Kids (film)

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Kids film.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLarry Clark
Written byHarmony Korine
Produced byCary Woods
CinematographyEric Edwards
Edited byChristopher Tellefsen
Music by
  • Independent Pictures
  • The Guys Upstairs
  • Killer Films
  • Shining Excalibur Films
  • Kids NY Limited
Distributed byShining Excalibur Films
Release date
  • May 17, 1995 (1995-05-17) (Cannes)
  • July 28, 1995 (1995-07-28) (United States)
Running time
91 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]
Box office$20.4 million[3]

Kids is a 1995 American coming-of-age drama film directed by Larry Clark and written by Harmony Korine.[4] It stars Leo Fitzpatrick, Justin Pierce, Chloë Sevigny, and Rosario Dawson, all in their film debuts. Set in the year 1994, Fitzpatrick, Pierce, Sevigny, Dawson, and other newcomers portray a group of teenagers in New York City. They are characterized as hedonists, who engage in sexual acts and substance abuse, throughout the course of a single day. Ben Detrick of the New York Times has described the film as "Lord of the Flies with skateboards, nitrous oxide and hip-hop... There is no thunderous moral reckoning, only observational detachment."[5] The film was deemed controversial upon its release in 1995 and caused public debate over its artistic merit. It received an NC-17 rating from the MPAA, but was released without a rating. Critical response was mixed, and the film grossed $20.4 million on a $1.5 million budget.


A boy named Telly and a 12-year-old girl are making out on a bed. With no adults around, Telly, who is a few years older, persuades the girl, who is a virgin, to have sex with him. Afterwards, he meets with his best friend, Casper, and they talk about his sexual experience. Telly vocalizes his desire to keep having sex with virginal girls. The pair then enters a local store, where Casper shoplifts a 40 oz. bottle of malt liquor as Telly distracts the cashier. Looking for drugs, food, and a place to hang out, they head to their friend Paul's apartment, despite expressing their dislike of him on the way there. Once they arrive at Paul's house, they join the other boys in boasting about their sexual prowess, as well as their nonchalant attitudes to both unprotected sex and venereal diseases. While doing so, the boys smoke marijuana while watching a skating video. Casper inhales nitrous oxide out of balloons, which Telly considers dangerous.

Across the city, a group of girls, among them Ruby and Jennie, are talking about sex. Their attitudes evidently contradict that of the boys on many topics, particularly oral sex and the significance of the individuals to whom they lost their virginities. Ruby and Jennie mention that they were recently tested for STDs at Ruby's request, though Jennie only got tested to keep Ruby company. Ruby's test is negative, though she has had multiple sexual encounters, many of them unprotected intercourse.

Jennie tests positive for HIV. She tells the nurse that she has had sex only once, with Telly. Distraught over her results, Jennie spends the rest of the day trying to find Telly, to prevent him from passing the virus on to another girl. Meanwhile, Telly and Casper walk to Telly's house and steal money from Telly's mother, who is preoccupied with taking care of her new baby.

They go to Washington Square Park and purchase a dime bag of marijuana from a rastafarian. They then meet up with a few friends to talk and smoke, one of whom gives a blunt-rolling tutorial. During the hangout, Casper and many others taunt a gay couple passing through the park. On the side, Telly briefly talks to Misha, a girl who strongly dislikes Casper and calls him a jerk.

As Casper rides on a skateboard, he carelessly bumps into a man, who angrily threatens and pushes Casper. The man is struck in the back of the head with a skateboard by Casper's friend Harold, causing him to collapse. A number of other skaters join in, beating, stomping, and hitting the man with their skateboards until he is rendered unconscious by a final blow to the head by Casper.

While discussing whether or not they killed the man at the park, Telly and some of the group pick up a 13-year-old girl named Darcy— the virginal younger sister of an acquaintance— with whom Telly wants to have sex. He successfully convinces her to accompany them to a public pool. The other girls engage in kissing and flirtation, but Darcy shows restraint. Afterwards, the group goes to an unsupervised party at the house of another friend, named Steven.

Meanwhile, Jennie makes her way to Washington Square Park where she speaks to Misha, who tells her about Telly's possible whereabouts at "N.A.S.A.". When Jennie arrives at the club, she runs into Fidget, a raver boy, who shoves a pill into her mouth, which he says is supposed to make "Special K look weak". The drug turns out to be a depressant. Once its effects set in, Jennie discovers that Telly is at the party at Steven's house.

Jennie arrives at the party only to learn she is too late, as she discovers Telly having sex with Darcy, thus exposing her to HIV. Emotionally drained and still under the influence, Jennie cries and passes out on a couch among the other sleeping partygoers. A drunk Casper then rapes Jennie unprotected as she sleeps, exposing himself to HIV. Another teen at the party was able to witness the assault. As daylight approaches, a voice-over by Telly explains how sex is the only worthwhile thing in his life. The next morning, a naked and confused Casper wakes up and says "Jesus Christ, what happened?"


