A decades-long history of mixed visuals represent the Gonzo journalist’s exuberant words on film. In honor of Piotr Kabat‘s fantastic new animation of Hunter S. Thompson’s work (posted here and below), we rifle through a few other films attempting to get to the heart of this wild figure.
“Where the Buffalo Roam” | 1980 | Inchoate and Quirky
This comedy, semi-based on Hunter S. Thompson’s whacked-out adventures in the 1970s, was called “bad, dumb, low-level, low rent” by the journalist. Neither Bill Murray’s acting nor Neil Young’s score could save this bizarrely structured biopic that took the punch out of Thompson’s words. However, as Roger Ebert said, “this is the kind of bad movie that’s almost worth seeing.”
“Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas” | 1998 | Frenzied and Brilliant
Johnny Depp and Benicio Del Toro take on Raoul Duke and Dr. Gonzo, fictional exaggerations based on Hunter S.Thompson’s essays. The aesthetics are crazy, like a living Salvador Dali painting, as the two engage in psychedelic shenanigans in the backdrop of the ghoulish and vacuous Las Vegas.
“Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson” | 2008 | Sensitive and Thorough
This 2008 documentary, directed by Alex Gibney, attempts to give a complete and tender portrait of the man behind the writer. Gibney explores Thompson as an influencer in music and politics, with commentary provided by Ralph Steadman, Jann Wenner, Jimmy Carter and Tom Wolfe. Johnny Depp narrates.
“The Rum Diary” | 2011 | Bright and Bland
Johnny Depp takes on the journalist once again in this movie version of Thompson’s novel of the same name (it was written in the early 1960s, but not published until 1998). Depp brought a free-wheeling and unencumbered perspective to the role, whereas the original book was much more soulful and searching. The movie is marked by Caribbean blues and 1950s pastels — a look that stands apart from the garish and whirling “Buffalos” and “Fear and Loathing.”