If You Disliked ‘Three Billboards’, Here Are 5 Morally Complex Stories You’ll Hate

Maybe it’s my Privileged White Man talking, but I think Martin McDonagh’s Three Billboards outside Ebbing, Missouri is a terrific film: nuanced, inspired, complex on a number of fronts and a fascinating film to ponder and debate. Yet many have deemed it ‘tone-deaf’ and even racist — I’m in no position to tell them they’re wrong to feel that way, but I do disagree with the notion that a film cannot treat its characters with curiosity and fairness without affirming their less appealing qualities (which I insist Three Billboards does not do). I imagine those responsible for the Billboards outcry are not fans of the following films and TV shows:


One plot strand of The Leftovers focuses on a downtrodden priest whose wife has been in a coma for several years. Upon bringing her to her doctor for a regular checkup, it’s discovered that she’s pregnant, and everybody assumes that Reverend Matt raped her, despite his claims that she woke up briefly and participated in the sex voluntarily. A few episodes later, she does indeed wake up and celebrates her pregnancy, but the issue of the conception is never tied up. Matt, who commits numerous acts of violence and criminality throughout the show in the name of his ideals, ends The Leftovers as one of its more heroic figures.


This one’s been complicated somewhat by Kevin Spacey’s involvement, but pretend for a minute that this has no relevance to that. Lester, a sad middle-aged father, lusts after his teenage daughter’s best friend, and the film doesn’t shy away from showing us why: Angela is the subject of an imaginatively-staged fantasy sequence in a bed of roses, and after several attempts to woo her, Lester ultimately finds himself with the immediate opportunity for sex with the young woman. But Lester is the sympathetic protagonist of American Beauty, in spite of his flaws. He’s complicated, the movie is complicated, life is complicated.


In order to motivate an inherently lazy young drummer, Fletcher (J.K. Simmons) throws large objects, uses homophobic slurs, swears relentlessly and makes personal attacks on Andrew (Miles Teller)’s parental background. And he succeeds: by the end of the film, Andrew is the best damn drummer in New York, and Fletcher is something of an teaching icon.


Global terrorist Deckard Shaw (Jason Statham) murders a member of the FF gang, but is soon recruited by said gang and transformed into the most likeable member of the cast, in order to fight even meaner terrorist Cypher (Charlize Theron). Can a man be forgiven for crimes like Deckard’s? These movies don’t waste time questioning that.


Goliath, The Man Who Wasn’t There, Bad Santa, Fargo Season 1, The Judge, Puss in Boots. Nobody does lovable asshole quite like Billy Bob Thornton (well, maybe Michael Keaton), so if you claim you’re incapable of rooting for a character who’s a totally unethical dick, check out some of his work.