The Laramie Project

7.11 h 35 min200213+
[HBO] HD. A groundbreaking drama that recreates the efforts of a NYC theater troupe who traveled to the scene of a gay man's brutal murder.
Moises Kaufman
Dylan BakerTom BowerClancy Brown
English [CC]
Audio languages
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4.5 out of 5 stars

258 global ratings

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Jay FairesReviewed in the United States on January 23, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Laramie Project Review
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There are few films that can successfully and accurately portray the complex emotions felt by our nation’s citizens during the aftermath of a tragedy, but if there is one movie that does this flawlessly, it is The Laramie Project. Originally written as a play, and developed using the transcripts of real interviews with the people of Laramie, Wyoming, the film version of The Laramie Project tells viewers the story of Matthew Shepard, a 21-year-old gay man living in Laramie who was viciously murdered in 1998 due to his sexuality. Directed by playwright Moisés Kaufman, the movie was a hit, scoring 92% favorability with critics on Rotten Tomatoes and a 7.3/10 rating on IMDB. The Laramie Project directly contradicts Hollywood’s all-too-common negative portrayals of the LGBTQ community, through its non-biased storytelling and factual recreation of the events occurring in the aftermath of Matthew’s death. The movie was generally received positively by LGBTQ viewers, likely due to its sensitive and realistic portrayal of LGBTQ individuals; it even inspired a number of efforts to pass hate crime legislation and tackle the ever-present issue of homophobia in U.S. society.
The Laramie Project follows the members of the Tectonic Theater Project, a theater group from New York City, as they conduct interviews with citizens of Laramie just after Matthew Shepard’s murder. According to the movie, Shepard was at a bar when he was approached by two men, Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson, who proceeded to kidnap, rob, and beat him, eventually leaving him to die, tied to a fencepost in the rural outskirts of the town. Matthew Shepard was discovered the next day, unconscious, and taken to a hospital, where he died just six days later. Records show that Shepard’s attackers were motivated to commit such a vile assault because Matthew was an openly gay man – his sexuality is approached in many of the interviews, and is the subject is met with mixed reactions, some positive and some negative. Although the movie initially depicts many of the town’s residents as being reluctant to talk about the tragedy, the citizens eventually open up to the theater group members, displaying (in detail) their complex opinions on homosexuality, and sharing the ways in which the tragedy impacted their personal lives.
The film’s presentation of LGBTQ life in Laramie was phenomenal, providing the audience with a straightforward depiction of how the topic of homosexuality was seen by the people of Laramie at the time. The honesty exhibited in the interviews translated perfectly to film, forcing viewers to think critically about their own views on homosexuality, whether they be positive or negative. While homosexuality was a key component in the film, it was not the only reason for The Laramie Project’s effectiveness. Another way in which the movie excels is through its historically accurate representation of Aaron McKinney and Russell Henderson’s trials. The re-enactments of both McKinney and Henderson’s trials used the exact transcripts of the real-life court cases. While difficult to watch, particularly during the jury’s viewing of Aaron McKinney’s confession, this attention to detail was necessary in order to help make the film as effective as it was. The overall historical accuracy of The Laramie Project has been debated by some (including investigative journalist Stephen Jimenez, who claims that Shepard’s death was not a hate crime), but it is clear that the film accurately recounts the events that took place immediately after Shepard’s murder to the best of its ability.
While LGBTQ issues still remain an uncomfortable and sometimes unapproachable topic for some, I believe this movie is a step in the right direction for starting a conversation about equal rights in America. Its unbiased presentation of such a tragic incident helps make the movie an effective portrayal, rather than exploitation of pain felt by an entire community. The Laramie Project is considerate when approaching the subject of LGBTQ identities, and although many moments are tough to watch, they are necessary to include in order to effectively move audiences. There is no happy ending for anyone involved in the tragic murder of Matthew Shepard. Even though his murderers were caught and sentenced, even though Laramie became more aware of the needs of its LGBTQ residents, even though a community was brought closer together in its grief…there can never be a happy ending – and to me, that is the most important takeaway of this film. The Laramie Project does so much for its audience, but it cannot take away the pain that comes from an innocent life being taken. And this movie has succeeded in showing its audience just how powerful that pain can be.
6 people found this helpful
D. RossettiReviewed in the United States on July 27, 2002
3.0 out of 5 stars
Laramie Project: Designed for the stage. Film did good job.
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The film of the highly accredited play was, in my opinion as effective as a film could be. I personally think that this show is only effective on a theatrical stage. There are very few bad things I would say about this movie. I am a huge fan of the play as a piece of amazing theatre and there are A LOT of cuts from the play as far as the dialogue goes, but nothing that upset me too much. My major argument with the movie is some severe miscasting on the part of Jedidiah Shultz(played in the film by someone much older than the written character and a little too neurotic for me) and, of course, the mistake of casting Joshua Jackson as any other character outside his Pacey-esque, mediocre abilities.
The Laramie Project is an incredibly sculpted piece of dramatic literature that is truly at it's most effective when on stage. I highly recommend any person who has seen the movie, to find a staged version of it and go see it NOW! Then you will see the true magnitude of this piece of art. Each monologue is artistically and beautifully intertwined with the next to open your eyes to world of this enriching and captivating story of a town and it's defenses and reactions to the severe beating of a gay college student. I think the film was very well done, considering the cut a lot of the already incredibly sculpted dialogue. I did enjoy that Moises Kaufman, the writer, directed it so that he did what needed to be done: Tell the story. What I LOVE about the play, and not so much the movie, is that it shows the story from equal view points and doesn't give you a biased view. It's easy for us as a society to blam the town of Laramie and call it a day. But with The Laramie Project you can sympathize and sometimes agree with a lot the people of Laramie...instead of immediately attacking them as redneck bigots like the media warped our minds to think. You see all of the angles of the story, and they are each given an equal chance to speak there minds and opinions. Some, you are still going to hate, but there is a truth and realness to it.
I really recomend those who have not yet read the play read it...but most importantly, if you see The Laramie Project being put on anywhere near you, go west young man and see it. I promise you...your life will be changed.
8 people found this helpful
Kerry A. WalshReviewed in the United States on May 14, 2006
5.0 out of 5 stars
Astounding performances...
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The first time I watched this film, I bawled so hard I woke up my roomate. The desperate helplessness felt by the town (and the world) as they wait to hear of Matt Shephard's fate is keenly played and the absolute devastation felt by so many after Matt's death is even more apparent through the performances of this incredible cast. Some reviewers have critiqued this film for agenda-pushing, but it's important to remember that Moises Kaufman IS a liberal, gay, New York playwright. Sure, the film takes a stance on the murder and definitely dismisses the arguments that Matt shouldn't have been in a bar or "hitting on" straight men or that he was a promiscuous person who had already gotten himself into trouble with his lifestyle before. However, I think that the more conservative viewpoints of others are considered, and, at the very least, included. It is also true that Matthew Shephard became larger than life because of his death and that the murders of many other minorities (racial, ethnic, religious) do not get the kind of press as Matt did. However, I think it is completely unfair to dismiss the impact of this death and this film simply because others have not taken up the same project for other victims. Ultimately this film forces us to think about the way we feel about the "other" and how we feel about protecting that person, learing about that person, and loving that person for who they are - both as individuals and as communities.
3 people found this helpful
SkypilotReviewed in the United States on November 27, 2018
5.0 out of 5 stars
Real America
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This is a documentary to find out what happened to Matthew Shepard in Wyoming but it could be about what it is really like to be gay in America or for that matter to be black, to be disabled, to be an immigrant in America. It is about generations of racism and prejudice and the fact that it is still prevalent and impacting many people. It is about man's
inhumanity to man. In this movie citizens of Laramie are interviewed to try to understand how this heinous crime could have occurred. There are no answers. As the citizens of Laramie really thought about what happened there could be some hope but this crime occurred in 1998 and it was brought back to mind with the recent internment of Matthew Shepard's ashes in the Washington National Cathedral. It is about forgiveness but in the intervening 20 years too much hatred remains for us to forget this crime and the many more that will happen as we are not much better now, and yes, in reality worse with the pathetic politicians we currently have.
One person found this helpful
TmcbroomReviewed in the United States on August 7, 2021
5.0 out of 5 stars
Heart breaking
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This movie should be mandatory for kids to watch, there are so many emotions and real life issues that need to be addressed with kids. Use this movie to teach kids to love and respect all.
SashaReviewed in the United States on June 5, 2006
4.0 out of 5 stars
Unveiling the truth.
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I was introduced to the Matthew Shepard story by MTV's dramatic presentation of Matthew's last days in Laramie. With that as my background, I entered The Laramie Project with curiosity regarding the reactions of Laramie's townspeople to this tragedy that received national attention.

