Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Directed by Stuart Rosenberg

When petty criminal Luke Jackson is sentenced to two years in a Florida prison farm, he doesn't play by the rules of either the sadistic warden or the yard's resident heavy, Dragline, who ends up admiring the new guy's unbreakable will. Luke's bravado, even in the face of repeated stints in the prison's dreaded solitary confinement cell, "the box," make him a rebel hero to his fellow convicts and a thorn in the side of the prison officers.

Cool Hand Luke’s parable about a soldier who suffers terribly upon his return from Europe anticipates the upcoming cycle of key American movies about damaged veterans—from Hearts and Minds and Taxi Driver to The Deer Hunter and Cutter’s Way—while suggesting that certain American values weren’t holding up under scrutiny. A failure to communicate, yes, but what the Captain is trying to say isn’t worth hearing.

Adam Nayman (The Ringer)


[The] ominously drawled warning of “What we’ve got here is failure to communicate” became a sort of sinister catchphrase—a euphemism suggesting progressive rhetoric wrapped around authoritarian brutality like barbed wire. It’s less that Martin’s character is worried about being understood than that he doesn’t want his charges to talk back.

Adam Nayman (The Ringer)