Top 100 Movie Review: #36 – Midnight Cowboy (1969)

The Crumbling Legacy of the Hippie Movement.

Outside of the music, I’m not sure what people from the 60s left behind for us to enjoy. 

Jon Voigt and Dustin Hoffman in wasted performances. 

American Film Institute’s Ranking: #36/100
Awards: Nominated for seven winning three including Best Picture and Director.
My Rating:cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586cropped-smooth-star-e1545863035586

The hippie movement must have been one hell of a drug.

The seminal works of cinema from this time period which reached historically significant status play as complete messes today. The storylines are disjointed, the desire to give a middle-finger to the man supersedes everything else, and virtue-signaling tramples any legitimacy of authenticity. This last one is particular paradoxical as the movement’s ostensibly purpose was to reveal some truer and more pure self.

It’s a shame, too, with Midnight Cowboy. Even within the typical moral morass, Voigt and Hoffman both put on such good performances that by the end we somehow care what happens to these two, even though the previous two hours is a mess.



Joe Buck (Jon Voigt) leaves Texas to go to New York city to obtain work as an escort. He fails to find work and learns that many people already have cornered the market on being cowboy prostitutes. He meets Ratso (Dustin Hoffman), a conman who tricks him out of $20.

Joe’s luck continues to go downhill as he runs out of savings and is kicked out on the streets. He tries his hand as a gay prostitute by letting some young college kid blow him, but he learns that this guy conned him too and has no money. He later spots Ratso and threatens to beat him, but Ratso opens his apartment to Jon so he has a place to stay: a room in a condemned building that he currently squats in. The two form a partnership to try and make Joe a successful prostitute.

After serendipitously getting into an exclusive party, Joe finds his first legitimate client. Just as his career begins to take off, Ratso’s health deteriorates. Joe leads on ann older gay gentleman, beats him to a pulp, and takes his money. Joe and Ratso leave on a bus to Florida, a dream they both shared, but Ratso dies before they make it.



As the only X-rated film to ever win Best Picture, it does deserve notoriety for its ground breaking seamy take on life with plenty of talk about prostitution, sex, and homosexuality. The best part of this movie is Harry Nilson’s Everbody’s Talkin’. They still managed to ruin it by playing it around 10 times in a two hour film.

I like to look at the responses from those who saw it then and recently. There are message boards with people trying to reconcile their past admiration with how little the movie now offers. This looking glass into the past usually focuses on how the times were just different, and people were thirsty for any type of artistic endeavor that broke the mold.

I see it.

This movie is not completely worthless: the destitute lives of Joe and Ratso with the backdrop of the ugly, seedy town of NYC resonated with me for how life can be a brutal existence. The problem was the wait for a plot-twist or development that never came. It was a line of fragmentary parts that never added up to any meaning. A movie that is known for pushing boundaries gets pushed aside itself if it can’t offer any other merit.

It’s a pretty typical gesture in hippie narration to have the iconoclastic protagonists be victims in the end. Somehow feeling sad for the miserable existence of the two main characters, I did not view them through the same hippie lenses.


Better than Easy Rider but still not enjoyable.

Other People’s Thoughts: 

  • The Iron Cupcake: “Having the chance to see it again today reminds me that some movies have the power to exceed every expectation and improve with every viewing.”
  • The Cinematic Emporium: “Even though it seems fairly tame by today’s standards in terms of violence, language, and sexual content, it’s easy to imagineMidnight Cowboy making waves in 1969.”
  • Words of Wistim: The viewing of this movie was easily one of the least productive two-hour periods of my entire life.”



  1. I liked this when it came out and again a few re-watches later. Your comment about the performances by the two leads is a pretty good recommendation on your part. Great film characters in my film watching. ‘Where’s that Joe Buck?”


  2. Well, it is supposed to be a timeless classic but I can understand that it might not be for everyone. It certainly requires a certain frame of mind and understanding of what to reasonably expect from a film released around the moon landing. Nevertheless, thank you for sharing your views on the film.


    1. I guess I generally struggle with the “hippie” movement movies in general. I like plenty of movies from the 40s through the 70s, but whenever it’s a counter-culture favorite (Easy Rider, Midnight Cowboy, etc), I struggle with it. Thanks for stopping by, though, and being cordial!


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