Crash (2004 film)

Last updated

Crash ver2.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Paul Haggis
Screenplay by
Story byPaul Haggis
Produced by
Cinematography J. Michael Muro
Edited by Hughes Winborne
Music by Mark Isham
  • Bob Yari Productions
  • DEJ Productions
  • Blackfriars Bridge
  • Harris Company
  • ApolloProScreen Productions
  • Bull's Eye Entertainment
Distributed by Lions Gate Films (United States)
Universum Film (Germany) [1]
Release date
  • September 10, 2004 (2004-09-10)(TIFF)
  • May 6, 2005 (2005-05-06)(United States)
Running time
112 minutes [2]
CountriesUnited States
Budget$6.5 million [1]
Box office$101.2 million [1]

Crash is a 2004 crime drama film produced, directed, and co-written by Paul Haggis. A self-described "passion piece" for Haggis, the film features racial and social tensions in Los Angeles and was inspired by a real-life incident in which his Porsche was carjacked in 1991 outside a video store on Wilshire Boulevard. [3] The film features an ensemble cast, including Sandra Bullock, Don Cheadle (who also produced the film), Matt Dillon, Jennifer Esposito, William Fichtner, Brendan Fraser, Terrence Howard, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Thandiwe Newton, Michael Peña, and Ryan Phillippe.


Crash first premiered at the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival on September 10, 2004 before it was released in theaters on May 6, 2005, by Lions Gate Films. The film received positive reviews from critics, who praised the direction, screenplay, performances (particularly from Dillon), but earned polarized responses for what some saw as a simplistic and unsubtle depiction and portrayal of race relations. The film was a success at the box office, earning $98.4 million worldwide against its $6.5 million budget.

The film earned several accolades and nominations. Dillon was particularly praised for his performance and received nominations for Best Supporting Actor from the Academy Awards, BAFTA, Golden Globe, and Screen Actors Guild Award. Additionally, the cast won the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. The film received six Academy Award nominations, and controversially won three for Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay, and Best Film Editing at the 78th Academy Awards. It was also nominated for nine BAFTA Awards and won two, for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress for Newton.


African-American Detective Graham Waters and his Hispanic partner Ria are involved in a minor collision with a car being driven by Kim Lee, an Asian-American woman. A subsequent exchange of racially-charged insults occurs. Waters later arrives at a crime scene where the body of a "dead kid" has been discovered.

Two black men, Anthony and Peter, carjack District Attorney Rick Cabot and his wife Jean. As the men drive away, they see Waters and Ria investigating the death of black man killed by a Detective Conklin, a white police officer. Conklin claims he fired in self defense but Waters and Ria discover that the man he shot was a fellow officer.

At home, Cabot rails that the car-jacking incident could cost him re-election because, no matter whom he sides with, he will lose either the black vote or the law and order vote. Hispanic locksmith Daniel Ruiz overhears Jean demanding that the locks be changed again as she suspects that Daniel is a gangster.

Sergeant Ryan and his partner, Officer Tom Hansen, pull over an SUV being driven by African-American director Cameron Thayer and his wife Christine, whom Ryan molests during the stop.

Hansen goes to his superior (who is black) to report Ryan's conduct and request a transfer. His superior berates Hansen as it will tarnish his career, a black man who made it to the high ranks of the LAPD.

In the carjacked SUV, Anthony and Peter hit a Korean man while passing a parked van. They dump him in front of a hospital and drive away.

Waters, while having sex with Ria, gets a phone call from his mother which leads to an argument about Ria's ethnicity. Waters later visits his mother, who asks him to find his missing younger brother.

Ryan comes across a car accident and finds Christine trapped in an overturned vehicle. Recognizing Ryan, she resists frantically but he pulls her out just before the car explodes.

Waters is summoned to a meeting with a detective Flanagan who tells Waters that Internal Affairs has discovered that Conklin has two prior suspicious shootings of black men. Waters informs Flanagan that he and Ria have discovered that the black officer was driving someone else's car with $300,000 in it, possibly from a drug deal. Flanagan insinuates that, if Waters co-operates in helping to burn detective Conklin, the DA will appoint Waters as his chief investigator and clear Waters' brother's criminal record. At the ensuing press conference, Waters reluctantly agrees that, given the evidence, Conklin was likely a racist cop.

