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Bowling for Columbine (2002)

R  |   |  Documentary, Crime, Drama  |  15 November 2002 (USA)
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Filmmaker Michael Moore explores the roots of America's predilection for gun violence.



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Won 1 Oscar. Another 35 wins & 10 nominations. See more awards »



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Credited cast:
Himself - Narrator
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Himself - President of Chile (archive footage)
Jacobo Arbenz ...
Himself - President of Guatemala (archive footage)
Mike Bradley ...
Himself - Mayor of Sarnia, Ontario, Canada
Arthur A. Busch ...
Himself - County Prosecutor: Flint, Michigan (as Arthur Busch)
Himself (archive footage)
Himself (archive footage)
Michael Caldwell ...
Himself - Police Detective
Richard Castaldo ...
Himself - Columbine Victim
Himself (archive footage)
Steve Davis ...
Himself - Deputy Sheriff (archive footage)
Ngo Dinh Diem ...
Himself - President of South Vietnam (archive footage)
Mike Epstein ...
Himself - Shopper in Mall
Joe Farmer ...
Himself - Superintendent of Schools (archive footage)


The United States of America is notorious for its astronomical number of people killed by firearms for a developed nation without a civil war. With his signature sense of angry humor, activist filmmaker Michael Moore sets out to explore the roots of this bloodshed. In doing so, he learns that the conventional answers of easy availability of guns, violent national history, violent entertainment and even poverty are inadequate to explain this violence when other cultures share those same factors without the equivalent carnage. In order to arrive at a possible explanation, Michael Moore takes on a deeper examination of America's culture of fear, bigotry and violence in a nation with widespread gun ownership. Furthermore, he seeks to investigate and confront the powerful elite political and corporate interests fanning this culture for their own unscrupulous gain. Written by Kenneth Chisholm (kchishol@rogers.com)

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


One Nation Under The Gun See more »

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for some violent images and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:




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Release Date:

15 November 2002 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Akiryhtos polemos  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend:

$209,148 (USA) (11 October 2002)


$312,914 (Brazil) (20 June 2003)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


After two years of trying to get an interview with Charlton Heston, Michael Moore was going to give up. Showing up at Heston's house was totally spontaneous--on the way to the airport, a staff member suggested that they buy a "Map to the Stars' Homes" to find the house. See more »


A clip of a Godzilla-type monster roaring is shown while showing gun-related death rates for Japan. The clip, however, is from Gorgo, which was a UK production. See more »


Michael Moore: The media, the corporations, the politicians... have all done such a good job of scaring the American public, it's come to the point where they don't need to give any reason at all.
See more »

Crazy Credits

During the opening, archive footage is presented that claims the movie is presented by the National Rifle Association (NRA). See more »


Features Mortal Kombat (1992) See more »


How the West Was Won and Where It Got Us
Written by Bill Berry, Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe
Performed by R.E.M.
Courtesy of Warner Bros. Records
By Arrangement with Warner Special Projects
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Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A guerrilla for non violence
14 December 2002 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

`Bowling for Columbine,' is a very thought provoking film.

Perhaps the first thought it provokes in any US resident is that the most sensible thing he or she could possibly do is move forthwith to Canada. It's nearby, they speak English almost indistinguishable from standard American, it feels `lighter over there,' you get government health care, there are plenty of guns but very little killing, and you don't even have to lock your doors.

The fundamental question `Bowling for Columbine' asks is: What's responsible for the exceptionally high level of killing in America? Not a lot of guns, Moore points out, because other countries have that. Not a violent history, because other countries have that. Not a love of violent movies, video games, and so forth, because other countries love all that too. Not poverty, unemployment, and ethnic diversity, because lots of countries have more poverty and Canada has as much ethnic diversity and more unemployment. Two things, according to Moore, are primary causes: the US media, which, as he shows, fans up fear constantly among the American populace; and the government in Washington, which solves everything by bombing people somewhere. There's a third thing that emerges more subtly: a gun culture, which leads to the absurd notion of self-defense, perpetuating the violence and the fear and the racism. In this the leading force is that powerful lobby, the National Rifle Association. The result of this lethal combination delineated by Moore, particularly since 9/11, is that Americans aren't very happy people: they live in a constant state of rage, perturbation, and fear, when they're not disolved in tears for the dead who're falling in the houses and streets and schools of the country on a daily basis.

