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They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)


Average Rating: 7.4/10
Reviews Counted: 25
Fresh: 21
Rotten: 4

Critics Consensus: No consensus yet.

No Top Critics Tomatometer score yet...

Average Rating: N/A
Reviews Counted: 4
Fresh: 3
Rotten: 1


Average Rating: 3.9/5
User Ratings: 5,366



Movie Info

A total of nine Academy Award nominations went to this wildly acclaimed, allegorical drama set amongst the contestants in a marathon dance contest during the Great Depression. Gig Young stars as Rocky, the obnoxious emcee for a dance marathon that offers prize money of $1,500, a small fortune during hard economic times that brings out the worst in several participants. Among them are Gloria Beatty (Jane Fonda), a malcontent who's partnered with a drifter, Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin); a … More

Directed By:
In Theaters:
Mar 13, 2001
Anchor Bay Entertainment


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Critic Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

All Critics (26) | Top Critics (4) | Fresh (21) | Rotten (4) | DVD (7)

The material is simple and irresistible, and Sydney Pollack stages it well (though without transcending the essential superficiality of his talent).

Full Review… | May 26, 2008
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A sordid spectacle of hard times, a kind of existentialist allegory of life.

Full Review… | May 26, 2008
Top Critic

The acting is strident and overblown, the narrative technique gimmicky and obvious, and the implication that the competitors' situation is a microcosm of a wider-reaching American malaise rather pretentious.

Full Review… | June 24, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

The movie is by far the best thing that Pollack has ever directed (with the possible exception of The Scalphunters).

Full Review… | May 20, 2003
New York Times
Top Critic

It's depressing as hell, so it's not a movie I would watch repeatedly, but I'm sure glad I saw it. This is an important film about a time in America's history that wasn't so glamorous. You won't forget it.

Full Review… | June 17, 2013
Film Geek Central

There has never been a film quite so original as this, featuring a wealth of noted actors fighting for their lives in a dance competition taking place during the Great Depression.

Full Review… | August 15, 2011
Cinema Sight

An allegorical, socially conscious response to the injustices of the Depression era.

Full Review… | May 26, 2008
TV Guide's Movie Guide

Pollack's adaptation of Horace McCoy's depression era novel has not dated well.

Full Review… | May 26, 2008

Grim but compelling tale set in a Depression era dance marathon. Gig Young deservedly copped the Oscar.

February 17, 2008

Sydney Pollack's screen version of the powerful Depression-era dance marathon is extremely well acted, particularly by Jane Fonda as the suicidal actress, her first great performance.

Full Review… | January 4, 2007

Overblown, but good anyway.

December 21, 2004
Greenwich Village Gazette

Dated, condescending moralizing

June 25, 2004
Film Journal International

Overly melodramatic.

Full Review… | January 20, 2004
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

A riveting parable about America during the Depression.

Full Review… | January 19, 2004
Spirituality and Practice

Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin portray one of the more sordid depression stories about survival on a dance floor to bring home the bacon.

April 23, 2003

Bleak but exquisitely fashioned.

Full Review… | March 10, 2003
Austin Chronicle

Endlessly negative, the movie goes out of its way to deny the audience any moments of joy, opting instead to retreat further and further into the phantasmagoric fever dreams of the exhausted group.

Full Review… | January 29, 2003

Any fan of dark, dark comedy will need to seek this film out (and it's kind of hard to find), as its influence is still palpable 30 years later.

Full Review… | December 23, 2002

The performances are uniformly excellent, the actors -- desperate, hungry, fraught, close to breakdown -- live their roles.

Full Review… | August 20, 2002
Eye for Film

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? epitomizes the human condition of its own era, only this time the faces aren't romantic heroes on the front line but vulgar, desperate washouts.

Full Review… | January 1, 2000
Apollo Guide

Audience Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

A dance hall requires poor drifters and lost Depression-era souls to keep dancing for prize money.
This film shouldn't work: set almost entirely in one location with the main characters fatigued to the point of almost passing out, the film's pace could slow to a standstill, much like the "dancing" we see by the end of the film. But it does work, thanks to the fantastic performances by Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. Gig Young adds some energy to the film as one of the few conscious characters.
The film is about the Depression, but it's more about class issues. Watching poor people dance to their deaths, the rich are shown getting pleasure out of others' misery, benefitting from the society that deems them superior.
Overall, with everything against it, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? nevertheless delivers.

Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

extremely well acted but profoundly depressing

jay nixon

Super Reviewer

In Depression era down-and-out Los Angeles a dance marathon on Santa Monica pier affords the opportunity to look in on the various lives involved. Overdone, yes, okay, but still moving as the cast embraces the cut out characters presented. Sarrazin, York, et al deliver the goods, but the picture belongs to Henry's little girl who manages to do Daddy proud. Gig Young as the ringmaster is nothing short of phenomenal.

Apeneck Fletcher

Super Reviewer

A mostly competently made, fascinatingly bleak tale concerning a dance marathon and how some very different characters are affected by its rigorous rules. This movie came so close to being a great, uncompromisingly grim look on the state of show-business, but it makes a deadly mistake at its conclusion, going a step over-the-top and opting to be poetic not naturally, but just for the sake of being so. Still, despite it taking a while to get into it, once you get adjusted to the pace it becomes enamoring. Jane Fonda couldn't be better, and she gets solid support from Michael Sarrazin as her on-again, off-again dance partner, Red Buttons as a likable sailor, and Susannah York who is a nervous breakdown waiting to happen. Sydney Pollack creates a dark atmosphere for his depressing picture, but doesn't quite bring it into classic/greatness territory, as evidenced by its melodramatic finale.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Quotes

I may not know a winner when I see one, but I sure as hell can spot a loser.
– Submitted by Kate S (3 years ago)

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