The Last Picture Show


The Last Picture Show

Critics Consensus

Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances.



Total Count: 54


Audience Score

User Ratings: 14,093
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Movie Info

Produced by Hollywood iconoclast BBS Productions, film critic-turned-director Peter Bogdanovich's 1971 film pays homage to Hollywood's classical age as it chronicles generational rites of passage in Anarene, a fictional one-horse Texas town. In 1951, high school seniors Sonny (Timothy Bottoms) and Duane (Jeff Bridges) play football, go to the movies at the Royal Theater, hang out at the pool hall owned by local elder statesman Sam the Lion (Ben Johnson), and lust after rich tease Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd in her film debut). As the year passes, Sonny learns about the pitfalls and compromises of adulthood through an affair with his coach's wife Ruth (Cloris Leachman) and a thwarted elopement with Jacy after she dumps Duane. Following two tragic deaths, and with Duane gone to Korea and Jacy packed off to college in Dallas, Sonny is left behind in Anarene, wise enough to absorb the life lessons of Sam the Lion and Jacy's mother Lois (Ellen Burstyn). He is determined to honor Sam's legacy as the town's conscience, despite a telling sign of incipient communal disintegration: the closing of the Royal Theater after a final showing of Howard Hawks's Red River. Paying tribute to classical Hollywood directors like Hawks and John Ford, Bogdanovich used old-time cinematographer Robert Surtees and shot The Last Picture Show in crisp black-and-white, with a restrained style devoid of the kind of "new wave" techniques (jump cuts, zooms, and jittery hand-held camerawork) used by such contemporaries as Arthur Penn, Robert Altman, Mike Nichols, and Martin Scorsese. As in such Ford films as The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Bogdanovich relies on careful visual composition in deep focus to help communicate the regret over the passing of an era. Hailed as one of the best films by a young director since Citizen Kane (1941), The Last Picture Show premiered at the New York Film Festival and went on to become a hit. It was also nominated for eight Oscars, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay for Larry McMurtry's and Bogdanovich's adaptation of McMurtry's novel. John Ford stalwart Johnson won Supporting Actor and Leachman won Supporting Actress, beating out their cohorts Bridges and Burstyn. For an audience steeped in movie history and caught up in the chaotic 1971 present, The Last Picture Show presented a nostalgic look backward that was not so much an escape from the present as a coming to terms with what the present had lost. Its 1990 sequel Texasville, in which Bridges and Shepherd played later incarnations of their original characters, was not as successful.


Timothy Bottoms
as Sonny Crawford
Jeff Bridges
as Duane Jackson
Cloris Leachman
as Ruth Popper
Cybill Shepherd
as Jacy Farrow
Eileen Brennan
as Genevieve
Barclay Doyle
as Joe Bob Blanton
Clu Galager
as Abilene
Joye Hash
as Mrs. Jackson
Sharon Taggart
as Charlene Duggs
Randy Quaid
as Lester Marlow
Bill Thurman
as Coach Popper
Barc Doyle
as Joe Bob Blanton
Antonia Bogdanovich
as Singer (uncredited)
Gary Brockette
as Bobby Sheen
Helena Humann
as Jimmie Sue
Clu Gulager
as Abilene
Robert Glenn
as Gene Farrow
Janice O'Malley
as Mrs. Clarg
Floyd Mahaney
as Oklahoma Patrolman
Kimberly Hyde
as Annie-Annie Martin
Marjory Jay
as Winnie Snips
Joyce Hash
as Mrs. Jackson
Pamela Kelier
as Jackie Lee French
Charlie Seybert
as Andy Fanner
Grover Lewis
as Mr. Crawford
Leon Addison Brown
as Cowboy in Cafe
Bobby McGriff
as Truck Driver
Jack Mueller
as Oil Pumper
Robert Arnold
as Brother Blanton
Frank Marshall
as Tommy Logan
Otis Elmore
as Mechanic
Charles Salmon
as Roughneck Driver
George Gaulden
as Cowboy in the Cafe
Will Morris Hannis
as Gas Station Man
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News & Interviews for The Last Picture Show

Critic Reviews for The Last Picture Show

All Critics (54) | Top Critics (13) | Fresh (54)

  • At first glance, the movie is a faithful and skillful adaptation of the source, but a second look at both the film and the book reveals some interesting divergences.

