The bloody, exhilarating Bonnie and Clyde broke taboos when it hit screens 50 years ago

Faye Dunaway and Warren Beatty in Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

Every weekend, we pick a movie you can stream that dovetails with current events. Old, new, blockbuster, arthouse: They’re all fair game. What you can count on is a weekend watch that sheds new light on the week that was. The movie of the week for August 13 through 19 is Bonnie and Clyde (1967), which is available to digitally rent on AmazonVuduiTunes, andGoogle Play.

When Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway starred in Arthur Penn’s Bonnie and Clyde — which turns 50 on August 13 — the response from many corners was swift and fierce. After all, it was released in the fading years of the Hays Code, which had governed the moral content of Hollywood films for decades. Bonnie and Clyde was bloody, graphic, and sexually frank, and it drew on the experimentation of the French New Wave. It blew away taboos left and right.

“This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth,” Bosley Crowther wrote in the New York Times upon the film’s release. From the distance of a half-century, though, it’s considered a classic, numbered among the first 100 films included in the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry and cited as an influence on everything from The Godfather to The Departed.

The film wasn’t the first treatment of the story of Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, who died on May 23, 1934, at the ages of 23 and 25, respectively. At that point, the pair had been on the lam for four years on a robbery-and-murder spree, and were finally cornered by law enforcement and ambushed. The story captured public imagination and made the pair into folk heroes, alongside other criminals like John Dillinger and “Pretty Boy” Floyd.

In 1937, three years after the pair died, Edward Anderson novelized Bonnie and Clyde’s story in Thieves Like Us, then sold the movie rights for $500. The film, titled They Live By Night and directed by Nicholas Ray, finally came out in 1950 and became an instant classic — as well as a forerunner to Arthur Penn’s film.