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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.
For detailed information about the amounts and types of (a) sex and nudity, (b) violence and gore, (c) profanity, (d) alcohol, drugs, and smoking, and (e) frightening and intense scenes in this movie, consult the IMDb Parents Guide for this movie. The Parents Guide for Cool Hand Luke can be found here.
Cool Hand Luke is also a 1965 novel by former Florida inmate and American author, Donn Pearce. Along with American screenwriter Frank Pierson, Pearce adapted the novel for the screenplay.
Luke is just a guy who doesn't want to conform. He explains that it was to settle an old score, symbolizing his resentment of a society that forces him to conform to its rules. He doesn't want to play nice just so he can get the wife/kids/house trifecta. In his conversation with his mom, she says that he always did things the hard way. Clearly Luke lives by his own rules, so cutting the tops off parking meters probably seemed like just another thing to do.
When the guards torment Luke and break his spirit, the guards even say "If you try and escape again, we'll kill you." Of course Luke winds up escaping again. At the end, Luke is shot in the neck, while in shock he is hauled into the ambulance and taken away. The guards deliberately take him to the prison hospital (which is much farther away than the local hospital), knowing very well that this delay will kill Luke. One of them says "he'll never make it". Later, Dragline is sitting with the other inmates and reminiscing about Luke. This is because he died and they were remembering the good times.
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