The Defiant Ones (1958)


Gritty performances from Tony Curtis and Sydney Poitier with some very memorable lines make this a somewhat predictable but etertaining show.


Many have seen Tony Curtis in a comedic role, in this one he is a gruff and temporamental convict.  He dreams of making it big–his dreams are what keeps him going through the pain and almost certain doom  His character has basic instincts and needs for survival, but also finds love and loyalty.  A heartwarming ending as the two convicts choose to stay together.

Sidney Poitier plays an expected role of a black man who is angry with the world, but he does his best work with his singing.  He draws attention to himself and Tony with some interesting southern campfire singing.

There are some really inspirational and memorable lines in this movie especially relating to the hopes and dreams of Tony Curtis role of “Joker.”  When a girl falls for him so she can hitch a ride out of no-mans-land, he tells her his way of thinking…this was my favorite part of the movie as Tony Curtis  explains the dreams he has in his head that have created “a thousand pictures.”

The primary reason why I think people will watch this movie in these times is for its interesting dialog on Racism. The movie addresses the topic from a number of angles.  *What a white man is supposed to say…
*What a white man is allowed to say…
*What a black man thinks that causes real anger, hatred, and resentment…
*The constraint needed by blacks to just “fit in” to society even in an awkward and humiliating way…
*The notion of “taking the law into your own hands” especially when it comes to blacks wfo break the law…
*The negative effects of always being “nice” when people are not being “nice” to you…
*The actions of racists who knowingly or unknowingly serve the white person first and then either forget or just plain ignore the black person’s needs
*How the “hopes and dreams” of white people DIFFER from the “hopes and dreams” of black people…and likewise, how their “fear and worry” differ…

Despite the wonderful performances of Curtis and Poitier, the movie’s plot is weak and predictable.  I also found the woman instantaneously falling for a dangerous convict as an instant lover to be ridiculous…I first thought it was a ploy and that maybe she was the Sherriff’s wife or something, but it turns out that she was just a desperate woman willing to settle for a low-class lover to escape the doldrums of life.

7 Stars–watch this one for two great acting performances, some very memorable scenes and lines and for the thoughts and attitudes on racism from the 1950’s.

Todd Morgan
About Todd Morgan 56 Articles
Todd is one of nation's top classic movie experts, with a passion and determination to help the younger generation discover some of the truly greatest movies ever made. Todd reviews 2-3 movies every week and also prepares classic movie trivia, lists, writes books, and develops games all on Classic Movies. Contact him at

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