Skip to main content
Midnight Cowboy Movie Poster
Plot, Details & Awards

Midnight Cowboy

R In Theaters 05/25/1969 , 113min.
Share this movie on

Plot & Details

Based on a James Leo Herlihy novel, British director John Schlesinger's first American film dramatized the small hopes, dashed dreams, and unlikely friendship of two late '60s lost souls. Dreaming of an easy life as a fantasy cowboy stud, cheerful Texas rube Joe Buck (Jon Voight) heads to New York City to be a gigolo, but he quickly discovers that hustling isn't what he thought it would be after he winds up paying his first trick (Sylvia Miles). He gets swindled by gimpy tubercular grifter Rico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) but, when Joe falls in the direst of straits, Ratso takes Joe into his condemned apartment so that they can help each other survive. Things start to look up when Joe finally lands his first legit female customer (Brenda Vaccaro) at a Warhol-esque party; Ratso's health, however, fails. Joe turns a final trick to get the money for one selfless goal: taking Ratso out of New York to his dream life in Miami. One of the first major studio films given the newly minted X rating for its then-frank portrayal of New York decadence, Midnight Cowboy was critically praised for Schlesinger's insight into American lives, with the intercut mosaic of Joe's memories and Ratso's dreams lending their characters and actions greater psychological complexity. While they may have been drawn by the seamy content (tame by current standards), the young late '60s audience responded to Joe's and Ratso's confusion amidst turbulent times and to the connection they make with each other despite their alienation from the surrounding culture. Midnight Cowboy became one of the major financial and artistic hits of 1969, winning Oscars for Best Picture (the first for an X-rated film), Best Director, and former blacklistee Waldo Salt's screenplay. Though the one-two punch of Midnight Cowboy and The Graduate (1967) proved Hoffman's range and Voight's Joe Buck made him a star, both lost Best Actor to classical cowboy John Wayne for True Grit. The film was later re-rated R by the MPAA.

Awards

Academy Awards

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Editing Hugh A. Robertson Nominated
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Supporting Actress Sylvia Miles Nominated
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Actor Jon Voight Nominated
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Nominated
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Director John Schlesinger Won
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Picture Jerome Hellman Won
1969 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Best Adapted Screenplay Waldo Salt Won

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Picture John Schlesinger Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Most Promising Newcomer Jon Voight Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Director John Schlesinger Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Screenplay Waldo Salt Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Editing Hugh A. Robertson Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won

Golden Globes

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Jon Voight Nominated
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association New Star of the Year - Male Jon Voight Won
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture - Drama Dustin Hoffman Nominated
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Performance by an Actress in a Supporting Role in a Motion Picture Brenda Vaccaro Nominated
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Director John Schlesinger Nominated
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Screenplay Waldo Salt Nominated
1969 Hollywood Foreign Press Association Best Picture - Drama Nominated

American Film Institute

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1998 American Film Institute 100 Greatest American Movies Won

British Academy of Film and Television Arts

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Picture John Schlesinger Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Most Promising Newcomer Jon Voight Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Director John Schlesinger Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Screenplay Waldo Salt Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Editing Hugh A. Robertson Won
1969 British Academy of Film and Television Arts Best Actor Dustin Hoffman Won

Directors Guild of America

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 Directors Guild of America Best Director John Schlesinger Won

Library of Congress

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1993 Library of Congress U.S. National Film Registry Won

National Board of Review

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 National Board of Review Best Picture Nominated

National Society of Film Critics

Year Award CategoryCast & Crew Result
1969 National Society of Film Critics Best Picture Won
1969 National Society of Film Critics Best Actor Jon Voight Won

Stay Connected with Moviefone

My Settings

You are currently subscribed as: {email}


Subscriptions

Get the latest reviews, movie news, photos, and trailers sent straight to your inbox.

Weekly Newsletter

Daily alerts

Movies

You're not following any movies.

These are the movies you’re currently following.


    Update settings
    X