Desert Trestle is a 1999 American Thriller Drama film written and directed by Daren Aronofsky based off the 1994 short story by Allan Jouve-Burroughs starring Julia Roberts, Benicio Del Toro, Russell Crowe, Penn Badgley, Chace Crawford, Jamie Bell and J.K Simmons.

The film following the short story deals with the tale of seven runaway boys on a runaway bus which gets into a catastrophic collision rendering them, a con-man and psychotic thief in the Nevada Desert which they were passing through.

The film was shot partially in Las Vegas, The Nevada Desert, Lincoln, Nebraska.

The film garnered an Oscar for Best Adapted Screenplay and received critical praise and audience acclaim being hailed as a "Lord Of The Flies In The Desert and of a different calibre, a new classic."

The film garnered two BAFTA nominations for Best Young Star: Penn Badgley and Best Actor: Benicio Del Toro.


The year is 1965 and sincere 11 year old Richard Hamlock's (Penn Badgley) father Marvin (Guy Pearce) has gone off to serve in the Vietnam war with his bestfriend Parker Schult's (Chace Crawford) older brother Steven (Matthew Rhys) and angry friend Kyle Bradbury's (Jamie Bell) father Anthony (John Barrowman) who was an abusive drunk.

Parker asks Richard to run away with him one night until the day following at Richard, Parker, Kyle and their three other friends: Mark Nearwater (Joseph Cross) whose father serves as a General in the Vietnam War and who like Kyle's father is abusive, fun loving Adle Churner (Aldis Hodge) who despite his cheerful nature comes from a poverty stricken black family, Kyle's lifelong friend Chance Golding (Scott Eastwood) whose parents died in the Vietnam War and who lives with an adoptive father who sexually abuses him and cowardly LeRoy Davis' (Eric Lloyd) spot.

There Kyle brings forth the idea they run away together and suggests they head for Nebraska on the next bus out of Nevada.

Able and Richard seem reluctant to Kyle's suggestion which was formerly to Richard Parker's suggestion and which he begins to keep asking him about.

Over the course of the next few days the boys have horrible episodes at home.

Richard has an argument with his mother Grace (Julia Roberts) as she tells him he will have to deal with the fact that his father has gone to war and may not come home.

Parker left at home with his sister and her boyfriend witnesses an argument of theirs turn violent as he strikes her to which he advances him.

Parker's parents come home and his sister in desperation to cover for her boyfriend and the incident breaks a glass table and claims she fell which ignites Parker's and sends him off in tears.

Kyle gets into a physical fight with his father and burns his face with boiling water before rushing off.

Mark runs away after being struck numerous times in the face by his father and going outside where in sheer fury violently kills his pet dog before the eyes of his father, who had came out to apologize for the beating.

Able is blamed by a neighbourhood white kid for vandalizing an across the street residence which in actual fact was the kid's fault but instead lands him in trouble with the police, he takes off out his upstairs bedroom window.

Chance escapes his drunken adoptive father and comes before the eyes of his neglectful adoptive mother who barters him safe passage out of the house.

Lastly LeRoy is beaten up by bullies and told by his father to straighten up and that there is a whole army of brave soldiers out there fighting for their country and he can't even take on a few measly kids which prompts him to take off.

The boys meet up at a bus stop not far from their usual spot and board a Nevada bus before the scene cuts away.

We are then introduced to Con-Man Harvey Kleinz (Russell Crowe) who we see a lonely man caught up in obligation to a tyrannical Las Vegas Businessman, one who forces him to open up promising deals for individuals, only to cheat them all of their money.

We are taken through a day of his life and him writing out a last will and testament as well as withdrawing a very large amount of money which we do not know for yet.

We then see him come to a bus stop and board a bus before the scene cuts away again.

We are then introducted to charmer and apparent drifter Hanson Gross (Benicio Del Toro) who robs a couple with his gang which set him up.

