The Last Picture Show

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The Last Picture Show
Theatrical release poster by Richard Amsel
Directed byPeter Bogdanovich
Screenplay byLarry McMurtry
Peter Bogdanovich
Based onThe Last Picture Show
by Larry McMurtry
Produced byStephen J. Friedman
CinematographyRobert Surtees
Edited byDonn Cambern
Peter Bogdanovich
Color processBlack and white
Distributed byColumbia Pictures
Release date
  • October 22, 1971 (1971-10-22)
Running time
118 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1.3 million
Box office$29.1 million[1]

The Last Picture Show is a 1971 American coming-of-age drama film directed and co-written by Peter Bogdanovich, adapted from the semi-autobiographical 1966 novel The Last Picture Show by Larry McMurtry. The film's ensemble cast includes Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, and Cybill Shepherd. Set in a small town in northern Texas from November 1951 to October 1952, it is a story of two high-school seniors and long-time friends, Sonny Crawford (Bottoms) and Duane Jackson (Bridges).

The Last Picture Show was theatrically released on October 22, 1971, by Columbia Pictures. It was a critical and commercial success, grossing $29 million on a $1.3 million budget, and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Supporting Actor for Johnson and Bridges, and Best Supporting Actress for Burstyn and Leachman, with Johnson and Leachman winning.

Bogdanovich directed a 1990 sequel, Texasville, based on McMurtry's 1987 novel of the same name and featuring much of the original film's cast reprising their roles; Texasville failed to match the critical or commercial success of its predecessor. In 1998, the Library of Congress selected The Last Picture Show for preservation in the United States National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically or aesthetically significant."[2][3]


In 1951, Sonny Crawford and Duane Jackson are high-school seniors and friends in tiny Thalia, a declining oil town in northern Texas. Duane is dating Jacy Farrow, the richest and prettiest girl in town. Sonny breaks up with his girlfriend Charlene Duggs. He is secretly in love with Jacy.

At a Christmas dance, Jacy is invited by Lester Marlow to a skinny-dipping party at the home of Bobby Sheen, a wealthy young man who seems to be a better prospect than Duane. At the same dance, Sonny kisses Ruth Popper, the depressed middle-aged wife of his high-school coach. Jacy lies to Duane and ends up going to the skinny-dipping party, doing a striptease on top of the diving board. Bobby later makes an advance on her, but then says he will not have sex with girls who are still virgins.

A group of boys including Duane and Sonny take their young, mentally disabled friend, Billy, to a prostitute to lose his virginity. The woman complains heavily, and when Billy leaves the car, his nose is bleeding. When the group takes Billy back home, local businessman Sam "The Lion" is angered by the group’s treatment of Billy. They try to explain their actions, but Sam forbids the group from entering any of his businesses, the only entertainment sources of Anarene: the pool hall, the movie theater, and the café. Later, Sam notices that Sonny actually takes good care of Billy and accepts Sonny back into the cafeteria for a cheeseburger.

During the weekend of New Year's Eve, Duane and Sonny go on a road trip to Mexico. Before they drive off, Sam wistfully wishes he still had the stamina to join them and gives them some extra money so they can enjoy themselves. The boys return two days later, hung over and tired, and learn that Sam has died suddenly of a stroke. Sam’s will left the movie theater to the lady who ran the concession stand, the café to Genevieve, $1,000 to the preacher's son Joe Bob Blanton, and the pool hall to Sonny.

Jacy finally invites Duane to a motel room to have sex, because she wants Bobby to accept her into his libertine circle, but Duane is unable to get an erection. She gets angry at Duane but they try again. She then breaks up with Duane by telephone. Soon after, Jacy learns that Bobby has already married another girl. Out of boredom and a sense of rejection, Jacy has sex with Abilene, a roughneck foreman who works for her father and is also her mother's lover. After the act, Abilene leaves Jacy at home and is brutally cold towards her. After entering the house, Jacy is caught by her mother Lois and starts crying. They both complain about the brutality of men and mention how nice Jacy's father Gene is.

