Cool Hand Luke (1967)



Critic Consensus: Though hampered by Stuart Rosenberg's direction, Cool Hand Luke is held aloft by a stellar script and one of Paul Newman's most indelible performances.

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Paul Newman was nominated for an Oscar and George Kennedy received one for his work in this allegorical prison drama. Luke Jackson (Paul Newman) is sentenced to a stretch on a southern chain gang after he's arrested for drunkenly decapitating parking meters. While the avowed ambition of the captain (Strother Martin) is for each prisoner to "get their mind right," it soon becomes obvious that Luke is not about to kowtow to anybody. When challenged to a fistfight by fellow inmate Dragline (George Kennedy), Luke simply refuses to give up, even though he's brutally beaten. Luke knows how to win at poker, even with bad cards, by using his smarts and playing it cool. Luke also figures out a way for the men to get their work done in half the usual time, giving them the afternoon off. Finally, when Luke finds out his mother has died, he plots his escape; when he's caught, he simply escapes again. Soon, Luke becomes a symbol of hope and resilience to the other men in the prison camp -- and a symbol of rebelliousness that must be stamped out to the guards and the captain. Along with stellar performances by Newman, Kennedy, and Martin, Cool Hand Luke features a superb supporting cast, including Ralph Waite, Harry Dean Stanton, Dennis Hopper, Wayne Rogers, and Joe Don Baker as members of the chain gang.
Classics , Comedy , Drama
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Warner Bros.

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Paul Newman
as Lucas Jackson
George Kennedy
as Dragline
J.D. Cannon
as Society Red
Jo Van Fleet
as Arletta
Robert Drivas
as Loudmouth Steve
Dennis Hopper
as Babalugats
Morgan Woodward
as Boss Godfrey
Luke Askew
as Boss Paul Hunnicut
Anthony Zerbe
as Dog Boy
Marc Cavell
as Rabbitt
Richard Davalos
as Blind Dick
Wayne Rogers
as Gambler
Harry Dean Stanton
as Edgar "Tramp" Potter
Robert Donner
as Boss Shorty
John McLiam
as Boss Kean
Charles Tyner
as Boss Higgins
Ralph Waite
as Alibi
Buck Kartalian
as Dynamite
Joy Harmon
as The Girl
James Gammon
as Sleepy
Donn Pearce
as Sailor
Norman Goodwins
as Stupid Blondie
Chuck Hicks
as Chief
John Pearce
as John Sr.
Eddie Rosson
as John Jr.
Rush Williams
as Patrolman
James Jeter
as Wickerman
Rance Howard
as Sheriff
James Bradley Jr.
as Black Boy
Dick Davalos
as Blind Dick
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News & Interviews for Cool Hand Luke

Critic Reviews for Cool Hand Luke

All Critics (47) | Top Critics (7)

Stuart Rosenberg's direction is a horror, but the cast teems with so many familiar faces that this 1967 film can't help but entertain.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

A picture of chilling dramatic power.

Full Review… | August 22, 2008
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

Newman gives an excellent performance, assisted by a terriffic supporting cast, including George Kennedy, outstanding as the unofficial leader of the cons who yields first place to Newman.

Full Review… | July 21, 2008
Top Critic

A caustically witty look at the American South and its still-surviving chain gangs, with Newman in fine sardonic form as the boss-baiter who refuses to submit and becomes a hero to his fellow-prisoners.

February 8, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

A tough, honest film with backbone.

Full Review… | October 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

It's as fresh and effective in 2004 as it was in 1967.

Full Review… | April 15, 2004
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for Cool Hand Luke

An exceptional cast can't hide that here is a film rooted in it's time (released Jan.1, 1967): from the moment anyone intones any kind of rules and regulations to Newman's character his primary response is to roll his eyes = countercultural anti-hero from the jump. And thereafter the work's direction is set, a film about rebellion ("what're you rebelling against?" "whaddaya got?"), perhaps against the lockstep that the 1950's epitomized, filmed just short of a Cecil B. DeMille epic. While probably deserving a rewrite (like why do all of the hardtimers decide to revere some punk on shorttime - wouldn't happen in the real world), still the set-up as delivered is pleasing even if not believable. The individual vs. the collective.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

What elevates this engaging drama to a remarkable ode to nonconformity is definitely Paul Newman's intense performance and its taut, compelling script, which both compensate for the story's exceedingly slow-moving pace and Rosenberg's inept direction.

Carlos Magalhães
Carlos Magalhães

Super Reviewer


While the movie seems to have worked wonders for most, I wasn't so lucky to be one of those. That's not to say that I didn't like it altogether. Just didn't enjoy it enough as expected. Found it mediocre in almost every major department, be it scripting, acting, dialogues or screenplay. Give it a shot; may turn out to be worth your while. Even otherwise, it's not an absolute waste. Watch it (of course, at your own risk) and arrive at your own sound verdict.

familiar stranger
familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

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