A shoot-out occurs at night in the dark alleys of Las Vegas before he steals a car and ends up breaking down on the outskirts near a bus stop.

He checks for his gun and looks a card which we cannot see what's on it as his head blocks it.

He then limps forward to the bus stop and boards the bus which then comes.

We come back to the boys getting on the bus and seeing the two men we were just introduced to as they come to sit at the back and it is revealed apart from them, the two men and bus driver no one else is present on the bus.

The bus then begins it's commute and soon comes out of the suburbs of Las Vegas and the city itself into the desert the bus driver distracted by Parker comes to crash into a rock which propels the bus off the dirt road it was travelling along.

The boys come and come to the rescue of the two men and upon attempting to bring the driver out of the bus discover him to have died in the accident.

We are then taken through the first day of the boys and two men being stranded in the Nevada Desert far off the dirt road they were travelling on and crumbling to the heat, relying on their few supplies and using the tents they had packed into the bus for shelter for the night.

The scene then comes back to the parents of each of the boys who all come to the police station at the same time to report each of their boys' missing.

One of the parents gets into a fight with Chance's sexually abusive adoptive father and Richard's mother Grace then packs up to search for her son herself.

The scene then comes back to the desert and the boys where there at night they begin to nurse an injured Hanson back to health and get to know Harvey who tells he had a very important thing to take care of and that he's a sinner.

The boys all share their stories to the two men and Hanson takes an interest to Kyle believing to manipulate him into turning on the others claiming them to be selfish and his opinion to be diminished by the likes of Richard and Parker.

The next day the boys hunt with Hanson upon them spotting a desert bighorn.

Kyle, Hanson and Mark come to violently slay the creature which shocks Richard, Parker, Adle, Chance and LeRoy whilest turn off Harvey.

Richard, Parker and Harvey refuse to feed off the animal and Richard enquires as to why Harvey refuses to eat, claiming he knows why those who are eating are eating and why him and Parker are not but why not him seeing as he didn't seem revolted at the killing of the animal.

Harvey compliments Richard calling him a very intuitive young boy and answers that he simply wishes to die, that as he said he is a sinner, and he needs to atone for what he has done and as for the custom to violence it falls in with part of the many sins he has committed.

Kyle along with Mark begin to tease Richard and Parker over not eating and their expressions at the killing of the animal.

Richard doesn't answer him and after Kyle further more pesters him Parker steps up to him prompting him to back off.

That night whilest the boys are asleep and Harvey goes for a walk attempting to reach road so as to get the boys out of there Hanson awakens and follows him with his gun.

He misses his chance at killing him as Richard awakens however and comes to talk with Hanson.

The following day an attempt at reaching road by the whole lot is made to no success.

Two Bighorns are discovered by Kyle, Adle and Mark and Kyle and Mark participate in brutally killing the creatures.

Mark however gets too carried away with the Bighorn he is assigned to seeing it as his father and smashing it's head in repeatedly with a large rock.

Richard and Parker eventually come to a certain rock cliff which has a reasonable height and Richard devises they create a signal whilest Parker figures what they will use with the help of Harvey.

LeRoy tries to talk to Chance about Kyle's behaviour and how he is worried but Chance assures him that Kyle has been and always will be a brother to him and despite what he's doing out here with the animal killings he is merely doing it for them and that he is no savage.

The boys all come together and discuss Richard's idea of the signal and point out where it is to be, Hanson begins a conversation with Harvey acquainting himself with him.

We then flash to Grace on the search for her son and the other boys before the scene comes back to that night and the once again thwarted attempt on Harvey's life by Hanson by Richard who seems to have seeken solace in speaking about his problems with him at night.

The following day the signal is made and Kyle takes a walk with Hanson whilest Richard, Adle and Parker trek in search of the road.

They come back to replenish on water and see Mark by himself has killed a bighorn which he has made Chance carry in.

Harvey returns from setting up the signal and the group discover LeRoy has vanished.

The search then begins for him which drags onto night until they leave it for the night despite Richard still wishing to find him along with Chance.