Still sad and angry because of the breakup, Duane leaves town and starts working as a roughneck on an oil well in Odessa, a town in Texas just far away enough to not conveniently return home on a whim. Jacy then sets her sights on Sonny, who drops Ruth without a word and starts dreaming of marrying his true love. Duane returns home on leave, driving a brand-new Mercury, but quarrels and has a scuffle with Sonny over Jacy, smashing a beer bottle into Sonny's left eyebrow as the friends fall fighting in the street. The fracas is broken up by the locals and Sonny is hospitalized. During Sonny’s recovery, Ruth tries to visit him, but he pretends to be asleep.

Jacy suggests to Sonny that they should run away to get married in Oklahoma. While they are driving to their honeymoon in Lake Texacoma, Jacy reveals that she left a note to her parents explaining the entire plan. They are soon stopped by an Oklahoma state trooper who takes them to the nearest police station where the Farrows await. Gene dismisses Sonny completely, taking Jacy home in his car. Sonny rides back with Lois and, after arriving home, Lois reveals that Sam the Lion was her one true love when she was young, confirming a story that Sam had told the boys while on a previous fishing trip. Lois tells Sonny that he would be much better off with Ruth than with Jacy. The marriage is annulled and a short time passes.

On Duane's last night of leave, Sonny goes to Duane's house for a last chance of reconciliation. The two friends make amends and Sonny reveals that Jacy went to college in Dallas and never returned to Anarene. They go to the movies because the theater is going to close due to lack of customers. The new owner blames television and her own lack of business acumen for the closing. The last picture show is the John Wayne Western Red River, set in Texas.

The next morning, Sonny sees Duane off on the bus. Duane gives Sonny the keys to his Mercury and asks Sonny to take care of the car for him after Sonny reveals that he and Jacy "never made it to the motel." Sonny opens the pool hall when he hears a truck braking in the street nearby. The truck has killed Billy. Sonny sees Billy's broom in the middle of the street and some people stopping their cars. He approaches the local townsmen surrounding Billy's corpse; they blame the dead boy for being stupid and careless. Sonny berates the men for their behavior and carefully carries Billy's body to the top of a staircase, covering Billy’s face with Sonny’s letterman jacket.

Angry and depressed with his current life, Sonny hops on his old battered truck and drives to the city limits. But he slowly changes his mind and drives back, parking his truck near Ruth's home and asking her if she could have a cup of coffee with him. She looks depressed and has shuttered herself in her house. After Ruth explodes in hurt and anger, breaking the coffee cup, she notices that Sonny is completely devastated. She demands that he look at her. He does and gently touches her hand. Still spent, she seems to forget her anger, takes pity on the boy, and starts to comfort him.



Going into The Last Picture Show Peter Bogdanovich was a 31-year-old stage actor, film essayist, and critic. Bogdanovich had directed one film, Targets (also known as Before I Die), working with his wife and collaborator, Polly Platt. As Bogdanovich later explained to The Hollywood Reporter, while waiting in a cashier's line in a drugstore, he happened to look at the rack of paperbacks and his eye fell on an interesting title, The Last Picture Show. The back of the book said it was about "kids growing up in Texas" and Bogdanovich decided that it did not interest him and put it back. A few weeks later, actor Sal Mineo handed Platt a copy of the book.[4] "I always wanted to be in this", he said, "but I'm a little too old now", said Mineo, who recommended that Platt and Bogdanovich make it into a film.[4] According to Bogdanovich, Platt said, "I don't know how you make it into a picture, but it's a good book."[5] Bogdanovich, McMurtry, and Platt adapted the novel into the film of the same name.[6]

Stephen Friedman was a lawyer with Columbia Pictures but keen to break into film production as he had bought the film rights to the book, so Bogdanovich hired him as producer.[7]

After discussing the proposed film with Orson Welles, his houseguest at the time, Bogdanovich agreed with him that shooting the film in black and white would work aesthetically, which by then was an unusual choice.[5]

The film was shot in Larry McMurtry's small hometown of Archer City located in north-central Texas near the Oklahoma state line. McMurtry had renamed the town Thalia in his book; Bogdanovich dubbed it Anarene (for a ghost town eight miles (13 km) south of Archer City). The similarity to famed cowtown Abilene, Kansas, in Howard Hawks' Red River (1948) was intentional.[8] Red River again is tied in as "the last picture show", which Sonny and Duane watch at the end of the film.[9]