    Mar 2, 2015 | Full Review…
  • It's plain and uncondescending in its re-creation of what it means to be a high-school athlete, of what a country dance hall is like, of the necking in cars and movie houses, and of the desolation that follows high-school graduation.

    Mar 2, 2015 | Full Review…
  • A sublime study of sexually charged ennui in a dying town in 1950s Texas.

    Mar 2, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…

    Wendy Ide

    Times (UK)
    Top Critic
  • The scene where Sam imparts his wisdom to young buck Bottoms may be the saddest, loveliest moment in 1970s American cinema. And that's saying something.

    Mar 2, 2015 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • It's meant to make you feel sad for what's lost, but a vitality throbs through it.

    Sep 27, 2011 | Rating: 5/5 | Full Review…
  • Its portrait of a floundering community is the film's strongest virtue.

    Apr 15, 2011 | Rating: 4/5

Audience Reviews for The Last Picture Show

  • Nov 20, 2013
    I'm obviously reviewing all the "lasts". The Last Picture Show is a tremendous look at nostalgia and how it is lost due to inevitable rot and change in general. How do we hang on to what we have left when time moves so quickly?
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Aug 07, 2012
    I found it a great film from Peter Bogdonvich. "The Last Picture Show" captures nostalgia of the flat Texas landscapes, the people, the good times and the bad times. My fav character in the picture is Sonny Crawford (Timothy Bottoms) who is naive and stumbles into affairs, most with notably Ruth Popper (Cloris Leachman) and Jacy Farrow (Cybill Shepherd). Ben Johnson, Jeff Bridges, Eileen Brennan, Frank Marshall, Randy Quaid and Sam Bottoms bring in natural, powerful performances to the picture.
    Brian R Super Reviewer
  • Jun 01, 2012
    What we have here is a coming-of-age '70s film that's nostalgically set in the '50s, so outside of the fact that this is anything but a sitcom, this is pretty much "Happy Days: The Motion Picture". Yes, I tacked on "The Motion Picture, because in the '70s, they were tacking on "The Motion Picture" at the end of just about every title to an adaptation of something. In the '80s and '90s, they tacked on "The Movie", in the '70s, they tacked on "The Motion Picture", and before that, well, they didn't really tack on the common term for a film at the end of titles, and quite frankly, I'm glad, because the term "Picture Show" sounds cheesily outdated now, on its own, much less when it's crowbarred into a title. I don't know about y'all, but if I want a picture show, then I'll either just go on Google Images or watch a Terrence Malick film, because pretty much all he does is show pretty pictures. Speaking of nostalgia, I should probably get more in touch with my '70s if I'm going to talk about this film, by refering to "2001: A Space Odyssey" as the literal "picture show" and giving a perfectly honest review of this film, then come back in about twenty years and call it one of the greatest films of all times, because according to today's critics, if it's old, it's a masterpiece, except for Ed Wood films, and even then, his swill has somehow become recognized as materpieces in camp. Nostalgiac critcs are annoying, especially when it comes to films like this, where perhaps the most phenomenal thing about it is how it shockingly managed to trascend mediocrity with only so many strenght. Still, make no mistake, if you're going into this black-and-white coming-of-age '70s drama set in the '50s expecting to see something all that exciting, then brother, you just walked into the wrong picture show. Outside of the nothing-special dialogue and background soundtrack of unrelenting '50s country music that gets to be overbearing after a while, the film is dead silent, almost to the point of feeling atmospheric and meditative. The problem is, however, that there is hardly anything to meditate upon, as the film is riddled with long, extensive periods of absolutely nothing but filler, empty exposition and repetition that borders on monotony, while what notable pieces of exposition and actual event there are often fall flat, as the film continues to wear that bland atmosphere and pronounced lack of intrigue, made worse by some unlikable characters. Teenaged kind has been riddled with some of the biggest examples of some of the lowest forms of human sense since the dawn of civilization, yet that teenaged senselessness borders on, if not stands as more intense than it was back in the '50s, and that's something that's very difficult to discern from looking at this film's authentic, yet holes-riddled portrayal, as it shows only so much of the relative good within the spirited youth, with strong emphasis on the many bad aspects