We come to Beth who discovers that a Nevada Bus which departed at the same time her son roughly headed off hasn't returned and the driver isn't answering.

Grace demands to know where the bus was headed.

We then see the following day the boys whilest sent off on a hunt and to seek out the road whilest scavenging for further stuff for the signal and the missing LeRoy Harvey be gunned down on the rock cliff by Hanson who reveals that the set-up by his gang was arranged con-man Harvey.

Harvey in his last movements withdraws a piece of folded up paper and drops it upon the ground as his body collapses.

As Hanson begins to clear out the rest of his clothing he sees that Chance had been standing there and witnessed the entire thing.

He attempts to coerce Chance claiming Harvey was a bad man and then upon ushering Chance over to him begins to raise his pistol.

Chance sees this and runs but shots are fired and the other boys who have now came back into the general area hear them and come to the rock cliff where they see the body of Harvey and a shot bleeding to death Chance.

Chance bleeds to death in Richard and Kyle's arms.

Adle breaks down claiming he can't handle it and Parker emotionally breaks down.

Hanson meanwhile is running off across the desert where he seems to spot a distorted figure in the distance.

Upon traversing forward falls into a chasm and hits his head upon a rock which renders him unconscious.

A trio of Bighorns then gather round the chasm and look down to see Hanson.

The scene comes back to the boys and Kyle swearing vengeance on Hanson.

Richard states they should bury Chance and Harvey to which Adle and Parker agree.

Kyle instead breaks a major part of their signal's structure claiming there is no help coming, no escaping and it's kill or be killed which leads Mark to smile joyfully.

With the broken structure piece he ignites a flame and throws it upon Chance and Harvey's bodies.

Richard spots the piece of folded paper near Harvey's bodies and runs for it whilest Mark tries to push him off.

Parker strikes Mark in the face and the two engage in a fight to which Adle breaks up and they see Richard burn his hand securing the paper upon the ground.

Mark goes to land a sneaky strike upon Parker but Adle who foresees what it is about to occur jumps in front and after a powerful punch to the face is knocked off the rock cliff and dies upon hitting the ground.

Richard and Parker run to their friend's body and Kyle looks on and then at Mark.

Mark tells Kyle it was an accident and Kyle answers him with there are no accidents and ushers for him to follow.

Richard tries to revive his dead friend whilest Parker shouts out at Mark and Kyle who begin to leave.

Parker in anger stands up and marches forward to go after them but is pulled back by Richard who tells him they can't become like them and that help will come.

Parker tells him that no one's coming for them before breaking down and telling about his sister and her abusive boyfriend to which Richard comforts him.

We then come to Grace Hamlock arriving at the Nevada Bus Yard where she talks with the other drivers who were friends of the bus driver she has heard of, she states that he apparently was scheduled to transport people to Nebraska but enquires as to what route he would take.

The drivers ask to why she wants to know and she tells that her son and six young other boys are missing and may have gotten on this bus.

A family man bus driver then comes forth and tells that the bus driver Randy Quark on his Nebraska commutes takes the old Route 40 through the Nevada Desert to bypass onto the highway.

She hugs the man and then takes off as he wishes her good-luck in finding her son and telling her from afar that he had a daughter once who ran away and was stabbed and mugged in an alleyway in Queens back when he lived there.

The scene then comes back to the desert where Richard begins to become disorientated by the heat of the desert and dehydrated due to the lack of water they have left.

Parker spares what little water they have left for him and helps him along in search of a road.

They eventually however come to find the chasm containing the unconscious Hanson Gross.

They are able to bring him out and while he is injured strike him for the murders of Harvey and their friend Chance.

They tie him up and see the sun setting.

Kyle and Mark then attack and reveal themselves.

They tell them to step aside whilest they deal with the murderer.

Richard refuses and Parker stands in front of him and the tied Hanson stating they will have to go through him.

