Barb Wire
Theatrical release poster
Directed byDavid Hogan
Screenplay byChuck Pfarrer
Ilene Chaiken
Story byIlene Chaiken
Based onBarb Wire
by Chris Warner
Produced byTodd Moyer
Mike Richardson
Brad Wyman
CinematographyRick Bota
Edited byPeter Schink
Music byMichel Colombier
Distributed byGramercy Pictures
Release date
  • May 3, 1996 (1996-05-03)
Running time
98 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$9 million
Box office$3.8 million

Barb Wire is a 1996 American superhero film based on the Dark Horse Comics character of the same name. It was directed by David Hogan, produced by Brad Wyman, and written by Chuck Pfarrer and Ilene Chaiken. The film stars Pamela Anderson in the title role, alongside Temuera Morrison, Victoria Rowell, Xander Berkeley, Udo Kier, and Steve Railsback. Although Barb Wire was panned by critics, it has attracted a cult following.


In 2017, during the Second American Civil War, Barb Wire owns the Hammerhead, a nightclub in Steel Harbor, "the last free city" in a United States ravaged by the war. She earns cash as a mercenary and bounty hunter. Chief of Police Willis raids her club. Willis's target is fugitive Dr. Corrina 'Cora D' Devonshire, a former government scientist with information about a new bioweapon called Red Ribbon being developed by her former superiors in the Congressional Directorate. The Congressional Council has tasked Colonel Victor Pryzer with finding Dr. Devonshire so they can end the Second Civil War by releasing the virus on the United Front territories. Dr. Devonshire hopes to escape to Canada to make this information public.

Devonshire turns up at the Hammerhead. She is accompanied by Axel Hood, a "freedom fighter" Barb had loved at the outbreak of the war. The two were separated during the conflict. Axel tries to help Cora get to Canada. They try to find a contraband pair of contact lenses that would allow Cora to evade the retinal scan identification at the Steel Harbor airport. The lenses pass through the hands of several lowlifes before also ending up at Barb's nightclub.

Rather than give the lenses to Cora and Axel, Barb makes a deal with 'Big Fatso', the leader of a junkyard gang: Fatso wants the lenses, which are worth a fortune on the black market, and Barb wants a million dollars and an armed escort to the airport, where she plans to get on the plane to Canada. But Fatso double-crosses Barb; when Barb, Axel and Cora show up at the junkyard to make the swap, Colonel Pryzer and his storm troopers are also there, along with Chief of Police Willis. Willis makes a show of arresting Barb and Cora, but instead of putting handcuffs on Barb, he slips her a hand grenade. Barb uses the grenade to kill Fatso and cause enough confusion to allow Barb, Axel, Cora and Willis to pile into Barb's armored van and lead the Congressionals on a car chase, culminating in a hand-to-hand fight between Barb and Colonel Pryzer on a forklift suspended by crane above the harbor. Pryzer falls to his death while Barb escapes.

The party makes it to the airport, where Barb reveals she still has the contact lenses. She gives them to Cora, and Cora and Axel get on the plane to Canada while Willis and Barb remain on the rainswept tarmac.



Barb Wire was directed by David Hogan, the second-unit director on Alien 3 and Batman Forever.[1] The film had a production budget of $9 million.[2] Anderson did some of her own stunts, despite her fear of heights. The fact that she had to wear high heels and a corset that made her waist 17 inches made fight scenes challenging.[3]

The film provided great publicity for the then-new Triumph Thunderbird 900 motorcycle as it featured in publicity photographs with Pamela Anderson.


