Badlands (1973)

Brief Intro

Badlands (1973), directed by Terrence Malick, is a hauntingly beautiful film that follows the crime spree of a young couple, Kit and Holly, across the American Midwest. Inspired by real-life events, this movie delves into themes of innocence, rebellion, and the search for identity against a backdrop of stunning cinematography.

Literary Devices Used in Badlands

Voice-over Narration

Movie SceneDevice Example
Holly describing her feelingsHolly’s naive and detached tone
Holly recounting their travelsReflects her romanticized view of events


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit and Holly dancing in the headlightsSymbolizes fleeting moments of happiness
Burning houseRepresents destruction of innocence


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit’s capture in the desertKit’s calm demeanor versus his capture
Holly’s dispassionate reaction to violenceContrasts with the horror of their acts


Movie SceneDevice Example
Holly’s dream sequencesBlurs lines between reality and fantasy
Kit’s treehouse utopiaRepresents a surreal escape from reality


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit building the treehouseRepresents his attempt to create a new world
Road trip through the badlandsJourney as a metaphor for self-discovery


Movie SceneDevice Example
Holly narrating about a looming endHints at the tragic conclusion
Kit’s fascination with James DeanForeshadows his tragic fate


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit’s charismatic speechesReveals his manipulative nature
Conversations between Kit and HollyShowcases their differing worldviews


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit’s admiration for James DeanConnects Kit to cultural icons of rebellion
References to famous outlawsLinks their story to mythic American narratives

Interior Monologue

Movie SceneDevice Example
Holly’s reflections on love and lifeReveals her internal conflict
Holly’s thoughts on their journeyProvides insight into her character


Movie SceneDevice Example
Kit’s final stand-offHeightens tension and drama
Holly’s decision to leave KitMarks the turning point of the narrative

Character Analysis Through Literary Devices

Character Studies


DialogueKit’s charming yet chilling dialogue reveals his manipulative and sociopathic nature.
SymbolismHis fixation on James Dean symbolizes his desire to be seen as a rebellious icon.


Voice-over NarrationHolly’s naive and romanticized narration provides insight into her immature perspective.
Interior MonologueHer reflections show her internal struggle and detachment from reality.

Character Dynamics

DialogueConversations between Kit and Holly reveal their contrasting worldviews and the power dynamics in their relationship.
SymbolismTheir interactions often symbolize the clash between innocence and corruption.

Thematic Analysis

Innocence and Corruption

SymbolismThe burning house symbolizes the destruction of Holly’s innocence.
ForeshadowingEarly scenes hint at the inevitable loss of innocence.

Rebellion and Conformity

AllusionKit’s admiration for James Dean alludes to the cultural icon of rebellion.
IronyThe ironic contrast between Kit’s actions and his calm demeanor underscores his rebellion against societal norms.

The Search for Identity

MetaphorThe journey through the badlands represents a search for identity.
SurrealismHolly’s dream sequences blur reality and fantasy, reflecting her inner turmoil.

Cinematic Techniques That Enhance Literary Devices

SymbolismVisual ImageryThe use of light and shadow enhances the symbolic nature of key scenes.
Voice-over NarrationSound DesignHolly’s detached narration is contrasted with the ambient sounds, creating a haunting effect.

| Irony | Cinematography | The serene landscapes contrast with the violent actions, highlighting the irony. | | Metaphor | Visual Composition | The framing of Kit’s treehouse scenes as an idyllic utopia contrasts with reality. |

Key Scene Analysis

Scene Selection:

Scene 1: Kit and Holly Dancing in the Headlights

  • YouTube Link: Kit and Holly Dancing Scene
  • Breakdown: This scene uses symbolism and visual imagery to capture a fleeting moment of happiness amidst chaos. The headlights represent hope and the temporary nature of their joy.

Scene 2: Kit’s Capture

  • YouTube Link: Kit’s Capture Scene
  • Breakdown: This scene combines irony and dramatic tension to underscore Kit’s calm demeanor during his capture, contrasting with the gravity of his crimes.

Scene 3: Burning House

  • YouTube Link: Burning House Scene
  • Breakdown: Symbolism and sound design are used to highlight the destruction of innocence as Holly watches her childhood home burn.


Interactive Quiz

  1. What literary device is primarily used in Holly’s narration?
  2. Which device is used in the scene where Kit builds the treehouse?
  3. What theme is highlighted by the burning house scene?
    • A) Rebellion
    • B) Innocence and Corruption
    • C) Search for Identity
    • D) Conformity


  1. B
  2. C
  3. B