Harlan County, U.S.A.

1976, Documentary, 1h 43m

20 Reviews 2,500+ Ratings

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Harlan County, U.S.A. Photos

Movie Info

In this documentary about labor tension in the coal-mining industry, director Barbara Kopple films a strike in rural Kentucky. After the coal miners at the Brookside Mine join a union, the owners refuse the labor contract. Once the miners start to strike, the owners of the mine respond by hiring scabs to fill the jobs of the regular employees. The strike, which lasts more than a year, frequently becomes violent, with guns produced on both sides, and one miner is even killed in a conflict.

Cast & Crew

Hazel Dickens
Original Music
Merle Travis
Original Music
Tom Hurwitz
Cinematographer
Kevin Keating
Cinematographer
Flip McCarthy
Cinematographer
Phil Parmet
Cinematographer
Hart Perry
Cinematographer
Nancy Baker
Film Editor
Mirra Bank
Film Editor
Lora Hays
Film Editor
Mary Lampson
Film Editor
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Critic Reviews for Harlan County, U.S.A.

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

  • Apr 24, 2014
    Considered one of the best documentaries ever made, Harlan County lives us to its reputation. The film makers reveal all the personalities involved in the tragic fight of the coal miners union with management.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 23, 2011
    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.
    Jim H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 06, 2011
    Barbara Kopple's hard-hitting, rought-around the edges, people vs politics documentary definitely heats up the screen, and some thoughts. Harlan County, USA followed 200 coal-mining families and their battle to get their rights, what every human being needs, and yet it's unbaised. The music acted as a narator, and we followed along almost dismally as the plot seemed to turn down a darker and more corrupt path every minute. Though it's hard to follow with all of the ideas of the Kentucy-Coal-Miners, it is extremely easy to follow their cause. Overall, the movie was well made, yet felt slightly off.
    Liz < Super Reviewer
  • Feb 16, 2010
    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.
    Conner R Super Reviewer

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