As written by Callie Khouri, directed by Ridley Scott, and played by Susan Sarandon and Geena Davis, ''Thelma & Louise'' -- a film variously interpreted as a feminist statement and a ''male-bashing'' tract -- was intended simply as a buddy flick about two fully realized female characters. Sarandon's fed-up waitress and Davis' put-upon housewife are together on the road and on the run, cruising in their convertible T-Bird through an American West out of a John Ford movie. They encounter aggressive villains, Harvey Keitel's conflicted lawman, and Brad Pitt's abs.
As Thelma & Louise: Special Edition's supplementary material has it, lucky timing (and the cover of Time) inflated it into a cultural event; the insightful documentaries and self-effacing commentary tracks (one features Scott, the other the stars and screenwriter) find principals discounting any notion that they were out to produce ''Bonnie and Bonnie.'' And as an alternate, longer version of the famous cliff-diving finale makes clear, personal vision and Hollywood rules can combine to surprising effect: Its intro blankly notes that Scott's original conclusion ''was shortened to create the perception of a more upbeat ending.''