The Defiant Ones (1958) - Rotten Tomatoes

The Defiant Ones1958

The Defiant Ones (1958)



Critic Consensus: An advocacy drama that makes its points without belaboring them, The Defiant Ones relies on its clever concept and brilliant performances to repudiate racial prejudice.

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Movie Info

Convicts Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier escape from a chain gang. Curtis' character, John "Joker" Jackson, hates blacks, while Poitier's character, Noah Cullen, hates whites. However, the men are manacled together, forced to rely on each other to survive. Captured at one point by a lynch-happy mob, the convicts are rescued by Big Sam (Lon Chaney Jr.), himself a former convict. The men are later sheltered by a lonely, love-hungry widow played by Cara Williams, who offers to turn in Cullen if Joker will stay with her. By the time the two men are within hailing distance of a train that might take them to freedom, they have become friends. The script for The Defiant Ones is credited to Harold Jacob Smith and Nathan E. Douglas. The latter was really Nedrick Young, a blacklisted writer, whom producer Stanley Kramer hired knowing full well that Young was using an alias (when "Douglas"' credit appears onscreen, it is superimposed over a close-up of a truck driver -- played by Nedrick Young). Both the script and the photography by Sam Leavitt won Academy Awards. If you look closely, you'll notice that the actor playing Angus is former Little Rascal Carl "Alfalfa" Switzer, making his last screen appearance. The Defiant Ones was remade for TV in 1986, with Robert Urich and Carl Weathers in the leads.

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Tony Curtis
as John Jackson
Sidney Poitier
as Noah Cullen
Theodore Bikel
as Sheriff Max Muller
Cara Williams
as The Woman
Charles McGraw
as Capt. Frank Gibbons
Whit Bissell
as Lou Gans
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Critic Reviews for The Defiant Ones

All Critics (53) | Top Critics (21)

Its message is absorbingly wrapped however, in elements of acute suspense and blood raw action that should excite even those who deplore the integration of sobering thought and fiction in their movie entertainment.

January 29, 2021 | Full Review…

The Defiant Ones is a film no one with mind or heart is likely to forget in a long, long time.

January 29, 2021 | Full Review…

This Stanley Kramer messageathon plays better as a high-concept thriller than a statement about race relations or the human condition.

January 29, 2021 | Rating: 3/5 | Full Review…

Credit goes to producer, director and writers for a picture which combines a strong social document with about as much excitement and suspense as you could ask for.

January 29, 2021 | Full Review…

Stanley Kramer, who has been responsible for some of Hollywood's greater motion pictures, has a little masterpiece in The Defiant Ones.

January 29, 2021 | Full Review…

Stanley Kramer, his superb stars, featured players and the rest have put on record a powerful, tender definition of brotherhood.

January 29, 2021 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Defiant Ones


A morality tale w/o a lot a finesse, this late 50's era story literally chains together two opposing views and lets them play out against each other while on the run from "The Man". The saving grace is the performance of the leads who lend some small humanity and believability to the rote and didactic "educational" format, which often lacks even continuity. Still, a historical American experience on film.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer


Everyone should have a life-changing event like this. Consider a pre-civil rights era when blacks and whites were supposed to hate each other. This pair are shackled to each other for days and have no choice but to depend on each other for either one of you to survive. It is worth seeing.

Red Lats
Red Lats

Super Reviewer


Amazing black and white cinematography.

Ken Stachnik
Ken Stachnik

Super Reviewer

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