The road trip movie Thelma & Louise hit the big screen in 1991. The film, directed by Ridley Scott, starred Geena Davis and Susan Sarandon as the titular characters who fled from law enforcement by speeding across the country in a vintage convertible. Supporting cast members included Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, and Brad Pitt in what would become some of their breakthrough roles.
A Huge, Award-Winning Hit
Thelma & Louise was a box office hit, and critics loved it. The picture was nominated for six Academy Awards, including Best Director for Scott and Best Actress for both Sarandon and Davis. Screenwriter Callie Khouri took home the Oscar for Best Original Screenplay.
The United States Library of Congress selected the film to include in the National Film Registry in 2016, calling it “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The movie, which was seeped in controversy following its release, is now considered a classic. It has been hailed as being a feminist film that set the bar for future films in the genre.
The Film’s Most Iconic Scene
(Warning! Spoilers ahead!) The film’s most iconic scene takes place at the end. Authorities finally catch up to Thelma and Louise about 100 yards away from the edge of the Grand Canyon. Arkansas State Police Investigator Hal Slocumb tries to talk the ladies into surrendering, but they refuse because they don’t want to spend the rest of their lives in prison.
Thelma suggests they “keep going,” meaning they launch themselves over the cliff. The two women agree to commit suicide, kiss, and ride their car over the edge where they presumably die. Many filmmakers have since paid homage to and parodied the famous scene.
Geena Davis: Then
Geena Davis played Thelma Dickinson, a woman who lived in Arkansas and was married to a controlling man named Darryl (played by Christopher McDonald). Her friend Louise Sawyer (Sarandon) was a waitress who dated a musician that spent a lot of time traveling.
The pair decided to have a little fun and take a two-day road trip in Louise’s 1966 Ford Thunderbird convertible. Davis followed the success of Thelma & Louise with the films A League of Their Own, Angie, and Cutthroat Island. In 2005 she starred in the TV show Commander in Chief for which she earned a Golden Globe Award.
Geena Davis: Now
In 1999, Davis aimed to compete in the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney, Australia, in archery. After Commander In Chief was canceled in 2006, the following year the actress launched the Geena Davis Institute on Gender Media. In 2015 she created the Bentonville Film Festival to focus on films featuring gender and racial diversity.
She was a regular guest star on Grey’s Anatomy in 2014 and 2015 and also starred in the TV series The Exorcist. In 2017 she starred in Marjorie Prime opposite Jon Hamm. She has been married to her fourth husband, neurosurgeon Reza Jarrahy, since 2001, and they have three kids.
Susan Sarandon: Then
After Thelma is sexually assaulted at a roadhouse, Louise takes a gun that Thelma brought with them and shoots and kills the man, thus launching the two friends’ time on the run. Louise suggests they go to Mexico via Oklahoma but refuses to pass through Texas (where it’s later revealed she had been raped years earlier).
The pair meets up with Louise’s musician boyfriend, who gives them some cash and unsuccessfully asks Louise to marry him. The money is later stolen by a drifter, and the two friends rob a convenience store. By this point, authorities are on to them.
Following Thelma & Louise, Sarandon starred in multiple films, including Dead Man Walking, Stepmom, The Lovely Bones, Anywhere But Here, The Banger Sisters, Romance & Cigarettes, and Cloud Atlas. She also appeared in several TV shows, such as Malcolm In The Middle, Children of Dune, Rescue Me and The Big C.
Sarandon is a political activist and has represented several causes, including LGBTQ rights. In 1999 she was made UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. She received the Action Against Humanitarian Award in 2006. In 2017 she played Bette Davis in the TV series Feud. She has several films in production.
Brad Pitt: Then
Brad Pitt was a relatively unknown actor when he appeared in Thelma & Louise. He played a petty criminal named J.D. who breaks parole and hitches a ride with the women while they’re on the run. He ends up sleeping with Thelma and steals the money they pick up from Louise’s boyfriend.
