Matewan (1987)

PG-13  |   |  Drama, History  |  30 June 1988 (Australia)
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Ratings: 7.9/10 from 5,812 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


At the coal company they use you until you wear out 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 nickname "Wobblies" refers to The Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) union which is an industrial global union that was established in 1905. See more »


The steam locomotive used in "Matewan" was ex-New York, Chicago, and St. Louis Railway ("Nickel Plate Road") #765. It was a modern steam locomotive built in the 1940's and thus would not have existed at the time of the events depicted in "Matewan." See more »


Mrs. Knightes: T'ain't no guns allowed at t'dinner table!
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

An overlooked masterpiece
4 March 1999 | by (Berkeley, California) – See all my reviews

Looking back to 1987 I have to wonder why this masterpiece was not nominated for Best Picture. But then again, this is the same institution that voted for films such as Braveheart and Forrest Gump. Is the Academy afraid of John Sayles?

See Matewan for its wonderful portrayal of the events that occurred in West Virginia in the 1920's. See this film for its phenomenal cast. See it for its beautiful cinematography. There is an ethereal glow that envelopes the characters and buildings of Matewan.

There is also an underlying allegorical depiction of Christ and his followers. Chris Cooper is a saint. He reminds me of Gary Cooper a little bit. He has such an unusual handsome face. He is the protagonist joined by James Earl Jones, Mary Mcdonnell, and Will Oldman. Perhaps the most fascinating character is that of the Sheriff portrayed by Strathairn. He is the angel on the black horse who carries with him the wrath of God. Just watch him stand up against the bad guys.

The main antagonistic characters are pure evil. They terrorize the inhabitants of Matewan with juvenile antics.

Please see this film and be prepared to have it imbedded in your mind for the rest of your life. This is what great film making is about

40 of 44 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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