A naive Texas gigolo befriends a disabled
bum on the streets of New York City.
Midnight Cowboy (1969)
Directed by John Schlesinger
Written by Waldo Salt
Starring Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles, John McGiver, Bob Balaban, Ruth White, Jennifer Salt, Brenda Vaccaro
Based on the novel by James Leo Herlihy
Oscar Wins - Best Picture, Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay
Oscar Nominations - Best Actor (Dustin Hoffman), Best Actor (Jon Voight), Best Supporting Actress (Sylvia Miles), Best Film Editing
Midnight Cowboy holds a few milestones in the grand scheme of cinema. It remains the only X-rated film to win Best Picture, despite only receiving that rating because of the film's sexual themes. I've seen worse on HBO. Also, it contained a very obvious homosexual scene that angered a lot of moviegoers back in '69. Yet, this film still made it to the Oscars and even took top honors. And it's very good. Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are at the top of their game here, providing honest, real performances of two down and out bums making their way out of New York.
Voight is Joe Buck, a naive Texan who travels to the Big Apple to seek his fortune as a gigolo to rich ladies. Of course, it doesn't work out that way, and Joe ends up broke and homeless. He befriends a bum with a bum leg named Rico "Ratso" Rizzo, who at first tries to swindle Joe, but then tries to help him find his groove. Together, they imagine all sorts of grand plans, none of which ever come to fruition because life just doesn't work that way. Midnight Cowboy is a brutally honest film in the way it depicts a life on the streets. And then, when Joe and Rico finally get on that bus to Miami, Rico succumbs to an ongoing illness and dies. Turns out not only does life suck, it's also pretty unfair most of the time. Who knew?
Midnight Cowboy broke new ground with its depiction of male prostitution in a highly nonglamorous setting. It contains two flawless and timeless performances from two future Oscar winners, and succeeds in painting late 60's New York as a harsh place to live and an even harsher place to seek your fortune. Honestly, not much has changed in that department since.