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Cool Hand Luke (1967)

 -  Crime | Drama  -  1 November 1967 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.2/10 from 94,440 users  
Reviews: 253 user | 91 critic

A man refuses to conform to life in a rural prison.



(screenplay), (screenplay), 1 more credit »
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Title: Cool Hand Luke (1967)

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Top 250 #147 | Won 1 Oscar. Another 5 wins & 6 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Lou Antonio ...
Marc Cavell ...
Richard Davalos ...
Warren Finnerty ...


Luke Jackson is a cool, gutsy prisoner in a Southern chain gang, who, while refusing to buckle under to authority, keeps escaping and being recaptured. The prisoners admire Luke because, as Dragline explains it, "You're an original, that's what you are!" Nevertheless, the camp staff actively works to crush Luke until he finally breaks. Written by alfiehitchie

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

prison | prisoner | escape | guts | chain | See more »


He was a cool customer. . .until the law made it hot for him! See more »


Crime | Drama


PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

1 November 1967 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La leyenda del indomable  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Donn Pearce:  as a convict named Sailor. Pearce wrote the novel on which the movie is based, after spending 2 years on a chain gang for safe-breaking. See more »


While Luke's mother is smoking a cigarette, it gets smaller when the camera switches angles. See more »


Luke: I can eat fifty eggs.
Dragline: Nobody can eat fifty eggs.
Society Red: You just said he could eat anything.
Dragline: Did you ever eat fifty eggs?
Luke: Nobody ever eat fifty eggs.
Prisoner: Hey, Babalugats. We got a bet here.
Dragline: My boy says he can eat fifty eggs, he can eat fifty eggs.
Loudmouth Steve: Yeah, but in how long?
Luke: A hour.
Society Red: Well, I believe I'll take part of that wager.
See more »


Referenced in Friends: The One with Ross's Inappropriate Song (2002) See more »


Midnight Special
Written by Howard Washington Odum
Performed by Harry Dean Stanton
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

a classic anti-hero and a near-great Hollywood prison movie of the 1960s
17 September 2006 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

I read another comment on here that said that this and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest are two films which are pretty much identical. While I was watching Cool Hand Luke I did recollect the other classic (to me still much more extraordinary) guys-locked-up movie Cuckoo's Nest, as it did have its hero knocking an authority as tough as a ton on bricks. But there's a big difference between the two films- in Cuckoo's Nest, you had in Nicholson a rebel-rouser who didn't mind getting some real words across to people with his plight, and the people he was locked up with are actually, to a basic degree, sane. Newman is, much as the title suggests, 'cool', as he really doesn't have that much dialog for most of the picture, and the system he's bucking isn't supposed to be "helping" him and the people he's with. They're there on the chain gang to bust ass and do the work that nobody in their right mind would do unless pointed by a gun to do so. Though on the other hand, this dynamic from Newman, amid a very good prison movie, still makes Cool Hand Luke quite memorable for its ways of bucking the system.

It's also by turns an often funny movie, with the centerpiece of the 50 egg bet being one that is just sheerly, unabashedly entertaining. And it's the kind of scene that does almost remind someone of that scene in Cuckoo's Nest where they all get riled up during the 'baseball game' on TV. But sometimes the filmmakers doing Cool Hand Luke do perhaps push a wee bit much allegory on such a simple set of events, less a story, than necessary. At the end of the 50 egg sequence, Newman is basically laid out on the table- and I'm sure it's meant to be intentional- in the form of Christ. This is played up for a lot of the rest of the film, as it's perhaps really intuited that he's suffering for the other prisoner's sins, and may even perhaps someday die for it all. This side ends up becoming a little preachy, even if its meant to be subtle, which I don't think it is, and it detracts from the greater pleasures of watching a picture like this.

Because really, aside from the allegory, this is just good old prison picture, and one that pushes the boundaries of the prisoner-escape angle, such as that Newman's Luke escapes for the whole second half of the movie! It's also kind of bittersweet that the filmmakers decide not to show how Newman gets captured, but leaves it at first on the prisoners- who after getting beaten up by Oscar winning George Kennedy's rily character, and getting them to fix a road like its some competition- and then just suddenly he's caught again. At one point this even leads to the now classic line, once sampled in a Guns n Roses song, "what we've got here is failure to communicate" by the always great character actor Strother Martin. Though if you're not really looking for message or allegory, it's also just a really neat 'guy' movie, in the best sense of the word, with scenes like the torturous girl-washes-car-in-front-of-chain-gang scene, and of course ones that just show them acting like real guys. It's populated by a plethora of acting talent, with Kennedy, Dennis Hopper, Luke Askew, and even a guitar strumming/singing Harry Dean Stanton! (Which is a hoot if you've seen as mant Stanton films as me).

And then finally there's Newman himself, definitely in one of his seminal roles even if it's not a full-on total masterwork. Here he actually does create a character out of someone who is really sort of a nobody with no real aims. He doesn't even know what do to when he breaks out of prison, even as he gets as far as Chicago. "I never planned anything in my life", he says at one point. That the character only has maybe 15 lines in the film isn't a problem for Newman either. He makes such a thin character, ultimately, likable and strong, and fulfills such an anti-hero very believably, especially when he's most needed to put up his acting chops towards the end of the picture. Even if you're not too much into prison movies- and this one does have in it the kind of spirit that speaks back to the films of the 30s (in a good way for the old-school fans)- it's worth it just to see what Newman does, alongside the other actors. It also holds up pretty well decades later, which is a credit not just to Newman but to the screenwriters and director Stuart Rosenberg, probably the highlight of an otherwise journeyman filmmaker career.

19 of 32 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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