Midnight Cowboy (1969)

midnight cowboy poster 1969 movie dustin hoffman jon voight
10 Overall Score
Story: 10/10
Acting: 10/10
Visuals: 10/10

Great story, visuals, and amazing acting


Movie Info

Movie Name: Midnight Cowboy

Studio:  Jerome Hellman Productions/Florin Productions

Genre(s): Drama

Release Date(s): May 5, 1969

MPAA Rating: R

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Welcome to New York City, Joe Buck!

Joe Buck (Jon Voight) leaves his home and troubled past in Texas for New York City in the hopes of becoming a big time hustler.  New York is not kind to Joe Buck, and he soon finds hustling is a lot harder than he imagined.  Now teamed with a con artist named Enrico “Ratzo” Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman), Joe Buck is just trying to survive and still dreams of the life of luxury…all it takes is M-O-N-Y.

Directed by John Schlesinger, Midnight Cowboy is a buddy drama.  The film is an adaptation of the James Leo Herlihy 1965 novel and received and was Rated-X upon its release.  The movie was well received and won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay with nominations for Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight), Best Supporting Actress (Sylvia Miles), and Best Film Editing.  The film was selected for preservation by the Library of Congress in the National Film Registry in 1994.  The Criterion Collection released a remastered version of the film (Criterion #925).

midnight cowboy joe buck jon voight sylvia miles

Hope you’re having fun, Joe…you’re gonna pay.

Midnight Cowboy is one of my top ten movies.  I first saw it in high school and saw it multiple times since.  Not only is the movie a great drama, but it is one of the best (and oddest) buddy movies.

The movie was edgy at the time, but it has lost some of its edge since it was released…but none of its heart.  Both Joe Buck and Rizzo have big dreams and it was a time in America when people’s dreams were collapsing.  They both buy into the idea of the American Dream where simple perseverance leads to success…but they both can’t get ahead despite their action.  Joe Buck and Rizzo are the people you pass on the street, but they are survivors.

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Jon Voight is charming as the troubled but simple Joe Buck.  He has a dark past (which is alluded to but never fully mapped out), but he is kind at heart.  Rizzo is a con-man who isn’t afraid to burn someone, but he is afraid to let people in…but for some reason, Joe Buck does get in.  Hoffman gives it all to his performance and creates a huge turn to his Benjamin Braddock of The Graduate (and gets to deliver another classic line in the unplanned “I’m walkin’ here!!!”).  They are both backed by a great group of characters including John McGiver as the religious crazed zealot, Brenda Vaccaro as Joe’s only successful trick, a young Bob Balaban as the student who hires Joe, and Barnard Hughes as the doomed Towny.  The scene stealer however is Sylvia Miles as Joe’s first “job” who he ends up paying.

midnight cowboy towny joe buck barnard hughes jon voight

…should have kept walking, Towny

The movie is an ode to the missing New York City of the late 1960s to 1990s.  New York was pretty filthy, dirty, and filled with people with broken dreams.  It wasn’t glamorous, but it was a place that people could afford to live and work in and disappear in…it is a far cry from today.  New York City might be clean and sanitized, but Midnight Cowboy presents an older NYC that still has an underbelly.  It also provides a look at the developing counter-culture scene at the party (which incorporated people from Andy Warhol’s studios including Viva and Ultra Violet).

Midnight Cowboy is a drama with laughs but also one of the sadder endings.  It is a movie about an unlikely friendship between dreamers and how that dream can be shattered.  You hope that Joe Buck is going to go on to lead a good life…but society and Joe have a habit of sabotaging hope…and the lonely theme song might follow him.

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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