Anthony and Peter carjack another Navigator, which happens to be Cameron's and a police chase ensues. Hansen, one of the pursuing officers, vouches for Cameron to be let off with a warning.

Hansen picks up a hitchhiking Peter, who offends Hansen by suddenly laughing and when Peter reaches for his pocket, Hansen shoots. Peter collapses dead revealing a statuette of Saint Christopher similar to the one on Hansen's dash. Hansen hides the body in some bushes and burns his car. Waters and Ria later arrive at the scene, revealed as the beginning of the film. Waters realizes that Peter is both his missing brother and the "dead kid". Waters' mother disowns him over Peters' death.

Anthony decides to sell the van of the Korean man he had hit but when he drops it off at a chop shop, he discovers Cambodian immigrants chained in the back, the Korean man a human trafficker. The chop shop owner offers Anthony $500 per immigrant but Anthony refuses. He drives the Cambodians to Chinatown and frees them. Anthony passes by a fender-bender. One driver turns out to be the insurance adjuster Sergeant Ryan had previously argued with, the other an Asian man. An exchange of racially-charged insults occurs.


Main cast

  • Sandra Bullock as Jean Cabot, Rick's wife
  • Don Cheadle as Det. Graham Waters, an officer investigating recent murders based on racial tensions
  • Matt Dillon as Sgt. John Ryan, a bigoted police officer
  • Jennifer Esposito as Ria, Detective Waters' partner
  • Brendan Fraser as D.A. Rick Cabot, Jean's husband
  • Terrence Howard as Cameron Thayer, a television director and husband to Christine
  • Ludacris as Anthony, a violent carjacker and Peter's partner
  • Thandiwe Newton (credited as Thandie Newton) as Christine Thayer, Cameron's wife
  • Michael Peña as Daniel Ruiz, a Hispanic locksmith
  • Ryan Phillippe as Officer Tom Hansen, a rookie policeman and Ryan's partner
  • Larenz Tate as Peter, a laid-back, good-natured carjacker and Anthony's partner

Supporting cast


Writer and director Paul Haggis was inspired to make the film after being carjacked by two African-American men at a Blockbuster Video on Wilshire Boulevard while driving home from the premiere of The Silence of the Lambs in February 1991. Afterwards he began thinking more about the impact of race, ethnicity, and class in American society. [4] He later stated in the Huffington Post that he wrote Crash not simply to criticize racists but to "bust liberals" for the idea that the United States had become a post-racial society. [5]

Haggis cowrote the first draft of Crash with Robert Moresco in 2001 after being fired from Family Law. He initially tried to sell it to television producers before Bob Yari gave him $10 million to produce it as a film on the condition he could assemble an ensemble cast of major stars. He cast Heath Ledger and John Cusack in the film, and asked John Travolta and Kelly Preston to appear as Rick and Jean Cabot. However Ledger and Cusack dropped out, and afterwards Haggis withdrew his offer to Travolta and Preston. Don Cheadle also considered leaving the production to perform in Hotel Rwanda . [4]

Haggis managed to convince Cathy Schulman to continue the film with a lower budget after casting Sandra Bullock as Cabot. Haggis made up for the reduced budget by taking out three mortgages on his house and cutting back on exterior shots, shooting using mostly sets from Monk . The production was delayed by a week when Haggis suffered from cardiac arrest while filming a scene, although he defied medical advice to hire a new director. [4]

In a 2020 interview with Vulture, Thandiwe Newton stated that Haggis didn't want her wearing any special protective underwear for the police sexual assault scene, wanting it to be real for Matt Dillon "to go there". [6]


Box office

After sending a rough cut to the 2004 Toronto International Film Festival, the film premiered at the Elgin Theatre in Toronto in September 2004. It was quickly purchased by Lions Gate Films for $3.5 million. [4] Crash had a wide release on May 6, 2005, and was a box office success in the late spring of 2005. The film had a budget of $6.5 million (plus $1 million in financing). [1] Because of the financial constraints, director Haggis filmed in his own house, borrowed a set from the TV show Monk , used his car in parts of the film, and even used cars from other staff members.[ citation needed ] The film grossed $53.4 million domestically, making back more than seven times its budget. [1] Despite its success in relation to its cost, Crash was the lowest-grossing film at the domestic box office to win Best Picture since The Last Emperor in 1987.[ citation needed ]

