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This Film is The Real Thing
vincevan12 February 2009
I worked the Times Square area for several years, circa 1969, as a NYC Police Officer. I can tell you that the title characters and many others in this fabulous movie were right on the money. There were very few "normal" folks who were regulars to Times Square at that time. Most visitors and tourists looked right through them but they were all there. Sexual perverts aka chickenhawks, Pimps, and of course the young kids coming off the buses from the heartland by the hundreds, ready to be savaged. The music, drug culture, attitudes of too many parents, and excitement of being a young, all combined to make people think they could "make it" in an area like TS. So very many never made it to adulthood because of the lifestyle: drugs, beatings and assaults were so common. Those who survived were damaged psychologically as well as physically. Personally, I never felt so overwhelmed in my life. While handling one case, you just knew there were dozens more happening at the same moment in time. Midnight Cowboy was just one little slice of life on 42nd Street. An excellent movie.
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Big Joe Heads To The Big Apple
Lechuguilla15 June 2005
Virile, but naive, big Joe Buck leaves his home in Big Spring, Texas, and hustles off to the Big Apple in search of women and big bucks. In NYC, JB meets up with frustration, and with "Ratso" Rizzo, a scruffy but cordial con artist. Somehow, this mismatched pair manage to survive each other which in turn helps both of them cope with a gritty, sometimes brutal, urban America, en route to a poignant ending.

Both funny and depressing, our "Midnight Cowboy" rides head-on into the vortex of cyclonic cultural change, and thus confirms to 1969 viewers that they, themselves, have been swept away from the 1950's age of innocence, and dropped, Dorothy and Toto like, into the 1960's Age of Aquarius.

The film's direction is masterful; the casting is perfect; the acting is top notch; the script is crisp and cogent; the cinematography is engaging; and the music enhances all of the above. Deservedly, it won the best picture Oscar of 1969, and I would vote it as one of the best films of that cyclonic decade.
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An all-time favorite of mine.
capkronos10 June 2002
In my opinion, this is one of the greatest movies ever made in America and it deserved every single award it won and it's place on the AFI Top 100 list (though it's shamefully too low on the IMDB Top 250 list, at only #183 as of this writing). If you enjoy acting of the highest calibre (Voight and Hoffman are a superb match), well-drawn characterizations and inventive direction, editing and cinematography, you'll love this just as much as I did. Schlesinger paints a vivid, always credible picture of the late 60s New York City scene and it's many victims struggling to overcome personal demons and survive amidst the amorality, poverty and hopelessness of 42nd Street, New York City.

The filmmaking techniques employed here brilliantly capture the feel of the underground New York film movement (and of the city) and are nothing less than dazzling. I've seen many ideas (including the rapid-fire editing, the handling of the voice-over flashbacks, the drug/trip sequences and the cartoonish face slipped in during a murder scene to convey angst and terror) stolen by other filmmakers.

The relationship between Joe and Ratso is handled in such a way as to be viewed as an unusually strong friendship OR having it's homosexual underpinnings. I think the director handled this in a subtle way not to cop out to the censorship of the times, but rather to concentrate his energies on the importance of a strong human connection in life, whether it be sexual or not.

MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a brave, moving film of magnitude, influence and importance that has lost absolutely none of it's impact over the years, so if you haven't seen it, you're really missing out on a true American classic. I recommend this film to everyone.

Score: 10 out of 10.
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almost perfect time capsule of 1969
ptb-81 March 2012
I saw MIDNIGHT COWBOY in easter 1970 when i was 15. It was at a very quiet matinée in a very cold rural mountain holiday resort town in in Australia. I was alone as I had gone for a walk but discovered I was in time for the matinée. It was one of the great cinema experiences of my teenage life and left an impression on me that still resonates. After the screening, it was freezing and foggy outside and almost dark. I walked to a nearby park in the freezing fog, sat on a wet bench and cried and cried until the tears began to freeze too. I wiped them away and went home for dinner. Nobody the wiser except me. Recently I was the film again for the first time in 40 years. I am simply awestruck at the sense of NY 1969 that floods from the screen, the sense of the time anywhere in 1969 and the fact that the film is shattering in it's depiction of poverty and friendship in a bleak city. Recently I also went to NY and found that as fascinating for I felt NY was completely safe and totally unlike the squalor seen in their lives in the film. NY today is very pretty and epic and like a fun park. I have enduring respect and admiration for this extraordinary film. I hope you do too. The performances by Voight and Hoffman are award worthy, and Joe Buck, like Forrest Gump is the sexy flip side of the American Everyman. Directed by a Brit: John Schlesinger whose International eye for NY and the tawdry but fascinating life of USA 1969 has allowed this film to be as great as it is, only made one other great American films and that is the equally tangible and shocking Hollywood pit of 1937 called DAY OF THE LOCUST. Both films have trailers which every young film maker today should study for a perfect lesson in 'preview' creation.
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Two Stellar Performances and a Pervasive Honesty Make This One Still a Winner
EUyeshima5 April 2006
It's not quite the timeless masterpiece you would hope it would be based on the acclaim it garnered, but 1969's "Midnight Cowboy" is still a powerhouse showcase for two young actors just bursting into view at the time. Directed by John Schlesinger and written by Waldo Salt, the movie seems to be a product of its time, the late 1960's when American films were especially expressionistic, but it still casts a spell because the story comes down to themes of loneliness and bonding that resonate no matter what period. The film's cinematic influence can still be felt in the unspoken emotionalism found in Ang Lee's "Brokeback Mountain".

