Terrence Malick made his directorial debut with 1973’s Badlands, an impressive undertaking that found the filmmaker already exploring themes that would later be revisited in such efforts as The Thin Red Line and The Tree of Life. Based on the real-life exploits of Charles Starkweather, a disaffected 19-year-old who went on a killing spree in the late 1950s with his 14-year-old girlfriend in tow, this significantly softens the true story by deleting the more gruesome elements from the narrative and instead infusing the drama with a poetic evocation of time and place. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek are excellent as 25-year-old Kit, who patterns himself after James Dean in Rebel without a Cause, and 15-year-old Holly, who follows him everywhere because she expects he’ll introduce adventure to her staid existence. Malick studies these characters with a dispassionate eye, and the movie itself predates Oliver Stone’s Natural Born Killers by approximately two decades in calling out the absurdity of treating low-IQ thugs like celebrities (in this picture, the cops are the ones doing all the fawning!).