Thunder Road (1958)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  10 May 1958 (USA)
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A veteran comes home from the Korean War to the mountains and takes over the family moonshining business. He has to battle big-city gangsters who are trying to take over the business and ... See full summary »



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Complete credited cast:
Lucas Doolin
Troy Barrett
Carl Kogan
Keely Smith ...
Francie Wymore
Vernon Doolin
Sandra Knight ...
Roxanna Ledbetter
Robin Doolin


A veteran comes home from the Korean War to the mountains and takes over the family moonshining business. He has to battle big-city gangsters who are trying to take over the business and the police who are trying to put him in prison. Written by

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


YOU'LL NEED SHOCK ABSORBERS! (original ad - all caps) See more »


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

10 May 1958 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Jack O'Diamonds  »

Filming Locations:

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Recording System)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The locations heard in the song "Thunder Road" (sung by Mitchum) actually describe real places in East Tennessee and Kentucky. The "Thunder Road" route runs south from Harlan, KY thru The Cumberland Gap to Maynardville, TN just north of Knoxville. The moonshine runner then goes thru downtown Knoxville and onto Kingston Pike where he crashes on Bearden Hill (Bearden is a Knoxville suburb). The route is easily followed on a map. See more »


According to the title song, "On the first of April 1954.....", yet the police cars are 1957 Chevys and 1957 Fords, which didn't exist in 1954. See more »


Lucas Doolin: [talking on pay telephone] Hello, Kogan?... Doolin.
Carl Kogan: What's on your mind, Mr. Doolin?
Lucas Doolin: You. You're on my mind. You finally made the big mistake tonight, Kogan. Niles Penland was a mistake... Jethro Moultrie and Williams - that was a mistake, that was a big mistake, a bad mistake, but tonight you made the *big* mistake. You put your dirty, fat hands on my kid brother. I swore I'd *kill* anybody who tried to make him a whisky runner. I'm on my way into Memphis right now, and when I get there you're ...
See more »


Referenced in Grease (1978) See more »


Ballad of Thunder Road
(Theme song)
Composed by Robert Mitchum
Sung by Robert Mitchum
See more »

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User Reviews

An Overlooked Gem
17 June 2005 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

Thunder Road is an outstanding film and occupies an interesting place in Mitchum's evolution as an actor. It is a compelling and believable look at the moonshine-running culture of the Appalachian Mountains, pitting moonshiners not only against Alcohol, Tax, and Firearms (ATF) agents and state authorities but, as well, against organized crime seeking to control the trade for their own ends. Mitchum is thoroughly believable in the kind of role--a rural, Scots-Irish mountaineer--that many others have tried and failed at. The film never descends into parody or sneering elitism. The moonshiners and the authorities are both shown as individuals of good will, seeking to do their duty as they see it, and devoted to values that are basically decent and trustworthy. The mobsters are not cardboard cutouts or over-the-top villains, and this, somehow, adds to their menace. At the time he did this film, Mitchum was already well-established, with Night of the Hunter behind him, and, as well, his most recent film The Enemy Below, in which he played a Navy Captain confronting shrewd U-boat skipper in a battle of wits. After these kind of films, one might wonder why he would take this role--but I think it is because he saw that it offered some real-challenge, a role that forced him to play a gritty character in an unusual setting. Mitchum is shown as a man of great complexity--trying to encourage his younger brother to get involved with something other than fast cars and moonshine, recommending that he join the service and get involved with advanced aviation technology. His girlfriend, a roadhouse singer, is one of the most sympathetic heroines of the 50's late-film noir genre. The chase sequences are riveting--VERY well done by the standards of the time, and in many ways Thunder Road offers a rural companion piece to Bill Hickman and Steve McQueen's great chase sequence in Bullitt. This is a film to be savored, particularly by anyone who has driven through twisting Appalachian mountain roads at night, reflecting on the tough, decent, and hard-scrabble folk in that part of America.

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