In the Heat of the Night - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

In the Heat of the Night Reviews

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Mr Awesome
Super Reviewer
July 16, 2012
Sidney Poitier stars as Virgil Tibbs, a detective from up north (Philadelphia) who gets stuck in the middle of a murder investigation in small town Sparta, Mississippi (actually, the movie was filmed in Sparta, Il, not too far from here). The year is 1967, and Mississippi is a hotbed of racism. The sheriff of Sparta, a man by the name of Gillespie (Rod Steiger) is a bit more pragmatic than his cartoonishly one-dimensional subordinates. While racism is pretty ingrained from birth, it's clear no one in this town has ever met anyone quite like Tibbs, a man who's well-dressed and better educated than any of them. The murder mystery is pretty engaging, but it's the dynamic interaction between Tibbs and the townsfolk, and in particular with Sheriff Gillespie that makes the movie. Neither man is a villain or a saint, but by the end both learn to have a little respect for the each other. It's a microcosm of racism's history and it's future, where we were and where we'd like to be.
Super Reviewer
November 15, 2006
A black homicide detective from the big city becomes embroiled in a murder case in a small backwater town in 1960s Mississippi. A thinly disguised commentary on prejudice in the times of the civil rights movement, In The Heat Of The Night is also a smartly plotted and suspenseful Film Noir style murder mystery that showcases Sidney Poitier's not inconsiderable charisma. He dominates the screen whenever he appears and his scenes with the comparably excellent Rod Steiger's red neck sheriff crackle with tension as their worlds collide amidst their verbal sparring. Featuring a colourful backdrop of local culture and antiquated attitudes based upon the belief that slavery was the "natural order", it contains many memorable lines and strong performances. The resolution to the story seems a little anti-climactic considering the power of the build up, but it's definitely one of the best examples of politically savvy thrillers around and worth it for the scenes involving Poitier and Steiger butting heads alone.
Super Reviewer
February 9, 2011
"They call me Mr. Tibbs!"

Great film! Not really one i'd call a classic, but this is timeless piece that was completely ahead of it's time.

Released in 1967, during the Civil Rights movement, In the Heat of the Night is about a Black Philadelphia cop who gets involved in a murder case in a small rascist Mississippi town. The film dared to go where so many other films of the time dared not, and it's for that reason it will remembered forever.

Strong performance by Sidney Poitier, but the whole film is driven by the masterful performance by Rob Steiger! He definitely deserved the Oscar.

In the Heat of the Night is a great crime/mystery film! I recommend it to everyone!
Super Reviewer
½ March 21, 2011
An interesting film on the changing power dynamics of race relations in the Bible Belt at a time when the nation seemed to be mired in social upheaval. The film centers around the murder of a white business man and the way that small town mentalities react to an African American man of power infringing on what they hold so dear: their ignorance. Sidney Poitier's character Virgil Tibbs symbolizes the African American rejection of caucasian paternalism. In his Academy Award winning performance, Rod Steiger plays Chief Bill Gillespie who is caught in the middle of serving justice and aiding in the upkeep of the small town naivety. Important for its time? Absolutely. Does it hold up very well? Fairly well. Does it lay the foundation for future bi-racial buddy cop films? I believe so.
However, maybe because of my very own ignorance of the deep south, I have a hard time swallowing the blithe southern disposition that most of these characters embody. I understand that Jewison was trying to show a stark contrast between the old stock Americans and the more modern view of humanity, however it made many of these character appear a little too juvenile and prevented them from seeming like real people. With a film attempting to tackle such important social issues head on, the last thing you want is to feel as though it were an isolated incident.
This is not meant to detract from the strengths of this film. The performances are strong, even though I find it odd that a film about race relations would give the award to Steiger, whose performance in my mind was not as important or as gripping as Poitier's. There is also some really interesting uses of POV shots to get the audience immersed in the film. On top of this, Wexler's cinematography is gritty and really gives the viewer a sense that you are truly in the deep South. All in all, a flawed but important film that is worth a watch.
Super Reviewer
½ March 5, 2011
A compelling drama centering on a black detective (Sydney Poitier), who reluctantly takes on a case in the still racist and bigoted South, pairing up with an uneasy sheriff (Rod Steiger), whose corrupt nature is unquestionable. While suffering from a slight dose of a formulaic nature, and a nice, all too neat ending, this film is largely watchable thanks to a well-thought out story and impeccable casting. Poitier's calm, cool demeanor is perfect when compared to Steiger's toothpick chomping, easily angered one, and the two make for a certainly interesting pair. Sure, some buddy-cop cliches are thrown into the thing, but that's beside the point. Steiger does outshine Poitier, but both performances are still excellent overall. Definitely worth a view, if perhaps a little over-rated, still a solid noir that also does a great job establishing a hot, humid atmosphere loaded with an appropriate sense of paranoia.
Super Reviewer
September 5, 2010
Poitier fights for both justice and racial equality as a police officer in a small southern town, and he's just so intense he makes the movie. The best reason to watch this is for his performance. This is a great movie.
Super Reviewer
½ June 5, 2006
"They call me Mister Tibbs!"
Super Reviewer
October 23, 2009
It's so easy to make a 'race issue' movie, but it's hard to do it this well. Neither Poitier or Steiger are perfect human beings. Poitier is driven by a somewhat overbearing amount of arrogance. It's this, rather enjoyable, character flaw, that prevents him from being just another black man kept down by whitey. The plot is actually just a tool to explore the hate of the time and place, and because of this the conclusion is just an afterthought. The performances are powerful and it speeds through at a gripping pace. In the Heat of the Night, has no doubt lost a lot of it's power over the last 40 years, but it's still a wonderful movie.
Super Reviewer
½ October 16, 2009
There are many bad "issues" movies out there, but this is not one of them. In a bad movie, all of the racist characters would be one dimensional and one hundred percent evil; here, Steiger is allowed to play a prejudiced man who is actually sympathetic and capable of growth (hence the Oscar). In a great twist, Virgil Tibbs himself is shown to be capable of prejudice, as he pursues Endicott without sufficient evidence. It's refreshing to see a movie that portrays the entire spectrum of racism, from the crazy extremists (and there are plenty of those on hand here) to the more subtly prejudiced.

