The Harder They Come (1973) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Harder They Come (1973)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Reggae legend Jimmy Cliff stars as Ivan Martin, an aspiring young singer who leaves his rural village for the capital city of Kingston, Jamaica hoping to make a name for himself. Robbed of his money and possessions his first day in town, he finds work with a self-righteous, bullying preacher and an unscrupulous music mogul who exploits na´ve hopefuls. In desperation the simple country boy turns outlaw, at war with both the police and his rivals in the ganja trade. Ivan's dream of stardom soon becomes a reality as he rises to the top of the pop charts and the most-wanted lists. This gritty, groundbreaking film brought reggae music to the international stage, made Jimmy Cliff a star worldwide.more
Rating: R
Genre: Drama, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Trevor Rhone, Perry Henzell, Trevor D. Rhone
In Theaters:
On DVD: Jan 14, 2002
Syndctd Entertainment - Official Site

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Jimmy Cliff
as Ivan Martin
Winston Stona
as Detective
Basil Keane
as Preacher
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Critic Reviews for The Harder They Come

All Critics (29) | Top Critics (8)

The Harder They Come is always exuberant, and sometimes strong, as casually surprising and effortlessly sinister as the blade sliding out of a gravity knife.

Full Review… | October 2, 2015
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

With this 1972 cult hit, Jamaican filmmaker Perry Henzell produced a proud, forthright indictment of national and personal corruption.

Full Review… | October 2, 2015
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

Atrocious acting, amateurish camerawork and a hackneyed story line all make for one painful slog.

Full Review… | June 5, 2012
Time Out
Top Critic

The definitive postcolonial cult-movie musical.

Full Review… | June 5, 2012
Village Voice
Top Critic

Perry Henzell emerges a director with a solid visual flair who can mix action and inchoate rage sans excess to give the film a taut pacing and use the local color and a basically predictable tale with a few new twists.

Full Review… | May 27, 2009
Top Critic

The action is as gutsy as the well-integrated score, which makes the movie's Hollywood-style gloss a little anomalous, but the basic humour and toughness emerge unscathed.

Full Review… | February 9, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Harder They Come

This is probably the most well-known and important film to come from Jamaica. And, while it might not have been intentional, you could also lump this in as a blaxploitation film if you so desired.

In his acting debut, we get musician Jimmy Cliff as Ivan, a young man from the country who comes to Kingston to try to make a better life for himself. He dreams of hitting it big as a music star, and, while that does happen, he gets caught up in the world of being an outlaw as well. The story has the familiar ring of rags to riches, dealing with fame and success, but ultimately gets saved by a solid lead performance, and a superb reggae soundtrack provided by Cliff, The Maytals, and a few others.

Also, it is my understanding that this film was also the first time where wide audiences were shown a clear divide between the Jamaica of the tourism industry, and how it really is. It's not so revelatory now, but I'm sure this was quite something back in the early 70s. Thankfully the film is merely showing and telling it like it is, as opposed to being an exploitative venture into the dark underbelly of a supposed paradise. This revealing of how it is also includes jabs as the country's music scene, and the inherent corruption involved with it.

I dug this film a lot, but I don't think it's quite the landmark as its often labeled. Don't get me wrong, it's is quite good, but it didn't grab me like it has a lot of others. It's worth seeing though, especially if you dig reggae, and, if you're not familiar with Jamaica, the film does have occasional subtitles, which are nice since sometimes the accents are so thick, and the manner of speaking is so strong that the film would be all but incomprehensible otherwise for non-natives.

All in all, this is a pretty good time. It's a tad overrated, but enjoyable nonetheless.

Chris Weber

Super Reviewer


A must see for anyone interested in Reggae music. A totally authentic look at Kingston in the early 1970's.

Graham Jones
Graham Jones

Super Reviewer


It makes up in talent what it lacks in budget. Amazing songs, feeling of sheer authenticity, social commentary and gripping guerrilla filmmaking

Pierluigi Puccini

Super Reviewer

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