Additionally, Sarah Henderson portrays the first girl Telly is seen having sex with and Tony Morales and Walter Youngblood portray the gay couple. Julie Stebe-Glorius and Christina Stebe-Glorious appear as Telly's mother and younger brother, respectively. The Rastafari is played by an actor credited as "Dr. Henry". Screenwriter Harmony Korine has an uncredited appearance as Fidget.


I wanted to present the way kids see things, but without all this baggage, this morality that these old middle aged Hollywood guys bring to it. Kids don't think that way...they're living in the moment not thinking about anything beyond that and that's what I wanted to catch.

– Larry Clark[6]

Larry Clark said that he wanted to "make the Great American Teenage Movie, like the Great American Novel."[7] The film is shot in a quasi-documentary style, although all of its scenes are scripted.

In Kids, Clark cast New York City "street" kids with no previous acting experience, notably Leo Fitzpatrick (Telly) and Justin Pierce (Casper). Clark originally decided he wanted to cast Fitzpatrick in a film after watching him skateboard in New York, and cursing when he could not land certain tricks. Korine had met Chloë Sevigny in New York before production began on Kids, and initially cast her in a small role as one of the girls in the swimming pool. She was given the leading role of Jennie when the actress hired to play her, Mia Kirshner, was fired. Sevigny and Korine went on to make Gummo (1997) together. Korine makes a cameo in the club scene with Jennie, as the kid wearing Coke-bottle glasses and a Nuclear Assault shirt who gives her drugs, though the part is credited to his brother Avi.

Korine reportedly wrote the film's screenplay in 1993, at the age of 19, and principal photography took place during the summer of 1994. Contrary to the perception of many viewers, the film, according to Korine, was almost entirely scripted, with the only exception being the scene with Casper on the couch at the end, which was improvised.[8] Gus Van Sant had been attached to the film as a producer. After insufficient interest had been generated in the film, he left the project. Under incoming producer Cary Woods, the project found sufficient independent funding for the film. Harvey Weinstein of Miramax, wary of parent The Walt Disney Company's opinion of the risky screenplay, declined to involve Disney in funding the production of the film. After Woods showed him the final cut, Miramax paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights of this film.[9]


Miramax, which was owned by The Walt Disney Company, paid $3.5 million to buy the worldwide distribution rights.[9] Later, Harvey and Bob Weinstein (the co-chairmen of Miramax) were forced to buy back the film from Disney and created Shining Excalibur Films (a one-off company) to release the film, due to Disney's policy, that at the time, forbid the release of NC-17 rated films (and the fact their appeal to the MPAA to lower it to R was denied). Eamonn Bowles was hired to be the chief operating officer of Shining Excalibur Films.[10]

The film, which cost $1.5 million to produce, grossed $7.4 million in the North American box office[3] and $20 million worldwide.[11] According to Peter Biskind's book Down and Dirty Pictures, Eamonn Bowles had stated that Harvey and Bob Weinstein might have personally profited up to $2 million each.[12]


The film received mixed reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes the film has a score of 46% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 5.7/10. The site's consensus reads, "Kids isn't afraid to test viewers' limits, but the point of its nearly non-stop provocation is likely to be lost in all the repellent characters and unpleasant imagery".[13] On Metacritic the film has a score of 63/100 based on reviews from 18 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[14] It was championed by some prominent critics, including Roger Ebert of The Chicago Sun Times, who gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4. "Kids is the kind of movie that needs to be talked about afterward. It doesn't tell us what it means. Sure, it has a 'message', involving safe sex. But safe sex is not going to civilize these kids, make them into curious, capable citizens. What you realize, thinking about Telly, is that life has given him nothing that interests him, except for sex, drugs and skateboards. His life is a kind of hell, briefly interrupted by orgasms."[15]

Janet Maslin of The New York Times called the film a "wake-up call to the modern world" about the nature of present-day youth in urban life.[16] Other critics have labeled it exploitative (in the lascivious sense) as borderline "child pornography".[17] Other critics derided the film, with the most common criticism relating to the perceived lack of artistic merit.

Feminist scholar bell hooks spoke extensively about the film in Cultural Criticism and Transformation: "Kids fascinated me as a film precisely because when you heard about it, it seemed like the perfect embodiment of the kind of postmodern, notions of journeying and dislocation and fragmentation and yet when you go to see it, it has simply such a conservative take on gender, on race, on the politics of HIV."[18]


  • 1995 Independent Spirit Awards
    • Best Debut Performance – Justin Pierce
    • Best First Feature (nominated; director Larry Clark and producer Cary Woods)
    • Best First Screenplay (nominated; Harmony Korine)
    • Best Supporting Female (nominated; Chloë Sevigny)[19]

In popular culture[edit]

  • American rapper Wale references Kids in his song titled "Legendary" from his album Ambition.[20]
  • In August 2010, American rapper Mac Miller released the mixtape K.I.D.S., and its cover art, title, and some musical themes pay homage to the film. Some audio clips from the film are also part of the mixtape in between songs.[21]
  • American rapper and record producer Dr. Dre references the film by name in "Guilty Conscience". In the second verse, he voices against the "guilty conscience" of a fictional character within the song who is about to commit statutory rape, a main theme in the movie.[22]
  • Canadian R&B singer The Weeknd described his childhood as "Kids without the AIDS."[23]
  • Metal band Emmure released a song on their album Felony called "I Thought You Met Telly and Turned Me into Casper".