"Mississippi Burning," a weaker effort, is not only more tediously didactic, but also less progressive; that film doesn't feature a protagonist like Virgil Tibbs, and instead focuses on the actions of two white federal agents. In this case, the old movie really is the better movie; produced at the height of the civil rights struggle, "In the Heat of the Night" feels more immediate and passionate than preachy films on the subject that were made years later, after the tension had died down.

Some reviewers complain that the mystery segments of the film are confusing, but I follow them without much trouble. Tibbs does a great Sherlock Holmes routine throughout, as he pieces together the solution based on clues that are also available to viewers. Sure, the ending is surprising, but it doesn't come entirely out of left field; I actually admire the subtle ways that clues are sewn throughout the film. If you're not used to mysteries, the barrage of red herrings and dead-end clues might surprise you, but it's pretty standard stuff for the genre.

I knew about the classic line "They call me Mr. Tibbs!" long before I actually saw this movie. I used to wonder why the line was so famous; it doesn't sound that exciting, does it? But when I finally heard Poitier say it in context, I asked my brother to pause the tape so I could cheer without missing any of the subsequent dialog. That's how excited I get during this movie. The performances are so naturalistic, and the racial conflict so vividly drawn, that I get pulled into the action completely. Though 1967 was a strong year for films, I still think that the right one got Best Picture, and not just because it was topical; "In the Heat of the Night" is a well-directed, superb character study, populated by some of the most vivid characters I've ever encountered in a movie.
Super Reviewer
May 28, 2008
Sidney Poitier portrays a black Philly detective who just happens to be passing through Sparta, Mississippi when he gets arrested for a murder that happened less than an hour earlier; all because he happens to be black and staying over in a racist southern town. When he convinces the local police he didn't do it, he is then asked to stay and help solve the murder. But through it all, Rod Steiger's sheriff Gillespie has reservations and is constantly trying to get him to leave town so the local all-white police department can solve the case. The fact that a black police detective was so much better than a group of white police officers at solving crimes was only part of the reason this movie was so successful. Racial tensions were still simmering over in some places and this movie only portrayed those, especially with the acting talents of Academy Award winners Poitier and Steiger. And this film was 1,000 times better than that puke television show. Ugh!
Super Reviewer
April 18, 2009
Any movie with so much racism in it, I find hard to get through at times. This film did a great job of showing the prejudice that unfortunately, still continues today. I can only image the impact this movie had in the late 60s. A great performance by Sidney Poitier. A must see.
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2007
I really dug this flick. The combo of the two main actors really set off the screen. I enjoyed watching them do their thing.
The murder mystery took a far back seat to the story of how the town deals with the black detective trying to do his job.
There was only one character I thought didn't do a good job at all and that was the creepy girl that ended up being the key to the murder. She over acted and just came off creepy and a bit touched.
I'm looking forward to seeing more of Sidney Poitier character.
I loved any scene where we get Tibbs doing something that the white folk find appalling. When he examines the body and when he has to deal with the cotton grower. For only being a few decades away this frame of mind seems barbaric.
Super Reviewer
½ November 14, 2006
Cheif Gillespie: What do they call you back in Pennsylvania!?
Virgil Tibbs: They call me MISTER Tibbs!
Chief Gillespie: Mr. Tibbs! Well Mr. Woods take Mr. Tibbs! Take him down to the depot and I mean boy like now!

