Films about Hunter S. Thompson

The following is a list of films and documentaries about Hunter S. Thompson. To see works by or about Thompson, click here.

Fear and Loathing in Gonzovision (1978)

A BBC documentary about Thompson in which he and Ralph Steadman meet at Owl Farm, then travel to Hollywood via Las Vegas. Thompson seems very concerned at this point about having become trapped in his Raoul Duke persona.

Where the Buffalo Roam (1980)

Believe it or not, this movie was based on Thompson’s obituary for friend Oscar Zeta Acosta. The film was so fraught with problems that eventually Acosta was written out of it, his character replaced by a Hungarian called Carl Lazlo. The film was a disaster but Bill Murray did a good job of capturing Thompson’s mannerisms and the comic chaos is mildly amusing.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (1998)

Some said that Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas was unfilmable. Certainly, it was never going to be an easy project. Bringing it to the big screen indeed proved to be a challenge, with Thompson routinely selling the rights in the expectation of failure. However, Terry Gilliam managed to make it happen, with Johnny Depp playing Raoul Duke and Benicio del Toro as Dr Gonzo. The film was critically panned but has become a cult classic.

Breakfast with Hunter (2003)

Thompson’s neighbour Wayne Ewing put together this iconic documentary about his friend’s life. It stems from a failed project in the 1980s, when Thompson, ever eager for money, considered launching a TV chat show. Ewing borrowed the name and compiled intimate footage of Thompson at home at Owl Farm, providing one of the best insights into his chaotic lifestyle.

When I Die (2005)

Another documentary by Wayne Ewing, When I Die follows the efforts of Thompson’s friends and family to create a huge monument in celebration of his life.

Free Lisl (2006)

One of Thompson’s last projects involved trying to free Lisl Auman, a young woman charged with a murder that occurred whilst she was in police custody. This film, again by Wayne Ewing, recounts Thompson’s efforts to raise awareness for her plight.

Buy the Ticket, Take the Ride (2006)

A Starz documentary comprised of various famous people (and a few old pals) talking about Thompson. It includes some footage of the man himself. It is not hugely filled with biographical detail but contains some amusing memories and a couple of good readings. It is more concerned with his Hollywood depictions than his reality, though.

Gonzo (2008)

There have been numerous attempts to make a conventional film biography of Hunter S. Thompson, including various episodes of TV shows. None of them had been successful until Alex Gibney’s Gonzo. Just a few years after the Good Doctor’s death, Gibney put together this respectable documentary, which treats its subject as more than just the drug-addled buffoon he appears in most on-screen depictions. Still, it is unfortunate that the documentary is so laudatory. Thompson deserves a fair and balanced treatment and this film, perhaps because it came so soon after his death, lacks that nuance, with its participants understandably reluctant to criticise their recently dead friend.

Animals, Whores & Dialogue (2010)

Wayne Ewing takes us behind the curtain and looks at how Thompson wrote later in his career. The title comes from a label on Thompson’s typewriter.

The Rum Diary (2011)

Johnny Depp did so well in his 1998 performance that it was almost inevitable he would reprise the role… Well, not exactly the same role. Raoul Duke and Paul Kemp are different characters, but both were simply versions of their author. For years, there was talk of Depp playing Kemp and in 2011 The Rum Diary became a movie. Alas, it was less than impressive. Terrible choices made this a tough watch.

Freak Power: The Ballot or the Bomb (2020)

An excellent account of Thompson’s 1970 run for Sheriff of Pitkin County. This film was directed by DJ Watkins and is based on his book of the same name.

Fear and Loathing in Aspen (2021)

It’s hard to tear into this movie viciously enough without sounding like a cheap imitation of Thompson, so I won’t bother. All I’ll say is: Don’t waste your time or money. It is awful. (Review here)