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The Defiant Ones (1958)


No Score Yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 3
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 1



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Average Rating: 3.8/5
User Ratings: 4,956

My Rating

Movie Info

Convicts Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape from a chain gang. Curtis' character, John "Joker" Jackson, hates blacks, while Poitier's character, Noah Cullen, hates whites. However, the men are manacled together, forced to rely on each other to survive. Captured at one point by a lynch-happy mob, the convicts are rescued by Big Sam (Lon Chaney Jr.), himself a former convict. The men are later sheltered by a lonely, love-hungry widow played by Cara Williams, who offers to turn in Cullen if


Drama, Classics

Harold Jacob Smith

Dec 11, 2001

MGM Home Entertainment

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All Critics (18) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (13) | Rotten (3) | DVD (4)

Kramer was never much of a director, but there's still power in some of the performances, especially Poitier's.

November 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Chicago Reader
Chicago Reader
Top Critic IconTop Critic

The suspense of the manhunt in the swamps never really overcomes the dead weight of Kramer's 'message', but pleasures are to be found in the supporting roles of McGraw and Chaney.

January 26, 2006 Full Review Source: Time Out
Time Out
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It is nervous and suspenseful from the start.

May 20, 2003 Full Review Source: New York Times
New York Times
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Boasting strong performances from Sidney Poitier and Tony Curtis, this interracial drama of two escaped convicts is Stanley Kramer's most satisfying film, deservedly nominated for and winning Oscars.

March 8, 2011 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

Tony Curtis' acting is borderline awful. His famous Bronx accent bleeds through his faux Southern one like a bloody shirt, and he continually grits his teeth in a failed attempt to show the character's self-loathing.

March 7, 2011 Full Review Source: Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Herald-Tribune

It becomes shackled with its heavy-handed liberal message.

May 21, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

Although an advance on Hollywood's usual treatment of racial themes, the script is too message-laden and the direction (by do-gooder Kramer) too single-minded and naively optimistic to really work.

November 7, 2007 Full Review Source: Film4

This was the film that established Poitier as a star.

November 7, 2007 Full Review Source: TV Guide's Movie Guide
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Given the era of this movie, it was a controversial topic and a theme that Kramer handles courageously. He does a good job of showcasing Poitier and Curtis in their prime and the film's Oscar-winning cinematography is crisp and outstanding.

March 16, 2004 Full Review Source: Apollo Guide
Apollo Guide


March 10, 2003 Full Review Source: Austin Chronicle
Austin Chronicle

It's not high art, but it is a well-made, well-rounded movie.

August 21, 2002 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Poitier and Curtis are great. Whoever thinks Curtis is just a pretty face should see his gripping performance.

August 20, 2002
Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN)

With two superb performances and palpable tension, the film has a strength that rises above the simplicity of the storyline.

January 1, 2000 Full Review Source: Internet Reviews
Internet Reviews

Audience Reviews for The Defiant Ones

Everyone should have a life-changing event like this. Consider a pre-civil rights era when blacks and whites were supposed to hate each other. This pair are shackled to each other for days and have no choice but to depend on each other for either one of you to survive. It is worth seeing.
May 4, 2013

Super Reviewer

Amazing black and white cinematography.
January 25, 2011

Super Reviewer

Whilst I cringe my way through the prejudice of history, beneath their lies a film of opportunity and comradery.

I couldn't help being reminded through the film of later films that perhapsmay have been influenced by this film; The Fugitive and O'Brother where art thou?

A worthy classic.
November 23, 2010

Super Reviewer

Two convicts, one black and one white, escape from a chain gang in the deep south and find they have more in common than they first thought. Having a racist and a black man chained together and having to co-operate to evade their captors is hardly a subtle allegory for racial tension but thanks to some intelligent writing and good dialogue The Defiant Ones makes for a far more interesting story about breaking down the barriers between creeds and colours than the usual heavy handed touchy-feely nonsense you'd expect from Hollywood. The characters feel a lot more genuine than the usual racial stereotypes; if it were made today, it would no doubt have Curtis' character as a pantomime villain and Denzel as some kind of behaloed, saintly innocent man who consistently turns the other cheek. Instead we have two men who've both had the sh*t end of the stick, Curtis' racism a product of his failure to question an unjust system and Poitier is a proud and angry man who is tired of never being given an even shake. The two of course have to put their differences aside to struggle together against capture and the plot and character development doesn't feel 100% convincing as it seems to exist to help get the message across rather than create believable drama. The use of music is also very odd, the pursuers having some kind of jazz swing theme tune every time they appear on screen and Poitier's singing voice is..."different". The two have real chemistry together though, and this well intentioned and tensely paced film has stood the test of time rather well.
June 8, 2010
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

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