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The Crow

Movie poster
Directed by Alex Proyas
Produced by Jeff Most
Edward R. Pressman
Written by Screenplay:
David J. Schow
John Shirley
Characters by:
James O'Barr
Starring Brandon Lee
Ernie Hudson
Rochelle Davis
Michael Wincott
Tony Todd
Music by Graeme Revell
Cinematography Dariusz Wolski
Editing by Dov Hoenig
M. Scott Smith
Distributed by Miramax Films
Release date(s) United States:
May 13, 1994
United Kingdom:
June 20, 1994
July 21, 1994
Running time 102 min.
Country United States
Language English
Budget $15,000,000 (estimated)[1]
Gross revenue $50,693,162 (domestic)
$94,000,000 (worldwide)
Followed by The Crow: City of Angels

The Crow is a 1994 American action-thriller film adaptation of the 1989 comic book of the same name by James O'Barr. The film was adapted by David J. Schow and John Shirley, and directed by Alex Proyas.

The Crow stars Brandon Lee, in his final film, as Eric Draven, a rock musician who is revived from the dead to avenge his own murder, as well as that of his fiancée. While filming during the last weeks of production, Lee was killed when a dummy bullet, which had become lodged in one of the prop guns, was shot into his abdomen. Despite the incident, the film was a critical and commercial success after its release.



On October 30, Devil's Night in Detroit, Sergeant Albrecht (Ernie Hudson) is at the scene of a crime where Shelly Webster (Sofia Shinas) has been beaten and raped, and her fiancé, local musician and guitarist Eric Draven (Brandon Lee) then died on the street outside, having been stabbed, shot, and thrown out of the window. The couple were to be married the next day, on Halloween. As he leaves for the hospital with Shelly, Albrecht meets a young girl, Sarah (Rochelle Davis), who says that she is their friend, and that they take care of her. Albrecht tells her that Shelly is dying.

One year later, to the day, a crow taps on the gravestone of Eric Draven; Eric awakens from death and climbs frantically out of his grave, trembling and wracked with convulsions. Meanwhile, a criminal gang, headed by T-Bird (David Patrick Kelly), is setting fires in the city. Eric goes to his old apartment and finds it derelict. He has visual memories of the murders, remembering that those responsible were T-Bird and his gang: Tin Tin (Laurence Mason), Funboy (Michael Massee) and Skank (Angel David). Eric soon discovers that any wounds he receives heal immediately, and that he, being dead, is now immune to physical harm. He then replaces his burial clothes with dark, imposing attire, and using stage makeup, paints his face in a parody of a porcelain harlequin mask given to Shelly as a gift, decorating his lips and eyes with black, scar-like slashes. Guided by the crow, he sets out to avenge his and Shelly's murders by killing the perpetrators.

The crow helps Eric locate Tin Tin, who is obsessed with knives. They engage in a one-on-one alley fight, which Eric wins by catching a knife and pinning Tin Tin to a wall with it. Eric then kills him by stabbing him with all of his own knives. He takes his coat, leaving a large crow-shaped bloodstain on the wall of the alley. He then goes to the pawn shop where Tin Tin pawned Shelly's engagement ring the year before. Eric forces the owner, Gideon (Jon Polito), to return the ring and blows up the shop, letting Gideon live so that he can warn the others. Gideon goes to warn Top Dollar, the local crime boss and T-Bird's superior, who kills Gideon by stabbing him in the throat with a rapier, sinking it in to the hilt.

Eric finds Funboy getting high in an apartment with Sarah's mother, Darla (Anna Levine). He teases Funboy, having the man shoot him in the hand and pretending to scream in pain for his own amusement. When it becomes apparent to Funboy that Eric cannot be killed, he becomes frightened, and Eric disarms him and shoots him in the thigh, piercing his femoral artery. Eric confronts Darla, making her realize that Sarah needs her to be a good mother. Eric then kills Funboy with an overdose of his own morphine. He visits Albrecht, explaining who he is and why he is here. Albrecht tells him what he knows about Shelly's death and that he watched as she suffered for thirty hours before dying. Eric touches Albrecht and receives from him the pain felt by Shelly during those hours. Sarah and her mother begin to repair their strained relationship. Sarah goes to Eric's apartment and talks to him. She tells him that she misses him and Shelly. Eric explains that, even though they cannot be friends anymore, he still cares about her.

As T-Bird and Skank stop at a convenience store to get some supplies, Eric arrives and kidnaps T-Bird. Skank follows the pair and sees Eric as he ties T-Bird to the driver's seat of a car, straps explosives to him, and lets the car drive off the pier, where it explodes up in midair and falls and sinks into a harbor down below. Eric leaves a fiery symbol in the shape of a crow burning at the scene. Skank escapes the scene and goes to Top Dollar (Michael Wincott), a major criminal who controls all the criminal gangs in the city. Top Dollar and his lover/half-sister Myca (Bai Ling) have become aware of Eric's actions through various reports from witnesses. Top Dollar holds a meeting with his associates where they discuss new plans for their Devil's Night criminal activities. Eric arrives at the meeting, looking for Skank. Top Dollar orders his men to shoot Eric, and a massive gun fight ensues. Top Dollar escapes quickly with Myca and Grange (Tony Todd), his lieutenant, while Eric systematically kills everyone in the room – including Skank, who is last of all thrown out of a window by Eric.

Eric, having finished his quest, returns to his grave. Sarah goes to say goodbye to him and he gives her Shelly's engagement ring. She is then abducted by Grange who takes her into the church where Top Dollar and Myca are waiting. Through the crow, Eric realizes what has happened and goes to rescue her. Grange shoots the crow as it flies into the church, making Eric lose his invincibility. Myca grabs the wounded crow, intending to take its mystical power. Albrecht arrives, intending to pay his respects to Eric, just after Eric is shot and wounded. Top Dollar grabs Sarah and climbs the bell tower as a fight ensues, with Grange being killed. The crow escapes Myca's grip and claws her eyes out, and then knocks her down the bell tower where she falls to her death. When Albrecht is wounded, Eric climbs to the roof of the church on his own. There, Top Dollar admits ultimate responsibility for what happened to Eric and Shelly. They fight, and in the end, Eric gives Top Dollar the thirty hours of pain he absorbed from Albrecht; the sensation sends Top Dollar flying off the roof of the church where he falls and becomes impaled on the horns of a gargoyle. His blood is seen to be coming out of the mouth of the gargoyle. Sarah and Albrecht go to the hospital, and Eric is reunited with Shelly at their graves.

Later, Sarah pays a final visit to the cemetery, and the crow, perched on Eric's headstone, gives her Shelly's engagement ring, dropping it in her open hand before soaring over the city and into the night.

Death of Brandon Lee

On March 31, 1993 at EUE Screen Gems Studios in Wilmington, North Carolina, Brandon Lee died of an accidental gunshot wound on the set of the film. There were eight days left before shooting of the film was to be completed. The scenes involving Lee and Shinas' characters in their apartment had been saved for the end of filming so that Lee could work the final week without makeup.[2] In the story, Lee's character comes to his apartment where his girlfriend is being raped by a gang of thugs, and then he is shot and killed by Michael Massee's character, playing one of the thugs. Weeks prior to the event, a scene was being filmed that required dummy rounds to be shown being loaded into the handgun. Inexperienced crew members, pressured by time constraints, purchased live ammunition, removed the bullets, dumped the gunpowder, and then replaced the bullets back into the empty cartridges with the live primers still in place.[2][3]

When the time came to film the scene where Michael Massee shoots Lee's character, the same gun was loaded with blank cartridges. Unknown to the crew, the bullet from one of the dummy rounds had become lodged in the barrel of the gun. When the gun was operated, the propellant in the blank rounds — which is used to give the visible effect of a gunshot — dislodged the bullet, which penetrated Lee's abdomen and lodged in his spine. The injury caused massive blood loss. It is believed that someone on set was playing with the gun, pulled the trigger, and inadvertently caused the live primer to fire; this would have resulted in the bullet moving a couple of inches into the barrel of the gun. As the production company had sent the firearms specialist home early, responsibility for the guns was given to a prop assistant who was not aware of the rule for checking all firearms before and after any handling. Therefore, the barrel was not checked for obstructions when it came time to load it with the blank rounds.[2][3]

Soon after the accident, Lee was taken to the New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington, North Carolina where he died about 12 hours later. After Lee's death, the producers were faced with the decision of whether or not to continue with the film. Sofia Shinas, who had witnessed the accident, did not want to continue and went home to Los Angeles. The rest of the cast and crew, except for Ernie Hudson, whose brother-in-law had just died, stayed in Wilmington. After two days, Ed Pressman announced that the film would be completed. The technicalities of completing the film following Lee's death added $8 million to the budget, taking it to approximately $15 million.[1] The cast and crew then took a break with script rewrites for the flashback scenes that had yet to be completed.[2] The cast returned to Wilmington nearly two months after the accident.[1]



The Crow was well received by critics; review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes gives it a "fresh" rating of 86 percent based on 35 reviews. Reviewers praised the action and visual style.[4][5] Rolling Stone called it a "dazzling fever dream of a movie", Caryn James writing for the New York Times called it "a genre film of a high order, stylish and smooth", and Roger Ebert called it "a stunning work of visual style".[5][6][7]

Lee's death was alleged to have a melancholy effect on viewers; Desson Howe of the Washington Post wrote that Lee "haunts every frame" and James Berardinelli called the film "a case of 'art imitating death', and that specter will always hang over The Crow".[4][5][8] Berardinelli called it an apropriate epitaph to Lee, Howe called it an appropriate sendoff, and Ebert stated that not only was this Lee's best film, but it was better than any of his father's (Bruce Lee).[4][5][8] Critics generally thought that this would have been a breakthrough film for Lee, although James disagreed.[5][7][9] The changes made to the film after Lee's death were noted by reviewers, most of whom saw them as an improvement. Howe said that it had been transformed into something compelling.[4] James, although terming it a genre film, said that it had become more mainstream because of the changes.[7]