Mark tells him not a problem but as he goes to throw forth a made spear used for the hunting of desert Bighorns Hanson frees himself of his bindings and trips Parker before attempting to flee.

He limps away but Kyle rushes forth with Mark and Mark strikes Richard across the face with a rock sending him to the ground beside Parker.

Hanson attempts to shoot at the pursuing boys but realizes that his gun has been disarmed by Parker.

He then attempts to reason with Kyle reminding of him how everyone else is diminishing him.

Kyle claims he was right about that and he opened his eyes to the truth but he states he killed Chance a boy who was nothing less of a brother to him and to whom he swore to protect for the rest of his life.

Kyle then sends Mark forward who throws a spiral ball trap at Hanson's legs tripping him over and allowing the two to beat him whilest he is upon the ground.

The scene flashes upon an injured Parker attempting to get up and help Richard who is passing out seeing flashes of his father, mother, Adle, LeRoy, Chance, Kyle, Mark, Harvey, Hanson, Parker, Bighorns, The Desert Trestle signal, the Nevada Desert and their usual spot back home.

Parker attempts to snap Richard out of it before the scene comes back to Kyle and Mark with Hanson whom they have beaten to a bloody pulp and have's blood all over them.

Mark twists his arms and legs to breaking point which rips forth his bones and Kyle finishes him by brutally performing coup de grace on him with a large rock.

Parker snaps Richard out of his trance and brings him to where Kyle and Mark are standing covered in blood before the mashed up corpse of Hanson Gross.

Parker asks what have they done.

Richard begins to fall into his trance again and is caught by Parker.

Richard then looking out at a blank Kyle and Mark says their monsters just like the man they have killed.

Kyle asks him wether they are still friends and can fix it.

Richard tells him they can't and that should they be found that he and Mark will pay for what they have done to not only Hanson but Adle.

Mark goes to advance them but is stopped by Kyle who crying to himself begins to think.

He thinks back to everything but then enters a stupor of rage again remembering his abusive father, what Chance's adoptive father had done to him and how Hanson had shot him down in cold blood, their predicament and Richard and Parker constantly shutting him off.

He looks up at them in fury and states he is not going away and his home is here where a sick misogynistic pig which is his father can't touch him again.

He then lets loose at Mark nodding approval for him to advance.

Parker wrestles with him but Mark kicks him in the leg which was hurt by Hanson when he pulled him down.

Parker then grabs Richard and flees upon shaking off Mark and Mark and Kyle roar before chasing after them.

They come back to the bus wreckage and flee through the bus.

They come to the rock cliff and there Richard is stabbed by Mark with his spear which has the end dipped with the venom of a poisonous snake he and Kyle found.

Richard falls to the ground and Parker grabs him crying.

Parker kisses on the forehead and tells him to run North after he's done.

The only direction they have not walked miles on in search of road.

He tells him he loves him and that he will always be his little brother before advancing Mark and killing him by pushing his own spear against him and causing himself to impale himself in the throat.

He is however with Kyle taken by surprise who proceeds to slit his throat with a knife with the name Hanson Gross engraved on it.

Parker bleeding goes toward Kyle who is walking towards a rising disorientated Richard.

Parker pushes forth with Kyle and the two fly off the rock cliff.

Richard then begins to stumble forth North with the last of Parker's water.

He comes to a half-way break line where a bloodied, injured Kyle appears disorientated and brandishes a knife he however collapses and dies due to his injuries and the heat and Richard presses on after spending a few seconds with Kyle's body.

He eventually comes to a road where he sees a car coming.

We are then taken way back to see LeRoy leaving on his own from the group believing Mark and Kyle to convert into savages and turn on them.

He finds a large water supply stowed away in the bus wreckage near the bus driver Randy's body.

He heads one direction and ends up falling into the chasm which Hanson later fell into.

Climbing his way out after being unconscious for the night following onto the day and a half he is seen by Hanson who then comes to fall in after having murdered Harvey Kleinz and Chance.