The meandering plot follows Joe Buck, a naive, young Texan who decides to move to Manhattan to become a stud-for-hire for rich women. Full of energy but lacking any savvy, he fails miserably but is unwilling to concede defeat despite his dwindling finances. He meets a cynical, sickly petty thief named "Ratso" Rizzo, who first sees Joe as an easy pawn. The two become dependent on one another, and Rizzo begins to manage Joe. Things come to a head at a psychedelic, drug-infested party where Joe finally lands a paying client. Meanwhile, Rizzo becomes sicker, and the two set off for Florida to seek a better life. This is not a story that will appeal to everyone, in fact, some may still find it repellent that a hustler and a thief are turned into sympathetic figures, yet their predicaments feel achingly authentic.

In his first major role, Jon Voight is ideally cast as he brings out Joe's paper-thin bravado and deepening sexual insecurities. As Rizzo, Dustin Hoffman successfully upends his clean, post-college image from "The Graduate" and immerses himself in the personal degradation and glimmering hope that act as an oddly compatible counterpoint to Joe. The honesty of their portrayals is complemented by Schlesinger's film treatment which vividly captures the squalor of the Times Square district at the time. The director also effectively inserts montages of flashbacks and fantasy sequences to fill in the character's fragile psyches. Credit also needs to go to Salt for not letting the pervasive cynicism overwhelm the pathos of the story. The other performances are merely incidental to the journeys of the main characters, including Brenda Vaccaro as the woman Joe meets at the party, Sylvia Miles as a blowsy matron, John McGiver as a religious zealot and Barnard Hughes as a lonely out-of-towner.

The two-disc 2006 DVD package contains a pristine print transfer of the 1994 restoration and informative commentary from producer Jerome Hellman since unfortunately neither Schlesinger nor Salt are still living. There are three terrific featurettes on the second disc - a look-back documentary, "After Midnight: Reflections on a Classic 35 Years Later", which features comments from Hellman, Hoffman, Voight and others, as well as clips and related archive footage such as Voight's screen test; "Controversy and Acclaim", which examines the genesis of the movie's initial 'X' rating and public response to the film; and a tribute to the director, "Celebrating Schlesinger".
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Truly brilliant
KooksMonkey16 July 2004
Watching Midnight Cowboy is like taking a masterclass in acting/ directing/ cinematography/ editing/ writing. I was too young to watch it when it was originally released, and only saw it for the first time a couple of years ago, but it has absolutely stood the test of time, and I have watched it several times since.

Everything about this film is brilliant, from the poignant performances from Voight and Hoffman (even though I know this movie well, I still find myself welling up every time Voight flashes one of his innocently pained looks, or Hoffman coughs in his sickly and ominous way) to the stunning cinematography and superbly edited dream sequences.

It's a shame that more of our contemporary filmmakers aren't prepared to take a risk on making movies that are as visually and aurally interesting as this one. Midnight cowboy should be required viewing at all film schools.

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Depressing but excellent
preppy-33 March 2004
Warning: Spoilers
Young, handsome, muscular Joe Buck (Jon Voight) moves from Texas to New York thinking he'll make a living by being a stud. He gets there and finds out quickly that it isn't going to be easy--he goes through one degrading experience after another. At the end of his rope he hooks up with crippled, sleazy Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman). Together they try to survive and get out of the city and move to Florida. But will they make it?

Very dark, disturbing yet fascinating movie. Director John Schelsinger paints a very grimy portrait of NYC and its inhabitants. In that way it's dated--the city may have been this bad in 1969 but it's cleaned up considerably by now. He also uses every camera trick in the book--color turning to black & white; trippy dream sequences; flash forwards; flash backs (especially involving a rape); shock cuts; weird sound effects...you name it. It keeps you disoriented and off center--but I couldn't stop watching.

There isn't much of a story--it basically centers on the friendship between Rizzo and Buck. There is an implication that they may have been lovers (the final shot sort of shows that). It's just a portrait of two damaged characters trying to survive in a cold, cruel, urban jungle.

This was originally rated X in 1969--the only reason being that the MPAA didn't think that parents would want their children to see this. Nevertheless, it was a big hit with high schoolers (back then X meant no one under 17). It also has been the only X rated film ever to win an Academy Award as Best Picture. Hoffman and Voight were up for acting awards as was (mysteriously) Sylvia Miles who was in the picture for a total of (maybe) 5 minutes! It was eventually lowered to an R (with no cuts) when it was reissued in 1980.

Also the excellent song "Everybody's Talkin'" was introduced in this film--and became a big hit.

A great film---but very dark. I'm giving it a 10. DON'T see it on commercial TV--it's cut to ribbons and incomprehensible.
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Moving, funny, sad, unaffected, astonishing...
secondtake29 August 2012
Midnight Cowboy (1969)

This is such a gritty, touching story of two ordinary vulnerable young men, told with such honesty, it's impossible to criticize it taken whole. "Midnight Cowboy" is a terrific movie.

It's terrific because of the two actors--an astonishing Dustin Hoffman, still a new name in Hollywood but already famous from "The Graduate" in 1967. And an equally astonishing Jon Voight, making his first large role in a movie. Each is a type of struggling man living on the fringe of New York (barely surviving in a boarded up building), extreme but never a caricature. They gel as a pair, helping each other but with a bit of reluctance because neither wants to quite admit they need help.

It's terrific further because of the filming, with lots of available light magic in dingy places. The cinematographer, Adam Holender, is remarkably making his first film here, though that might explain the freshness to a lot of the filming. There is in particular a lot of long lens (telephoto) shooting between more intimate scenes, showing layers of people and isolating the star in a moving world (a difficult thing to do with good focus).

It's also terrific for the writing, not just for the story but for the dialog. It strikes so subtly to some truth you don't quite expect, even though it's simple and almost obvious. The screenplay won an Oscar, as did the movie (Best Picture) and director John Schlessinger (Best Director). It's worth noting that Schlessinger is a British director with some very tightly conceived movies already under his belt (including the fabulous "Darling"), and here he seems to make New York as familiar as if he'd grown up here. Along those lines, Voight, playing the naive cowboy to a perfect pitch, is a native New Yorker. And Hoffman, though familiar with the city, is an L.A. kid.

