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The Last Picture Show (1971)

R | | Drama | 22 October 1971 (USA)
1:28 | Trailer

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In 1951, a group of high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that is slowly dying, both culturally and economically.



(screenplay), (screenplay) | 1 more credit »
4,516 ( 183)
Won 2 Oscars. Another 16 wins & 22 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Charlene Duggs (as Sharon Taggart)
Joe Heathcock ...
the Sheriff
Bill Thurman ...
Coach Popper
Barc Doyle ...
Jessie Lee Fulton ...
Miss Mosey


In tiny Anarene, Texas, in the lull between World War Two and the Korean Conflict, Sonny and Duane are best friends. Enduring that awkward period of life between boyhood and manhood, the two pass their time the best way they know how -- with the movie house, football, and girls. Jacey is Duane's steady, wanted by every boy in school, and she knows it. Her daddy is rich and her mom is good looking and loose. It's the general consensus that whoever wins Jacey's heart will be set for life. But Anarene is dying a quiet death as folks head for the big cities to make their livings and raise their kids. The boys are torn between a future somewhere out there beyond the borders of town or making do with their inheritance of a run-down pool hall and a decrepit movie house -- the legacy of their friend and mentor, Sam the Lion. As high school graduation approaches, they learn some difficult lessons about love, loneliness, and jealousy. Then folks stop attending the second-run features at the ... Written by Mark Fleetwood <mfleetwo@mail.coin.missouri.edu>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Anarene, Texas, 1951. Nothing much has changed... See more »



Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for sexuality, nudity and language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

22 October 1971 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

La última película  »

Box Office


$1,300,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (director's cut)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
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Did You Know?


Filmed mostly on location in Archer City, Texas, the city upon which the fictional town of Anarene was based. The swimming pool scene was filmed at the Burns estate in Wichita Falls. Ironically, the inside shots of the Royal theater were filmed at the still-active theater in nearby Olney, Texas. At the time of the filming, the actual Royal theater was nothing more than a shell. Likewise, the Cloris Leachman character's house was located in Holliday, Texas. Anarene was once a real town, just a few miles from Archer City. See more »


When Lois Farrow makes a telephone call from her home she dials a seven digit number. In 1951 a telephone number would have been at the most five digits in the small town of Anarene, Texas. See more »


[first lines]
Radio announcer: President Truman'll be here tomorrow, so all you folks in Dallas turn out, chuh hear? This is Cowboy Rhythms on KTRN, Wichita Falls, here's Hank Williams' big hit tune, "Cold Cold Heart".
Sam the Lion: You ain't ever gonna amount to nothing. Already spent a dime this morning, ain't even had a decent breakfast. Gimme the chalk. Why don't you comb you hair Sonny, it sticks up, look like you smelled'm wolf. I'm surprised you had the nerve to show up this morning after that stomping y'all took last ...
See more »


Referenced in Casino Jack (2010) See more »


Cold, Cold Heart
Written by Hank Williams (as Hank Williams Sr.)
Performed by Tony Bennett
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

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User Reviews

A Sense Of Realism
29 January 2006 | by (Dallas, Texas) – See all my reviews

This is a character study wherein the main character is a small West Texas town, circa 1951. In the U.S., the early 1950s symbolized a transition from nineteenth century agrarian values to twentieth century urbanism. In the film, various people who live in the town must confront the reality that time moves on. Things change. Assumptions of previous generations give way to the untested assumptions of the future. The film's theme is thus American cultural change, and the personal disillusionment that such change can bring. It is a powerful theme, and the film imparts that theme with logical clarity and emotional frankness.

In the hands of lesser talents, the subject matter of unimportant people doing unimportant things might have yielded a tiresome soap opera. But the film's script is poetic, the direction is skillful, the B&W cinematography is artistic, the casting is perfect, and the performances are superlative.

The story draws heavily from early American individualism. Life here is mostly physical, not mental. Human relationships are direct, immediate, one-on-one. Except for schools, which are given some prominence, cultural institutions exist in the film only vaguely or not at all. For entertainment, people listen to radio, which features the mournful country-western music of Hank Williams. Or, they go to the town's decrepit picture show, where an elderly Miss Mosey kindly returns money to the kids who got there too late to see the cartoons.

If the film has a weakness it is in the presentation of a realism that is incomplete. We see mostly stifling bleakness, though that is ameliorated somewhat by humor. What we don't see are the uplifting influences and the optimism that sustained agrarian generations through hardships and rough times.

Nevertheless, within the film's story parameters, the film does convey an accurate account of what life was like for ordinary folks in West Texas in the early 1950s. I doubt that this film could be made today. Contemporary audiences have been conditioned to expect non-stop action, loudness, glitz, and overblown special effects, all of which are absent, mercifully, from this film.

Low-key, perceptive, bleak, and melancholy, "The Last Picture Show" easily makes my list of Top Ten favorite films of all time.

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Censored Criterion version cornflakeboy20
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