The Sugarland Express

1974, Comedy/Drama, 1h 49m

48 Reviews 5,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Its plot may ape the countercultural road movies of its era, but Steven Spielberg's feature debut displays many of the crowd-pleasing elements he'd refine in subsequent films. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

Married small-time crooks Lou-Jean (Goldie Hawn) and Clovis Poplin (William Atherton) lose their baby to the state of Texas and resolve to do whatever it takes to get him back. Lou-Jean gets Clovis out of jail, and the two steal their son from his foster home, in addition to taking a highway patrolman hostage. As a massive dragnet starts to pursue them across Texas, the couple become unlikely folk heroes and even start to bond with the captive policeman.

Cast & Crew

Goldie Hawn
Lou Jean Poplin
William Atherton
Clovis Michael Poplin
Ben Johnson
Captain Harlin Tanner
Michael Sacks
Patrolman Maxwell Slide
Gregory Walcott
Patrolman Ernie Mashburn
Steve Kanaly
Patrolman Jessup
Harrison Zanuck
Baby Langston Poplin
A.L. Camp
Mr. Alvin T. Nocker
Hal Barwood
Screenwriter
Matthew Robbins
Screenwriter
David Brown
Producer
Vilmos Zsigmond
Cinematographer
Verna Fields
Film Editor
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News & Interviews for The Sugarland Express

Critic Reviews for The Sugarland Express

All Critics (48) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (41) | Rotten (7)

Audience Reviews for The Sugarland Express

  • Sep 23, 2019
    Goldie Hawn turns in a decently unmannered performance as a ex-con trying ridiculously to get her state-custodied child back...by kidnapping a cop. Based on a true story, Steven Spielberg paints a pretty accurate picture of Middle America and does it without a preponderant use of his usual heavyhanded shorthand.
    Kevin M. W Super Reviewer
  • Dec 04, 2011
    This is an Underated classic as Steven's first "Theatrical" feature. Its an interesting story about how criminals can become folk heroes. Its very tragic too! Also was the beginning of a great friendship with composer; John Williams.
    Luke E Super Reviewer
  • Jul 06, 2011
    While not his first film ever, this was the feature length theatrical debut of a nice guy named Steven Spielberg. Based on actual events, this film tells the story of an outlaw couple who take a highway patrolman hostage in an ill-conceived but desperate effort to keep their child from being taken away from them and adopted. It's not long before they are accompanied by a convoy of law enforcement and media, and stir up support from just about every averge citizen they cross paths with as they journey across Texas. This film very much fits into the zeitgeist of the time period, and it really reminded me of a movie that was released a year later...a little movie called Dog Day Afternoon. Whereas that film was a brilliant masterpiece, this one is really fun and entertaining, but almost too absurd to really take seriously, even though it is based on real life. Maybe there should have been a couple fewer scenes of cars scrashing or swerving, and a bit more time spent on developing the characters and their personalities better. The film is uneven and a little rough, but Im not sure who to really blame here. Spielberg had experience making films, so who knows? I will say though that it's cool seeing a pre-Ghostbuster William Atherton, and 70s era Goldie Hawn. They both give pretty good performances (especially Hawn), as do Ben Johnson and Michael Sacks. The music is quite nice, and the cinematography is pretty good too. Besides what I've already mentioned the film also is a tad unfocused and a bit dated, yet it has a very charming quality to it, and it's certainly not boring. It has some issues, but I like it enough to give it a mild recommendation, so you should give it a shot.
    Chris W Super Reviewer
  • Jan 23, 2010
    Great work by Spielberg in this "petty criminal duo take a policeman hostage and go on the run to get their child back". The problem is the tone: it's far too light. And without a villain there's no tension. It's definitely worth a watch though, and Hawn is fantastic.
    Marcus W Super Reviewer

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