Critical response

On review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 74% based on 241 reviews, with an average score of 7.23/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "A raw and unsettling morality piece on modern angst and urban disconnect, Crash examines the dangers of bigotry and xenophobia in the lives of interconnected Angelenos." [7] On Metacritic, the film has a score of 69 out of 100, based on 36 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [8] According to CinemaScore, audiences gave the film a grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale. [9]

Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars and described it as "a movie of intense fascination", [10] listing it as the best film of 2005. The film also ranks at #460 in Empire 's 2008 poll of the "500 Greatest Films of All Time". [11]

Some later reviews of Crash have been less favorable. Cultural critic Ta-Nehisi Coates criticized the film as shallow and "unthinking", naming Crash "the worst film of the decade". [12] The film has been critiqued for depicting the Persian shopkeeper as a "deranged, paranoid individual who is only redeemed by what he believes is a mystical act of God." [13] The film has also been criticized for using multicultural and sentimentalist imagery to cover over material and "historically sedimented inequalities" that continue to affect different racial groups in Los Angeles. [14]

In 2010, the Independent Film & Television Alliance selected Crash as one of the 30 Most Significant Independent Films of the last 30 years. [15]

Top ten lists

Crash was listed on many critics' top ten lists. [16]

Oscar controversy

Crash won the Best Picture Oscar at the 78th Academy Awards, controversially beating the critically favored Brokeback Mountain and making it only the second film ever (the other being The Sting ) to win the Academy Award for Best Picture without having been nominated for any of the three Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture (Best Drama, Best Comedy/Musical and Best Foreign Film).

The film's use of moral quandary as a storytelling medium was widely reported as ironic, since many saw it as the "safe" alternative to Brokeback Mountain, the plot of which focused on LGBT issues. Critic Kenneth Turan suggested that Crash benefited from anti-gay discomfort among Academy members, [19] [20] while critic Roger Ebert was of a different opinion, arguing that the better film won that year.

Film Comment magazine placed Crash first on their list of "Worst Winners of Best Picture Oscars", followed by Slumdog Millionaire at #2, and Chicago at #3. [21] Similarly, a 2014 survey of film critics by The Atlantic identified the film's victory as among the most glaring mistakes made by the Academy Awards. [22]

In 2015, The Hollywood Reporter polled hundreds of Academy members, asking them to re-vote on past controversial decisions. For the 2006 Best Picture winner, Brokeback Mountain beat Crash and the other nominees. [23] [24]

In a 2015 interview, Paul Haggis commented: "Was [Crash] the best film of the year? I don't think so. There were great films that year. Good Night, and Good Luck – amazing film. Capote – terrific film. Ang Lee's Brokeback Mountain , great film. And Spielberg's Munich . I mean please, what a year. Crash, for some reason, affected people, it touched people. And you can't judge these films like that. I'm very glad to have those Oscars. They're lovely things. But you shouldn't ask me what the best film of the year was because I wouldn't be voting for Crash, only because I saw the artistry that was in the other films. Now however, for some reason that's the film that touched people the most that year. So I guess that's what they voted for, something that really touched them. And I'm very proud of the fact that Crash does touch you. People still come up to me more than any of my films and say: 'That film just changed my life.' I've heard that dozens and dozens and dozens of times. So it did its job there. I mean, I knew it was the social experiment that I wanted, so I think it's a really good social experiment. Is it a great film? I don't know". [25]


Crash was nominated for six awards at the 78th Academy Awards and won three - Best Picture, Best Original Screenplay and Best Film Editing. It was nominated for two Golden Globe Awards, one for Best Supporting Actor (Matt Dillon) and the other for Best Screenplay (Paul Haggis and Robert Moresco).

