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In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Mystery  |  14 October 1967 (Japan)
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Ratings: 8.0/10 from 45,638 users  
Reviews: 167 user | 76 critic

An African American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.



(screenplay), (based on a novel by)
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Won 5 Oscars. Another 18 wins & 12 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Mrs. Colbert
Larry Gates ...
James Patterson ...
Mayor Schubert
Mama Caleba
Peter Whitney ...
Kermit Murdock ...
Larry D. Mann ...
Fred Stewart ...
Dr. Stuart
Quentin Dean ...


Detective Virgil Tibbs is caught up in the racial tension of the US South when he is arrested after the murder of a prominent businessman. Tibbs was simply waiting for his next train at the station in Sparta, Mississippi and the confusion is soon resolved but when local police chief Gillespie learns that Tibbs is the Philadelphia PD's number one homicide expert, he reluctantly asks for his assistance. The murdered man, Mr. Colbert, had come to Sparta from the North to build a new factory and his wife and business associates immediately point the finger at Endicott, the most powerful man in the county and the one who had the most to lose if a major new employer comes to the area. Tibbs' life is clearly in danger but he perseveres in a highly charged and racially explosive environment until the killer is found. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


They got a murder on their hands . . . they don't know what to do with it. See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

14 October 1967 (Japan)  »

Also Known As:

Al calor de la noche  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office


$2,000,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Westrex Sound)


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


According to Norman Jewison and Haskell Wexler on the DVD commentary, they originally wanted to use "Lil' Red Ridin' Hood" by Sam the Sham and The Pharaohs in the movie, and this is the song Ralph Henshaw (Anthony James) was dancing to during filming. Unable to license Sam the Sham's song, "Foul Owl on the Prowl" was substituted, composed by Quincy Jones and performed by Boomer & Travis (better known as Owens Boomer Castleman and Michael Martin Murphey). See more »


When Virgil is in the morgue helping examine the corpse, the clock on the wall stays on the same time throughout the discussions and examinations. See more »


[first lines]
Ofcr. Sam Wood: Where you keeping the pie tonight?
Ralph Henshaw, diner counterman: I ate the last piece just before you came in.
See more »

Crazy Credits

No uppercase ("capital") letters are used in the opening and closing credits, including the film's title, cast and characters, crew and job titles, and company credits. See more »


Spoofed in In the Pink of the Night (1969) See more »


Bowlegged Polly
Music by Quincy Jones
Lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
Performed by Glen Campbell
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

flawless movie, deserved Best Picture
29 March 2004 | by (Brooklyn, NY) – See all my reviews

There are many bad "issues" movies out there, but this is not one of them. In a bad movie, all of the racist characters would be one dimensional and one hundred percent evil; here, Steiger is allowed to play a prejudiced man who is actually sympathetic and capable of growth (hence the Oscar). In a great twist, Virgil Tibbs himself is shown to be capable of prejudice, as he pursues Endicott without sufficient evidence. It's refreshing to see a movie that portrays the entire spectrum of racism, from the crazy extremists (and there are plenty of those on hand here) to the more subtly prejudiced.

"Mississippi Burning," a weaker effort, is not only more tediously didactic, but also less progressive; that film doesn't feature a protagonist like Virgil Tibbs, and instead focuses on the actions of two white federal agents. In this case, the old movie really is the better movie; produced at the height of the civil rights struggle, "In the Heat of the Night" feels more immediate and passionate than preachy films on the subject that were made years later, after the tension had died down.

Some reviewers complain that the mystery segments of the film are confusing, but I follow them without much trouble. Tibbs does a great Sherlock Holmes routine throughout, as he pieces together the solution based on clues that are also available to viewers. Sure, the ending is surprising, but it doesn't come entirely out of left field; I actually admire the subtle ways that clues are sewn throughout the film. If you're not used to mysteries, the barrage of red herrings and dead-end clues might surprise you, but it's pretty standard stuff for the genre.

I knew about the classic line "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" long before I actually saw this movie. I used to wonder why the line was so famous; it doesn't sound that exciting, does it? But when I finally heard Poitier say it in context, I asked my brother to pause the tape so I could cheer without missing any of the subsequent dialog. That's how excited I get during this movie. The performances are so naturalistic, and the racial conflict so vividly drawn, that I get pulled into the action completely. Though 1967 was a strong year for films, I still think that the right one got Best Picture, and not just because it was topical; "In the Heat of the Night" is a well-directed, superb character study, populated by some of the most vivid characters I've ever encountered in a movie.

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