Repo Man (film)

This article is about the 1984 film. For the unrelated 2010 science fiction thriller, see Repo Men.
Repo Man

Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alex Cox
Produced by
Written by Alex Cox
Music by Tito Larriva
Steven Hufsteter
Cinematography Robby Müller
Edited by Dennis Dolan
Distributed by Universal Pictures
Release dates
  • March 2, 1984 (1984-03-02)
Running time
92 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $1.5 million[2]
Box office $3,750,080[3]

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

Repo Man received widespread acclaim, was considered one of the best films of 1984,[4][5][6] and has since achieved cult film status.


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

Otto Maddox (Emilio Estevez), a young punk rocker living in Los Angeles, is fired from his boring 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 (Harry Dean 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" (a small automobile repossession agency), where he learns that the car he drove was being repossessed. He refuses to join Bud as a repossession agent, or "repo man", and goes to his parents' house. He learns that his burned-out, pot-smoking, ex-hippie parents (Jonathan Hugger, Sharon Gregg) have donated the money they promised him for finishing school to a crooked televangelist. He decides to take the repo job.

Otto soon learns that, as Bud had told him, "the life of a repo man is always intense." He enjoys the fast living, drug use, car chases, hot-wiring cars, and good pay. His old life is boring by comparison.

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 ("UFO"...), where they have sex in the backseat. 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 dead but still dangerous because of the radiation that they emit. Meanwhile, Helping Hand and its repo rivals are 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 finally arrives in L.A., but he is unable to meet up with his waiting UFO compatriots because of a team of government agents led by a woman with a metal hand. When he pulls into a gas station, the Rodriguez brothers (competitors of Helping Hand) take the car. 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 (what they call "doing crimes"), 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, allowing him to take the car back. Later, he picks up Otto and drives aimlessly, talking about how a brilliant scientist friend gave himself a lobotomy to deal with his work, then reveals his friend drives a Chevy Malibu before collapsing and dying from radiation exposure. Otto takes the car back to Helping Hand and leaves it in the lot. The car is stolen from the lot, and a chase ensues with all the characters involved. By this time, the car is glowing bright green. Eventually, the car reappears at the Helping Hand lot with Bud behind the wheel, however he ends up being shot and leaves the car; the various groups trying to acquire the car soon show up - government agents, the UFO scientists, and even the televangelist Otto's parents gave his college funds to. However, anyone who now approaches it bursts into flames, even those in flame-retardant suits. Only Miller, an eccentric mechanic who works at Helping Hand, is able to approach and enter the car. He slides behind the wheel, apparently impervious to the radiation. He beckons Otto into the Malibu, and Otto accepts eagerly, dismissing Leila's confession of love (at which point she calls him a "shithead" and says "I'm glad I tortured you."). After he settles into the passenger seat, the Malibu lifts straight up into the air. The film closes with the car zooming through the air around downtown LA and then off into the stars.



Repo Man received widespread praise and is considered by many as one of the best films of 1984.[4][5][6] Review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes gave the film a 98% approval rating based on reviews from 45 critics.[7] 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, with 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".[8] Entertainment Weekly ranked the film No. 7 on their list of "The Top 50 Cult Films".[9]

Roger Ebert 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, [10]


Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy & Horror Films[11]

Boston Society of Film Critics Awards


American Film Institute Lists


Repo Man: Music from the Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack album by Various artists
Released 1984
Recorded 1980-1984
Genre Punk rock, hardcore punk, soundtrack
Length 37:20
Label MCA
Producer Peter McCarthy and Jonathan Wacks
Professional ratings
Review scores

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 and Steven Hufsteter of The Plugz.

  1. Iggy Pop - "Repo Man" – 5:12
  2. Black Flag - "TV Party" – 3:50
  3. Suicidal Tendencies - "Institutionalized" – 3:49
  4. Circle Jerks - "Coup d'État" – 1:59
  5. The Plugz - "El Clavo y la Cruz" – 2:56
  6. Burning Sensations - "Pablo Picasso" – 4:01
  7. Fear - "Let's Have a War" – 2:28
  8. Circle Jerks - "When the Shit Hits the Fan" – 3:11
  9. The Plugz - "Hombre Secreto (Secret Agent Man)" – 1:46
  10. Juicy Bananas - "Bad Man" – 4:59
  11. The Plugz - "Reel Ten" – 3:09


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,[15] was released in March 2008 by Gestalt Publishing.[16]

Repo Chick

Main article: 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 against the backdrop of the 2008 recession and the resulting boom in repossession that extends far beyond cars and homes.[17] On February 13, 2009, Cox announced on his personal blog that shooting had finished and the film was in post-production.[18] The bulk of the film was shot in front of a green screen, with backgrounds filmed and composited in during post-production.[19] Universal sent Cox a cease-and-desist, since Cox does not possess the rights to do an official sequel, but he ignored it, as 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 the following day in North America.


  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. 1 2 "The 10 Best Movies of 1984". Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  5. 1 2 "The Best Movies of 1984 by Rank". Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  6. 1 2 "Most Popular Feature Films Released in 1984". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 22, 2010.
  7. "Repo Man". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved June 17, 2016.
  8. Boucher, Geoff (August 31, 2008). "The 25 best L.A. films of the last 25 years". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2008.
  9. "Entertainment Weekly's The Top 50 Cult Movies". AMC Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  10. Ebert, Roger (January 1, 1984). "Repo Man".
  11. "Repo Man: Award Wins and Nominations". Internet Movie Database. Retrieved May 21, 2010.
  12. AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs Nominees
  13. AFI's 10 Top 10 Ballot
  14. Cook, Stephen. "Repo Man". AllMusic.
  15. "First Look: 'Waldo's Hawaiian Holiday'". Entertainment Weekly. February 11, 2008. Retrieved October 23, 2010.
  16. Smith, Zack (February 27, 2008). "Alex Cox: The Comic Book Sequel To Repo Man". Newsarama. Retrieved November 5, 2008.
  17. Slashfilm
  18. "BLOG". Alex Cox. Retrieved March 30, 2009.
  19. Alex Cox - BLOG
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