Repo Man (film)

Repo Man is a 1984 American science fiction black comedy film written and directed by Alex Cox. It stars Harry Dean Stanton and Emilio Estevez, and was produced by Jonathan Wacks and Peter McCarthy with executive producer Michael Nesmith.

Repo Man
Theatrical release poster
Directed byAlex Cox
Produced by
Written byAlex Cox
Music by
CinematographyRobby Müller
Edited byDennis Dolan
Edge City
Distributed byUniversal Pictures
Release date
  • March 2, 1984 (1984-03-02)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.5 million[2]
Box office$3.7 million[3]

The plot concerns a young punk rock enthusiast (Estevez) in Los Angeles who finds himself partnered with a jaded repossession agent (Stanton) and gets caught up in the pursuit of a mysterious car that might be connected to extraterrestrials. The soundtrack is noted as a snapshot of early-'80s Los Angeles hardcore punk.[4] Director Cox wanted the music to underscore the life of repo men.[4][5]

Repo Man received widespread acclaim and was considered one of the best films of 1984.[6][7][8] It has achieved cult status.


In the Mojave Desert, a policeman pulls over a 1964 Chevrolet Malibu driven by J. Frank Parnell (Fox Harris). The policeman opens the trunk, sees a blinding flash of white light, and is instantly vaporized, leaving only his boots behind.

Otto Maddox (Estevez), a young punk rocker in L.A., is fired from his job as a supermarket stock clerk. His girlfriend leaves him for his best friend. Depressed and broke, Otto is wandering the streets when a man named Bud (Stanton) drives up and offers him $25 to drive a car out of the neighborhood.

Otto follows Bud in the car to the Helping Hand Acceptance Corporation, where he learns that the car he drove was being repossessed. He refuses to join Bud as a "repo man," and goes to his parents' house. He learns that his burned-out ex-hippie parents have donated the money they promised him for finishing school to a crooked televangelist. He decides to take the repo job.

After repossessing a flashy red Cadillac, Otto sees a girl named Leila (Olivia Barash) running down the street. He gives her a ride to her workplace, the United Fruitcake Outlet. On the way, Leila shows Otto pictures of aliens that she says are in the trunk of a Chevy Malibu. She claims that they are dangerous because of the radiation that they emit. Meanwhile, Helping Hand is offered a $20,000 bounty notice for the Malibu. Most assume that the car is drug-related, because the bounty is so far above the actual value of the car.

Parnell arrives in L.A. driving the Malibu, but he is unable to meet his waiting UFO compatriots because of a team of government agents led by a woman with a metal hand (Susan Barnes). When Parnell pulls into a gas station, Helping Hand's competitors, the Rodriguez brothers, take the Malibu. They stop for sodas because the car's trunk is so hot. While they are out of the car, a trio of Otto's punk friends, who are on a crime spree, steal the Malibu.

After they visit a night club, Parnell appears and tricks the punks into opening the trunk, killing one of them and scaring the other two away. Later, he picks up Otto and drives aimlessly, before collapsing and dying from radiation exposure. Otto takes the Malibu back to Helping Hand and leaves it in the lot. The car is stolen from the lot, and a chase ensues. By this time, the car is glowing bright green.

Eventually, the Malibu reappears at the Helping Hand lot with Bud behind the wheel, but he ends up being shot. The various groups trying to acquire the car soon show up; government agents, the UFO scientists, and the televangelist. Anyone who approaches it bursts into flames, even those in flame-retardant suits. Only Miller (Tracey Walter), an eccentric mechanic at Helping Hand who had explained earlier to Otto that aliens exist and can travel through time in their spaceships, is able to enter the car. He slides behind the wheel and beckons Otto into the Malibu. After Otto settles into the passenger seat, the Malibu lifts straight up into the air and flies away, first through the city's skyline and later into space, presumably travelling in time.