Where does the movie run into trouble? Why isn't it in the top ten of all time? I think it might boil down to three kinds of inserts into flawless the main narrative. The first is a series of flashbacks that in various ways try to "explain" or fill in the psychological background of Voight's character. As if it needs explaining. Or if it does benefit us all to know how he got to his beautiful troubled state, maybe there is something shocking and sensational about the inserts, as effective as they are on their own nightmarish terms.

A second "insert" is a series of short sunny daydreams Hoffman's character has envisioning life in Florida in the sun. It's comic relief, and it mostly works, but there are cracks there. Finally there is a section of the actual narrative where the two men go to a party they've been invited to for spurious reasons (weird luck, mostly). It's too obviously an excuse to film a scene in a drug-addled Warhol-esque party. The hosts are effete artist types who want to film some strange New Yorkers out of context, and so we see the film film these filmmakers and so on. A great scene, but weirdly out of place.

But all of his is to be taken in stride as the meat of the story kicks back in each time. And here, with a melancholy soundtrack, you will be moved and entranced. Amazing stuff. Brave and a lesson in how a film can be adventurous and heartfelt and not painfully slick, all at once. And succeed artistically and commercially.
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An Unlikely Friendship Tested Among Shattered Dreams
nycritic5 March 2005
Warning: Spoilers
Joe Buck (Jon Voight) decides he's going to leave his small life in Texas and make it big in the Big City. The women are there for the asking and the men are mainly "tutti-fruttis." Wide-eyed, he comes to New York City, not prepared for the series of humiliating misadventures he experiences, one worse than the other. In the middle of that chaos, he meets and befriends Rico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffmann), a homeless-looking man who lives in an apparently condemned building.

There isn't much of a story as MIDNIGHT COWBOY is a series of vignettes destined to bring forth not only Joe Buck's plights in the City, but also inter-cut to his past and show us in shock cuts and semi-psychedelic dream sequences snippets of his past: his failed relationship with his girlfriend Annie (Jennifer Salt) who was gang-raped, his abandonment by his mother, and his apparent abuse by his grandmother, who also had a habit of hustling men for money. An air of pessimism dominates the film almost from the wistful beginning as Nilsson plays throughout the opening credits his deceptively flowery "Everybody's Talking'"; we feel that even while we want Joe to eventually make his mark in the City, the odds are high he won't and will end up working for pennies in a dead-end job -- shown in a masterful shot from his outside point of view later in the film as he watches a man work as a dishwasher in a soup kitchen through a window and sees himself. We know from the look in his eyes he does not want to end like this.

A dark story of dashed hopes, John Schlesinger creates haunting images of lost souls at the end of the 60s, and at the center, the prevailing friendship between two men as they struggle to make some sort of meaning to their lives amidst the elusive comfort of a dignified life. There is the implied notion that they may have been lovers -- Ratso's reaching out to hug Joe in the party scene and their the final embrace at the end certainly points at this -- but this is essentially a buddy film, one that manages to survive, literally, to the death, and bring some form of hope to Joe who at the end in Florida seems much changed, older, wiser.
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Love Story In The Periphery Of Hell
alanbenfieldjr27 June 2017
Two desperate characters meet. It's not a meet cute in the classic sense of the word but it's not far away from it either. It's also a melodrama, operatic but hidden in a reality that can't possibly be real. Dustin Hoffman is as bold as Bette Davis in a Warner Brothers melodrama. Amazing. And Jon Voight? - He wasn't the first choice, Michael Sarrazin was. Jon Voight plays his whore with a heart of gold with the decency of a Mary Astor in another melodrama from the the 40's. I've seen Midnight Cowboy 5 times, the first time in a theater, three other times in VHS or DVD - Last night I saw it in a huge screen in the house of a friend. HD I believe and, Oh my God. I wept. I was taken over completely by this two devastating, truly devastating characters. John Schlesiger the director, a genius. British by birth but he showed us an America that most people didn't know existed, not even Americans. This is a film for the ages.
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One of my all-time favorites
BostonFlash11 October 2015
This is one of the half-dozen films that left me shaken upon leaving the theater where I saw it in 1969 (at the age of 19). It has all the bizarreness and griminess that was New York in the late '60s, which was pretty frightening to a sheltered Brooklyn teenager. The direction and cinematography were highly unusual for that time, and the use of montages and cuts (and the trippy shots of the Warholesque party) made the film even more disorienting. The film never sags and holds your attention throughout, and the through line of the plot -- the friendship between Rizzo and Joe Buck -- has about as much emotional impact as anything else I've ever seen. Equally of interest is the psychological content of the flashbacks that show how Joe became the way he is. The star performances are outstanding -- hard to see how either of them could lose to John Wayne -- and the sheer variety of supporting actor performances is incredible. A fully realized, three-dimensional film that probably couldn't find backers today.
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Dark, quite poignant and captivating
TheLittleSongbird14 April 2011
This movie is a very fine film with a lot of merits. The film does look great, with beautiful scenery and crisp cinematography and the lighting is very atmospheric and always fits perfectly with every scene. The music is wonderful, with the highlight being the excellent Everybody's Talking', the story is very strong focusing on the friendship of the two main characters and well-paced and the dialogue is thought-provoking and poignant. The direction is top notch using every trick in the book and wonderfully and the characters constantly captivate. And this is helped by the magnificent playing of Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffmann, especially Hoffmann who I personally think should have got the Best Actor Oscar that year. Overall, a truly fine film. 10/10 Bethany Cox
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Still works on me...
EarleQaeda25 December 2007
Saw this as a young naive punk when it was first released. Had me snifflin' like a baby as I left the theatre, trying not to let anyone see. So, when I saw it again now in '07, I knew what to expect & the sobs were ready & primed as their required moment approached. Thankfully this time I was at home.

What I hadn't remembered from my youthful viewing- or perhaps hadn't noticed because of it, was the technical brilliance of this movie. The use of flashbacks which tell so much story without resorting to dialogue. The camera work which seemed to place the viewer, together with the characters in the scene. Think of the opening when Joe is crossing the street to the diner, the camera pans behind the woman & child sitting on a bench in the foreground, framing the street scene.

The story itself, & the characters - seedy, sad & brutally real. It is very touching to be drawn so closely into a human drama such as this with people most of us would likely spurn. Then again, Joe & Ratso could be any of us. Must have been '70 when I saw it. I recall that upon leaving the theatre I was impelled to find the company of friends. All these years later, I'm glad I'm not alone tonight. This is one hell of a great movie.
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Very Depressing, But Well Done
Jumping_Elephant19 August 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Death is always near in this film and nothing makes it seems more frightening/depressing than Dustin Hoffman's flawless acting. From the moment you are introduced to the seemingly scummy character, "Ratso," to Hoffman's infamous im prompt tu line: "I'm walkin' he'e!" right up until his last moments, there is an ominous cloud of despair hanging over the heads of our two main characters.

The second main character is Joe Buck, played by an adorable Jon Voight. (How can you NOT think he's adorable when Ratso accuses him of being a "fag"? Joe's dumbfounded, hesitant response was: ". . . Uh. John Wayne! You think he's a faggot?") Voight plays his character almost perfectly, too, capturing from the get-go the naivety Buck has towards "the real world" (something that was perhaps exacerbated by his tumultuous upbringing, shown in sporadic, nightmarish flashes throughout the movie).

But as an audience, we don't just love Joe Buck because of his boyish Texan charm. He also has compassion. He manifests this feeling in awkward, confusing, and often harmful ways, but nevertheless Joe is constantly thinking of his only friend. To give examples, each time Joe pays a special visit to 42nd St., he does so to gather "mony" for both himself and Ratso. He could take the money and run (though where to remains a matter of speculation), but instead he buys medicine, soup, etc. for his friend (and not himself).

Our sympathies are manipulated more in our main characters' favor at the end of the film, on the bus ride. Joe, being the post-adolescent that he is, finally gets "Rico's" name right, while monologuing in the middle of a fixed camera shot. At this point the ominous cloud hanging overhead has turned black, and we all of a sudden know that Rico will be dead by the time the camera moves over to him, despite our deepest hopes that the fixed camera angle is some sort of cruel joke; the film DOES seem peppered with pitch black humor, after all, we try to rationalize.

But our rationalizing is vain. Ratso's unmoving eyes, and still sweat on his brow say it all. Then we look at his tropical shirt, and we try to feel happy for him. We say to ourselves: "At least he made it back to Miami," but even this does no good. The blow is simply too great. There is an unnecessarily long black screen, and then the credits roll. Nothing relieves the terrible feeling that everything we're doing is pointless and despondent.

Nonetheless, this film showcases superb acting/directing, and at least we can use that little boost to appease that depressing feeling. This is definitely a must for any cinephile.

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Much better than expected
MovieAddict20165 December 2004
I sat down to watch "Midnight Cowboy" thinking it would be another overrated '60s/'70s movie. Some of my favorite films come from the '70s, in the same vein as "Midnight Cowboy" ("Taxi Driver," "Mean Streets," "Panic in Needle Park," etc.) but there are many, many overrated ones as well that have gained strong reputations amongst critics for being groundbreaking - unfortunately a vast majority of them don't hold up as well today. I sort of feel this way about "Easy Rider." (Although it, too, is one of my favorites.)

So, I didn't expect much from "Midnight Cowboy" but got a lot back. It's a touching story, well-made and well-told with some of the best performances of all time. Dustin Hoffman, as Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo, gives one of his best - it's a bit funny at times (he sounds like a cartoon character when he speaks - maybe because of the Lenny/"Simpsons" connection), but Hoffman is entirely convincing. Half of the film's budget went towards his paycheck as he was just becoming a major star in Hollywood. Opposite him is the second-billed Jon Voight as Joe Buck, the "cowboy" who travels North to the Big Apple in the hopes of becoming a male prostitute. Soon his naive ways land him in trouble and he pairs up with a crippled scam artist named "Ratso" - who offers to become Joe's "manager" for a certain percentage of profits.

The movie is quite long at two hours but never really seems very long. Some films can tend to drag, especially some of the films that were made in the '70s because (as it's been said in "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls") the directors were the stars of the movies in the 1970s and occasionally they got a bit too infatuated with their material, going on too long examining characters/scenes/etc. that aren't important. Just about the only scene I felt was a bit too long and unnecessary was the drug party - it makes the film seem extremely outdated (similar to the drug odysseys in "Easy Rider") and really harms its flow because it's not needed.

Other than that, "Midnight Cowboy" is an almost flawless motion picture. I was pleasantly surprised. It does have its flaws (flashbacks are a bit tacky and never used as well as they could have been, for instance) and some of the scenes are a bit uneasy (such as the gay movie theater sequence) but if you can handle its content "Midnight Cowboy" is a truly great motion picture, an uncompromising examination of life on the streets in the late '60s/early '70s. It's a depressing movie, yes, and by today's standards might seem a bit outdated and heavy on the liberal perspective of "life is horrible, etc."...but I still love it and particularly the extremely touching ending will stay with me for a long, long time.

Highly recommended. One of the best films of the '70s. (It was technically released in late 1969 but I'd still categorize it as a 1970s film. It also won the Best Picture Oscar, being the first - and only - X-rated motion picture to do so. It was later re-rated R on appeal.)

