Get Shorty
Theatrical release poster
Directed byBarry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay byScott Frank
Based onGet Shorty
by Elmore Leonard
Produced byDanny DeVito
Michael Shamberg
Stacey Sher
CinematographyDonald Peterman[1]
Edited byJim Miller
Music byJohn Lurie
Jersey Films
Distributed byMetro-Goldwyn-Mayer
Release date
  • October 20, 1995 (1995-10-20)
Running time
105 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$30 million[2]
Box office$115.1 million[3]

Get Shorty is a 1995 American gangster comedy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and written by Scott Frank. It is based on Elmore Leonard's novel of the same name and stars John Travolta, Gene Hackman, Rene Russo, and Danny DeVito. Get Shorty follows Chili Palmer (Travolta), a Miami mobster and loan shark who inadvertently gets involved in feature film production after traveling to Los Angeles to collect a casino debt from B-movie director Harry Zimm (Hackman).

Get Shorty was followed by a sequel, Be Cool, in 2005, and in 2017 inspired a television series of the same name.


Ernesto "Chili" Palmer, a small-time loan shark based in Miami, gets his jacket stolen by Ray "Bones" Barboni, a mobster from another crew. Chili goes to Bones and takes his jacket back, punching him in the face and breaking his nose. When Bones tries to attack Chili in revenge, Chili shoots him in the head non-fatally, leaving him with an ugly scar. Bones tries to have Chili killed, but is unsuccessful because the bosses of their crews don’t want to start a mob war.

Twelve years later, the boss of Chili’s crew dies of a heart attack and Bones inherits Chili’s list of outstanding loans, which has to be handed over with up to date payments. Chili has written one of them off since the client, a dry cleaner, died in a plane crash, but it turns out that the dry cleaner didn’t board the plane after checking in and has scammed the airline out of $300,000 in life insurance, which he is enjoying in Vegas.

After relieving the dry cleaner of the money in a casino, Chili gets his friend, the head of security, to hire him to collect a bad debt from Harry Zimm, a horror film producer in Los Angeles. Chili sneaks into the house of actress Karen Flores in the middle of the night, where Harry is staying. Chili tells Harry the dry cleaner’s story as if it’s an idea for a movie, seeing an opportunity to get into a better line of business.

Harry sees an opportunity in getting a tough guy to help him out and asks for Chili's help in finessing a $200,000 investment from Bo Catlett – owner of a limo service as a front for drug dealing who also wants to get into a better line of business – in a horror movie he can’t make because he gambled it away, which is why Chili has come calling. Chili is pulling this off when Harry errs by revealing the film he really wants to make, one with a great script. Both Chili and Bo decide it’s their chance to enter the movie business.

Bo has left the payment for a drug deal in a locker at Los Angeles International Airport, but the Colombian sent to pick it up doesn’t feel safe unlocking the locker. Bo meets the Colombian at the limo garage, and when he threatens to tell the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) who Bo is, Bo kills him.

Bo offers the locker money to Harry as an investment in the great script and tells him to send Chili to get the money to remove his rival from the scene. Chili senses something is wrong, signs out a nearby locker as a test, and is taken for questioning by DEA agents.

Chili gets a meeting with Martin Weir, an A-list Hollywood actor and Karen’s ex-husband. Martin loves the character that is Chili and now Chili has got the interest of an A-list actor.

Bones comes to Los Angeles looking for the money Chili collected from the dry cleaner, and finds the key to the locker from the drug deal in one of Chili's pockets, as Chili intends. He goes to the airport to get it and is arrested by drug officials.

Bo falls to his death through the railing of his sun deck that his henchman has unscrewed after deciding that Chili represents a better chance at getting into a better line of business.

Chili decides that Martin Weir is too short to play him and thinks about how to end the dry cleaner’s story.


Get Shorty also features an appearance from the real Ernest "Chili" Palmer, a Miami loan shark and mob-connected man who inspired the original character.[4]


The movie features an acid- and soul-jazz themed soundtrack with songs by Us3, Morphine, Booker T. & the M.G.'s, Greyboy and Medeski Martin & Wood alongside original compositions by John Lurie.[5] The soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy Award (1997 - Best Instrumental Composition Written for a Motion Picture or for Television).[6]


Warren Beatty, Dustin Hoffman and Michael Keaton were offered the role of Chlil Palmer but all of whom declined.[7][8] Sonnenfeld considered Samuel L. Jackson for the role of Bo Catlett.[9] Steve Buscemi and Matthew McConaughey were considered for the role of Ronnie Wingate.[10]


On Rotten Tomatoes, the film holds an approval rating of 88% based on 56 reviews, with an average rating of 7.74/10. The site's critical consensus reads, "With a perfect cast and a sly twist on the usual Hollywood gangster dynamic, Get Shorty delivers a sharp satire that doubles as an entertaining comedy-thriller in its own right."[11] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 82 out of 100, based on 22 critics, indicating "universal acclaim".[12] Audiences surveyed by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade "B+" on scale of A+ to F.[13] The film was entered into the 46th Berlin International Film Festival.[14]

The film opened at #1 upon its release (10/20-22) with $12.7 million.[15] Get Shorty remained #1 for three consecutive weeks before being overtaken by Ace Ventura: When Nature Calls.[16]


For his role as Chili Palmer, John Travolta received the Golden Globe Award for Best Actor – Motion Picture Musical or Comedy. The film also received nominations for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy and the Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture.


  1. ^ "Perry Moore, 'Narnia' series executive producer, dies at 39; Don Peterman, Oscar-nominated cinematographer, dies at 79; Nancy Carr, network TV publicist, dies at 50". Los Angeles Times. 2011-02-22. Archived from the original on 2013-10-29. Retrieved 2011-02-23.
  2. ^ "Why 'Get Shorty' Is One of the Best Crime Comedies Ever". Collider. October 21, 2020. Retrieved February 5, 2021.
  3. ^ "Get Shorty". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  4. ^ Anne E. Kornblut (November 5, 1995). "The Real Chili Palmer". New York Daily News. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  5. ^ Okamoto, David (October 30, 1995). "'Get Shorty' Scores A Hit With Funky Soundtrack". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved January 16, 2022 – via Chicago Tribune.
  6. ^ "Artist: John Lurie". Grammy Award. Archived from the original on November 15, 2020. Retrieved June 14, 2017.
  7. ^ "15 Fast-Talking Facts About Get Shorty". October 21, 2015.
  8. ^ May 29, PATRICK GOLDSTEIN; Pt, 1995 12 Am (May 29, 1995). "Hangin' With 'Shorty' : A Comic Hollywood Crime Novel Has Brought Out the Tough-Guy Stars--Including John Travolta". Los Angeles Times.
  9. ^ "Netflix's Da 5 Bloods star Delroy Lindo on his most famous roles". The A.V. Club.
  10. ^ "Jon Gries". The A.V. Club.
  11. ^ Get Shorty at Rotten Tomatoes
  12. ^ Get Shorty at Metacritic
  13. ^ "GET SHORTY (1995) B+". CinemaScore. Archived from the original on 2018-12-20.
  14. ^ "Berlinale: 1996 Programme". Archived from the original on 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-01-01.
  15. ^ Robert W. Welkos (24 October 1995). "Weekend Box Office : 'Shorty' Stands Tall in Ticket Sales". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 4 November 2012. Retrieved 5 November 2011.
  16. ^ "Weekend Box Office November 10–12, 1995". Box Office Mojo. Archived from the original on 15 November 2020. Retrieved 5 November 2011.