Mississippi Burning is a 1988 American historical crime thriller film directed by Alan Parker, based on the 1964 Mississippi murder investigation of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner.
It stars Gene Hackman and Willem Dafoe as FBI agents investigating the disappearance of three civil rights activists in fictional Jessup County, Mississippi, who are faced with hostility from locals, police, and the Ku Klux Klan.
After investigating the 1964 deaths of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner, screenwriter Chris Gerolmo began writing the story in 1985. Parker was hired to helm the movie when he and producer Frederick Zollo submitted it to Orion Pictures.
When the writer and director couldn’t agree on the script, Orion let Parker rewrite it without being recognized. Principal photography for the film took place from March to May 1988 at a variety of locales across Mississippi and Alabama.
Mississippi Burning was panned by civil rights activists and the families of Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner upon its initial release due to its fictionalization of events. The critical response was divided, while Hackman, Dafoe, and Frances McDormand’s performances were highly lauded.
In North America, the picture grossed $34.6 million against a $15 million production budget. It was nominated for seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture, and won the award for Best Cinematography.