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Movies, Television Shows, and Plays about School Shootings

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The tragic events that occurred at Columbine High School were profound and have inspired many all over the world to express the strong feelings they have about the matter in writing and film. Attempts to address the serious issue of school shooting has touched the stage and television, movies and books. Below you can find lists of some of the more notable films, plays, books and broadcasts that have been inspired or influenced by the events of April 20, 1999. These lists are not all-inclusive but a broader look at the more famous examples of Columbine's influence on the media and artists.

Movies and plays inspired by Columbine and other school shootings
Bang Bang You're Dead

Play inspired by the events at Jonesboro and Columbine, later turned into a movie. Teen boy Trevor Adams is bullied to the point of meltdown but is given new hope when he gets involved in Drama. But when the class decides to put on a play about schoolyard killing, Trevor's explosive past may get the play shut down.

Play: (1999) Written by William Mastrosimone. Movie: (2002) Directed by Guy Ferland.
Duck! The Carbine High Massacre

Tongue-in-cheek film inspired by the events at Columbine High. One of the first Columbine-inspired movies to hit DVD. Amateur-made and completely irreverent. It's not a movie for sensitive viewers or for viewers who want a film that takes the subject seriously.

Movie: (2000) Directed by William Hellfire.
Bowling for Columbine (my review)

Documentary/opinion regarding gun safety in America. Includes some references to the Columbine massacre, as well as other notable school shootings. The director interviewed victims Mark Taylor and Richard Castaldo, as well Brooks Brown - a friend of the shooters. None were paid for their appearance in the top-grossing film. Mark later said that he never would have agreed to do it if he'd known what sort of movie the director was actually making. Brooks mentions the film in his book, No Easy Answers: The Truth Behind Death at Columbine, with similar negative things to say about this film and its director. Still, it's one of the most famous.

Movie: (2002) Directed by Michael Moore.
Elephant: A Film By Gus Van Sant (official site)

School-shooting movie told from the point of view of someone the shooters let go before the killing starts. Directed by the guy who directed Good Will Hunting and put out by New Line Cinema, it's probably the highest-budget film of its genre. While this meant it's better quality than most, it also unfortunately meant that a lot of people who saw this film didn't know anything about Columbine before. They then thought Elephant was a true-to-life retelling of what actually happened. It and Zero Day (see further down) caused a lot of confusion in their time. This film includes a gay scene in a shower between the shooters pre-assault that set off loads of renewed rumors about the Columbine shooters' sexuality.

Movie: (2003) Directed by Gus Van Sant.
Home Room

After a high school shooting leaves several students dead, including the shooter, injured student Deanna Cartwright faces a rough recovery - physically and mentally. With the shooter dead, the lead investigator sets his sights on brooding goth girl Alicia Browning, who is rendered both a survivor and a suspect. She and Deanna form an unlikely bond in the face of tragedy as they deal with the aftermath of the shooting.

Movie: (2003) Directed by Paul F. Ryan.
Zero Day

School shooting told in a 'Blair Witch Project' fashion, like a home movie. Came out around the same time as Elephant and, along with that film, caused a lot of confusion in viewers who didn't know it wasn't a true-to-life retelling of the Columbine massacre. This film has a scene that was shot in the style of a security camera, and shows students being shot in the library. This scene was posted on the interenet as "Columbine footage" and for a long time was mistaken for genuine Columbine death footage. The fact that the clip clearly shows the date as May 1, 2001 finally debunked this belief but it took several months.

Movie: (2003) Directed by Ben Coccio.
Dawn Anna

Mother of victim Lauren Townsend, Dawn Anna Townsend survives a crippling brain tumor and the loss of her teenaged daughter during the Columbine shootings. Despite the horrendous setbacks she manages to find love and happiness in her life, after the rain of sorrows. This is a made-for-cable biopic that was made with Dawn Anna's permission.

Movie: (2004) Directed by Less R. Howard.
Columbinus (A Play)

Play that addresses the bitter reality of high-school pecking orders and the basic human need for social interaction. Contains dialog pulled from and inspired by interviews and news about the Columbine shootings.

Play: (2005) Conceived and created by The United States Theatre Project, written by Stephen Karam and PJ Paparelli.
April Showers

Story of a school shooting as seen through the eyes of a survivor. This film focuses mainly on how survivors pick up the pieces and move on after living through such a horrific event.

Movie: (2009) Written and directed by Andrew Robinson.

