The Jerk (1979)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

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Movie Info

Carl Reiner directs Steve Martin (who co-wrote the script with Carl Gottlieb) in this gag-laden comedy about an idiotic white man, raised by a poor family of black sharecroppers, who doesn't realize he's not black. Navin R. Johnson (Steve Martin) is told the horrible truth when he finds himself instinctively tapping his feet to an easy listening tune on the radio, instead of a low-down blues. His mother (Mabel King) tells him he's white and Navin takes to the road (in a World War II bomber helmet and goggles) to start a new life in St. Louis. A filling station owner, Harry Hartounian (Jackie Mason), give Navin his first break, hiring him to pump gas. One day at the station, Navin has a brainstorm, concocting an invention called "The Opti-grab," a combination handle and nose-brace for eyeglasses. But Navin runs into trouble when a crazed killer (M. Emmet Walsh) picks out his name at random from the telephone book and tries to kill him. Navin escapes to a traveling carnival, where he wrangles a job as the "guess-your-weight" man. At the carnival, he discovers his sexual nature, thanks to stunt rider and S&M enthusiast Patty Bernstein (Catlin Adams). But Navin meets the beautiful Marie (Bernadette Peters) and he quickly falls in love. In the meantime, the "Opti-grab" has taken off and soon Navin is a millionaire. ~ Paul Brenner, Rovi
R (adult situations/language)
Directed By:
Written By:
In Theaters:
Universal Pictures


Steve Martin
as Navin Johnson
Bernadette Peters
as Marie Kimball
Catlin Adams
as Patty Bernstein
Mabel King
as Mother
Richard Ward
as Father
Bill Macy
as Stan Fox
Jackie Mason
as Harry Hartounian
Dick O'Neill
as Frosty
Maurice Evans
as Hobart
Carl Reiner
as Himself
Ren Woods
as Elvira
Pepe Serna
as Punk No. 1
Sonny Terry
as Blues Singer
Brownie McGee
as Blues Singer
David Landsberg
as Bank Manager
Domingo Ambriz
as Father De Cordoba
Lenny Montana
as Con Man
Carl Gottlieb
as Iron Balls McGinty
Clete Roberts
as Announcer
Debbie Evans
as Stunts
Ken Magee
as Carnival Rube
Alfred Dennis
as Irving
Lillian Adams
as Tillie
Joe Lynn
as Voodoo Dancer
Maurice Marsac
as French Waiter
Fred Lerner
as Con Man
Kimberly Cameron
as Disco Party
Elizabeth Macey
as Disco Party
Frances Williams
as Grandma Johnson
Frances E. Williams
as Grandma Johnson
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Critic Reviews for The Jerk

All Critics (31) | Top Critics (5)

Its humor is successful and unsuccessful by turns, and although Comedian Carl Reiner is the director, the instinct here is to give most of both credit and blame to Martin.

Full Review… | February 2, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

An artless, non-stop barrage of off-the-wall situations, funny and unfunny jokes, generally effective and sometimes hilarious sight gags and bawdy non sequiturs.

Full Review… | February 2, 2009
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | February 26, 2007
Entertainment Weekly
Top Critic

The comedy runs out of steam when the jerk makes good, but laugh for laugh it's probably a better investment than 10.

Full Review… | June 23, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

No excerpt available.

Full Review… | September 25, 2005
AV Club
Top Critic

We get the sense at times that the cast and crew arrived at a location, found the script bankrupt of real laughs, and started looking around for funny props.

Full Review… | July 5, 2005
Chicago Sun-Times
Top Critic

Audience Reviews for The Jerk


i feel like this film gets funnier to me every time i watch it. martin and peters are both in top form. one of my favorite comedies of all time.

danny d
danny d

Super Reviewer

Few movies can stand the test of time like this one!! Love me some Steve Martin!

Thomas Johnston
Thomas Johnston

Super Reviewer


A genius exercise in the absurd that's also a watchable comedy. Truly a classic. Acting's a little weak and it has to get a little cheesy in order for there to be a resolution, but this is a can't-miss movie that had me howling.

Daniel Perry
Daniel Perry

Super Reviewer

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