Thelma learned how to rob the convenience store by listening to J.D.’s stories. Prior to Thelma & Louise, Pitt appeared in several TV shows, including Dallas, Growing Pains, Head of the Class, Glory Days, and Thirtysomething. His role in the 1991 film catapulted his career, eventually making him one of the most sought-after actors in Hollywood.
Brad Pitt: Now
Pitt has starred in multiple films since the 90s, including Se7en, Fight Club, Seven Years in Tibet, Meet Joe Black, Ocean’s Thirteen, Mr. & Mrs. Smith, Inglorious Basterds, Moneyball, Fury, World War Z, and 12 Years A Slave. He famously married Friends actress Jennifer Aniston before marrying and having six children with second wife Angelina Jolie (whom he later divorced).
He is a big supporter of humanitarian causes in areas such as embryonic stem-cell research and battling poverty. He started the Jolie-Pitt Foundation with wife Jolie in 2016. He most recently appeared in the films Allied and War Machine and has several films in production.
Michael Madsen: Then
Michael Madsen played Louise’s musician boyfriend Jimmy Lennox. When the girls ran out of money, he met Louise in person to give it to her. Jimmy also asked Louise to marry him, but she refused. Madsen started acting professionally in the 1980s. He guest starred in several TV shows, including St. Elsewhere, Cagney & Lacey, Miami Vice, Our Family Honor, Crime Story, Jake and the Fatman and Quantum Leap.
He also launched his prolific film career, making appearances in WarGames (opposite Matthew Broderick), The Natural (opposite Robert Redford), The End Of Innocence, Kill Me Again, Blood Red and Shadows in the Storm.
Michael Madsen: Now
Madsen’s star power multiplied one year after appearing in Thelma & Louise. The film Reservoir Dogs made him a star in 1992. He has appeared in more than 150 films in his career and often partners with director Quentin Tarantino. In addition to Reservoir Dogs, he’s starred in Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 and The Hateful Eight.
He is also known for the films Sin City, Die Another Day, Donnie Brasco and Free Willy. Madsen is also a poet and photographer. His first book, Burning In Paradise, won the Independent Firecracker Award and was later translated into Norwegian. He has over a dozen films scheduled for 2017 alone.
Harvey Keitel: Then
Harvey Keitel played Arkansas State Police Investigator Hal Slocumb who is tasked with finding Thelma and Louise. He ends up sympathizing with the women, particularly after he discovers that Louise had been raped in her past.
He promises to help the pair during a few brief phone conversations with Louise, but they refuse to surrender to authorities. Keitel launched his acting career in the 1960s in the TV shows Hogan’s Heroes and Dark Shadows. He also appeared in Kojak, The F.B.I., and Happy Days before focusing on film. Prior to the release of Thelma & Louise, his film resume included The Last Temptation of Christ and Taxi Driver.
Harvey Keitel: Now
In 1992, Keitel appeared in Reservoir Dogs alongside his Thelma & Louise co-star Michael Madsen. He also starred in Pulp Fiction, From Dusk Till Dawn, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Keitel is a big proponent of method acting and won the Stanislavsky Award for faithfully following Constantin Stanislavski’s method of acting.
He has worked on several projects with director Martin Scorsese and actor Robert De Niro. In 2016, he appeared in the TV series Rio Heat and Inside Amy Schumer. He also starred in the films Chosen and The Comedian. He has a full film slate for 2017 and 2018.
Christopher McDonald: Then
Christopher McDonald played Thelma’s controlling and unappreciative husband Darryl in Thelma & Louise. His part in the film wound up being his breakthrough role in Hollywood. McDonald started acting in the 1970s. He guest starred in several TV series, including Lottery!, Call To Glory, Hunter, Knight Rider, It’s A Living, The Twilight Zone, Guns of Paradise, Matlock and Star Trek: The Next Generation.
He also appeared in the films Chances Are, Paramedics, Outrageous Fortune (opposite Bette Midler), The Boys Next Door, Chattanooga Choo Choo, Where The Boys Are, The Black Room, Grease 2, The Hearse, Breakin’, and Dutch.