within that group, perhaps in a fashion intended to be charming, when not dramatically purposeful, only for those intentions to fall ineffective and leave the despicable character traits to stand as, well, just that: despicable, occasionally to the point of being as disturbing as many of the things that the youth have and always will do. Really, the main problems with the film, of which there are many, all lead back to director Peter Bogdanovich, whose direction feels inspired to the point of being overwhelmed and messy, yet still burning with an intense glow of arrogance and presense. The final product comes off as aimless, hardly memorable and just downright boring, making it, for all extents and purposes, yet another nostalgically overrated "classic" that is simply nothing more than a mediocre bore, at best, and yet, I say forget extents and purposes, because this film still managed to pull through. Man, I am hard to break when it comes to a negative review for a film, but I just have to call them like I see them, and what I see here is an unquestionable rest that's acclaim as an essential is something that I can't even begin to fathom getting behind. Still, with all of its many mistakes and few strengths, what strengths there are really do keep the film alive. With all of its unlikable characters, aimlessness, nothingness, arrogance and borderline tedium... um, the film is charming, I guess. Okay, in all seriousness, there really are slim pickings when it comes to finding commendable traits within this should-be mediocre fall-flat, and yet, it still emerges watchable on the wings of subtle touches that make all difference. Peter Bogdanovich is cocky and extremely improvable, with his and Larry McMurtry's being no gem either, yet what the writing lacks in oomph and the direction lacks in effectiveness, it makes up for in thematic and tonal structure, nailing the era, and the charm with it. True, the film's nostalgiac charm goes diluted quite a fair bit by aforementioned faultiness in the structuring and exectuon in the tone, yet the era goes generally and interestingly well-represented, being subtle to the point of feeling more authentic, yet still obvious enough to where you do get a sense for the time, particularly the degree of charm in its simplicity. The more resonant moments, however, go tainted by the cold hands of the little competence on behalf of Bogdanovich, as director, and rest mostly in the hands of the performers, relying on them to keep the atmosphere and, by extension, the entire film going. Well, tragically, there's not enough requested spark in the performances, yet the performers pretty much make up for that by showing that they could have given knockout performances if they wanted to, as the performances as they still go coated in effortlessly formed grace and charisma, as well as subtle emotional range and depth to intensify the distinctiveness among the cast members, as well as the authentic feel within the film. Each and every performance by an older figure boasts a strongly experienced, yet still flawed presence, while the younger talents nail the excitement, anguish and overall transformation found in the mere beginning of the coming-of-age stage in life, and it's that slew of engrossing talents that stand among the key aspects that not simply save the film, but raise it to an ultimately rather respectable level. As the picture draws to an end, it was undeniably hard for me to not breathe some sigh of relief, as the film is aimless and repetitious, with quietness and dryness adding the final touches to the ingredients for some good old fashion dullness, made all the worse by a degree of pretense and a fair deal of points in which emotional resonance goes distant, rendering the film underwhelming and almost mediocre, yet it amazingly manages to transcend that mediocrity on the winds on charm spawned from a commendably authentic grip on the era, as well as across-the-board charismatic and, at times, spirited performances by the memorable and colorful cast, ultimately leaving "The Last Picture Show" to stand as a generally watchable coming-of-age homage to the not-so simple struggles within the simple setting of a small town in the '50s. 2.5/5 - Fair
    Cameron J Super Reviewer
  • Oct 24, 2011
    Prolific and insightful examination about the possible turning point of youth's modern behavioral tendencies. The economic and political background have always heavily influenced such trends. Those topics, however, are kept here between lines and instead a decaying Texas town is used in a time where paternal figures were non-existent and experimenting with their lives while being drunk with nostalgia and regret. 98/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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