For a better experience on MUBI, update your browser.
309 Ratings


Directed by Keith Maitland
United States, 2016
Documentary, Animation, Crime
  • English
  • English


On August 1st, 1966, a sniper rode the elevator to the top floor of the University of Texas Tower and opened fire, holding the campus hostage for 96 minutes. When the gunshots were finally silenced, the toll included 16 dead, three dozen wounded, and a shaken nation left trying to understand.

Our take

The events of the 1966 University of Texas shooting are captured in this documentary, which honors both the victims and survivors in its uniquely animated reconstruction. Distilling all of the tragedy of that day in its near totality, this is a devastating yet necessary reckoning with gun violence.

Tower Directed by Keith Maitland

Awards & Festivals

SXSW Film Festival

2016 | 3 wins including: Documentary Feature (Audience Award)

Village Voice Film Poll

2016 | Nominee: Best Animated Feature

Indiewire Critics' Poll

2016 | Nominee: Best Documentary

The film does not invent its images; it uses animation to fill in the blanks the news footage couldn’t. More radically, and urgently, it uses animation to make us imagine the bodies of the survivors, whose testimonies are recounted by actors, back on campus. They narrate their fear, grief, and confusion in seemingly real time, living it on-screen before our eyes.
January 12, 2017
Read full article
Once in awhile, you see a documentary that creates its own distinctive aesthetic while still honoring the subject. “Tower” is that kind of movie… Maitland and his collaborators structure the story in the manner of a nonfiction novel—or the type of ensemble drama that Robert Altman, Paul Thomas Anderson or Austin’s own Richard Linklater might make.
October 12, 2016
Read full article
The results in “Tower” are extremely liquid, with each line incessantly ebbing and flowing, creating a vivid sense of life.
October 11, 2016
Read full article

What are people saying?

  • Graveyard Poet's rating of the film Tower

    August 1, 1966 (around lunch break, high noon, for 96 minutes) at Austin's University of Texas campus, 25 year old Charles Whitman, armed with a sniper rifle, killed 18 and injured 33 in one of the first major mass shootings in U.S. history. In 2016, on the 50th anniversary, this film Tower was released. Definitely worth watching. Heartbreaking and Powerful.

  • Daniel Roque's rating of the film Tower

    Rotoscoping animation doesn't always work right, but in 'Tower' it blends perfectly with the archive footage and the testimonials. Also, there aren't many documentaries with this amount of anxiety, thrill and commotion. Definitely a must-watch!

  • HenriqueA's rating of the film Tower

    It is not perfect and it does not present you the whole story or any kind of analysis, but in choosing to tell a restrained but detailed account straight from the mouth of some of the very people who lived it and then using rotoscoping to some gripping effect, Tower acomplished something that very few documentaries about old crimes can. It is at the same time horrendous and intoxicating.

  • saitosouta's rating of the film Tower

    Through that blue sky alien comes. On the tower it shoots people to death and there is brutal landscape like western movie....“Tower” is a movie between real & unreal/reality & dream with slippery images of rotoscopy which has delicate touch like reality but surely different, telling us the truth of terror, bravery, vivid color of life and happiness now disappeared. Tough to watch yet amazing cinematic experience.

  • Stefan Drees's rating of the film Tower

    The film is worth watching but also problematic: By deriving its animations from original footage it tries to make a more abstract approach to the events; but showing them undisguised and trying to emotionalize them with an at most mediocre music annihilates the effects of this abstraction and plays down the significance of the events. So why using animation after all if you are not willing to exploit its potential?

  • manybits's rating of the film Tower

    America: the land of serial killers and vigilantes, psychopaths and heroes. The cartoon aesthetics perfectly capture the madness of it all. Alas, Maitland does not provide any contextual info. As a frame-by-frame reconstruction, Tower lacks interpretation. Weak heuristics. The "It was an act of a lonely madman" explanation is an excuse. Wasn't the entire history of America written by a legion of lonely mad men?

  • msmichel's rating of the film Tower

    Maitland's documentary on the infamous '66 Texas clock tower shooting mixes archival footage, interview and rotoscopic animation capturing both the terror of the moment and the beginning of a phenomenon that rears its ugly head far too often. By keeping the focus on the ground with the victims and participants it does justice to those involved In giving no quarter to the assailant. One of the year's strongest docs.

  • Jason's rating of the film Tower

    A historical event that traversed an emerging hyper-mediatized landscape. Dawn of the television age. We have some images. Captured and kept. But there is something at the heart of these early media events beneath the truncated archeology; the core of these experiences themselves. The experiences have a quality of the irreal. Precisely why the rotoscopy is the right choice. Too real to be assimilated as "reality."

Related films