White Lightning (1973 film)

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White Lightning
White Lightning 1973.jpg
Theatrical release poster by Tom Jung
Directed by Joseph Sargent
Produced by Arthur Gardner
Jules V. Levy
Written by William W. Norton
Starring Burt Reynolds
Ned Beatty
Bo Hopkins
Music by Charles Bernstein
Cinematography Edward Rosson
Edited by George Nicholson
Distributed by United Artists
Release dates
  • August 8, 1973 (1973-08-08)
Running time
101 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Box office $5,000,000 (US/ Canada rentals)[1]

White Lightning is a 1973 American action film from United Artists starring Burt Reynolds as Gator McKlusky.[2] The film, directed by Joseph Sargent and written by William W. Norton, also starred Jennifer Billingsley, Ned Beatty, Bo Hopkins, R.G. Armstrong, and Diane Ladd. It was also the uncredited film debut of six-year-old Laura Dern.

A sequel, Gator, was released in 1976.


Bobby "Gator" McKlusky (Burt Reynolds) is serving time in an Arkansas prison for running moonshine when he learns his younger brother Donny was murdered and that Sheriff J.C Conners (Ned Beatty) was the one behind it. Gator knows the sheriff is taking money from local moonshiners, so he agrees to go undercover for the Feds and try to expose the sheriff. He gets a job running moonshine with Roy Boone (Bo Hopkins) and starts having an affair with his girlfriend Lou (Jennifer Billingsley). Eventually, when the sheriff discovers Gator is working for the Feds and sends his enforcer Big Bear (Armstrong), Gator decides to go after the sheriff in an epic car chase finale.



The film's music was written by A Nightmare on Elm Street's Charles Bernstein. Some of this score was also used by Quentin Tarantino in his 2003 film Kill Bill Vol. 1 and his 2009 film Inglourious Basterds. Bernstein's score was released by Intrada Records in May 2010.

On the TV series Archer, the movie and its sequel are favorites of the title character, Sterling Archer, though he believes Gator to be the stronger installment. He gets the movies easily crossed, though, as he believes several key scenes from White Lightning to be in the sequel.


  1. ^ "Big Rental Films of 1973", Variety, 9 January 1974 p 19
  2. ^ Variety. film review; June 6, 1973.

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