#TexasThrowback: “Slacker” – 25 Years Later

By Blake Carter

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This article is part of a series of focusing on the most important movies produced by Texans, in Texas. Now, onto this week’s #TexasThrowback.


Richard Linklater

Richard Linklater


“Slacker” was an impressive feat of filmmaking when it debuted in 1991. 25 years later, the picture still holds up as one of Richard Linklater’s best works.


A Houston native, Linklater enrolled at Austin Community College to study film in 1984. The following year, he co-founded the Austin Film Society. In 1988, he completed his first feature-length film, a silent 8mm film called “It’s Impossible to Learn to Plow by Reading Books.”


While the silent film did not receive a wide release, “Slacker” thrust him into the national spotlight when nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival.


The film is a pivot point for the independent film movement of the late 80s and early 90s. Preceded by Steven Soderbergh’s “Sex, Lies, & Videotape,” and followed by the early works of Quentin Tarantino, the film was a direct influence for Kevin Smith to direct “Clerks.”


The underground success of “Slacker” paved the way for Linklater to direct bigger-budget films down the line, including “Dazed and Confused,” the “Before” trilogy, “Boyhood,” and his most recent film, “Everybody Wants Some!!”


"Slacker" poster



The legacy of “Slacker” serves as an important foundation for Austin’s expansion into another North American mecca for cinephiles. These accomplishments are all-the-more impressive, considering its small budget and lack of plot.


In short, “Slacker” follows a day in the life of Austin, circa 1991. There are plenty of characters that remain unforgettable – including the pap smear pusher, the old anarchist, and the post-modern Paul Revere – all of which were are actual names given by Linklater.


However, with each passing year, the film lives as an all-too-brief, but important, glimpse into the city’s past. “Slacker” is locally held in such high regard, that UT Austin graduate student Brendan Gaughen mapped out all of the movie’s locations around the city.


Still from the opening of "Slacker 2011"

Still from the opening of “Slacker 2011”


It is so important, that a group of 24 local filmmakers directed a reimagining of “Slacker” 20 years later, in a quasi-tribute to the original.


“Slacker” is one of the city’s most important films, and in my view, one of Linklater’s most underrated works. His later successes further magnified its significance, and is required viewing for anyone who wants to dive into the city’s cultural roots.


“Slacker” is anything but; it is a work of genius that helped put the capital city on the film-making map.