They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969) - Rotten Tomatoes

They Shoot Horses, Don't They?1969

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? (1969)



Critic Consensus: No consensus yet.

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Photos

Movie Info

A total of nine Academy Award nominations went to this wildly acclaimed, allegorical drama set amongst the contestants in a marathon dance contest during the Great Depression. Gig Young stars as Rocky, the obnoxious emcee for a dance marathon that offers prize money of $1,500, a small fortune during hard economic times that brings out the worst in several participants. Among them are Gloria Beatty (Jane Fonda), a malcontent who's partnered with a drifter, Robert Syverton (Michael Sarrazin); a pregnant farm girl (Bonnie Bedelia) and her husband (Bruce Dern); a sailor (Red Buttons); and an aspiring actress (Susannah York). As the marathon winds into a staggering second month, suspicion, doubt and insecurity rages among the competitors and even the decaying and increasingly manipulative Rocky, leading to a shocking crime.


Jane Fonda
as Gloria
Gig Young
as Rocky
Al Lewis
as Turkey
Madge Kennedy
as Mrs. Layden
Robert Dunlap
as College Boy
Tom McFadden
as Trainer
Kid Chissell
as Trainer
Philo McCullough
as Audience Extra
Joseph Harris
as House Band
Teddy Buckner
as House Band
Hugh Bell
as House Band
Harold Land
as House Band
Teddy Edwards
as House Band
Hadley Coliman
as House Band
Thurman Green
as House Band
Les Robertson
as House Band
Ronnell Bright
as House Band
Ike Isaacs
as House Band
Joe Harris
as House Band
Bobby Hutcherson
as Band Leader
View All

Critic Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

All Critics (33) | Top Critics (5)

The material is simple and irresistible, and Sydney Pollack stages it well (though without transcending the essential superficiality of his talent).

May 26, 2008 | Full Review…

A sordid spectacle of hard times, a kind of existentialist allegory of life.

May 26, 2008 | Full Review…

The acting is strident and overblown, the narrative technique gimmicky and obvious, and the implication that the competitors' situation is a microcosm of a wider-reaching American malaise rather pretentious.

June 24, 2006 | Full Review…
Top Critic

The movie is by far the best thing that Pollack has ever directed (with the possible exception of The Scalphunters).

May 20, 2003 | Rating: 4/5

Bleak but exquisitely fashioned.

March 10, 2003 | Full Review…

What has happened to Hollywood cinema that it seems impossible that a movie like this could be produced today? Spoiler: Hollywood infantilism.

November 10, 2021 | Rating: 3.5/4

Audience Reviews for They Shoot Horses, Don't They?

A dance hall requires poor drifters and lost Depression-era souls to keep dancing for prize money. This film shouldn't work: set almost entirely in one location with the main characters fatigued to the point of almost passing out, the film's pace could slow to a standstill, much like the "dancing" we see by the end of the film. But it does work, thanks to the fantastic performances by Jane Fonda and Michael Sarrazin. Gig Young adds some energy to the film as one of the few conscious characters. The film is about the Depression, but it's more about class issues. Watching poor people dance to their deaths, the rich are shown getting pleasure out of others' misery, benefitting from the society that deems them superior. Overall, with everything against it, They Shoot Horses, Don't They? nevertheless delivers.

Jim Hunter
Jim Hunter

Super Reviewer

extremely well acted but profoundly depressing

jay nixon
jay nixon

Super Reviewer

In Depression era down-and-out Los Angeles a dance marathon on Santa Monica pier affords the opportunity to look in on the various lives involved. Overdone, yes, okay, but still moving as the cast embraces the cut out characters presented. Sarrazin, York, et al deliver the goods, but the picture belongs to Henry's little girl who manages to do Daddy proud. Gig Young as the ringmaster is nothing short of phenomenal.

Kevin M. Williams
Kevin M. Williams

Super Reviewer

They Shoot Horses, Don't They? Quotes

News & Features