LeRoy then heads North and eventually comes to the road and follows along it.

There he comes back onto the concreate road where he flags down a young couple who bring to the hospital to which Grace is summoned.

Grace takes LeRoy out the hospital and the two drive back to the Desert and coming down the concrete road she finds her son who collapses before the car.

He is brought to the hospital and cured with anti-venom.

The police then come round to inform the parents of Parker, Kyle, Mark and Adle what's happened.

The corrupt businessman who was orchestrating Harvey Kleinz into performing corrupt deals and cons for him is arrested as the piece of folded paper Richard picked up pertains to evidence of what he has done and a way to revert all he and the businessman's damage.

The night that Richard comes home with Grace his mother Parker's parents and sister come to the house.

The parents join Grace in the living room and Parker's sister breaks down and hugs Richard seeing him as Parker and asking why he left her, Parker comforts her stating that he hasn't left and begins to break down himself.

Hanson Gross is announced dead publicly and the film ends with an on crutches Richard coming with LeRoy (both driven by Grace) to the Usual spot to leave a set of photos there: 1. Of Him and his bestfriend Parker 2. The Whole group at the Usual Spot 3. A Picture of Nebraska and 4. The Nevada Desert.

Before hand we see Grace in her vehicle receiving letter that her husband was killed in action.


  • Julia Roberts as Grace Hamlock
  • Benicio Del Toro as Hanson Gross
  • Russell Crowe as Harvey Kleinz
  • Penn Badgley as Richard Hamlock
  • Chace Crawford as Parker Schult
  • Jamie Bell as Kyle Bradbury
  • J.K Simmons as Randy Quaik
  • Joseph Cross as Mark Nearwater
  • Aldis Hodge as Adle Churner
  • Scott Eastwood as Chance Golding
  • Eric Lloyd as LeRoy Davis
  • Kate Bosworth as Samantha Schult
  • Stephen Colbert as Anson Schult
  • Christa Miller as Amanda Schult
  • Mark Dacascos as Nathaniel Bradbury
  • Daran Norris as General Opum Nearwater
  • Melissa Gilbert as Ann Nearwater
  • Raphael Sbarge as Lodge Nearwater
  • French Stewart as Olkin Golding
  • Joanne Whalley as Alice Golding
  • Christopher Judge as Martin Churner
  • Rosie Perez as Rita Churner
  • Philip Bolden as Colbin Churner
  • Mark Valley as Officer Johnson
  • Gina McKee as Officer Eckley
  • Conleth Hill as Officer Stance
  • Patrick Fabian as Officer Reaghan
  • Maria Doyle Kennedy as Bus Driver Edna
  • Rocco Sifredi as Bus Driver Tim
  • Dot Jones as Bus Driver Heida
  • David Eigenberg as Bus Driver Lex
  • George Newbern as Helpful Bus Driver Jameson
  • Evan Stone as Crazed Patient
  • Faith Ford as Nurse Nancy
  • Caroline Rhea as Nurse
  • Fabiana Udeno as Nurse
  • Michael Cudlitz as Dr. Creeson
  • Linus Roache as Construction Worker
  • Zach Galligan as Construction Worker


  1. Baby, I'm Yours- Barbara Lewis
  2. Yes, I'm Ready- Barbara Mason
  3. California Girls- The Beach Boys
  4. Eight Days A Week- The Beatles
  5. Help!- The Beatles
  6. Ticket To Ride- The Beatles
  7. Just A Little- Beau Brummels
  8. Red Roses For A Blue Lady- Bert Kaempfert
  9. Ferry Across The Mersey- Gerry & The Peacemakers
  10. Can't You Hear My Heartbeat- Herman's Hermits
  11. I'm Henry The VIII, I Am- Herman's Hermits
  12. Mrs. Brown, You've Got A Lovely A Daughter- Herman's Hermits
  13. Silhouettes- Herman's Hermits
  14. Go Now- Moody Blues
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.