Other awards include Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture at the 2005 Screen Actors Guild Awards; Best Original Screenplay at the Writers Guild of America Awards 2005; Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress (Newton) at the 59th British Academy Film Awards; Best Writer at the Critics' Choice Awards; Outstanding Motion Picture and Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role (Howard) at the Black Movie Awards; Best First Feature and Best Supporting Male (Dillon) at the Independent Spirit Awards; Best Cast and Best Writer at the Broadcast Film Critics Association Awards; and Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture (Howard) and Outstanding Motion Picture at the NAACP Image Awards.



All songs were written and composed by Mark Isham, except where noted. The original score was released through labels Gut and Colosseum in 2005. The iTunes release is the complete score released through Yari Music Group, and has the cues isolated and in film order (unlike the commercial score CD which is edited, incomplete, in a different order, and in suite form). [26]

1."Crash" 3:21
2."Go Forth My Son" 0:57
3."Hands in Plain Sight" 3:48
4."...Safe Now" 1:03
5."No Such Things as Monsters" 3:59
6."Find My Baby" 4:23
7."Negligence" 2:56
8."Flames" 7:59
9."Siren" 4:41
10."A Really Good Cloak" 3:28
11."A Harsh Warning" 2:51
12."Saint Christopher" 1:55
13."Sense of Touch" 6:44
14."In the Deep"Performed by Bird York; Co-written by Kathleen York and Michael Becker5:55
15."Maybe Tomorrow"Performed by Stereophonics; written by Kelly Jones 4:34

iTunes version (complete score)

1."Main Title"5:14
2.""We've Got Guns""1:00
3."Black Navigator / The Grope"5:05
4."A Warning"1:18
5."Magic Cloak"4:00
6."Back to the Toilet"1:34
7.""Your Father Sounds Like a Good Man""4:22
9."Cameron – Receipt"2:23
10."The Rescue"5:57
11."News Conference"2:35
12."Car Jack II"1:46
13.""I Didn't Ask for Your Help""2:51
14.""You Embarrass Me""1:24
15."The Shooting"3:29
16."Jean's Fall"1:55
17."Illegals / Morgue"6:43


The soundtrack's title is Crash: Music from and Inspired by the Film.

1."If I..." KansasCali 4:18
2."Plastic Jesus" Billy Idol 4:49
3."Are You Beautiful" Chris Pierce 2:52
4."Free" Civilization 3:43
5."Hey God"Randy Coleman4:04
6."Take the Pain Away"Al Berry4:19
8."Arrival" Pale 3/Beth Hirsch 5:08
9."Acedia (The Noonday Demon)"Quinn3:00
10."In the Deep" Bird York 3:48
11."Afraid" Quincy 5:08
12."Maybe Tomorrow" Stereophonics 4:37

Note: The country song playing during the carjacking scene is "Whiskey Town" by Moot Davis. Also, the song playing on the car radio when the hitchhiker is picked up is "Swinging Doors" by Merle Haggard.

Home media

Crash was released on DVD on September 6, 2005, in widescreen and fullscreen one-disc versions, with a number of bonus features, including a music video by KansasCali (now known as the Rocturnals) for the song "If I..." from the soundtrack. The director's cut of the film was released in a two-disc special edition DVD on April 4, 2006, with more bonus content than the one-disc set. The director's cut is three minutes longer than the theatrical cut. The scene where Daniel is talking with his daughter under her bed is extended and a new scene is added with officer Hansen in the police station locker room.[ citation needed ]

The film also was released in a limited edition VHS version. It was the last film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture to be released in VHS format.[ citation needed ] It was also the first Best Picture winner to be released on Blu-ray Disc in the US, on June 27, 2006. [27]

Television series

A 13-episode series premiered on the Starz network on October 17, 2008. The series features Dennis Hopper as a record producer in Los Angeles, California, and how his life is connected to other characters in the city, including a police officer (Ross McCall) and his partner, actress-turned-police officer, Arlene Tur. The cast consists of a Brentwood mother (Clare Carey), her real-estate developer husband (D. B. Sweeney), a former gang member-turned-EMT (Brian Tee), a street-smart driver (Jocko Sims), an undocumented Guatemalan immigrant (Luis Chavez), and a detective (Nick Tarabay). [28]

See also

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