`Bowling for Columbine' isn't ultimately very cheery or uplifting stuff. True, it has lots of laughs, but most of them are ironic - a little sick-making, when you think about it -- and at American expense. Those of us who live in the USA and don't actually regard moving to Canada (or somewhere else) as a real option, aren't walking out of this polemical documentary feeling any too cheerful. One may quarrel with Moore's style, though it seems questionable that so many reviewers have expressed disapproval of his personal appearance (what's sloppy dressing got to do with it?). One can hardly quarrel with most of Moore's basic facts or the urgency of his subject or his commitment to it. Because of its significance to Americans on both personal and national levels, "Bowling for Columbine" has to be considered the most important (and it's becoming the most watched) US documentary film in many a year. This is being recognized in all sorts of ways, first of all with the special jury prize at Cannes. We shall see what the Academy has to say.

It's impressive that Moore and two young men seriously injured at Columbine were able by their confrontations to shame Wal-Mart into taking handguns and ammunition out of their stores - and Moore appears to have been surprised and impressed by this result himself.

Moore has seemed crude and simplistic and confrontational in the past. His methods have not radically changed, but they've modulated into something subtler and less self-serving, such that he has an ability to talk more easily with potential adversaries -- bank employees giving out rifles with new accounts; Michigan militiamen; even Charlton Heston, the haughty President of the National Rifle Association, who invites Moore into his house to film a conversation. True, Heston ends up walking out of the room after a while, but he doesn't have Moore thrown out. Nor does Wal-Mart. This is significant. One is tempted to call Moore's methods (as he wields them today) not crude and simplistic and confrontational, but direct, simple, and honest. There's something unimposing and Middle American about his overweight slouch and scruffy baseball cap crowned head. If he lives in a house worth close to $2 million in New York now, you can't tell it from looking at him, and that consciously maintained persona, if we choose to see it thus, aids him in moving through Littleton, Colorado and Windsor, Ontario, and the other places where he got the footage for this devastating, yet simple film. For credibility among US gun-toters like Heston, Moore has an ace in the hole: he's an expert marksman and a lifetime member of the NRA.

Heston walks out because he hasn't good answers; in fact he really hasn't any answers at all. His explanations for why the USA is so violent are ones Moore has already discounted, and he can't justify his brazenly fronting for the National Rifle Association in Colorado and Michigan right after the child murders by children in those two states. Marilyn Manson (the artist accused of complicity at Columbine because the young killers liked his music) in contrast has not only good answers, but also the greatest zinger in the film. When asked what he would have said to the youth at Columbine after the murders, he says: `Not a word. I'd have listened to them. That's what nobody has been doing.' In between telling interviews, Moore has various ways of documenting contexts: an animation, recited statistics with images, and astonishing film clips like the Fifties one of cops admiring how realistic some kids' toy guns are, and the one from a metal-detector company pushing for dress codes in schools, showing a boy with baggy pants unloading a whole arsenal. What's laughable are all such solutions that don't even begin to get at the problem - that are just profiteering from chaos and insecurity.

It's encouraging that so many people are seeing and commenting on this movie. When it was over, I wished the lights would go up and there'd be a discussion group held right there in the auditorium. There was a lot to talk about. Not everything was by any means clear, nor were all the facts to be bought without question. But in one way or another, `Bowling for Columbine' brings up all the most central issues in America today. Michael Moore makes you laugh and cry; but most important, he makes you think.

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