In the Heat of the Night


In the Heat of the Night

Critics Consensus

Tense, funny, and thought-provoking all at once, and lifted by strong performances from Sydney Poitier and Rod Steiger, director Norman Jewison's look at murder and racism in small-town America continues to resonate today.



Reviews Counted: 49

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Audience Score

User Ratings: 23,056


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Reviews Count: 0
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Average Rating: 3.9/5

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Movie Info

While traveling in the Deep South, Virgil Tibbs, a black Philadelphia homicide detective, becomes unwittingly embroiled in the murder investigation of a prominent businessman when he is first accused of the crime and then asked to solve it. Finding the killer proves to be difficult, however, especially when his efforts are constantly thwarted by the bigoted town sheriff. But neither man can solve this case alone. Putting aside their differences and prejudices, they join forces in a desperate race against time to discover the shocking truth.

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Rod Steiger
as Police Chief Bill Gillespie
Sidney Poitier
as Det. Virgil Tibbs
Warren Oates
as Sam Wood
Lee Grant
as Mrs. Colbert
Quentin Dean
as Delores Purdy
Larry Gates
as Endicott
Beah Richards
as Mama Caleba
Jack Teter
as Philip Colbert
Matt Clark
as Packy Harrison
Kermit Murdock
as H.E. Henderson
Peter Whitney
as George Courtney
William Watson
as Harold Courtney
Timothy Scott
as Shagbag Martin
Eldon Quick
as Charlie Hawthorne
Fred Stewart
as Dr. Stuart
Arthur Malet
as Ted Ulam
Peter Masterson
as Arnold Fryer
Alan Oppenheimer
as Ted Appleton
Philip Garris
as Mark Crowell
Phil Garris
as Engineer
Clegg Hoyt
as Deputy
Phil Adams
as Young Tough
Nikita Knatz
as Young Tough
David Stinehart
as Baggage Master
Buzz Barton
as Conductor
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News & Interviews for In the Heat of the Night

Critic Reviews for In the Heat of the Night

All Critics (49) | Top Critics (10)

  • Poitier's excellent performance both transcends and lifts the pretensions of the film, eschewing earlier mannerisms and projecting a wealth of emotion in facial communication.

    Aug 2, 2017 | Full Review…
  • It's a stylish performance from Poitier and an honest, intelligent contribution from Steiger.

    Nov 17, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • Hindsight has lent this gripping, serious-minded melodrama a certain righteous intensity.

    Nov 14, 2016 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a pleasure, all too rare, to watch two splendid actors pitted against each other with equal force such as Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in the exceptional murder mystery, In the Heat of the Night.

    Feb 23, 2015 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Social importance aside, In the Heat of the Night works as a buddy film and as a tense thriller.

    Jan 15, 2014 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…
  • No deep solutions are suggested in this subtle and meticulously observed study. Yet Director Norman Jewison has used his camera to extract a cer tain rough-cut beauty from each protagonist.

    Feb 20, 2009 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for In the Heat of the Night

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.

Devon Bott
Devon Bott

Super Reviewer

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.

xGary Xx
xGary Xx

Super Reviewer

"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!

Jameson Worley
Jameson Worley

Super Reviewer


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.

Reid Volk
Reid Volk

Super Reviewer

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