Main article: Barb Wire (soundtrack)

A soundtrack album, also titled Barb Wire, was released on April 23, 1996.[4]


Box office

Barb Wire was a box-office bomb,[5] grossing less than $3.8 million in the United States.[6]

Critical response

Barb Wire was panned by critics. Roger Ebert pointed out that the film's plot was identical to that of Casablanca and derided the low-brow attempts at sensuality, but praised the cast and crew's approach to the material: "The filmmakers must have known they were not making a good movie, but they didn't use that as an excuse to be boring and lazy. Barb Wire has a high energy level, and a sense of deranged fun". He gave it two and a half stars.[7] Similarly to Ebert, Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly commented on the film's aping of the Casablanca plot and its "teasing, hollow 'naughtiness'", but further said that the film is lacking in energy. He gave it a C.[8] Janet Maslin of The New York Times criticized Anderson's performance, comparing her to Barbie and Barbarella.[1]

Barb Wire holds a 28% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 36 reviews (10 positive, 27 negative), with the consensus stating that "Barb Wire could've been fun camp, but Pamela Anderson can't deliver her lines with any dramatic or comedic impact".[9] The film was ranked in the bottom 20 of the Stinkers' "100 Years, 100 Stinkers" list, which noted the 100 worst movies of the 20th century, at #19.[10][11] Since its release, Barb Wire has attracted a cult following.[2]

Awards and nominations

Year Group Award Result
1996 Golden Raspberry Awards Worst Picture Nominated
Worst Actress (Pamela Anderson) Nominated
Worst Screen Couple (Pamela Anderson's "Impressive Enhancements") Nominated
Worst Screenplay (Chuck Pfarrer and Ilene Chaiken) Nominated
Worst New Star (Pamela Anderson) Won
Worst "Original" Song ("Welcome to Planet Boom!", by Tommy Lee) Nominated
1996 Stinkers Bad Movie Awards Worst Actress (Pamela Lee [Anderson])[12] Nominated
1997 MTV Movie Awards Best Fight (Pamela Anderson/Steve Railsback) Nominated


GT Interactive announced that they would be publishing a video game based on the film for the PlayStation, Saturn, PC, and Macintosh in January 1997.[13] The developer was Cryo Interactive.[14] The gameplay was said to be similar to Resident Evil, with a single-player campaign and a two-player deathmatch mode.[15] It was never released.

A 48-page comic book adaptation was published by Dark Horse Comics on May 1, 1996.[16]


  1. ^ a b Maslin, Janet (May 3, 1996). "Barb Wire". The New York Times. Archived from the original on April 7, 2022. Retrieved April 2, 2022.
  2. ^ a b Alter, Ethan (May 3, 2021). "'Barb Wire' director reveals how Pamela Anderson pulled off striptease scene in the 1996 cult favorite". Yahoo! News. Archived from the original on May 4, 2021. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  3. ^ "Interview". SKY Magazine. EMAP. June 1996.
  4. ^ "Barb Wire - Original Soundtrack". AllMusic. Archived from the original on November 28, 2012. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  5. ^ Puig, Claudia (May 7, 1996). "Weekend Box Office : 'Craft's' Magical Start Surprises Experts". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on October 15, 2012. Retrieved October 15, 2012.
  6. ^ "Barb Wire". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on March 28, 2022. Retrieved April 9, 2022.
  7. ^ "Roger Ebert - Chicago Sun-Times". 1996-05-03. Archived from the original on 2011-05-13. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  8. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (May 10, 1996). "Barb Wire". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 7 December 2017.
  9. ^ "Barb Wire". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2011-02-09.
  10. ^ "The 100 Worst Films of the 20th Century". The Stinkers. Archived from the original on 2002-06-04. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  11. ^ "The Top Ten [sic] Worst Films of All-Time". The Stinkers. Archived from the original on 2002-06-07. Retrieved 2 October 2019.
  12. ^ "The Stinkers 1996 Ballot". Stinkers Bad Movie Awards. Archived from the original on August 18, 2000.
  13. ^ "News Bits". GamePro. No. 96. IDG. September 1996. p. 21.
  14. ^ "Cryo? Who They?". Sega Saturn Magazine. No. 19. Emap International Limited. May 1997. p. 27.
  15. ^ "Sneak Previews: Barb Wire". GamePro. No. 102. IDG. March 1997. p. 47.
  16. ^ "Barb Wire Movie Special". Dark Horse Comics. Archived from the original on January 1, 2022. Retrieved April 7, 2022.