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For other uses, see Brubaker (disambiguation).
Brubaker movie poster.jpg
Theatrical poster
Directed by Stuart Rosenberg
Produced by Ron Silverman
Ted Mann (executive)
Screenplay by W. D. Richter
Story by W. D. Richter
Arthur Ross
Based on book by
Tom Murton
Joe Hyams
Starring Robert Redford
Yaphet Kotto
Jane Alexander
Morgan Freeman
Music by Lalo Schifrin
Cinematography Bruno Nuytten
Edited by Robert Brown
Distributed by 20th Century Fox
Release dates
  • June 20, 1980 (1980-06-20)
Running time 132 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $9 million[1]
Box office $37,121,708[2]

Brubaker is a 1980 American prison drama film directed by Stuart Rosenberg about a prisoner in distress and the Warden Henry Brubaker (Robert Redford) who attempts to reform the system. The screenplay by W.D. Richter is a fictionalized version of the 1969 book, Accomplices to the Crime: The Arkansas Prison Scandal by Tom Murton and Joe Hyams, detailing Murton's uncovering of the 1967 scandal. The film boasts a large supporting cast of stars including Yaphet Kotto, Tim McIntire, Nathan George, David Keith, Everett McGill, Murray Hamilton, Matt Clark, M. Emmet Walsh and Jane Alexander, with an early appearance by Morgan Freeman. Rosenberg replaced Bob Rafelson, who was removed as director early in production. This would become his second major film picturing prison life, after Cool Hand Luke.


Set in 1969 in the state of Arkansas, a mysterious man (Robert Redford) arrives at the fictional Wakefield State Prison as an inmate and witnesses rampant abuse and corruption, including open and endemic sexual assault, torture, worm-ridden diseased food, insurance fraud and a doctor charging inmates for care, amongst other things. During a dramatic standoff, he reveals himself to be the new prison warden, Henry Brubaker, to the amazement of both prisoners and officials alike.

With ideals and vision, he attempts to reform the prison, with an eye towards prisoner rehabilitation and human rights. He recruits several long-time prisoners, including trustees Larry Lee Bullen (David Keith) and Richard "Dickie" Coombes (Yaphet Kotto), to assist him with the reform. Their combined efforts slowly improve the prison conditions, but his stance inflames several corrupt officials on the prison board who have profited from graft for decades. When he discovers multiple unmarked graves of prisoners on the property, he attempts to unravel the mystery, leading to political scandal. When a trustee realizes that he might be held accountable for killing another inmate, he decides to make a run for it. The resulting gunfight, in which Bullen is killed, proves to be the final ammunition that the prison board (acting with the tacit approval of the governor) needs to fire Brubaker.

A statement before the credits explains that two years after Brubaker was fired, twenty-four inmates, led by Coombes, sued the prison. The court ruled that the treatment of the prisoners was unconstitutional and the prison system was ultimately reformed. Meanwhile, the governor was not re-elected.

The movie is based on the real-life experiences of Thomas Murton, author of the novel upon which the movie is based and one-time warden in the Arkansas state prison system.[3][4][5] Much of the squalid conditions, violence and corruption depicted in the film was the subject of a 1970 federal court case, Holt v. Sarver, in which the federal court ruled that Arkansas' prison system violated inmates' constitutional rights, and ordered reform.


It was filmed in central Ohio, primarily at the then-recently closed Junction City Prison in Junction City, southeast of Columbus.[6] Additional locations included Bremen, New Lexington, and the Fairfield County Fairgrounds in Lancaster. The opening scenes of the prison bus departure show the skyline and a view up South Front Street in Columbus.

Cast and characters[edit]


Brubaker was a critical and commercial success. Produced on a budget of $9 million, the film grossed $37,121,708[2] in North America, earning $19.3 million in theatrical rentals,[7] making it the 19th highest grossing film of 1980.[8] The movie was also well received by critics,[4] holding a 75% "Fresh" rating on the review aggregate website Rotten Tomatoes.[9]

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times said, "...The movie (refuses) to permit its characters more human dimensions. We want to know these people better, but the screenplay throws up a wall; they act according to the ideological positions assigned to them in the screenplay, and that's that. ... Half of Redford's speeches could have come out of newspaper editorials, but we never find out much about him, What's his background? Was he ever married? Is this his first prison job? What's his relationship with the Jane Alexander character, who seems to have gotten him this job? (Alexander has one almost subliminal moment when she fans her neck and looks at Redford and, seems to be thinking unpolitical thoughts, but the movie hurries on.) Brubaker is a well-crafted film that does a harrowingly effective job of portraying the details of its prison, but then it populates it with positions rather than people."[10]




See also[edit]


  1. ^ Box Office Information for Brubaker. The Wrap. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  2. ^ a b Box Office Information for Brubaker. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  3. ^ Streelman, Ben (July 6, 1980). "Redfords 'Brubaker' gets a bitter look at a Southern prison". Wilmington (NC) Star-News. p. 13-B. 
  4. ^ a b Canby, Vincent (June 20, 1980). ""Brubaker" stars Redford as jail reformer". New York Times. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  5. ^ Hall, Sarah Moore (July 21, 1980). "Redford Plays Him Like a Hero, but the Real 'Brubaker' Can't Get a Prison Job". People. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 
  6. ^ Paseman, Lloyd (July 6, 1980). "Latest Redford film belongs in 'solitary'". Eugene Register-Guard. p. 3B. 
  7. ^ Solomon, Aubrey. Twentieth Century Fox: A Corporate and Financial History (The Scarecrow Filmmakers Series). Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-8108-4244-1. p234. Please note figures are rentals accruing to distributors and not total gross.
  8. ^ 1980 Domestic Grosses. Box Office Mojo. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  9. ^ Brubaker, Movie Reviews. Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved April 4, 2013.
  10. ^ Ebert, Roger (June 23, 1980). "Brubaker". Roger movie review. Retrieved December 11, 2013. 

External links[edit]