After shooting wrapped, Bogdanovich went back to Los Angeles to edit the film footage on a Moviola. Bogdanovich has said that he edited the entire film himself but refused to credit himself as editor, reasoning that director and co-writer were enough.[5] When informed that the Motion Picture Editors Guild required an editor credit, he suggested Donn Cambern, who had been editing another film, Drive, He Said (1971), in the next office and had helped Bogdanovich with some purchasing paperwork concerning the film's opticals.[5] Cambern disputes this, stating that Bogdanovich did do an edit of the film, which he screened for a selection of guests, including Jack Nicholson, Bob Rafelson and himself.[who?] The consensus was the film was going to be great, but needed further editing to achieve its full potential. Cambern claims Bogdanovich invited him to do so, during which he made significant contributions to the film's final form.

Bogdanovich obtained a rare waiver from the Directors Guild of America to have his name appear only at the end of the film, after the actors' credits, as he felt it was more meaningful for the audience to see their names after their performances.[10][11][who?]


The film features entirely diegetic music, including many songs of Hank Williams Sr. and other country and western and 1950s popular music recording artists.

Reception and legacy[edit]

Box office[edit]

The film earned $13.1 million in domestic rentals in North America.[12]

Critical reception[edit]

Chicago Sun-Times critic Roger Ebert gave the film four out of four stars in his original review and named it the best film of 1971. He later added it to his "Great Movies" list, writing that "the film is above all an evocation of mood. It is about a town with no reason to exist, and people with no reason to live there. The only hope is in transgression."[13] Vincent Canby of The New York Times called it a "lovely film" that "rediscovers a time, a place, a film form—and a small but important part of the American experience."[14] Gene Siskel of the Chicago Tribune gave the film four stars out of four and wrote, "Like few films in recent years, Peter Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show ends with us wanting to see more of the people who occupy the small town world that is Anarene, Tex. in 1951. This emotion is not easily achieved. It is a result of a thoro [sic] Peyton Place investigation into Anarene's bedrooms, parked cars, football games, movie theater, restaurant, and pool hall."[15] Charles Champlin of the Los Angeles Times called the film "the most considered, craftsmanlike and elaborate tribute we have yet had to what the movies were and how they figured in our lives."[16] Gary Arnold of The Washington Post called it "an exceedingly well-made and involving narrative film with decent aims, encouraging us to understand and care about its characters, though not to emulate them."[17]

As of October 2023, review aggregation website Rotten Tomatoes displays an approval rating of 98% based on 114 reviews, with an average rating of 9/10. The site's critics consensus reads: "Making excellent use of its period and setting, Peter Bogdanovich's small town coming-of-age story is a sad but moving classic filled with impressive performances."[18] According to Metacritic, which assigned a weighted average score of 93 out of 100 based on 15 critics, the film received "universal acclaim".[19]

The film and its poster are refenced in the title of the 1975 album The Last Record Album by American rock band Little Feat and in the cover illustration by Neon Park.

Awards and nominations[edit]