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Why 1969 was a revolutionary year ...
ElMaruecan8218 August 2011
'Everybody's talking at me, I don't hear a word they're sayin', only the echoes of my mind …' well, hearing these beautiful words echoed something very deep in mine. A few movies have been gifted with a song that captures their spirit to the point we can't tell which one defines the other, elevating themselves to mirror more universal feelings. "Midnight Cowboy", Best Picture winner of 1969 is one of them.

Harry Nillson's poetry responds to the torment of a society in both urban and mental metamorphosis, torn between the past's heritage and the future's uncertainty, between America's deepest roots : God, Family, Community, Progress and an exhilarating fresh air of revolt and anti-establishment. In 1969, post-industrial societies were divided into a simplistic but no less significant dichotomy : the Old and the New order, everything was defined by its ability to move on, or to stay. The movie is about a man who's definitely moving, quitting a lousy job of dishwasher in a Texan diner to go to New York City, some sort of reversal conquest of the West. Joe Buck is his name.

Joe has every reason to be self-confident, he's tall, strong, young, healthy, blonde, "not a real cowboy, but one hell of a stud" is his motto. New York resonates in his inexperienced mind like 'New World'. The opening farewell to the hometown conveys an inspirational freedom of spirit and movements, incarnated by Joe's smile and constantly positive attitude. He can have all the chicks, but he's more interested in old and rich ladies for hustling is the job he wants to do and for something unconsciously attracts him to older ladies. Maybe deep in his heart, Joe is still a little child in quest of a strong motherly figure; this sweet and innate innocence is even highlighted when he plays peek-a-boo with a little girl, in the bus leading to New York. Joe realizes the gap between the world he wants to penetrate and his true nature, and this is the source of his discomfort.

"Midnight Cowboy" is punctuated with regular fast-paced flashbacks developing Joe's background story. Joe was raised by his grand-mother Sally in an overly loving intimacy and one obscure episode involves a disturbing event that has probably perverted his approach to sex. He's moving but something keeps him connected to a nostalgic vision of childhood. From Joe's point of view, nothing is wrong in his business, he's only taking his share of the American Dream with what is at hands. But from our perspective, he's simply lost, the repeated first line "Where's that Joe Buck?" taking its full meaning.

Jon Voight performance's perfectly embodies the excess of an idealism so childish it flirts with naivety and can only foreshadow great deceptions. After a few days in the racket, Joe loses more than he wins money, the height of irony is reached when he even gives one client 20$ after she burst out to tears, feeling insulted after Joe asked for money. Victim of his good nature again, Joe will be disillusioned by a small-time punk, named Rico Rizzo aka 'Ratso'. For 20$, Joe is sent to a supposedly future manager, who'll reveal himself to be a pervert zealot asking Joe to get on his knees ... so they can pray the Lord. Besides the flashbacks, the editing excels in tracing some interestingly subversive parallels. In one audacious scene for example : frenetic movements in bed activate TV channels with a remote control and a succession of pointless programs and manipulative ads, shows on screen.

TV appears like the Pandora box hiding the sad realities of the consumer society. Sex is part of this degeneracy where sacred values, religion and family, have been totally corrupted. And from the ambiguity of the "on your knees" line, resurrects Joe's traumatic experience when he was baptized. The movie depicts religion, in an incredibly revolutionary boldness, as a rape soul. Everything is abuse, consumption from the ultra-realistic, bold, and psychedelically dizzying direction of John Schelsinger, winner of the best Director Oscar. A spiritless society where money, urbanism, sex and bigotry mix in a repulsive nocturnal orgy, creating more frustration, loneliness and perversity, from a mother running a fake mouse around hers son's face to some old broads killing their loneliness by treating their dogs like human beings. For Joe who has no religion and no money, the salvation will come from the most precious thing that could have enriched his life : a friendship.

And this is where "Midnight Cowboy" emerges from the dirt and becomes one of the most classic and poignant friendship stories, between two men whose backs are put in the wall by a cynical society. The image in the poster shows them as misfits, but look at them closely and see how they complete each other, one has the looks, the youth, the health, and the strength, but is like a child, the other is street-wise, knows the ropes, he's crippled, unhealthy, and cruelly lacks in appearance but he's got pride. The iconic "I'm walkin' here" speaks to many lonely people rejected by society. Dustin Hoffman, in a 180 degree turn from his previous role as "The Graduate", demonstrates here his incredible versatility. The friendship between Razzo and Joe will strengthen them, in their daily struggles, to overcome the most nightmarish aspects of New York City, an alienating town whose depressing mood is incarnated by John Barry's iconic harmonica sound.

Joe and Razzo ultimately appear as the only persons we can identify with, victims of a ultra-individualistic urban world they don't belong to. In reaction, all they have is to dream of running on the beach, having fun together, in other words, applying the magic of Harry Nillson's song and 'going where the sun keeps shining' Whether they'll succeed or not is not relevant, but no matter how hard they're freezing their asses in New York, sun keeps shining in their hearts ...
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Trimac2023 December 2004
The only reason I knew of Midnight Cowboy was because it was in the AFI Critic's Top 100. For a top 100 it is not a very well known movie; indeed, I had to look hard to find a copy, I got the DVD version for about half-price. Surprisingly it was only rated M15+ (the uncut version).

I doubt many will take notice of this review (more like comment) so I'll make it brief.

This is perhaps one of the strangest movies I've seen, partly because of the use of montages, artistic filming (very art-house) and the unusual theme. There are many things in the film I still don't understand (I've seen it twice), and it makes for an emotionally confusing film.

The filming and acting were very good, and it is the larger than life characters which make this film memorable. The main character is Joe Buck, a 'cowboy' from Texas who moves to New York to become a male prostitute. He meets the crippled conman Enrico 'Ratso' Rizzo and, of course they become friends going through the usual escapades. What makes the film interesting is the two characters are so different.