Christopher McDonald: Now
In 1994, McDonald played Jack Barry in Robert Redford’s Quiz Show. He followed that up as John Krakauher in Into Thin Air and Tappy Timmons in Requiem for a Dream. He has also starred in the films The Iron Giant, Happy Gilmore (opposite Adam Sandler), American Pie, Flubber and Leave it To Beaver.
In the ’90s he appeared in the TV shows Veronica’s Closet and Superman. His more recent television credits include Harry’s Law, Boardwalk Empire, Family Law, The Good Wife, and Ballers. He continues to act on both the big and small screens. 2017 projects include the films Wetlands, Brooklyn All American, and Soul Ties.
Stephen Tobolowsky: Then
Actor Stephen Tobolowsky played FBI agent Max, who had zero sympathy for Thelma and Louise. He is a well-known character actor who attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, with the goal of getting a geology degree.
Instead, he wound up acting. He started his career in theater and made a name for himself in the ’80s after landing roles in The Philadelphia Experiment, Nobody’s Fool, Spaceballs, and Mississippi Burning. He also guest-starred on the TV series Alice, Knots Landing, Falcon Crest, Cagney & Lacey, Stir Crazy, 227, Designing Women, and The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd.
Stephen Tobolowsky: Now
Tobolowsky parlayed the success of Thelma & Louise into several more films, including Groundhog Day, Memento, Buried and The Confirmation. His most recent TV projects include Justified, Californication, Glee, Community, The Mindy Project, Silicon Valley, One Day At A Time, Justice League Action, and The Goldbergs.
Tobolowsky also runs two audio podcasts, The Tobolowsky Files, which includes stories about himself, and Big Problems – An Advice Podcast. The star also wrote a book titled The Dangerous Animals Club and Cautionary Tales. He has several upcoming projects, including the films Loners, Butterfly in the Typewriter, Monsters At Large, and Strange Nature.
Timothy Carhat: Then
Timothy Carhart played Harlan Puckett, the scumbag who met Thelma at a roadhouse, showed her a good time by dancing with her and then attempts to rape her. He is killed by Louise after making snide remarks towards the two women. Carhart was born in Washington, D.C., and traveled the world to countries such as Turkey and France before deciding to study acting in the United States.
He launched his career in some off-Broadway shows before landing some small roles in films such as Ghostbusters, Witness, and Working Girl. He also appeared in the movies The Hunt for Red October and Pink Cadillac.
Timothy Carhart: Now
Following his role on Thelma & Louise, Carhart starred in the 1992 Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire. He also appeared in Beverly Hills Cop III, Red Rock West, and Air Force One. He has appeared in numerous TV shows, including Quantum Leap, The X-Files, The Practice, Midnight Caller, Empty Nest, Roseanne, The Young Riders, L.A. Law, Law & Order, Strange World Profiler, 24, and Touched by An Angel.
In 2000 he played the ex-husband of Marg Helgenberger’s character on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. More recently, his TV roles included Mad Men, Castle, Leverage, Lie to Me, and Criminal Minds.
Jason Beghe: Then
Jason Beghe played a state trooper in Thelma & Louise. The actor attended the Collegiate School in New York City where he became very close friends with John F. Kennedy, Jr., and David Duchovny, who he encouraged to get into acting.
In 1988, Beghe played a quadriplegic in the George A. Romero film Monkey Shines: An Experiment In Fear. His performance was praised by critics. He appeared in several TV shows in the ’80s and ’90s, including 1st & Ten: The Championship, The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, Alien Nation, Quantum Leap, Murder She Wrote, and Jake and the Fatman.
Jason Beghe: Now
Beghe has heavily focused on television acting and has had recurring roles on Picket Fences, Melrose Place, Chicago Hope, and American Dreams. He currently stars in the NBC series Chicago P.D. and has appeared in episodes of Chicago Justice and Chicago Fire.
He joined the Church of Scientology in 2004 and became such a convert that he appeared in the church’s advertising campaign and promotional videos. He famously left the church in 2007. He later said of Scientology: “Scientology delivers what it promises under the guise of tearing away falsity, neuroses, psychoses. It creates a brainwashed, robotic version of you.”