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Directed by Alexander Payne

United States 1996 106 mins. In English

Alexander Payne’s (Election, Sideways, Nebraska) debut feature tackles the circa-1996 reproductive rights debate but plays it as a new kind of slapstick comedy, following Ruth Stoops (Laura Dern), a glue-sniffing teenage miscreant who ends up both pregnant and subsequently at the center of a mainstream-media firestorm as the poster child of teen pregnancy. Payne’s biting satire skewers both sides of the debate in equal measure but stays unpredictable throughout, while Dern displays her physical comedy chops as she callously seeks to profit from her newfound yet fleeting fame. Featuring a heavy-hitting cast of supporting players—including Tippi Hedren and Swoosie Kurtz on the pro-choice side, and Kurtwood Smith and Burt Reynolds on the pro-life side—Citizen Ruth is one of the finest American comedies of the ’90s, but unfortunately remains relevant during our current election cycle.

Genres: Dark Comedy

Appears in: Print the Legend



The Northwest Film Center recognizes and honors the Indigenous peoples of this region on whose ancestral lands the museum now stands. These include the Willamette Tumwater, Clackamas, Kathlemet, Molalla, Multnomah and Watlala Chinook Peoples and the Tualatin Kalapuya who today are part of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, and many other Native communities who made their homes along the Columbia River. We also want to recognize that Portland today is a community of many diverse Native peoples who continue to live and work here. We respectfully acknowledge and honor all Indigenous communities—past, present, future—and are grateful for their ongoing and vibrant presence.