Kids Original Soundtrack
Soundtrack album by
Various artists
  • Brian Beattie
  • Randall Poster
  • Tim O'Heir
Singles from Kids Original Soundtrack
  1. "Natural One"
    Released: November 21, 1995
Professional ratings
Review scores
AllMusic4.5/5 stars[24]
Entertainment WeeklyA[25]

Creation of the film's soundtrack was overseen by Lou Barlow.

  1. Daniel Johnston – "Casper"
  2. Deluxx Folk Implosion – "Daddy Never Understood"
  3. Folk Implosion – "Nothing Gonna Stop"
  4. Folk Implosion – "Jenny's Theme"
  5. Folk Implosion – "Simean Groove"
  6. Daniel Johnston – "Casper the Friendly Ghost"
  7. Folk Implosion – "Natural One"
  8. Sebadoh – "Spoiled"
  9. Folk Implosion – "Crash"
  10. Folk Implosion – "Wet Stuff"
  11. Lo-Down – "Mad Fright Night"
  12. Folk Implosion – "Raise the Bells"
  13. Slint – "Good Morning, Captain"


  1. ^ "KIDS (18) (!)". British Board of Film Classification. Retrieved March 18, 2013.
  2. ^ "Kids (1995)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  3. ^ a b "Kids (1995) – Financial Information". The Numbers. Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  4. ^ " – Kids". Archived from the original on November 8, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2007.
  5. ^ Detrick, Ben (July 21, 2015). "'Kids,' Then and Now". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved April 5, 2021.
  6. ^ Annear, Judy (2007). Photography: Art Gallery of New South Wales Collection. p. 260. ISBN 9781741740066.
  7. ^ Bowen, Peter. Summer 1995. "The Little Rascals." Retrieved 2009-10-29.
  8. ^ Lyons, Tom. 1997-10-16. "Southern Culture on the Skids". The Eye. Retrieved 2009-11-6.
  9. ^ a b "Controversy: 'Kids' for Adults", Newsweek, February 20, 1995
  10. ^ Roman, Monica (January 7, 1998). "Roman, Monica; "Bowles distrib'n prez for Shooting Gallery: Ex-Goldwyn arthouse exec brings sound instincts to Gallery"; January 8, 1998". Variety. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  11. ^ Klady, Leonard. "Bookie bets on 'Paradise'" Daily Variety May 7, 1997
  12. ^ Biskind, Peter (2004). Down and Dirty Pictures: Miramax, Sundance, and the Rise of Independent Film. Simon & Schuster. p. 215.
  13. ^ "Kids (1995)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved December 17, 2020.
  14. ^ "Kids". Metacritic.
  15. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 28, 1995). "Kids Movie Review & Film Summary (1995)". Retrieved March 20, 2016.
  16. ^ Maslin, Janet (July 21, 1995). "FILM REVIEW: KIDS; Growing Up Troubled, In Terrifying Ways". The New York Times.
  17. ^ Kempley, Rita (August 25, 1995). "'Kids' (NR)". Washington Post. Retrieved August 18, 2007.
  18. ^ Jhally, Sut. "bell hooks: Cultural Criticism & Transformation" (PDF). Retrieved March 31, 2013.
  19. ^ Awards page for Kids at the Internet Movie Database
  20. ^ "Legendary". Retrieved December 14, 2020.
  21. ^ "'Jesus Christ. What happened?': Larry Clark's 1995 'Kids' turns 20". Retrieved February 19, 2018.
  22. ^ "Guilty Conscience". Kids is a movie about sexually promiscuous teenagers. In the movie, Jennie has HIV, and her friend Casper rapes her while she’s passed out due to a drug at a party. We’re left to assume Casper contracts HIV from this, so Dre is warning not to end up like Casper.
  23. ^ "Can the Weeknd Turn Himself Into the Biggest Pop Star in the World?". Retrieved October 22, 2020.
  24. ^ a b Stephen Thomas Erlewine. "Kids [Original Soundtrack] - Original Soundtrack | Songs, Reviews, Credits, Awards". AllMusic. Retrieved July 16, 2015.
  25. ^ Entertainment Weekly (8/18/95, p.55) - "... it is as dark, beautiful, and uncommercial as the film it accompanies. ... But the haunting, gritty results are surprisingly addictive for a score ..." - Rating: A
  26. ^ NME (Magazine) (4/13/96, p.49) - 7 (out of 10) - "... a splendid record [that] ... pull[s] off the effortlessly cool dance fusion of rattly hip-hop beats and copyright-Barlow sonic doodles. ... [it] works, both as a collection of songs `inspired by' the film, and as a Folk Implosion extravaganza."
  27. ^ Spin (10/95, p.120) - 8 - Very Good - "... the music to ... KIDS is an inextricable component. It provides a crucial emotional center in a brutally cold picture. ... Lou Barlow seems an unlikely choice to score the bulk of this street flick, but he's modified his music to fit KIDS's urban vibe ..."

External links[edit]