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Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

PG  |   |  Documentary  |  28 September 1977 (France)
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Ratings: 8.3/10 from 3,307 users   Metascore: 80/100
Reviews: 38 user | 28 critic | 5 from

A filmed account of a bitterly violent miner strike.


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Title: Harlan County U.S.A. (1976)

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Cast overview, first billed only:
Norman Yarborough ...
Himself - Eastover Mining President
Houston Elmore ...
Himself - UMW organizer
Phil Sparks ...
Himself - UMW staff
John Corcoran ...
Himself - Consolidated Coal President
John O'Leary ...
Himself - former Bureau of Mines director
Donald Rasmussen ...
Himself - Blackwing Clinic, WV (as Dr. Donald Rasmussen)
Hawley Wells Jr. ...
Himself (as Dr. Hawley Wells Jr.)
Tom Williams ...
Himself - Boyle campaigner
Chip Yablonski ...
Ken Yablonski ...
Logan Patterson ...
Himself - negotiator
Harry Patrick ...
Himself - UMW secretary-treasurer
Mike Trbovich ...
Himself - UMW VP
Bernie Aronson ...
Himself - UMW staff
Guy Farmer ...
Himself - BCPA General Counsel


This film documents the coal miners' strike against the Brookside Mine of the Eastover Mining Company in Harlan County, Kentucky in June, 1973. Eastovers refusal to sign a contract (when the miners joined with the United Mine Workers of America) led to the strike, which lasted more than a year and included violent battles between gun-toting company thugs/scabs and the picketing miners and their supportive women-folk. Director Barbara Kopple puts the strike into perspective by giving us some background on the historical plight of the miners and some history of the UMWA. Written by Martin Lewison <>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis




PG | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

28 September 1977 (France)  »

Also Known As:

Eparhia Harlan I.P.A.  »

Filming Locations:


Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.78 : 1
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Did You Know?


When filming began, the film was intended to be about the 1972 campaign by Arnold Miller and Miners For Democracy to unseat UMWA president Tony Boyle, in the aftermath of Joseph Yablonski's murder; but the Harlan County strike began and caused the filmmakers to change their principal subject, with the campaign and murder becoming secondary subjects. See more »


Referenced in The Making of 'Harlan County USA' (2006) See more »


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User Reviews

harlan sings the blues
24 October 2006 | by (usa) – See all my reviews

Barbara Kopple's 1976 documentary "Harlan County USA" remains one of the finest portraits of the struggle between faceless and greedy corporations and the employees who work themselves to the bone to eke out a living. The film deals with a coal miner's strike in a small Kentucky town during the early 70s. These seemingly insurmountable odds to strike up agreements between the company and the union in this Harlan County town dip back as far as a bloody battle there during the 1930s.

The miners and the picketers are captured via a well-maintained cinema verite style to the point that much of the early dialogue in the film is indiscernible and lingers there only as a means to introduce the tone. Music plays a key role in the emotional impact of this gritty film as well. Considering it takes place in the Bluegrass State, it comes as no surprise that so many of the most intense moments in the film carry with them a heart-wrenching rendition of roots music, most of which pertain specifically to coal mining.

"Harlan County USA" removes the presumptions that such human atrocities are far gone memories of America's past, and would pave the way for other important pro-workers rights films as "Norma Rae", "Silkwood", and "Matewan".

6 of 7 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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