A great movie all around, combining a murder mystery with themes of prejudice in the south.

A body turns up in the middle of a small town in Mississippi. The sheriff, Chief Gilespie played by Rod Steiger, tells his deputy to round up anyone at the edge of town who is suspicious. The deputy finds a well dressed black man at the train station and immediately takes him in. After some questioning, it is revealed that this man is Detective Tibbs, played by Sydney Poitier, the best homicide detective from Pennsylvania.

After dealing with his own chief, Tibbs is asked to help out with solving the murder in this little town, seeing as how they have no real experience in this field.

The man that was murdered was a wealthy industrialist, bringing a factory and jobs to the town, so now his wife has threatened to take that away unless they let Tibbs help, seeing as how she has seen his expertise in action.

Chief Gillespie: I got the motive which is money and the body which is dead.

While apprehensive, both Tibbs and Gilespie have to learn to work together, despite their differences, to solve the crime.

The story is great for all sorts of reasons. Its well handled, unfolding the mystery carefully and plausibly. The prejudice issue is also handled well, making use of it as a theme that helps the story out.

Both Poitier and Steiger are great here. They both play people skilled in a certain degree and with personalities that clash and develop to an extent.

Director Norman Jewison handles the film appropriately, with good camera work and editing. The soundtrack is also a good combination of mystery beats and a Ray Charles themes song.

Great movie all around.

Tibbs: Now listen, hear me good mama. Please. Don't make me have to send you to jail... There's white time in jail and there's color time in jail. The worst kind of time you can do is color time.
Super Reviewer
March 13, 2008
An engaging, thought-provoking, and superb film that still has relevance over 40 years later. It's a mystery thriller, and while that aspect of it makes the film entertaining, the racial subtext, the tension it causes, and just the issue of racism in general are what make In the Heat of the Night an important film. The writing, directing, editing, soundtrack, and most importantly, the acting (especially from Poitier and Steiger) are what make this picture. All of the aforementioned are beyond genius, but the acting is where a majority of that genius/brilliance lies. This is not a film to be missed.
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2007
the winner of 5 oscars in 1967 including best picture, this film deals with race in the south in the late 60's. poitier throws in a great performance and the crime story serves as a great means to the real plot of prejudice. the only downside was a very anticlimatic ending, but the movie was engaging and profound. 67' is the year that new hollywood was ushered in, and this film and the graduate are the poster children for the shift. great film.
Super Reviewer
½ September 28, 2007
It's highly entertaining and breaches an important subject in a dramatic-but-not-really kind of way. Sidney Poitier portrays Mr. Tibbs beautifully with an iron elegance.
Super Reviewer
January 5, 2007
A classy film dealing with issues of racism in the deep south.
Super Reviewer
½ March 3, 2007
"They call me MR. TIBBS!"
Super Reviewer
½ February 1, 2007
This has to be one of the best films of the 60's and probably the often forgotton film of the decade as well. The great thing about this superb-paced thriller is that it hasn't aged; most of the themes explored within this film are more than relevant today, with recent terrorisom polts and perhaps discrimination comes into play as well. Most likely this is for sure one of the greatest films of all time and perhaps it might make my top 100 films.

The cinematography within this film is just amazing, the scenery shows perfectly where Tibbs is heading and the claustropobic atmosphere that he wil occupy. The direction within this film seriously emphasises the humidity and racial tension that we see forthcoming within the film and of course the title as well.

The Sheriff, rod Steiger gives a supber performance and deserved the oscar for the role, which he got at the academy awards. This, oddly is the first Poitier film that I've seen, so I can't comment on whether this was his best role because I just don't know. However I can see why he was so admired as an actor at the time and just how great he really is. Probably one of the greatest actors ever to grace the silver screen.

This politcially chaaged thriller certainly fitted with the social context of that era and really shows just how awful it was for a black man to go around in the southern sates of America. I certainly saw that with some of the rather uncomfortable scenes within the film when Tibbs gets corned and almost killer for instance.

Overall a seriously superb thriller equipped with one amazing Quincy Jones soundtrack. HIGHLY RECOMENDED

Super Reviewer
September 13, 2006
Fantastic mystery-suspense movie of the year. Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger are great performances.
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