I felt the film didn't really develop the relationship between Buck and Enrico Rizzo for the audience to have any real emotional connection, although the ending is certainly quite sad and tragic. You probably already know what happens by reading the reviews, but its pretty obvious from the start.

I personally think the film beautifully and poignantly explores its main themes. The deprivation of humanity (shown by the darkness of the city streets, the breaking-down tenements). Most of the characters in the film exist beyond the law (a conman, giggolo.etc) yet you can't help liking them. Joe Buck is endearing because he is so naive and optimistic, while we begin to feel pity for Ratso later in the film.

I think the film was rated so high because it was certainly very ground-breaking for its period. At the time (And even now) it was definitely not a typical movie (quite art-house). At a time when the cinema was dominated by tired westerns, musicals and dramas a film with such an unusual theme as Midnight Cowboy pops up.

On a personal level, I must say I quite liked the film. The imagery conveyed a dream-like quality. I particularly liked the scene at the party, the music, images etc stay in your mind for a long time after watching. However, as a movie for entertainment's sake it was a bit lacking (not really my style of movie) in thrills. This is a film to be savoured and appreciated, rather than a cheap thrills action flick.

Although I would hardly consider myself qualified to analyse this film, the characters and their motives were quite interesting. From what I understand from the flashbacks, Joe Buck was sexually abused as a child by his grandmother, although it still doesn't seem to be relevant to the story. He is a happy-go-lucky young stud, who suppresses his darker memories. The religious connotations in the film are also puzzling. Some have suggested a homosexual connection between Buck and Ratso, although I fail to see where they have got the idea from. The theme of homo-sexuality in general is more than touched upon in their conversation, and later in Joe Buck's encounter with a lonely old man, but it has little to do with the main story.

Certainly from a technical point of view one of the finest films of the decade (it has more of a 70s feel to it than a 60s feel) and revolutionary for its time touching on subjects few other films dared to do. While it has a simple, sentimental story to it (disguised by a hard edge) the beauty of the film is in the strange, often psychedelic sequences.
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Depressing Tale of Friendship and Shattered Dreams
claudio_carvalho28 January 2015
The naive Joe Buck (Jon Voight) quits his job of dishwasher and travels from a small town in Texas to New York expecting to make money as a hustler. On the arrival, he is lured by the crippled crook Enrico Salvatore "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) that takes some money from him. Soon Joe is broken and homeless without any client or money, and he meets Ratso again on the streets that invites him to move to his apartment in a derelict building. Ratso has a strange cough and his health gets worse. He dreams on moving to Florida where he believes he will be healthy again. Joe and Ratso develop a friendship and Joe decides to go with his friend to Florida as soon as he gets the necessary money.

"Midnight Cowboy" is a depressing tale of friendship and shattered dreams of losers. In flashbacks, the viewer sees that Joe is raised by his grandmother that neglects him and is raped with his girlfriend, who was actually a slut, by a gang when he is a teenager. Further, his grandmother's boyfriends are cowboys and he has very limited education. Therefore he has a wrong concept of women and love, and believes that he will be a sensation with mature women in New York. Ratso is the son of an Italian immigrant that works as a shoe-shiner and has had problems with his lungs for a long time. These two needy characters team-up to survive on the streets of New York and become better persons through their friendship. John Schlesinger has made a stunning classic that has not aged with an unpleasant story using magnificent screenplay and outstanding cast led by Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight. My vote is eight.

Title (Brazil): "Perdidos na Noite" ("Lost in the Night")
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"You're gonna be the best lookin' cowboy in the whole parade".
classicsoncall9 April 2011
Warning: Spoilers
Good old boy Joe Buck (Jon Voight) and street con Ratso Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) form an unlikely alliance in this Oscar winning hit from director John Schlesinger. It's not what one would consider a buddy movie, far from it, but over the course of the picture, Voight's character comes to realize and understand that if not for Rizzo, he wouldn't have a friend in the world. At times touching, at other times comical, one gets an insider's view of the seedy, sordid life of an outcast in the big city, and how a naive young newcomer can be taken in and taken out by hustlers far more experienced than themselves.

Now even though Voight's performance is good, maybe even great, it's Dustin Hoffman who commands every scene he's in. I especially enjoyed the taxi-cab scene, in which Rizzo ad-libs his reaction after nearly being hit by a driver that disregarded the barriers put up to restrict traffic on the street for filming. Instead of losing their composure, both actors just went with it, making the scene a classic (and more than believable I might add).

