Running time 123 min.
Language English
Budget $80,000,000 (est.)

Bandits is a 2001 comedy/crime/drama/romance movie directed by Barry Levinson. It stars Bruce Willis, Billy Bob Thornton, and Cate Blanchett. Filming began in October 2000 and ended in February 2001. It helped Thornton earn a National Board of Review Best Actor Award for 2001. Billy Bob Thornton and Cate Blanchett were nominated for Supporting Actor and Actress Golden Globes for their performances in this film. The film's release and box office intake was marred by the initial anthrax attacks at NBC on the morning of its release.

Tagline: Two's Company, Three's A Crime.


Plot outline

Two friends and convicts, one charismatic (Joe, played by Bruce Willis), the other neurotic and hypochondriac (Terry, played by Billy Bob Thornton), break out of Oregon State Penitentiary in a cement truck and start a bank robbing spree, hoping to fund a dream they share. They become known as the "Sleepover Bandits" because of their modus operandi: they kidnap the manager of a target bank the night before a planned robbery, then spend the night with the manager's family; early the next morning, they accompany the manager to the bank to get their money. Using dim-witted would-be stunt man Harvey Pollard (Troy Garity) as their getaway driver and lookout, the three successfully pull off a series of robberies that gets them recognition on the FBI's Ten Most Wanted list.

When a housewife with a failing marriage (Cate Blanchett) decides to run away, she ends up in the hands of the criminals. Initially attracted to Joe, she also ends up in bed with Terry and a confused love triangle begins.

The three of them run away and manage to pull off a few more robberies, but after a while the two begin to fight over Kate, and she decides to leave them. The two criminals then decide to pull off one last job.

The story is told in flashback, framed by the story of the pair's last robbery of the Alamo Bank, as told by Criminals at Large, a fictional reality television show. The show tells the story of the last job to be a failure when Kate tips off the police and the two are caught in the act. The two then begin to argue when Joe tells the police "You won't take us alive!" and the argument gets to the point where the two of them shoot each other dead.

But at the end of the film the real story behind the last job is revealed: Harvey used some of his special effects to make it seem as though Terry and Joe were shooting each other. Harvey and his girlfriend then ran in dressed as paramedics and placed the stolen money, Terry, and Joe in body bags. In the ambulance, Harvey uses electronics to blow out his tires which sends the ambulance into a junkyard. Under his jumpsuit, Harvey was wearing a fire suit. He lights himself on fire and rigs a bomb to go off. Kate, Harvey, Harvey's girlfriend, Terry, and Joe flee the scene, leading officials to believe the bodies were burned.

Reunited, Joe, Terry, Harvey and Kate make it to Mexico to live out their dream. The last scene shows Harvey getting married in Mexico and Kate kissing Joe and Terry passionately.




  • The story is (very loosely) based on the real-life exploits of Joseph W. Dougherty and Terry Lee Conners, who, during the period from 1981 and 1986, staged a series of successful bank robberies using the "sleepover" method. (Both Dougherty and Conners had committed several solo bank robberies before joining forces.) Producer Michael Birnbaum brought the true life story to writer Harley Peyton, a frequent collaborator, and together they developed the script that was to become Bandits. Originally, it was titled, "Outlaws: A Love Story".
  • The song "Kill the Rock" by Mindless Self Indulgence was used prominently in the film, but was not included on the soundtrack CD.
  • When Terry wakes up saying "Beavers and Ducks", it's a reference to two arch-rival Oregon college football teams, the Oregon State University Beavers and the University of Oregon Ducks. While the movie was being filmed, the #8 Beavers and #5 Ducks squared off in one of the biggest games in their history. The Soup's Joel McHale pays tribute to this line by waking up after snoring and saying the reverse ("Ducks and Beavers!")
  • The little girl who belches during the dinner scene is Bruce Willis' daughter, Scout... and according to him, that belch was not enhanced. The other girl is another one of Willis' daughters, Tallulah.
  • Val Kilmer was originally considered for the part of Joe, and Bruce Willis was originally going to play the part of Terry, but due to scheduling conflicts, Kilmer backed out, and Willis took over the part of Joe.
  • Billy Bob Thornton has phobias, including one of antique furniture, in real life, and the producers wrote them in as part of his character.
  • At the cabin right after they "pick up" Kate, Joe stretches a drape between the two sides of the bed, saying he saw it in a movie once. This is a reference to a scene which takes place in It Happened One Night where Peter (Gable) places a sheet between his and Ellie's (Colbert) beds. Kate then asks, "How does [the movie] end?" Joe says, "With a wedding." At the end of the movie Harvey marries the Pink Boots girl.
  • Director Cameo: Barry Levinson - The last staff to the right of the camera in the studio room from Darren's point of view when he presented Criminals at Large at the beginning of the film.
  • Producer Cameo: Michael Birnbaum - The desk sergeant near the end of the film when Cate Blanchett goes to the police station to turn herself in.
  • Hans Zimmer was the only choice for the music composing. However, Zimmer was just finishing Hannibal and Pearl Harbor at the time in London, and he already committed himself to Black Hawk Down, which was recorded in the US. Barry Levinson said that he would move the film for a later release, waiting for the German composer, since they are good friends since Rain Man. Zimmer politely refused it. The second choice was Moby, who was interested but, ultimately, was unable to fit the film's score into his schedule.
  • The green car Billy Bob Thornton drives after the second bank robbery is a Peugeot 505 and the black one he parks in front of the Flamingo hotel is a Citroën DS, which are both French automobiles.
  • Certain elements of the film's plot resemble two different Paul Newman/Robert Redford movies.
    • The concept of two bandits on the run with aspirations to escape to a Latin country, as well as the woman who has romantic ties to both outlaws mirror the 1969 classic Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.
    • The ending sequence involving the protagonists tricking the cops into thinking that the two bandits turned on and killed each other in order to safely escape with the money closely resembles the 1973 film, The Sting.


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