Set at a speculative 10-year reunion of the Columbine High students who were killed. It imagines what each victim's life might have been like if Columbine had never happened, based on things each said, did, wrote and dreamed for in life. Very poignant short film. The 13 vignettes are all very interesting and the ending is very emotionally charged because of the storytelling. The only thing I would have liked to see is a small segment that imagined what the shooters might have been able to do with their lives if they'd never gone through with their plan but I understand why that wasn't included in this film.

Movie: (2009) Written and directed by Adam Kargman.

Other movies
Falling Down
A blue-collar working man (played by Michael Douglas) ditches his car in backed up traffic and goes on a cross-town assault, standing up against a tide of people who are out to victimize him. This movie isn't about a school shooting but if you watch it you can see clearly that that Columbine shooters saw this movie (probably a lot). The main character has a custom license plate: D-FENS. The character is billed that way in the credits. Brooks Brown has used that handle on the internet for years. Check out the weapons that D-FENS uses, such as the sawed-off shotgun and Tec-9. Notice the black fatigues he wears near the end. There are lots of little details that are eerily reminiscent of aspects of the Columbine shootings, yet this film never made the list of movies that the news tried to blame.

(1993) Written by Ebbe Roe Smith. Directed by Joel Schumacher.
Natural Born Killers

A pair of young lovers (played by Woody Harrelson and Juliette Lewis) go on a cross-country killing spree. They eventually wind up taking a reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) hostage who feeds America's craving for reality TV and violence. Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold referenced this movie in their journals, talking about their plans as the day they would "go NBK".

(1994) Written by Quentin Tarantino and David Veloz. Directed by Oliver Stone.
The Basketball Diaries

Movie about a hard-luck teen boy with a stunning dream scene of his shooting up his high school class room. Was rumored to have inspired the Columbine shooters, though there's never been proof of this.

(1995) Directed by Scott Kalvert.
The Matrix

There was some speculation that this movie fueled the shooters, though there's never been any evidence of it. The movie opened in theaters April 4, 1999 so it's possible Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold saw it but by that time they had already planned out their assault so it's not likely that the film influenced them much. Still, the timing was ironic.

(1999) Directed and written by Andy and Lana Wachowski
Light it Up

A group of misunderstood teens wind up taking their school hostage at gunpoint.

(1999) Directed by Craig Bolotin.
If... (The Criterion Collection)

Led by the head student, a bunch of British boys stage a bloody revolution against their school.

(1968) Directed by Lindsay Anderson.

Television shows
Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Season 3 ep. 18: Earshot
Pulled by the network before airing the week of April 20, 1999 because it had Buffy overhearing about a mass-murder plot being planned by fellow students. The episode was made before the Columbine shootings and was aired much later (Sept. 21, 1999).
Seven Days: Season 2 ep. 4: For the Children
Set to air the week of 4-20-1999, it was pulled at the last minute due to footage involving a hostage situation where some kids get shot. Eventually aired Oct. 20,1999.
Promised Land: Season 3 ep. 18: A Day in the Life
This episode was supposed to air April 22, 1999, but CBS pulled it from the line-up due to the shootings at Columbine. The episode, written before the shootings, featured a kid with a gun in front of a Denver-area school. Other items in the episode: A nerdy kid gets bullied by a couple of guys on the wrestling team. Nerds at the school set off the fire alarm and a kid is shot outside the school.
ER: Season 6 ep. 22: May Day
Doctors struggle with a grade school shooting, where there's debate over whether a victim or a shooter should be transported first. Aired May 18, 2000.
The Division: Season 4 ep. 21: Zero Tolerance
Deals with a high school student shot. Makes a reference to the Columbine High shootings. Aired June 28, 2004.
Degrassi: The Next Generation: Season 4 ep. 7-8: Time Stands Still
2-part episode that leads up to a guy returning to the school with a handgun to take revenge for being humiliated. One character dies during the school shooting. Aired Oct. 12, 2004.
American Horror Story: Season 1
One of the main characters in this season is a school shooter who killed 15 people. The writers of the show used a real internet search page in one episode where they edited "Columbine" to read "Westfield" but the rest of the search results obviously reference the Columbine shooting. The subject of the shooting reappears several times throughout the season. Aired 2011.
Glee: Season 4 ep. 18: Shooting Star
A student brings a gun to school and accidentally fires it twice, prompting the whole school to go into hiding. The show details the agonizing wait and fear of the students who are finally released from the school by the SWAT team. Aired April 11, 2013.