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Matewan (1987)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, History  |  30 June 1988 (Australia)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 5,784 users  
Reviews: 54 user | 20 critic

A labor union organizer comes to an embattled mining community brutally and violently dominated and harassed by the mining company.



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Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 2 wins & 7 nominations. See more awards »
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Cast overview, first billed only:
Elma Radnor
Danny Radnor
Sephus Purcell
Tom Griggs
C.E. Lively
Hillard Elkins
Nancy Mette ...
Bridey Mae
Jo Henderson ...
Mrs. Elkins
Cabell Testerman
Gary McCleery ...
Maggie Renzi ...


Mingo County, West Virginia, 1920. Coal miners, struggling to form a union, are up against company operators and the gun thugs of the notorious Baldwin-Felts detective agency. Black and Italian miners, brought in by the company to break the strike, are caught between the two forces. UMWA organizer and dual-card Wobbly Joe Kenehan determines to bring the local, Black, and Italian groups together. While Kenehan and his story are fictional, the setting and the dramatic climax are historical; Sid Hatfield, Cabell C. Testerman, C. E. Lively and the Felts brothers were real-life participants, and 'Few Clothes' is based on a character active several years previously. Written by Susan C. Mitchell <>, expanded by Silverwhistle

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


It takes more than guns to kill a man See more »


Drama | History


PG-13 | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:






Release Date:

30 June 1988 (Australia)  »

Also Known As:

Azok a véres napok  »

Box Office


$4,000,000 (estimated)


$1,680,358 (USA)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:


Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The film's Matewan title refers to a town in the hills of West Virginia, USA where in 1920, a coal miners' strike lead to the Battle of Matewan. See more »


In the scene where the coal company executives are trying to bribe the Mayor and Sid Hatfield, the calendar behind the mayor reads September 1920. The historical shootout at the climax occurred in May of 1920, four months beforehand. See more »


Joe Kenehan: You think this man is the enemy? Huh? This is a worker! Any union keeps this man out ain't a union, it's a goddam club! They got you fightin' white against colored, native against foreign, hollow against hollow, when you know there ain't but two sides in this world - them that work and them that don't. You work, they don't. That's all you get to know about the enemy.
See more »


Referenced in Game On: Martin's Baby (1998) See more »


Music and lyrics by Mason Daring
(c) 1987 Daring Music/ASCAP
Sung by Hazel Dickens
See more »

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User Reviews

Great movie about my hometown!
26 February 1999 | by (Kentucky, USA) – See all my reviews

If you are from Matewan, you know the shock of having this movie be about your hometown. I can't help but wonder if James Earl Jones was thinking "Why the hell are we making a movie about this place??" I think the population when I lived there (most of my life) was somewhere around 1200. Probably hasn't grown much. I still keep in contact with a few people from there. My dad owned a bar there called the Silver Dollar, and he worked in the mines at one time, as did my mother and grandfather. I've heard stories of how the real Matewan Massacre went, along with Bloody Mingo and all the rest, and from what I've heard from my family, this movie is pretty close to the truth. Matewan has always been a rough town, and even today fights are commonplace in this little one street town. It's pretty desolate, with no real business, no industry, and the coal mines are almost mined out. The nearest decent place is Williamson (WV) or Pikeville, Kentucky, a small college town. I miss home sometimes, but at least I can watch the movie and be reminded of home. One thing about it... it's an entertaining movie. Hope you enjoy it as much as I did, but then again, I'm biased.

27 of 35 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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