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Harlan County, U.S.A.

Harlan County, U.S.A. (1976)


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Average Rating: N/A
Critic Reviews: 2
Fresh: 2 | Rotten: 0



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Average Rating: 4.2/5
User Ratings: 2,711

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Movie Info

Director Barbara Kopple's look at a 13-month coal miners' strike that took place between 1973 and 1974 in Harlan County, KY, is one of the great films about labor troubles, though not for a sense of objectivity. Kopple lived among the miners and their families off and on during the four years the entire story played out, and it's clear in every frame of the film that her sympathies lie with the miners and not their bosses at Eastover Mining, owned by Duke Power Company. Kopple's camera focuses



Apr 25, 2006

Cinema 5 Distributing

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All Critics (13) | Top Critics (7) | Fresh (8) | Rotten (0) | DVD (11)

Kopple's rather terrifying film rocked its minuscule audience and instantly became a cultural touchstone.

October 11, 2005 Full Review Source: Village Voice
Village Voice
Top Critic IconTop Critic

Riveting 1976 docu about striking miners has some violence.

May 31, 2012 Full Review Source: Common Sense Media
Common Sense Media

One of the finest documentaries ever made, Barbara Kopple's "Harlan County U.S.A." is a brilliant exposť about the embattled history of coal miners in America as seen through the very personal prism of striking coal miners in Harlan County, Kentucky in 19

April 12, 2009 Full Review Source:

One of the better and more rousing labor strike films that calls attention to class war in America.

September 3, 2008 Full Review Source: Ozus' World Movie Reviews
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A seminal documentary about the complexity of American unionism, reflecting director Kopple's ideology, one that combines Old Left socialism with American populism

December 8, 2006 Full Review Source: EmanuelLevy.Com

At its least it's an impassioned indictment of those who would exploit the powerless and at best a call to arms.

October 14, 2006 Full Review Source:

serves as an important historical document and unfortunately remains as relevant today as it was thirty years ago

March 11, 2003 Full Review Source: Old School Reviews

Audience Reviews for Harlan County, U.S.A.

Coal miners strike against the company that exploits them and the union that doesn't always represent their interests.
In 1976 this was a ground-breaking film that deserved and won the Oscar for Best Documentary. Today it is still relevant. Many of the issues have changed, but the exploitation of coal miners, the corruption of the union, and the dangerous nature of the work have remained horrifyingly similar as the recent mine accidents attest.
The cinematography is fantastic. The film crew, working for over a year, was able to capture stark images of miners covered in coal dust, miners suffering the diseases that come with coal mining, scenes of violence that are shocking in their reality and nearness, and the overall spirit of the town. Interviews with many of the miners and company executives tell the story without the narration that we see in many of today's documentary, in which the documentarian is a central character in the film.
I think the most authentic element of the film is the soundtrack, which is comprised of union songs sung by the strikers themselves.
Overall, this documentary is wonderful in its ability to immerse the audience in the feeling, look, and culture of Harlan County.
July 23, 2011
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

A very ambitious documentary that was incredibly ahead of its time. The cinematography is unbelievable, it doesn't look like a documentary. You see the true picture of this small town and their complete dependence on the coal mining industry. It gets a little too dramatic at times and I think it was in some ways exaggerated, but I thinks it's one of the better documentaries to be made in the last 30 years.
February 16, 2010

Super Reviewer

Good in your face, really, documentary, pushes you towards sympathy but for the most part annoying, i.e. the music even though it is authentic, just hard to bear.
April 8, 2008
Lenny Muggsy

Super Reviewer

Great American doc about the coal miners fighting for a union. A snapshot of real life with all the drama of a great fiction.
February 8, 2008

Super Reviewer

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