Repo Man garnered widespread praise upon its release, and is widely considered to be one of the best films of 1984.[6][7][8] The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes gives the film a 98% approval rating based on 44 reviews, with an average rating of 8/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "Repo Man is many things: an alien-invasion film, a punk-rock musical, a send-up of consumerism. One thing it isn't is boring."[9] In 2008, the film was voted by a group of Los Angeles Times writers and editors as the eighth-best film set in Los Angeles in the last 25 years.[10][11] Entertainment Weekly ranked the film seventh on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films".[12]

Roger Ebert gave the film 3 stars out of a possible 4, and wrote:

I saw Repo Man near the end of a busy stretch on the movie beat: Three days during which I saw more relentlessly bad movies than during any comparable period in memory. Most of those bad movies were so cynically constructed out of formula ideas and "commercial" ingredients that watching them was an ordeal. Repo Man comes out of left field, has no big stars, didn't cost much, takes chances, dares to be unconventional, is funny, and works. There is a lesson here.

Roger Ebert, January 1, 1984[13]


Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films[14]

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards

  • Won - Best Screenplay


  • Nominated - Best Film

American Film Institute Lists


The soundtrack features songs by various punk rock bands such as The Plugz, Black Flag, the Circle Jerks, Suicidal Tendencies, Iggy Pop and others. The film score was created by Tito Larriva, Steven Hufsteter, Charlie Quintana and Tony Marsico of The Plugz.[17] Iggy Pop volunteered to write the title song after his manager viewed a screening of the film.[5]


Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday

According to the documentary A Texas Tale of Treason, Cox wrote a sequel to Repo Man which, though filming started, was never finished.

Chris Bones saw the script on Cox's website and asked, and received, permission to adapt the script into a graphic novel. The book, Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday,[18] was released in March 2008 by Gestalt Publishing.[19]

Repo Chick

On December 3, 2008, a sequel was reported to be going into development with the working title Repo Chick. The story would be set in 2008 and the resulting boom in repossession that extends far beyond cars and homes.[20] On February 13, 2009, Cox announced on his blog that shooting had finished and the film was in post-production.[21] The bulk of the film was shot in front of a green screen, with backgrounds filmed and composited-in during post-production.[21] Universal sent Cox a cease-and-desist notice because he does not possess the rights to do an official sequel, but he ignored it since his film uses none of the characters from the original. The film premiered on September 8 at the Venice Film Festival. It was released to DVD in the United Kingdom on February 7, 2011, and in North America on the following day.


  1. "REPO MAN (18)". British Board of Film Classification. September 16, 1984. Retrieved July 31, 2013.
  2. The Criterion Collection 2013 release booklet, pg. 51
  3. Repo Man at Box Office Mojo Retrieved July 31, 2013
  4. Burks, Brian. "Repo Man (soundtrack)". Creative Noise. Retrieved April 23, 2002.
  5. "REPO MAN - Music From The Original Motion Picture Soundtrack". Repo Man Film. Retrieved January 24, 2019.
  6. "The 10 Best Movies of 1984". Archived from the original on December 4, 2008. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  7. "The Best Movies of 1984 by Rank". Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  8. "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1984". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  9. "Repo Man". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  10. Boucher, Geoff (August 31, 2008). "The 25 best L.A. films of the last 25 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  11. There were two criteria: "The movie had to communicate some inherent truth about the L.A. experience, and only one film per director was allowed on the list".
  12. "Entertainment Weekly's The Top 50 Cult Movies". AMC Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  13. Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Repo Man".
  14. "Repo Man: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  15. "AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees" (PDF).
  16. "AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot" (PDF).
  17. Cook, Stephen. "Repo Man". AllMusic.
  18. "First Look: 'Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday'". Entertainment Weekly. February 11, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  19. "Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday". Gestalt Comics. July 4, 2012. Retrieved August 12, 2019.
  20. "Slashfilm". Archived from the original on December 5, 2008. Retrieved December 4, 2008.
  21. "BLOG". Alex Cox. Archived from the original on April 20, 2013. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
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