170 user 79 critic

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

Approved | | Crime, Drama, Mystery | 25 October 1967 (Argentina)
An African American police detective is asked to investigate a murder in a racially hostile southern town.



(screenplay), (based on a novel by)
4,491 ( 238)

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Won 5 Oscars. Another 17 wins & 14 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
James Patterson ...
Mayor Schubert
Mama Caleba
Peter Whitney ...
Kermit Murdock ...
Larry D. Mann ...
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're going to pin something on that smart cop from Philidelphia . . . maybe a medal . . . maybe a murder! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

25 October 1967 (Argentina)  »

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
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Did You Know?


Rod Steiger received directions to base his performance as Sheriff Bill Gillespie on The Dodge Sheriff, a popular cultural icon and corporate spokesperson for Dodge automobiles. The Dodge Sheriff was a stereotypical southern sheriff used in an array of advertisements in the 1960s. Steiger took the advice, although he greatly toned down the comedic aspects of the character. See more »


When Det. Virgil Tibbs is at the train station, and Police Chief Bill Gillespie comes back to get him, in the wide shot there is a dog slinking along the building. When they close in, the dog is gone. 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 »


Featured in The 70th Annual Academy Awards (1998) See more »


It Sure Is Groovy!
Music by Quincy Jones
Lyrics by Alan Bergman and Marilyn Bergman
Performed by Gil Bernal
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

Through The Mississippi Darkness
3 January 2008 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

Gritty realism and a strong performance by Rod Steiger rev up the technical quality of this taut drama about a visiting Northern Black detective named Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier) who gets nailed as a suspect, foolishly, in the murder of a local VIP, in a small town in Mississippi. Eventually, the town's White police chief, the gum chewing Gillespie (Rod Steiger), accepts Tibbs' innocence. And the two of them then work together, reluctantly, to solve the case.

Forty years after the film was made, the racial themes seem just a tad heavy-handed. Whites are always backward and racist. And Tibbs is smart, urbane, and sophisticated. But back in the 1960s, the filmmaker probably did need to be blunt. And the point is made that Blacks and Whites, working together, can accomplish worthy aims, even though old Black Joe is still pickin' cotton at the Endicott Cotton Company.

As a whodunit, the story is fairly good, convenient coincidences notwithstanding. The clue to the killer's identity is pleasantly subtle.

The film's cinematography and production design are terrific. Many scenes take place at night. And the opaque lighting makes for a moody, slightly dangerous look and feel. Loved how they photographed that train moving down the tracks in the Mississippi darkness, a metaphor related to the film's theme. And the sound of a train whistle adds to the mournful realism.

Interiors look authentic. The masking tape that covers rips in a big leather chair in Gillespie's shabby office is so true to life. A single white light bulb hangs down from the ceiling in a small neighborhood grocery store, where the shelves are filled with empty fruit jars. And that greasy spoon called Comptons reeks of 1960's Southern rural reality.

My only complaint with this film is the background music. Some of the jukebox songs are not consistent with the film's overall tone.

"In The Heat Of The Night" is a technically well made, and quite interesting, murder mystery. Yet, it will always be remembered, rightfully, as the film that offered hope of racial harmony, during a decade in which there was none. Its "Best Picture" Oscar award is thus explained.

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

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