Midnight Cowboy


Movie: Midnight Cowboy

Release Date: May 25, 1969

Director: John Schlesinger

Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Brenda Vaccaro, John McGiver, Ruth White, Sylvia Miles, Barnard Hughes

Personal History: Watched Before

Rating: 8 Oscars out of 10

‘Midnight Cowboy’ is the only movie in the history of Hollywood to be rated ‘X’ and win the Best Picture Oscar. Of course that ‘X’ rating in 2023 would probably be an ‘NC-17’ or ‘R,’ but still, released in 1969, the film was quite controversial. Covering a vast amount of adult themes like prostitution, homosexuality and rape, the film was definitely ahead of its time, at least for what was allowed to be seen on the big screen. It was that ‘X’ rating that first drew me to the film.

As already mentioned, ‘Midnight Cowboy’ won the Best Picture at the 42nd Academy Award ceremony. It was nominated for a total of seven Oscars, winning three. It was also both a commercial and critical success. I don’t recall the exact first time I saw the movie, but it was one that I wanted to watch simply because of that controversial rating. By the time I had watched it, probably in the early 1980’s on HBO, the film may have been re-rated as ‘R,’ but the story of its ‘X’ rating was well known. Even as a young kid, I knew about it and of course wanted to see it.

So ‘Midnight Cowboy’ was my first ‘X’ rated movie. At the time (I will venture a guess that I was thirteen), even though I was intrigued by its frank elements, I didn’t understand what the whole hubbub was about. X-rated? I was expecting a lot more nudity and sexual content. I remember thinking I don’t really need to see any of “those” movies again. It wasn’t until later in college did I see my first real ‘X’ movie. Then I knew I would be seeing a lot more of those movies.

Sometime around the viewing of my first “porn,” I revisited ‘Midnight Cowboy.’ A little bit older and a little bit wiser, I could see the themes of the movie are what really triggered the film’s initial rating. At this viewing I was more taken in by the story and characters and less focused on seeing any naked body parts. As a student of acting, I was riveted by the performances of the two leads. One aspect that keeps bring me back to this film every so often.

Dustin Hoffman and Jon Voight are both quite remarkable in their perspective roles. Their performances are so nuanced in every scene and each of them seem to get completely lost in these characters. They each have their moments of humor and heartbreak and every scope in between which are handled impeccably. The story is quite raw and gritty and is not necessarily a “feel good” movie, but both actors give me something more with each viewing and make it hard for me to turn away.

‘Midnight Cowboy’ is considered a classic for many reasons. For me, it’s a movie that both entertains as well as reiterates why I love movies and acting so much. Even if a movie is not “perfect,” a performance or two can really carry a movie for me. And that is the case with ‘Midnight Cowboy.’ Iconic performances and iconic lines (“I’m walking here”) make this a must see for every cinema fan.

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