6.9/10
4,144
42 user 21 critic

The Onion Field (1979)

An LA police officer is murdered in the onion fields outside of Bakersfield. However, legal loopholes could keep his kidnappers from receiving justice, and his partner is haunted by overwhelming survivor's guilt.

Director:

Harold Becker

Writers:

Joseph Wambaugh (book), Joseph Wambaugh (screenplay)
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Nominated for 1 Golden Globe. Another 1 win & 2 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Savage ... Det. Karl Francis Hettinger
James Woods ... Gregory Ulas Powell
Franklyn Seales ... Jimmy Lee 'Youngblood' Smith
Ted Danson ... Det. Ian James Campbell
Ronny Cox ... Det. Sgt. Pierce R. Brooks
David Huffman ... Dist. Atty. Phil Halpin
Christopher Lloyd ... Jailhouse Lawyer
Dianne Hull ... Helen Hettinger (as Diane Hull)
Priscilla Pointer ... Chrissie Campbell
Beege Barkette ... Greg's Woman (as Beege Barkett)
Richard Herd ... Beat Cop
Le Tari ... Emmanuel McFadden
Richard Venture Richard Venture ... Det. Glenn Bates
Lee Weaver ... Billy
Pat Corley ... Jimmy's Lawyer #2
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Storyline

Gregory Ulas Powell is a disturbed ex-con who recruits Jimmy Lee "Youngblood" Smith, a petty thief, as his partner in crime. Powell panics one night when the two of them are pulled over by a pair of cops for broken brake lights. Powell decides to kidnap the cops, and Smith, as always, reluctantly goes along with Powell's crazy scheme. The group drives out to a deserted onion field in Bakersfield, California, and one officer is shot while the other escapes. The remainder of the film explores the nature of the American justice system, as well as the devastating psychological effects of this event, and the trial on the surviving officer. Written by Tad Dibbern <DIBBERN_D@a1.mscf.upenn.edu>

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

A True American Tragedy Captured on Film! See more »

Genres:

Crime | Drama

Certificate:

R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English

Release Date:

28 February 1980 (UK) See more »

Also Known As:

The Onion Field See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$2,000,000 (estimated)

Gross USA:

$9,890,597
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Mono

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

This was Ted Danson's feature film debut. See more »

Goofs

When Jimmy is seen watching television at Greg's house he is watching "General Hospital". This scene takes place in early March 1963 while "General Hospital" debuted April 1, 1963. See more »

Quotes

LAPD Captain: Any man who gives up his gun to some punk is a coward. Any man who does can kiss his badge goodbye, if I can help it. You're policemen. Put your trust in God.
See more »

Connections

Referenced in Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession (2004) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Great movie....
24 January 2003 | by huggy_bearSee all my reviews

Great true life movie of two L.A. police officers whose lives were changed forever in on onion field on the outskirts of Bakersfield, CA. As always, I will not set here and go over the entire movie. I will say that James Woods did an excellent job portraying Powell, and of course, Ted Danson was his usual best as officer Ian Campbell. This story grips you right from the minute that the two officers are taken hostage. I can only imagine the terror that Campbell and Hettinger went through on the ride from L.A. to Bakersfield. The scene in the onion field and what transpired after the murder of officer Campbell, with Hettinger fleeing the maniac Powell through the fields at night, is breath taking. It is just so sad that in reality, all this really happened, and a good man lost his life at the hands of a crazed-ass lunatic.


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