Award Category Nominee(s) Result
Academy Awards[20] Best Picture Stephen J. Friedman Nominated
Best Director Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Jeff Bridges Nominated
Ben Johnson Won
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Nominated
Cloris Leachman Won
Best Screenplay – Based on Material from Another Medium Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Best Cinematography Robert Surtees Nominated
British Academy Film Awards[21] Best Film Nominated
Best Direction Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Best Actor in a Supporting Role Ben Johnson Won
Best Actress in a Supporting Role Eileen Brennan Nominated
Cloris Leachman Won
Best Screenplay Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich Won[a]
Directors Guild of America Awards[22] Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Motion Pictures Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Golden Globe Awards[23] Best Motion Picture – Drama Nominated
Best Director – Motion Picture Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Best Supporting Actor – Motion Picture Ben Johnson Won
Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture Ellen Burstyn Nominated
Cloris Leachman Nominated
New Star of the Year – Actress Cybill Shepherd Nominated
Kansas City Film Critics Circle Awards Best Supporting Actress Cloris Leachman Won
Kinema Junpo Awards Best Foreign Language Film Peter Bogdanovich Won
National Board of Review Awards[24] Top 10 Films 5th Place
Best Supporting Actor Ben Johnson Won
Best Supporting Actress Cloris Leachman Won
National Film Preservation Board[25] National Film Registry Inducted
National Society of Film Critics Awards[26] Best Supporting Actor Ben Johnson Nominated
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Won
Cloris Leachman Nominated
New York Film Critics Circle Awards[27] Best Film Nominated
Best Director Peter Bogdanovich Nominated
Best Supporting Actor Ben Johnson Won
Best Supporting Actress Ellen Burstyn Won
Cloris Leachman Runner-up
Best Screenplay Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich Won[b]
Online Film & Television Association Awards[28] Best Motion Picture Won
São Paulo Association of Art Critics Awards Best Foreign Film Peter Bogdanovich Won
Texas Film Awards Frontier Award Cybill Shepherd Won
Writers Guild of America Awards Best Drama Adapted from Another Medium Larry McMurtry and Peter Bogdanovich Nominated

It ranked No. 19 on Entertainment Weekly's list of the 50 Best High School Movies.[29] In 2007, the film was ranked No. 95 on the American Film Institute's 10th Anniversary Edition of the 100 greatest American films of all time.[30]

In April 2011, The Last Picture Show was re-released in UK and Irish cinemas, distributed by Park Circus. Total Film magazine gave the film a five-star review, stating: "Peter Bogdanovich's desolate Texan drama is still as stunning now as it was in 1971."[31]

Home media[edit]

The film was released by The Criterion Collection in November 2010 as part of its box set America Lost and Found: The BBS Story. It included a high-definition digital transfer of Peter Bogdanovich's director's cut, two audio commentaries, one from 1991, featuring Bogdanovich and actors Cybill Shepherd, Randy Quaid, Cloris Leachman, and Frank Marshall; the other from 2009, featuring Bogdanovich "The Last Picture Show": A Look Back, (1999) and Picture This (1990), documentaries about the making of the film, A Discussion with Filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich, a 2009 Q&A, screen tests and location footage, and excerpts from a 1972 television interview with director François Truffaut about the New Hollywood.[32]

Director's cut[edit]

Bogdanovich re-edited the film in 1992 to create a "director's cut". This version restores seven minutes of footage that Bogdanovich trimmed from the 1971 release because Columbia had imposed a firm 119-minute limit.[5][clarification needed] With this requirement removed in the 1990s, Bogdanovich used the 127-minute cut on laserdisc, VHS and DVD releases.[33] The original 1971 cut was never released on DVD or blu-ray for years, though it was released on VHS and laserdisc through Columbia Tristar Home Video. The 4K UHD release however, has the theatrical cut along with the more known director's cut. It's included as a part of Sony's Columbia Classics 4K Volume 3 set.[34]

There are two substantial scenes restored in the director's cut. The first is a sex scene between Jacy and Abilene that plays in the poolhall after it has closed for the night; it precedes the exterior scene where he drops her off home and she says "What a night. I never thought this would happen." The other major insertion is a scene that plays in Sam's café, where Genevieve watches while an amiable Sonny and a revved-up Duane decide to take their road trip to Mexico; it precedes the exterior scene outside the pool hall when they tell Sam of their plans, the last time they will ever see him.

Several shorter scenes were also restored. One comes between basketball practice in the gym and the exterior at The Rig-Wam drive-in; it has Jacy, Duane and Sonny riding along in her convertible (and being chased by an enthusiastic little dog), singing an uptempo rendition of the more solemn school song sung later at the football game. Another finds Sonny cruising the town streets in the pick-up, gazing longingly into Sam's poolhall, café and theater, from which he has been banished. Finally, there is an exterior scene of the auto caravan on its way to the Senior Picnic; as it passes the fishing tank where he had fished with Sam and Billy, Sonny sheds a tear for his departed friend and his lost youth.

