In August 1892, Fall River, Massachusetts Sunday school teacher Lizzie Borden comes across the grisly murder scene of her father Andrew, who has been brutally killed with a hatchet. Local law enforcement arrives, also discovering the body of Abby Borden, the stepmother of Lizzie and her older sister Emma. As the case progresses, the evidence seems to point to Lizzie as the prime suspect. Her lawyer, Andrew Jennings, maintains that a woman could not commit such a cruel and gruesome crime. Still, Lizzie is put on trial for the murders, and the case makes headlines in newspapers throughout the country, which call it the most infamous of the century.
Eventually, the jury finds Lizzie innocent of all charges. Despite the acquittal, she has become the town pariah. During a final confrontation between Lizzie and Emma, the former asks her sister if she wants to know the truth. Lizzie then whispers into Emma's ear as a series of flashbacks show Lizzie committing the murders. A visibly upset Emma leaves the room, and eventually, moves out of their home, never seeing Lizzie again. Lizzie walks outside and hears three children jump roping to the famous nursery rhyme: "Lizzie Borden took an axe/She gave her mother forty whacks/When she saw what she had done/She gave her father forty-one."Christina Ricci as Lizzie Borden
Clea DuVall as Emma Borden
Billy Campbell as Andrew Jennings
John Maclaren as Rev. Edwin A. Buck
Shawn Doyle as Marshal Hilliard
Andria Wilson as Nance O'Neil
Sara Botsford as Abby Durfee Borden
Gregg Henry as Hosea M. Knowlton
Stephen McHattie as Andrew Borden
Hannah Anderson as Bridget Sullivan
Andrea Runge as Alice Russell
The teaser trailer featured the time period's popular children's skipping-rope rhyme:
In its original January 25, 2014 premiere on the Lifetime network, the film was watched by 4.4 million viewers, making it the night's number-one telecast among all key demographics.
Lizzie Borden Took an Ax received mixed reviews despite praise for Ricci's performance; as of 6 May 2015, based on 14 reviews, the film holds a 43% rating on review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes.
In October 2014, Lifetime announced plans for an additional limited series based on the film. Originally named Lizzie Borden: The Fall River Chronicles, the series took place after Lizzie's trial. Christina Ricci and Clea DuVall reprised their roles as the Borden sisters. Cole Hauser portrayed Pinkerton detective Charlie Siringo, who investigates other strange occurrences, including murders, centered around the Bordens. Jessy Schram played Lizzie's actress/dancer friend, Nancy O'Keefe, and John Heard played Lizzie's father's business partner, William Almy. The limited series was written by Greg Small, Rich Blaney, Barbara Nance, Jason Grote, and David Simkins. Stephen Kay directed the first two of the episodes, which began airing April 2015.
A teaser trailer aired on December 8, 2014 during the second part of The Red Tent miniseries that was called The Lizzie Borden Chronicles, along with "The series coming in 2015." Despite The Hollywood Reporter stating the series would be a six-hour limited miniseries, on February 5, 2015, it was increased to eight hours.