Cool Hand Luke (1967)

A classic Deep South prison movie with Paul Newman as a nonconformist struggling against the brutal inhumanity of the men in charge.

Stills must not be reproduced, copied or downloaded in any way. Hard copies of some images can be bought via the BFI Printstore and the complete collection can be accessed for commercial reuse via BFI Stills.

Film details

Cast & Credits

Introduction

“The paraphernalia necessary to the story is familiar from any number of prison camp films... but Cool Hand Luke is given that little extra... by the camerawork... and Paul Newman[’s]... brilliant performance.”
Monthly Film Bulletin, January 1968

Made at the height of 60s upheaval in US society, Stuart Rosenberg’s prison drama vividly embodies the spirit of its decade in its celebration of the indomitable individualist.

Landed on a chain gang for the crime of cutting the heads off a row of parking meters, Paul Newman’s Luke Johnson challenges any rule maker with smiling defiance. First is the top-dog inmate Dragline (an Oscar-winning George Kennedy), then the guards. When Luke escapes, a pursuing fury takes the shape of Boss Godfrey, “the man with no eyes” (Morgan Woodward), whose mirrored sunglasses blot out any chance of human sympathy.

The judgement of the Captain (Strother Martin) on Luke’s incorrigibility – “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” – famously summed up America’s troubles in the late 1960s.

Newman rejoined director Rosenberg to play an amoral grifter in WUSA (1970), a poor cowboy in Pocket Money (1972) and detective Lew Harper in The Drowning Pool (1975).

Latest from the BFI

  • Latest from the BFI

    Latest news, features and opinion.

More information

Films, TV and people

  • Films, TV and people

    Film lists and highlights from BFI Player.

More information

Sight & Sound magazine

  • Sight & Sound magazine

    Reviews, interviews and features from the international film magazine.

More information

Back to the top