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The Last Picture Show (1971)

R  |   |  Drama  |  22 October 1971 (USA)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 29,733 users  
Reviews: 164 user | 84 critic

A group of 1950s high schoolers come of age in a bleak, isolated, atrophied West Texas town that is slowly dying, both economically and culturally.



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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


THE PICTURE SHOW THAT INTRODUCED AMERICA TO THE FORGOTTEN 1950S. It launched the meteoric career of its brilliant new director and its talented cast. It won 2 Academy Awards, and nominations for 8. If you missed it the first time, you owe it to yourself now. If you saw it once, remember it again. 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:

Die letzte Vorstellung  »

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?


Morgan Fairchild and Sissy Spacek were both considered for the role of Jacy Farrow. See more »


The Texaco sign is missing the letter "E" on one side and "A" on the other; as both sides are seen, some people got confused. 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 Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Killer Shrews (1992) See more »


The Washington Post
Written by John Philip Sousa
Played by band at the football game
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

A Movie Milestone
29 April 1999 | by (San Mateo, CA, USA) – See all my reviews

One of my favorite films is The Last Picture Show. It is a film that was directed by Peter Bogdanovitch in 1971, yet almost 30 years later it still seems fresh and alive to me. There is a desolate, spare quality to the 1950's small west Texas town we are invited into and its desolation is apparent to us from the opening scenes. It was filmed in black and white, which enhances the dramatic quality of the town and takes us back to a simpler time. Just as our lives are discontinuous, with jarring scene changes and ridiculous episodes of embarrassing events, so is life presented to us in this small town. The film's purposely jarring editing is transformed in our minds, as we watch, from a disjointed amalgam to a stream of consciousness effect that is very lifelike. One knows, then, that you are entering an alternative world just as real in its way as your own. This movie pulls you in.

There is no musical score in this film in the normal sense. The only time you hear music is when a radio is on or a phonograph is playing in the background. This lack of a musical score dubbed over the film enhances the illusion of reality. Another aspect of this sound editing is the choice of music that is being played by the different characters. Bogdonavitch uses song and artist selection to subtly comment on the character of the person or people who are listening to it. In the case of Sonny the music he selects is always Hank Williams and it alludes to the hardscrabble life and down to earth quality of his character. In contrast at JC's home, the manipulative teenager played by Cybil Sheppard, you hear a cover of a Hank William's song that has all of the life sucked out of it, similar to a Pat Boone cover of an Elvis Presley song. It is a direct comment on JC and her family; her family has grown wealthy by owning oil wells and they pretend they are still the same people as before. It is obvious they are not just by this simple musical selection. It is eloquent in its simplicity.

The center of the film and the major theme – should you listen to your heart or your libido if the two don't combine in the same person? Perhaps the saddest comment in this film is that too often these two halves to a whole do not come together as a package and people are forced to chose. None of the characters are particularly happy with their mates. Everyone is on the prowl for that perfect person they know they will be happy with. Time and again they think that they've found the perfect person based on their sexual attraction but when they begin to show their authentic selves are then rejected. Those in long term relationships with an emotionally compatible mate but with no sexual interest face an equal dilemma – a lack of excitement and joy – and are destined to be the ones that reject. It exposes both sides of this human dilemma, a duality that can become split and non-integrated, and does it in a sophisticated and lyrical way. Most people experience this split at some time and in this film, as in life, there are no easy answers. That's why I love this film.

And there is Billy, the boy who continually sweeps the street in a hopeless gesture to turn back the inevitable, representing that demented and futile longing for a past that was never quite as good as you remember it. He represents that longing for an illusion that disappears just as we are about to grasp it and the sadness of that. The broom that is never fast enough for the blowing dust of time.

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