Shameless hatred was definitely reflected by several Laramie residents, but not everyone shared that view. That fact was refreshing. The law enforcement officer who freed Matthew from the fence at the scene of the crime was incredibly sympathetic. Her personal views concerning his lifestyle were not revealed, but her view of this youth as an innocent victim of a horrific crime were apparent. This film, though actors portrayed the townspeople interviewed, has the feel of a documentary. Knowing that the expressions were accurate was alarming at times.

The Laramie Project exposes the heart of many people after the Matthew Shepard murder. It is worth the watch.
One person found this helpful
stephany showersReviewed in the United States on December 17, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
awesome movie.
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they told a great story in a wonderful way. 1st watch-12/16/2020.
ricardo_guerreroReviewed in the United States on April 13, 2014
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I really enjoyed this. I recently saw "The Mathew Sheppard Story" and also bought this item because Amazon recommended it (buy together and save.) It was indeed a wonderful project about a heinous hate crime. I'm glad so many big/semi-big stars, many of whom have Emmys and Golden Globes and are Hollywood veterans, pulled together to lend their talents to this very special production. I know the Sheppard homicide was a long time ago now and even this tribute movie was done more than a decade ago.
However, it is important that it stays out there and keeps being watched. Hopefully it has gotten more people thinking about sexual equality and obliterating homophobia. It's time for it all to won't be gone within my lifetime, I'm sure. But maybe in 100 years it will be, and that would be incredible.
One person found this helpful
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