Interestingly, the picture holds up well today, even though other reviewers on this board feel it has a dated quality. I'll go with that if you're considering the coked out psychedelic party the duo wound up at, along with the inconceivable notion that you can get by in New York on ten or twenty dollars at a time. The film's brilliance lies in showing how two entirely disparate and flawed characters can find and relate to each other in a maelstrom of depravity, defying the odds to trust and rely on each other, and ultimately to become friends.
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As America Goes, So Goes The Cinema!!
dataconflossmoor31 March 2008
Let's just take a moment and evaluate the academy award winners for 1968 and 1969!! In 1968, "Oliver" (which was an innocuous musical) won for best picture. 1968 was a year of absolute tumultuousness.. Robert Kennedy was assassinated, Martin Luther King was assassinated, and there were riots on the streets of America from coast to coast on an ephemeral basis. Upheaval at the Democratic convention was an assertive rejection of the structured status quo by this nation's hegemony, and, our protracted involvement in Vietnam was emerging as a volatile avenue for an utterly pandemic disdain!! So!! what movie won for best picture in 1969? "Midnight Cowboy".... Does this tell you anything? The 180 degree polarization of these two movies could not be anymore emphatic, it is almost as if the occurrences of 1968 had a profound impact on the choice for best picture in 1969!! Such a radical difference in Academy Award winning pictures in just one year, gave a crystal clear indication of how the social transition in America was indelibly ubiquitous!! Hence, the radicalism of the 1960's was influencing virtually everything!! "Midnight Cowboy" is a film which depicts the sordid sexual behavior which was pertinent to the decaying American moral value system which erupted during the 1960's!! Such depraved and detailed immorality had never been illustrated on the silver screen before!! Jon Voight is tremendous in this film, as he engages in precarious sexual theatrics, (which were the antithesis of his conservative upbringing) as a means of supporting himself. What was so demoralizing about this whole endeavor, is that supporting himself with this nefarious occupation completely backfired!! Dustin Hoffman's character goes beyond desperate and hopeless, his situation is tailor made for society to shut the door on him, and pretend that he simply does not exist... New York City is a cosmopolitan venue which has the formidable potential to effortlessly ostracize and socially obliterate their victims of sub level poverty!! The characters Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman play become metaphorically decimated by New York City's cavalier imperviousness.. This film serves as a five alarm fire wake up call for Americans to be aware of the actual United States they live in, as opposed to the United States that is masqueraded around in front of Americans on the Fourth of July!! Significantly prescient for the prevailing paradigm for movies made during this era, the film "Midnight Cowboy" presents a circumstantial set of tragedies which will not conquer adversity.. All parties concerned will go from bad to worse, a scenario which directors were reluctant to bring to the American moviegoer's attention back in the late sixties!! John Schlesinger directs this film (He is also known for directing films such as: "Darling", "Marathon Man", and "Falcon and the Snowman" to name but a few), he does an amazing job directing "Midnight Cowboy"!! Schlesinger won for best director with this picture in 1969! Dustin Hoffman is definitely in a category all by himself when it comes to his acting genius!! The theme song "Everbody's Talking" by Harry Nilsson, made its debut in tandem with this movie!! In a nutshell, "Midnight Cowboy" was a cunningly relevant tenet for admonishing societal despondence. This film was incredibly poignant, as it denounces a bevy of socially callous philosophies in America!! Fabulous film!! One of my top fifty!! I recommend to everybody that they see this movie!!
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Brilliant counter-culture film
camadon18 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Midnight Cowboy opens with a run down Drive In theater with the voice-over of the main character Joe Buck (Jon Voight) singing in the shower. He is singing a cowboy song, the very thing he strives to be. Joe picks up his humdrum life living in Texas and moves it to New York City with the dream of lots of women, and even more money. He dresses as the epitome of the cowboy, but in a cartoonish fashion, not even his friends take him seriously. He begins his journey on the bus to NYC and we can quickly see how diluted Joe is through his interactions with the other passengers. This is primarily a story of Joe's realization of the harsh realities of the real world.

He starts off as a very naïve southerner thinking he can make it in NYC just on his good looks. He has no other reason to think otherwise, as they proved helpful in the past; we learn this from the many flashbacks he has. In the beginning the flashbacks are filmed in a way that portrays them as being somewhat whimsical. They are hazy and the voices sound as if they are coming from a great distance, as they are, they are coming out of his past. However, as Joe delves deeper and deeper into the reality of the harsh atmosphere of NYC we see more of his past, which is no longer whimsical but gritty, filmed in black and white with rapid editing to portray the cruel nature of the past events. This is especially seen in the flashback of him and his girlfriend being assaulted, and her being raped. In one of these flashbacks we see a building being torn down brick by brick. This mirrors the way in which Joe himself is falling apart; the naiveté that he once carried is falling off of him. He and Ratso (Dustin Hoffman) are living in squalor, and barely able to get food to eat; Joe is realizing he cannot live off of his looks, that there is a gritty underbelly of New York that he didn't envision. His subconscious mirrors the way in which his real life is panning out.

Ratso is also serves as a kind of mirror to Joe, but in an opposite way; Ratso is Joe's foil. Joe is a handsome, strong man who, for the most part, has a good outward appearance. Ratso, on the other hand, from the very first time we see him sitting next to Joe in the bar we can tell he is the opposite. He is short, dark, and always coated with a sheen of sweat. He understands how the world works, that it is unforgiving, and sometimes no matter how hard you try you will fail; just as his father did. They are living in the same world, the same apartment even, but they understand things on a completely different level.

The theme of alienation, one that is common of this era, is very apparent in this film. Neither Joe nor Ratso fit into the culture surrounding them. Joe feels trapped in Texas and moves to NYC where he is still very much an outsider. Ratso, living in the cold of NYC, wishes to move to sunny Florida where he thinks he will be able to find a good life. Even though this is his ideal, in the fantasy we get from Ratso's perspective, it is apparent that he knows he will never really fit into society. In said fantasy he is turned on by the people living around him, he is yet again an outsider, alienated from society.

It is not until the end that the gap between Joe and Ratso begins to narrow. Joe resorts to violence; he takes on the mentality of this city in order to get money to fund a means of escape for Florida for himself and Ratso. On the journey we see Joe coming out of a store not wearing the cowboy clothes that he is never without in the rest of the film. He is dressed as someone who looks like they are headed to Florida for vacation. He dresses Ratso the same way; he tires to make them fit into the new society they are entering, but it is to no avail. Upon Ratso's death on the bus, their fellow passengers once again look them upon as outsiders. Even in this new culture they have entered, they cannot escape the alienation they have met at every turn in this film. Despite the Ratso's death, and Joe's continued alienation, the film ends with the hope that Joe can take his new knowledge of how the world works and create a better life than he would have had as a hustler in NYC. Midnight Cowboy is an excellent film portraying the harsh reality of society, and alienation, with stellar performances by both Voight and Hoffman.
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It gets better with every passing year
MOscarbradley3 August 2007
Warning: Spoilers
"Midnight Cowboy" was never a great movie to start with but it is a classic. You know it's a classic the moment its insistent theme song, 'Everybody's Talking' starts up on the soundtrack, (actually not written for the film), and the way the camera introduces us to Joe Buck, (naked and in the shower). We had seen Jon Voight before but had never really noticed him but when he tells us he's 'one helluva stud' who's to doubt him? This was a great performance that had iconic star status as well as a complete grasp of the character and if Voight had never done anything else, his performance here would still be legendary. As it is Voight has seldom disappointed on screen; even a piece of ham as well cured as his performance in that glorious rubbish "Anaconda" is a source of pleasure).

