Thelma & Louise is a movie that, like The Sixth Sense and Casablanca and Citizen Kane and a handful of other classics, is best known for its ending. “Let’s not get caught,” Thelma tells her best-friend-turned-partner-in-crime, after their run from the law ends with their, well, being caught. “Let’s keep going.” And keep going they do—driving their dust-covered Thunderbird (worst-kept spoiler in history alert) right into the Grand Canyon.
Flight, ending in flight: It’s a satisfyingly symbolic conclusion to a film that is laden with symbolism—about feminism, about female friendship, about a world that can have such little use for either. As Callie Khouri, the film’s screenwriter, explained of that final scene: “They flew away, out of this world and into the mass unconscious. Women who are completely free from all the shackles that restrain them have no place in this world. The world is not big enough to support them.”
Thelma & Louise was released 25 years ago today, and—though it was controversial at the time, accused of everything from promoting casual sex to promoting casual misandry—it is mostly remembered as a visionary feminist fable: a dark comic fairy tale that unapologetically placed two women at the center of its story, and refused to dismiss them as mere princesses. It is definitely, as all movies will be, a product of its time: The pair rely on pay phones to communicate, and use cash rather than credit cards, and take their iconic selfie—the photo that would double as the movie’s poster—with a clunky Polaroid. And Thelma, in particular, initially embraced the assorted cloyings of early-‘90s fashion (fringe, acid-washed denim, fluorescent eyeshadow) before joining Louise in the film’s iconic outlaw chic. But, wow, beyond those minor things: Thelma & Louise holds up extremely well. It feels relevant, and fresh, and urgent. It could have been made, with its script pretty much entirely unchanged, today.