The People vs. Larry Flynt

The People vs. Larry Flynt Information

The People vs. Larry Flynt is a 1996 American biographical drama film directed by Milo? Forman about the rise of pornographic magazine publisher and editor Larry Flynt, and his subsequent clash with the law. The film stars Woody Harrelson, Courtney Love, and Edward Norton.

The film was written by Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski. It spans about 25 years of Flynt's life from his impoverished upbringing in Kentucky to his court battle with Reverend Jerry Falwell, and is based in part on the U.S. Supreme Court case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell. The film grossed just over $20.3 million domestically with a budget of $35 million.


In 1953, 10-year-old Larry Flynt (Block) is selling moonshine in Kentucky. Twenty years later, Flynt (Harrelson) and his younger brother, Jimmy (Brett Harrelson) run the Hustler Go-Go club in Cincinnati. With profits down, Flynt decides to publish a newsletter for the club, the first Hustler magazine, with nude pictures of women working at the club. The newsletter soon becomes a full-fledged magazine, but sales are weak. After Hustler publishes nude pictures of former first lady Jackie Kennedy Onassis, sales take off.

Flynt becomes smitten with Althea Leasure (Love), a stripper who works at one of his clubs. With Althea and Jimmy's help, Flynt makes a fortune from sales of Hustler. With his success comes enemies - as he finds himself a hated figure of anti-pornography activists. He argues with the activists, saying that "murder is illegal, but if you take a picture of it you may get your name in a magazine or maybe win a Pulitzer Prize". "However", he continues, "sex is legal, but if you take a picture of that act, you can go to jail". He becomes involved in several prominent court cases, and befriends a young lawyer, Alan Isaacman (Norton). In 1975, Flynt loses a smut-peddling court decision in Cincinnati, but escapes jail time when the case is thrown out on a technicality. Ruth Carter Stapleton (Hanover), a Christian activist and sister of President Jimmy Carter, seeks out Flynt and urges him to give his life to Jesus. Flynt seems moved and starts letting his newfound religion influence everything in his life, including Hustler content.

In 1978, during another trial in Georgia, Flynt and Isaacman are both shot by a man with a rifle while they walk outside a courthouse. Isaacman recovers, but Flynt is paralyzed from the waist down and uses a wheelchair for the rest of his life. Wishing he was dead, Flynt renounces God. Because of the emotional and physical pain, he moves to Beverly Hills and spirals down into depression and drug use. During this time, Althea also becomes addicted to painkillers and morphine.

In 1983, Flynt undergoes surgery to deaden several nerves, and as a result, feels rejuvenated. He returns to an active role with the publication, which, in his absence, had been run by Althea and Jimmy. Flynt is soon in court again, and during his courtroom antics, he fires Isaacman, then throws an orange at the judge. He is sent to a psychiatric ward, where he sinks into depression again. Flynt publishes a satirical parody ad in which Jerry Falwell (Paul) tells of a sexual encounter with his mother. Falwell sues for libel and emotional distress. Flynt countersues for copyright infringement, because Falwell copied his ad. The case goes to trial in December 1984, but the decision is mixed, as Flynt is found guilty of inflicting emotional distress but not libel.

By that time, Althea has contracted HIV, which proceeds to AIDS. Some time later in 1987, Flynt finds her dead in the bathtub, having drowned. Flynt presses Isaacman to appeal the Falwell decision to the Supreme Court of the United States. Isaacman refuses, saying Flynt's courtroom antics humiliated him. Flynt pleads with him, saying that he "wants to be remembered for something meaningful". Isaacman agrees and argues the "emotional distress" decision in front of the Supreme Court, in the case Hustler Magazine v. Falwell in 1988. With Flynt in the courtroom, the court overturns the original verdict in a unanimous decision. After the trial, Flynt is alone in his bedroom watching old videotapes of a healthy Althea.


  • Woody Harrelson as Larry Flynt
  • Courtney Love as Althea Leasure
  • Edward Norton as Alan Isaacman
  • Richard Paul as Jerry Falwell
  • James Cromwell as Charles Keating
  • Donna Hanover as Ruth Carter Stapleton
  • Crispin Glover as Arlo
  • Vincent Schiavelli as Chester
  • Brett Harrelson as Jimmy Flynt
  • Miles Chapin as Miles
  • James Carville as Simon Leis
  • Burt Neuborne as Roy Grutman
  • Jan T?íska as The Assassin
  • Norm Macdonald as Network reporter
  • Larry Flynt as Judge Morrissey
  • Cody Block as young Larry
  • Ryan Post as young Jimmy


The People vs. Larry Flynt received positive reviews; based on 53 reviews collected by Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an overall approval rating from critics of 87%, with an average score of 7.7/10.

Box office

The film was a hit in limited releases. Based on a $35 million budget, the film grossed a domestic total of $20,300,385.

Awards and nominations

Award Category Nominee Result
Academy Award Best Actor Woody Harrelson Nominated
Best Director Milos Forman Nominated
Berlin International Film Festival Golden Bear Award Milos Forman Won
Boston Society of Film Critics Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton Won
Best Supporting Actress Courtney Love Won
Broadcast Film Critics Association Best Picture (film) Nominated
Chicago Film Critics Association Most Promising Actor Edward Norton Won
Most Promising Actress Courtney Love Won
European Film Award Outstanding European Achievement in World Cinema Milos Forman Won
Florida Film Critics Circle Award Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton Won
Best Supporting Actress Courtney Love Won
Golden Globe Awards Best Director - Motion Picture Milos Forman Won
Best Screenplay - Motion Picture Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski Won
Best Motion Picture - Drama (film) Nominated
Best Actor in a Leading Role - Drama Woody Harrelson Nominated
Best Actress in a Leading Role - Drama Courtney Love Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Best Film (film) Won
Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton Won
National Board of Review of Motion Pictures: Freedom of Expression Award Milos Forman and Oliver Stone Won
New York Film Critics Circle Best Supporting Actress Courtney Love Won
MTV Movie Award Best Breakout Performance Courtney Love Nominated
Satellite Award Best Original Screenplay Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski Won
Best Supporting Actress in a Motion Picture Courtney Love Won
Screen Actors Guild Award Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor Woody Harrelson Nominated
Society of Texas Film Critics Award Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton Won
Southeastern Film Critics Association Best Supporting Actor Edward Norton Won
Writers Guild of America Paul Selving Honorary Award Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski Won

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