Two scenes got slightly longer treatments: Ruth's and Sonny's return from the doctor, and the boys' returning Billy to Sam after his encounter with Jemmie Sue—both had added dialogue. Also, a number of individual shots were put back in, most notably a Gregg Toland-style deep focus shot in front of the Royal Theatre as everyone gets in their cars.[5]


Texasville, the 1990 sequel to The Last Picture Show, based on McMurtry's 1987 novel of the same name, was also directed by Bogdanovich, from his own screenplay, without McMurtry this time. The film reunites actors Jeff Bridges, Cybill Shepherd, Timothy Bottoms, Cloris Leachman, Eileen Brennan, Randy Quaid, Sharon Ullrick (née Taggart) and Barc Doyle.



  1. ^ "The Last Picture Show, Box Office Information". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved January 30, 2012.
  2. ^ "Hooray for Hollywood (December 1998) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin". Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  3. ^ "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress. Retrieved November 19, 2020.
  4. ^ a b "Peter Bogdanovich: 'The Last Picture Show'". It Happened in Hollywood (Podcast). The Hollywood Reporter. January 25, 2020. Retrieved June 7, 2023.
  5. ^ a b c d e f Peter Bogdanovich (2001) The Last Picture Show: A Look Back [DVD]
  6. ^ Young, Neil (14 December 2002). The Last Picture Show Jigsaw Lounge
  7. ^ "Stephen J. Friedman". Kings Road Entertainment. Archived from the original on May 2, 2009.
  8. ^ Dirks, Tim. "Filmsite Movie Review: The Last Picture Show".
  9. ^ French, Philip (October 27, 2013). "Red River". The Guardian. eISSN 1756-3224. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved January 29, 2021.
  10. ^ Young, Paul (January 4, 1994). "Credit 'Kane' With Another Film Trend". Daily Variety. p. 24.
  11. ^ The Last Picture Show at the American Film Institute Catalog
  12. ^ "All-time Film Rental Champs". Variety. January 7, 1976. p. 20.
  13. ^ Ebert, Roger (July 4, 2004). "Great Movie Reviews - The Last Picture Show". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved February 25, 2016 – via
  14. ^ Canby, Vincent (October 17, 1971). "A Lovely 'Last Picture Show'". The New York Times. D1.
  15. ^ Siskel, Gene (December 21, 1971). "'Last Picture Show'". Chicago Tribune. Section 2, p. 13.
  16. ^ Champlin, Charles (November 14, 1971). "Movies Were Better Than Ever in 'Picture'". Los Angeles Times. Calendar, p. 1.
  17. ^ Arnold, Gary (December 25, 1971). "The Last Picture Show". The Washington Post. D1.
  18. ^ The Last Picture Show at Rotten Tomatoes
  19. ^ "The Last Picture Show Reviews". Metacritic. Fandom, Inc. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
  20. ^ "1972 Academy Awards". Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  21. ^ "Film in 1973 | BAFTA Awards". Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  22. ^ "Awards / History / 1971". Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  23. ^ "Last Picture Show, The". Golden Globes. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  24. ^ "1971 Archives". National Board of Review. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  25. ^ "'Easy Rider' now listed on National Film Registry". November 17, 1998. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  26. ^ Thompson, Howard (December 30, 1971). "'Claire's Knee,' Jane Fonda and Finch Picked by National Critics". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  27. ^ Weiler, A. H. (December 29, 1971). "'Clockwork Orange' Wins Critics' Prize". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  28. ^ "Film Hall of Fame: Productions". Online Film & Television Association. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  29. ^ "50 best high school movies". August 28, 2015. Archived from the original on September 5, 2008.
  30. ^ "AFI's 100 Years…100 Movies — 10th Anniversary Edition". American Film Institute. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  31. ^ Kemp, Philip (March 31, 2011). "The Last Picture Show Review". Total Film. Archived from the original on April 2, 2011. Retrieved April 5, 2011.
  32. ^ "The Last Picture Show". The Criterion Collection.
  33. ^ Saltzman, Barbara (August 12, 1991). "Bogdanovich's 'Last Picture Show' as He Intended It : The director has added and re-edited scenes to deliver the film he wanted in 1971. He also explains many of its technical and artistic components". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 8, 2024.
  34. ^ "The Last Picture Show 4K Blu-ray". Retrieved November 2, 2022.

External links[edit]