Skip to content

Cool Hand Luke (1967)

March 24, 2010

10/10 Communication Breakdowns

My number one favorite movie of all-time, boss.

Cool Hand Luke is about a guy who finds himself thrown into a Southern chain gang for two years after lopping the heads off parking meters during a drunken bender. Before long, he settles into his new life and gives his fellow prisoners a whole new lease on life by stickin’ it to the man and just being his cool old self. Naturally, the man doesn’t take all too well to this kind of behavior, but then again, they’ve never really had anyone like Luke on their hands before.

So, yeah, favorite movie of all-time. Big statement, I know, but after watching it again last night for the first time in a while, it happens to be a surprisingly easy statement to stick by.

There’s a lot of reasons why I dig this movie over every other movie I’ve ever seen, but one of the biggest is that this is one of those movies that you can’t find any more, one of those movies that’s badass without even trying. Nowadays, filmmakers and screenwriters have this idea that the foolproof way to make someone into a hardcore mother effer is to give him a big ol’ gun, make him swear really loud, really often and have him whoop some ass while dishing out catchphrases. And then you have Paul Newman as Luke, a guy who does none of these things and yet lives up to his “Cool Hand” title like it was written on his birth certificate.

Now, maybe his inclusion on the banner up there isn’t enough to drive it home, but Paul Newman truly was one of the greats both on and off the camera, and if I wasn’t such a huge Clint Eastwood fan, Paul would be easily have my vote as Best Actor Ever. With that out of the way, his turn as Luke is one of those rare situations where the stars aligned and the perfect actor was cast in the perfect role. You watch Paul and you believe he’s Luke, like there’s not even a script to read off of. That right there is something special, folks, and I can’t think of too many instances where I’ve seen someone act so natural in a movie.

No idea how he didn’t nab the Oscar for this, but hey, at least George Kennedy did as Luke’s right-hand-man, Dragline. Also features some bonus appearances by a young Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton, but Kennedy really was great and for a guy who seemed to be in absolutely everything back in the day, it’s nice that he got recognized. That guy had some Southern drawl.

But aside from Newman, Luke is just something else in his own right. Like any true badass, he lets his actions do the talking, doesn’t give up no matter how high the odds are stacked against him and doesn’t bother himself with the trivial things in life that everyone else seems to be so hung up on, like being in a damn chain gang. He’s a hero (or antihero for all you law-abidin’ folks out there) you can’t help but root for right off the bat and he’ll make a lasting impression on you in the same way he does everyone else he meets.

And the writing here is out of sight. The dialogue is quotable beyond belief, a script that makes you wish like hell that you could talk as smooth as these convicts do, and it’s got a lot of profound and genuine things to say about living life at all times. Who knew that a scene about watching a guy eat 50 eggs could be so magical.

Folks, I just love this movie, no complaints. If you’ve never seen it and if you liked Shawshank and/or O Brother, Where Art Thou?, hop on that Netflix queue and get to streamin’. Cool Hand Luke is about getting dealt nothing but crap in life and turning it into solid gold, about grabbing a hold of life even when it seems like there’s nothing there to grapple, it’s about being a natural born world-shaker. Every time I see this it hits me right in the gut, gets me grinning from ear to ear and makes me long for the days when movies didn’t try so hard to be cool because they just were. Yup, this is the one to beat.

Great, great music, too. Just one more reason I need to pick up the banjo.

14 Comments leave one →
  1. Kevin permalink
    March 24, 2010 12:02 pm

    Greatest of all time, wow that is some statement.

    I can’t even decide on one movie for that (tie between Raiders and American Beauty)

    This is a great one though. Only downer for me is that the pacing is slow, albeit it fits the mood.

  2. March 24, 2010 12:46 pm

    yeah, not sure i would give it the full ten out of ten – the ending isnt the greatest – but is sure is a sweet movie
    best leery carwash scene ever

  3. March 24, 2010 12:47 pm

    great poster too, never seen that one before

    • March 24, 2010 2:44 pm

      Awesome poster, right? Have that sucker hanging up in my apartment. A fine purchase if I say so myself.

  4. March 24, 2010 1:00 pm

    Interesting sidebar to this discussion: George Kennedy happens to be my step-great uncle-in-law through adoption (to explain further: my mom’s step-father divorced my grandmother and married a woman who is an aunt to the man that married GK’s adopted dau8ghter)

    • March 24, 2010 4:01 pm

      Haha, pretty awesome, man. Your step-great uncle-in-law’s a badass!

  5. Branden permalink
    March 24, 2010 2:16 pm

    I have only seen this movie once. I thought it was fucking awesome. It’s another “guy” movie. I thought Newman was robbed for an Oscar for this role. The scene when Luke is eating the eggs. How fucking awesome is that?

  6. March 24, 2010 4:45 pm

    This is where I reveal my shame: haven’t seen any more than 30 minutes of this. Not by choice, but never got around to it.

    • March 24, 2010 4:47 pm

      Missin’ out, homey. Missin’ out.

      • March 24, 2010 4:57 pm

        I just realized this is your first 10/10 correct?

      • March 24, 2010 7:08 pm

        Actually it’s my 18th. But hey, they’re all deserving.

  7. March 25, 2010 11:03 am

    “You a good ol’ boy luke!” . This is an awesome movie. Love the bit where he’s boxing dragline, and takes a beating but just keeps comin. He just wasnt gonna take anyones shit no more. Love the song he sings aswell with his banjo. Ya I’d say this is somewhere in my top 5.

    • March 25, 2010 11:05 am

      “He had that ol’ Luke smile right to the very end.”

      Glad you dig it too, man. An easy Top Fiver if you ask me.

  8. March 25, 2010 10:43 pm

    It’s hard to disagree… I’m a little on McG’s side too… the screenplay is weak in some areas but so strong in others that it’s hard to fault it… just the way movies were structured back then. Great flick though… even makes eating eggs intersting… and you gotta love a guy who refuses to stay down even if he knows he can never win a fight!

Drop that knowledge!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: