Midnight Cowboy

1969 film directed by John Schlesinger

Midnight Cowboy is a 1969 American drama movie, released by United Artists. John Schlesinger directed it, and Waldo Salt wrote the screenplay based on the James Leo Herlihy novel. It stars Dustin Hoffman (in his first starring role after The Graduate), along with Jon Voight in the title role.

Midnight Cowboy
Directed byJohn Schlesinger
Written byJames Leo Herlihy (novel)
Waldo Salt (screenplay)
Produced byJerome Hellman
StarringDustin Hoffman,
Jon Voight
CinematographyAdam Holender
Edited byHugh A. Robertson
Music byFred Neil ("Everybody's Talkin'", sung by Harry Nilsson) Jeffrey Comanor,
Floyd Huddleston
Warren Zevon (songs),
John Barry
Florin Productions,
Jerome Hellman Productions
Distributed byUnited Artists
Release date
May 25, 1969
Running time
113 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$3.6 million

It is the only X-rated movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.[1] Schlesinger won a Best Director Award; both Hoffman and Voight were nominated for Best Actor.

In 1971, it was given the "R" rating by the MPAA. Apart from this, nothing was changed in the movie.



Joe Buck (played by Voight, in his first major acting role) was raised by his grandmother in Texas. She died after Joe grew up, when he was drafted into the US Army. He had a girlfriend, who was called Crazy Annie, but she had been sent to a psychiatric hospital. With both women gone from his life, Joe had no-one in his life. After he left the Army, he worked as a dishwasher, and dreamed of moving to New York City, to become a "hustler" – a male prostitute. He saved money to make the trip, bought some stylish cowboy clothes, and travels to NYC on a bus.

Joe knows little about the realities of both New York and his chosen job, and he soon finds himself homeless, with no money and only rare chances to earn any. When he first meets Rico "Ratso" Rizzo (Hoffman's character), Ratso swindled (tricks) Joe out of $20, but when they met again, Ratso offered to share his "place", which turned out to be a room in a condemned building. The two became friends. Ratso shares what he knew about New York with Joe, and became his "manager" (pimp), and Joe shares any money he makes with Ratso. Ratso is sick, probably with tuberculosis, and as time goes on he depends more and more on Joe. Ratso plans to move to Florida before winter starts.

The weather turns cold as the year ended, but Joe and Ratso got a break, when they were invited to a big party. Along with eating (and stashing for later) as much of the food there as they could, Joe meets a socialite who finally treated him the way he had always wanted to be, in New York City, and paid him likewise. Ratso, however, became even more ill, and was unable to walk or stand for long. He refuses to go to a doctor or a hospital, and insists Joe takes him to Florida.

Joe tries to set up another encounter with the socialite, to raise travel money, but failed. He donated blood to get grocery money, and by chance meets a traveling salesman. The salesman invites Joe to spend the night with him, but later feels guilty, and sends Joe home with a St. Christopher medal. When Joe finds Ratso sicker than ever, he returns to beat and rob the salesman, for the money they needed.

Joe and Ratso leaves for Florida on a bus, headed to Miami. Joe buys new clothes for them both, and throws away his cowboy clothing. "I ain't no kinda hustler," Joe decided, and he plans to find a regular job once they reached Florida. Joe and Ratso talk and joke during the trip, but Ratso dies before they arrived. Joe realizes how much he had cared about Ratso as a person, and that what he had missed most in his life was someone to be close with. Joe had lost his grandmother and his sweetheart. Now he had lost his best friend, and Joe is scared to go on alone.

Awards and honors


The movie won Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay. Both Hoffman and Voight were nominated for Best Actor awards and Sylvia Miles was nominated for Best Supporting Actress. Miles had one of the shortest performances ever nominated (clocking in under four minutes of screen-time).

The film won six BAFTA Awards. It was also entered into the 19th Berlin International Film Festival.[2][3]

John Barry, who supervised the music and composed the score for the movie, won a Grammy for Best Instrumental Theme. Fred Neil's song "Everybody's Talkin'" also won a Grammy Award for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, for Harry Nilsson.

In 1994, the movie was picked by the Library of Congress to keep in the United States National Film Registry.


  1. "BBC NEWS - In Depth - Oscars 2000 - Academy Awards A-Z". news.bbc.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-05-25.
  2. "IMDB.com: Awards for Midnight Cowboy". imdb.com. Retrieved 2010-03-07.
  3. "Tri City Herald – Jul 6, 1969". Google News. Retrieved 2010-03-07.[permanent dead link]

Other websites

Preceded by
Academy Award for Best Picture
Succeeded by