The film was widely compared to other films, particularly the Batman films and Blade Runner.[8][9] Critics described The Crow as a darker film than the others,[7] Ebert calling it a grungier and more forbidding story than those of Batman and Blade Runner and Todd McCarthy for Variety saying that the generic inner city portrayed in The Crow makes Gotham City look like the Emerald City.[9]

The distinctive features of the film for most critics were the fast-paced action and visual style. The cinematography by Dariusz Wolski and the production design by Alex McDowell were praised. While the plot and characterization were found to be lacking,[4][7][9] these faults were considered to be overcome by the action and visual style.[5][8] The cityscape designed by McDowell and the production team was described by McCarthy as rendered imaginatively.[9] The film's comic book origins were noted, and Ebert called it the best version of a comic book universe he had seen.[5] McCarthy agreed, calling it "one of the most effective live-actioners ever derived from a comic strip".[9] Critics felt that the soundtrack complemented this visual style, calling it blistering, edgy and boisterous.[4][6][9] Graeme Revell was praised for his "moody" score;[9] Howe said that it "drapes the story in a postmodern pall."[4]

Negative reviews of the film were generally similar in theme to the positive ones but said that the interesting and "OK" special effects did not make up for the superficial plot, badly written screenplay and one-dimensional characters.[10][11]

The Crow is mentioned by the British film magazines Empire's 2008 list of the 500 greatest movies of all time where it ranked at number 468.[12]

Box office

The film grossed $50,693,129 in the United States, $94,000,000 Worldwide including $11,774,332 in its opening weekend. According to Box Office Mojo, it ranked at 24 for all films released in the US in 1994 and 10 for R-rated films released that year.[13]


In 1995, Graeme Revell won a BMI film music award for his score and the Stone Temple Pilots won the MTV Movie Award for Best Song for "Big Empty".[14] Also at the MTV Movie Awards, the film was nominated for Best Film and Brandon Lee was nominated for Best Male Performance.[14] The film received four Saturn Award nominations from the Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films, USA, for Best Costumes, Best Director, Best Horror film and Best Special Effects.


The original soundtrack album for The Crow features songs from the film, and was a chart-topping album. It included work by The Cure (their song, "Burn", is the film's main theme), The Jesus and Mary Chain, Rage Against the Machine, Helmet and Stone Temple Pilots.

Several groups performed covers. Nine Inch Nails rendered Joy Division's "Dead Souls"; Rollins Band covered Suicide's "Ghost Rider"; and Pantera performed Poison Idea's "The Badge". The Stone Temple Pilots song "Big Empty" won an MTV Movie Award in 1995. It was not their original choice for the soundtrack. They recorded a version of "Only Dying", a demo they had recorded earlier as Mighty Joe Young, which was replaced following Lee's death.[15]

The bands Medicine and My Life with the Thrill Kill Kult make cameo appearances in the film, on stage in the nightclub below Top Dollar's headquarters.

The Crow: Original Motion Picture Score consisted of original, mostly orchestral music, with some electronic and guitar elements written for the film by Graeme Revell.


  1. ^ a b c Ascher-Walsh, Rebecca (1994-05-13), l "How the Crow Flew", Entertainment Weekly,,,302195,00.htm l, retrieved 2008-05-10  
  2. ^ a b c d Conner, Jeff; Robert Zuckerman (1993). The Crow: The Movie. Kitchen Sink Press. p. 35–36. ISBN 0878162852.  
  3. ^ a b Dave Brown. "Behind the Death of Brandon Lee". Dave Brown: Firearms Safety Specialist. Retrieved 2008-08-21.  
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Howe, Desson (1994-05-13), "'The Crow' (R)", Washington Post,, retrieved 2007-12-17  
  5. ^ a b c d e f g Ebert, Roger (1994-05-13), "The Crow", Chicago Sun-Times,, retrieved 2008-01-05  
  6. ^ a b "The Crow: Review", Rolling Stone, 1994-05-19,, retrieved 2008-01-05  
  7. ^ a b c d e James, Caryn (1994-05-11), "Eerie Links Between Living and Dead", New York Times,, retrieved 2007-12-17  
  8. ^ a b c d Berardinelli, James (1994). "Review: The Crow". Retrieved 2008-01-05.  
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h McCarthy, Todd (1994-04-29), "The Crow Review", Variety,, retrieved 2008-01-05  
  10. ^ Hicks, Chris (2001-09-20), "Movie Review: The Crow", Deseret News,,1257,385,00.html, retrieved 2008-01-06  
  11. ^ "The Crow", Montreal Film Journal,, retrieved 2008-01-06  
  12. ^
  13. ^ "The Crow (1994)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2008-04-14.  
  14. ^ a b "Content International's Film Library". Content International. 2003. Retrieved 2008-01-06.  
  15. ^ "Below Empty - Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 2008-01-06.  

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