Citizen Ruth

December 13th, 1996


Citizen Ruth

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Alexander Payne in Citizen RuthStill of Kurtwood Smith and Mary Kay Place in Citizen RuthRachel & RuthDirector and co-writer Alexander PayneDirector & Co-writer Alexander Payne with Laura DernStill of Laura Dern and Mary Kay Place in Citizen Ruth

An irresponsible, drug-addicted, recently impregnated woman finds herself in the middle of an abortion debate when both parties attempt to sway her to their respective sides.

Release Year: 1996

Rating: 6.8/10 (3,703 voted)

Critic's Score: 64/100

Director: Alexander Payne

Stars: Laura Dern, Swoosie Kurtz, Mary Kay Place

Ruth Stoops is a poor indigent drug-user (a huffer - inhaling glue and paint for a high) whose down and out existence is complicated once more by becoming pregnant (she has had and lost four children already). When a judge orders that she gets an abortion or face a felony charge, she is befriended by Gail Stoney, a pro-lifer whose husband is president of the local "Babysavers" group. Suddenly Ruth is thrust into the middle of the pro-choice/pro-life struggle, with each side wanting her to take their side as a "message" to others - and the situation escalates...

Writers: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor

Laura Dern - Ruth Stoops
Swoosie Kurtz - Diane Siegler
Kurtwood Smith - Norm Stoney
Mary Kay Place - Gail Stoney
Kelly Preston - Rachel
M.C. Gainey - Harlan
Kenneth Mars - Dr. Charlie Rollins
David Graf - Judge Richter
Kathleen Noone - Nurse Pat
Tippi Hedren - Jessica Weiss
Burt Reynolds - Blaine Gibbons
Lance Rome - Ricky, Ruth's Lover
Jim Kalal - Tony Stoops
Shea Degan - Arresting Officer
Vince Morelli - Dr. George

Taglines: Life, liberty, money and the pursuit of happiness. She's gotta have it.


Official Website: Miramax |

Release Date: 13 December 1996

Filming Locations: 3216 1st Avenue, Council Bluffs, Iowa, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $3,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $26,709 (USA) (15 December 1996) (6 Screens)

Gross: $153,155 (USA) (12 January 1997)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Final theatrical film of Kenneth Mars.

Continuity: When Norm is lying next to Ruth on her bed, there is a change of camera. He moves his hand to the center of his chest in each camera shot.

Ruth: [after seeing a movie about abortion] I slept in a few dumpsters. Maybe I slept on some babies.

User Review


Rating: 9/10

An outstanding work – the consummate Indie.

A great, little satire that manages to make you identify with a homeless, hopeless druggie.

Laura Dern is perfect as the indigent & insatiable "Ruth". She brings an engaging hidden-beauty to the part, and with the help of Alexander Payne's brilliant direction, she nimbly walks the wire between comical hero and tragic pariah.

This gem clearly demonstrates that, even though the production budget may be lower than a republican's principles - when great talent and artistic enthusiasm couple, a work of genius is likely to be born.

Cheers, AB – a staff member of Prospect Point Productions, Inc.


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