One False Move

One False Move is a 1992 thriller co-written by Arkansan Billy Bob Thornton, who was born in Hot Springs (Garland County). Running for one hour and forty-five minutes, the R-rated film stars Thornton, his future wife Cynda Williams, and Bill Paxton, known for roles in the hit films Apollo 13, Twister, and Titanic. The director of One False Move was Carl Franklin, who went on to direct Denzel Washington in 1995’s Devil in a Blue Dress. The screenplay was written by Thornton and Tom Epperson, a native of Malvern (Hot Spring County).

One False Move was a low-budget independent film that became popular through word of mouth as well as critical raves from film critic Roger Ebert and his reviewing partner, Gene Siskel, who named it his favorite movie of 1992.

Along with location filming in Los Angeles and Pearblossom, California, One False Move was shot in Arkansas around Brinkley (Monroe County) and Cotton Plant (Woodruff County). Arkansan Natalie Canerday, originally from Russellville (Pope County), appeared in a featured role and went on to co-star in Thornton’s award-winning Sling Blade (1996). It was the final film role for Little Rock (Pulaski County) advertising executive Robert (Bob) Ginnaven, who was an actor in several of fellow Arkansan Harry Thomason’s movies, as well as the hit movie Steel Magnolias (1989).

One False Move follows three criminals (Thornton, Williams, and Michael Beach) who leave Los Angeles after a drug deal gone bad. Leaving deadly havoc in their wake, the violent trio flees to Star City (Lincoln County), where Williams’s character had grown up before leaving for Hollywood in hopes of an acting career. There, the criminals hope to keep a low profile and avoid law enforcement officials intent on their capture. Star City’s small-town police chief is contacted by officers of the Los Angeles Police Department, who come to Star City. The interaction of all the characters inspired critics to elevate the film from the standard bloody crime drama.

Taglines for the movie include: “All it takes to bring him down is one bullet…one woman or…One False Move,” as well as “Nothing is as dangerous as the past.” Arkansas was featured prominently on one version of the movie poster, with the overlay, “There was no crime in Star City, Arkansas. No murder. And no fear. Until now.”

Billy Bob Thornton and Cynda Williams got married after filming was completed but were divorced before the film was released two years later.

One False Move was named by the National Board of Review as one of the Top Ten Films of 1992. It also won several awards for its screenplay, director, and performance by Cynda Williams, including the Independent Spirit Awards, a Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award, and MTV Movie Award.

In his review of One False Move, Ebert wrote, “On the very short list of great movies about violent criminals, One False Move deserves a place of honor, beside such different kinds of films as In Cold Blood, Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, Badlands, The Executioner’s Song and At Close Range.… One False Move begins as a crime story and ends as a human story in which everything that happens depends on the personalities of the characters. It’s so rare to find a film in which the events are driven by people, not by chases or special effects.”

For additional information:
Martin, Philip. “Underground Movies.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, February 2, 2024, pp. 1E, 3E. Online at (accessed February 2, 2024).

One False Move.” Internet Movie Database. (accessed September 10, 2020).

One False Move.” (accessed September 10, 2020).

Rabin, Nathan. “The Under-the-Radar 1992 Crime Film ‘One False Move’ Drew on Tension in the Air.” A.V. Club. (accessed September 10, 2020).

Topic, Al. “‘One False Move’ Early Billy Bob Thornton Effort.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, December 29, 2023, pp. 1E, 3E. Online at (accessed December 29, 2023).

Nancy Hendricks
Garland County Historical Society


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