Down by Law

October 30th, 1986


Down by Law

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The story of three different men in a Louisiana prison and their eventual journey.

Release Year: 1986

Rating: 7.8/10 (18,539 voted)

Director: Jim Jarmusch

Stars: Tom Waits, John Lurie, Roberto Benigni

DJ Zack and pimp Jack end up in prison for being too laid-back to avoid being framed for crimes they didn't commit. They end up sharing a cell with eccentric Italian optimist Roberto, whose limited command of the English language is both entertaining and infuriating -but rather more useful to them is the fact that Roberto knows an escape route

Tom Waits - Zack
John Lurie - Jack
Roberto Benigni - Roberto
Nicoletta Braschi - Nicoletta
Ellen Barkin - Laurette
Billie Neal - Bobbie
Rockets Redglare - Gig
Vernel Bagneris - Preston
Timothea - Julie
L.C. Drane - L.C.
Joy N. Houck Jr. - Detective Mandino (as Joy Houck Jr.)
Carrie Lindsoe - Young Girl
Ralph Joseph - Detective
Richard Boes - Detective
Dave Petitjean - Cajun Detective

Taglines: It's not where you start - It's where you start again.

Release Date: 30 October 1986

Filming Locations: Louisiana, USA

Box Office Details

Budget: $1,100,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend: $49,840 (USA) (28 September 1986) (6 Screens)

Gross: $3,144,445 (Germany)

Technical Specs


Did You Know?

Roberto Benigni's line "It's a sad and beautiful world" was the result of a misunderstanding. The script read "That's sad and beautiful music", but Benigni said "It's a sad and beautiful word", but Waits and Jarmusch misheard it and though he said "WORLD", and so, the line stuck.

[first lines]
Jack: Julie, what're you doing out here?
Julie: Just watching the light change.

User Review

Subtle grace masquerades as jail-break film

Rating: 10/10

One of the most frequently heard criticisms of Jarmusch's work is that the pace is slow. I would like to make a case for patience. After all, if true beauty and grace were delivered in one massive hit, our poor brains and hearts would not withstand the blow. In Down By Law, Jarmusch invites us to take some time, some real time and devote it to getting deeply involved with his characters. Men in crisis. Misfits, jailbirds, heartbreakingly human. We accompany them on their journey, their escape from their confines. It is a truly epic journey on a small geographical scale. We watch as they begin to mirror one another, as their individual egos become inextricably enmeshed in one another. We watch a friendship form. And how can we begrudge the time Jarmusch takes for this glorious exposition? How can we do anything but marvel at the fine detail in which the scenes are drawn, at the subtle movements of our heroes? Every gesture signifies worlds of meaning and consequence. And Jarmusch does it better, with more skill and with more compassion than anyone. If you are prepared to get involved, if you are brave enough to commit to the journey, you will be rewarded with a kind of epiphany that few films can offer.


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