Bonnie Elizabeth Parker and Clyde Chestnut Barrow met and fell in love in 1930, embarked on a world-famous crime spree throughout the south and central United States in 1932, and went down in a mind-boggling blaze of bullets after being ambushed by a posse of lawmen on May 23, 1934.
The pair, already folk heroes among some circles for robbing banks during the Great Depression, immediately became the stuff of legend.
The term “Bonnie and Clyde,” in fact, ranks second only to “Romeo and Juliet” in popularly describing a pair of lovers who seemed destined for one another — with or without all the fatalities.
Still, for all the grand, doomed romance associated with Bonnie and Clyde, it’s important to note that they didn’t merely steal from the rich and get on with things peaceably.
The FBI estimates that Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, separately and together, murdered at least 13 victims.
Throughout the decades, Bonnie and Clyde have inspired multiple books, plays, songs, musicals, and even fashion lines.
Most famously, the lethal duo spawned a 1967 cinematic masterwork that revolutionized Hollywood — although there are plenty of other Bonnie and Clyde movies out there too, though.
THE BONNIE PARKER STORY (1958)
The poster for The Bonnie Parker Story describes its title figure with the tagline, “Cigar-Smoking Hellcat of the Roaring Thirties!” This tough, tawdry exploitation nugget features Dorothy Provine as Bonnie, and Jack Hogan as “Guy Barrow.”
While forgotten until a much bigger film revived the subject matter, The Bonnie Parker Story has gathered a following in recent years. Among its boosters is Quentin Tarantino who champions director William Witney as “a lost master.”
BONNIE AND CLYDE (1967)
Upon arrival, Bonnie and Clyde scorched a line between commercial cinema as it previously existed and the “New Hollywood.”
Deeply influenced by French new wave films that reveled in the American outlaw spirit such as Breathless (1960), Arthur Penn directs Bonnie and Clyde with fully loaded Thompson gun savoir faire. Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty unleash two of the all-time great movie-star performances in the title roles. The movie also boasts a previously unimaginable degree of violence for a major release.
Numerous reviewers, in fact, couldn’t see past the film’s carnage, particularly its climactic bloodbath. Others, though, such as the hugely influential Pauline Kael, hailed it as a new masterpiece, while Roger Ebert deemed it “a milestone in the history of American movies, a work of truth and brilliance.”
Bonnie and Clyde went on to garner multiple Academy Award nominations. It also grossed worldwide what would today be over $500 million dollars.
That game-changing degree of success then ignited the era of Coppola, Scorsese, Hal Ashby, Robert Altman, and other mainstream filmmaking mavericks that ruled until Jaws (1975) and Star Wars (1977) permanently installed a blockbuster mentality in Hollywood.
BUNNY AND CLAUDE: WE ROB CARROT PATCHES (1968)
Toward the very end of Looney Tunes’ theatrical run, Warner Brothers’ cartoon branch released two animated shorts spoofing the larger Bonnie and Clyde phenomenon — Bunny and Claude: We Rob Carrot Patches and The Great Carrot Train Robbery. Neither rabbit-centric featurette caused long-eared WB kingpin Bugs to worry about his place in the studio’s pantheon.
THE OTHER SIDE OF BONNIE AND CLYDE (1968)
Schlock maven Larry Buchanan (Zontar: The Thing From Venus; Mars Needs Women) directs a weird blend of documentary and narrative storytelling in The Other Side of Bonnie and Clyde. Running just barely over an hour, narrators recount the actual events of the couple’s lives and crimes as actors re-create them. It’s a drive-in circuit curiosity cranked out to cash in on the then-contemporary blockbuster.
BONNIE AND CLYDE, ITALIAN STYLE (1982)
International softcore sex film sensation Ornella Muti costars with rotund funnyman Paolo Villagio in the goofy farce, Bonnie and Clyde, Italian Style. They portray a pair of bumblers mistaken for bank robbers by both the police and a gang of actual thieves. Lots of property gets comically destroyed.
BONNIE AND CLYDE: THE TRUE STORY (1992)
Tracy Needham and Dana Ashbrook play the leads, respectively, in Bonnie and Clyde: The True Story, a forgotten TV movie that sold itself as portraying events that were left out of the familiar 1967 classic. Reading a good book on the topic — or maybe even any book on the topic — would also likely provide the same experience more effectively.
TEENAGE BONNIE AND KLEPTO CLYDE (1993)
Maureen Flannigan makes an alluring Teenage Bonnie and Scott Wolf plays dumb well as Klepto Clyde in this ’90s-set high school take on the outlaw archetypes. The kicky title promises a little more creativity than other direct-to-VHS movies like this of the era, and TBAKC supplies just that — a little more. This is the sort of thing that was fun to catch on cable once in the middle of the night.
BONNIE AND CLYDE VS. DRACULA (2011)
Bonnie (Tiffany Shepis) and Clyde (Trent Haaga) don’t actually meet Dracula (Russell Friend) for an entire hour here and, even then, they don’t really fight him. The saga of mad scientist Dr. Loveless (Allen Lowman) resurrecting the Count gets intercut with a low-budget spin on standard Bonnie and Clyde tropes, all leading to an anti-climax not worthy of the amusing title. It’s sure no <em>Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)!
BONNIE AND CLYDE (2013)
The sprawling “revisionist” mini-series Bonnie and Clyde debuted simultaneously on the cable networks A&E, History, and Lifetime. Holliday Grainger and Emile Hirsch portray the titular twosome over the course of four slick hours. William Hurt hits hard (and hundreds upon hundreds of times) as a Frank Hamer, a Texas Ranger who comes out of retirement to pursue and capture the couple on the run.
BONNIE AND CLYDE: JUSTIFIED (2013)
The direct-to-video Bonnie and Clyde: Justified hit the market just in time to ride the buzz over the multinetwork cable mini-series Bonnie and Clyde. Producers also slapped on a subtitle to bring to mind Justified, the popular FX series about law and disorder in rural Kentucky. Written by Rolfe Kanefsky (The Erotic Adventures of the Invisible Man) and directed by David DeCoteau (Test Tube Teens From the Year 20000).
Main photo: Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty, Bonnie and Clyde, 1967 preview poster detail/promotional image.