Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Midnight Cowboy (1969)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Midnight Cowboy (1969)

In John Schlesinger's X-rated (originally) Best Picture-winning drama, accompanied by a soundtrack with Harry Nilsson's haunting tune "Everybody's Talkin'" and the soulful sounds of his harmonica:

  • the character of naive, swaggering, transplanted dishwasher/stud - displaced small-town "cowboyish" Texan Joe Buck (Jon Voight) who struggled and aspired in the sordid 42nd Street area of NY to become a successful hustler or gigolo - while posing as a "macho midnight cowboy," although he eventually resorted to homosexual street hustling to survive; in his NY hotel room, he vainly posed shirtless in front of his hotel room's mirror, and pasted up a beefcake poster of Paul Newman from Hud and a picture of a topless woman
  • the sequence of Joe's first trick - fast-talking, brassy society girl Cass (Best Supporting Actress nominee Sylvia Miles) who out-hustled Joe for a cab-ride fee; during a comedic sex scene in which they humorously activated channels with the TV remote control beneath their bodies - the metaphoric climax came with the closeup view of the winning results of a slot machine jackpot - spewed-out coins
  • the scene of Joe's first homosexual client - a religiously fanatical and homosexual Jesus-freak Christian named Mr. O'Daniel (John McGiver), that brought back disturbing flashbacks for Buck regarding his former girlfriend "Crazy" Annie (Jennifer Salt); he also took on a bespectacled, geeky young student (Bob Balaban) in a dark movie theatre who turned out penniless; Joe's first successful heterosexual score was with Shirley (Brenda Vaccaro) a paying female client (for $20); at first, though, he suffered sexual inadequacy until angered when she teasingly suggested that he was gay: ("Gay, fey. Is that your problem, baby?") - and then he performed vigorously
Joe's Many Clients (Homosexual and Heterosexual)
Mr. O'Daniel (John McGiver)
Student (Bob Balaban)
Shirley (Brenda Vaccaro)
  • the friendship that developed between limping, coughing homeless con artist Enrico "Ratso" Rizzo (Dustin Hoffman) and Joe Buck, who both soon found themselves destitute, barely surviving and living in Ratso's condemned apartment
  • the "Hey, I'm walkin' here!" scene as the crippled Ratso crossed a busy New York City street and banged with his fist on a taxi-cab hood that almost hit him, and demanded respect
  • Ratso's fantasy dream - during Joe's propositioning of a woman - in which he was in Florida in good health and enjoying the good life there without a limp (sunning, sprinting with Joe on the beach, having his shoes shined on a terrace above a luxury hotel's swimming pool, being pampered, gambling with rich dowager women, being admired by women from balconies, and sampling a gourmet spread) - until the deal fell apart (and so did the dream)
  • after losing their home, their visit to the tombstone and gravesite of Ratso's illiterate father who couldn't sign his name
  • the sequence of Joe wiping off the sweaty head of ailing friend Ratso in a stairway before attending an underground film-making party in Greenwich Village
  • the scene of Joe caring for his ailing feverish friend Ratso, who was suffering from the end stages of tuberculosis, and admitting that he was afraid of not being able to walk anymore: ("You know what they do to you when they know you can't... When they find out that you can't wa... walk. Oh, Christ!"), and his dying wish to be taken to Florida: ("You ain't gettin' me no doctor...No doctors, no cops. Don't be so stupid...You get me to Florida...Just put me on a bus....You ain't sendin' me to Bellevue")
  • their poignant Florida-bound bus trip when Ratso complained about his pain: ("Here I am goin' to Florida, my leg hurts, my butt hurts, my chest hurts, my face hurts, and like that ain't enough, I gotta pee all over myself. (Joe chuckled) That's funny? I'm fallin' apart here")
  • Ratso's death scene next to Joe, as he talked about their better future in Florida: ("I got this damn thing all figured out. When we get to Miami, what we'll do is get some sort of job, you know. Cause hell, I ain't no kind of hustler. I mean, there must be an easier way of makin' a living than that. Some sort of outdoors work. Whaddya think? Yeah, that's what I'll do. OK Rico? Rico? Rico? Hey, Rico? Rico?")
Joe Buck's Caring for the Dying Rizzo
  • and the final sequence of Joe with tears forming in his eyes, affectionately wrapping his arm around Rico's shoulder and holding him, while palm trees were reflected on the window glass - in a view from outside the bus, as the film slowly faded to black and ended

Hustler Texan Joe Buck

With Society Girl Cass

Co-dependent Buck and Rizzo

"Hey, I'm walkin' here!"

Fantasies of Frolicking on Florida Beach

Visiting The Gravesite of Ratso's Father


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