The film became famous and infamous almost overnight. It was a crowd-pleaser, (even with its downbeat ending), funny and sexy and recognizably 'real'; (it was the tail-end of the sixties and all the characters rang true). It was also the first 'X' rated film to win the Oscar as the year's Best Picture. Adapted, (brilliantly), by Waldo Salt from a James Leo Herlihy novel it was probably the first main-stream commercial American movie to deal with 'taboo' subjects such as homosexuality and drug-taking in a matter-of-fact manner. Everyone is recognizably human, warts and all, and everyone is treated sympathetically. Voight's Joe Buck is an innocent abroad, a Candide who comes to New York to seek his fortune as a hustler, (a profession he sees as glamorous and not seedy; he's a cross between a gigolo and a social worker). But when he himself is hustled by a scraggy, wormy little con-man called 'Ratso' Rizzo, (Dustin Hoffman, fresh from "The Graduate" and he's a revelation), he realizes that perhaps the reality is a little different from the pipe-dream.

Essentially it's a male love story, (though totally platonic), between these two not so unlikely bedfellows. Both totally alone, both totally needy each becomes the protector of the other, (Voight with his physical prowess, Hoffman with his street-wise savvy). They are misfits adrift from the mainstream, tolerant of their own peculiarities and the deviances of others. Though 'straight' Voight isn't beyond a homosexual encounter in a 42nd street cinema with a boy even lonelier than himself. (The whole film posits a strangely 'Christian' attitude).

It's also magnificently acted. While Voight and Hoffman hold the screen throughout there are superb vignettes from the likes of Brenda Vaccaro and Sylvia Miles as well as John McGiver, Bob Balaban and Bernard Hughes as sundry customers and hangers-on, beautifully delineated little character studies that seem to transcend acting altogether while John Schlesinger's direction gives the film the feel of a documentary as well as an alien's totally detached eye-view of the American under-belly without rancor and without criticism. On second thoughts, maybe it is a great movie after all.
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Disturbing in a way, but great as well
rbverhoef23 June 2003
'Midnight Cowboy' was rated X with the original release back in 1969. There are some scenes where you can understand that, just a little. The movie about Joe Buck (Jon Voight) coming from Texas to New York City to become a hustler is sometimes a little disturbing. Dressed up as a cowboy he tries to live as a hustler, making money by the act of love. It does not work out as he planned. After a guy named Rico 'Ratso' Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) first pulled a trick on him and stole some money they become friends. They live in an empty and very filthy apartment. Then Ratso gets sick and Joe has to try to make some money.

The movie was probably rated X for the main subject but on the way we see some strange things. The editing in this movie is great. We see dream sequences from Joe and Ratso interrupted by the real world in a nice and sometimes funny way. Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight and the supporting actors give great performances. Especially Hoffman delivers some fine famous lines. The score is done by John Barry and sounds great. All this makes this a great movie that won the Best Picture Oscar for a good reason.
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La Boheme - New York 1969
jeffhaller8 April 2018
Hadn't seen this in many years. How intelligent we once were!. This is unlike anything: flashbacks, flash-forwards, fantasies, reality, psychodelia, and underneath all of it is a very sentimental unpretentious touching tale of people needing each other. This is not an easy one to describe and even tougher to recommend. If you prefer movies that don't do all the work for you, this is the one. You can't watch Midnight Cowboy casually. It demands a lot on viewers. And in case you don't this already, this is not a western. Not even the West Side of Manhattan really. See this with someone with whom you want to share observations of humanity, not all pleasant ones, too.
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Everlasting Friendship!
g-bodyl4 October 2015
Midnight Cowboy is a very good movie, to say the least. I wasn't sure what to expect because of that controversial X-rating. But I was hearing this is one of the better influential films of the twentieth century, so I thought it was my duty to check it out. Now the film is about a close friendship that forged between two borderline criminals. How they go through life may not be endearing, but the friendship that is forged between them is very striking and moving. By the film's end, I have come to feel for the characters. The film does have a distinct overtone involving homosexuality, which is incredibly rare for a film in the 1960's. I think that is part of the controversy this film received. That being said, this is a fine work of art that stands to keep its hold in most influential films list.

John Schlesinger's film is about a Texas hustler named Joe Buck who decides to move east to explore opportunities involving money and women. But he quickly realizes that New York City is nothing like his Texas hometown. He meets this outcast named Ratso who decides to show him how to strike it rich in the Big Apple. As the adventures start sailing, an everlasting friendship is forged between the two men.

Now one thing that makes the film work the way it did was the outstanding performances. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight have incredible chemistry with each other. Hoffman was coming off his role that fueled him to stardom in the Graduate and Voight just began what is the start of an incredible movie career. I really liked the makeup of the two characters. Voight, who is oblivious to the culture of the East with his cowboy attire in full swing while in the streets of NYC, and Hoffman who actually fits the name Ratso as I felt he resembled something of a human rat.

Overall, Midnight Cowboy is a fantastic movie. A movie about friendship. It was a heart-warming experience for me. The ending of the movie was very proper, if a tad emotional. I can see why people rave about this movie. Now this may not end up as my all-time favorite movie, but I'd certainly put it in my top 50 films. There are a few small flaws, but nothing that hurts the film in all. If you have doubts about Hoffman and Voight as great actors, just watch Midnight Cowboy.

My Grade: A
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