The Last American Hero (1973) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
16 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
Exciting ride with thrills and spills just ahead of characters and plot
Geofbob16 August 2001
Jeff Bridges' combination of redneck roughness and choirboy sweetness is just right for this 1973 tale of a poor Southern boy, Junior Jackson, making good on the car racing track. The movie is based on Tom Wolfe's articles about the famous stock car racer, Junior Johnson, whom Wolfe dubbed "The Last American Hero". Cinematic Junior, like the real one, learns how to drive hard and fast while running the moonshine whiskey made by his father. The movie covers the first year or so of his career, from when he takes up racing to raise money while his father is in jail, until his first big win.

The movie celebrates individuality and competitiveness, but despite all his skill, guts and cheek, even Junior can't make it by himself. Real success comes only after he gives up his independent status, and agrees to drive for a car-maker (Ed Lauter). Also in support are his family, with Art Lund and Gary Busey excellent as his father and brother; and a stock car groupie (Valerie Perrine) who retains a soft spot for him, whoever else she's currently sleeping with. However, for many viewers, the main interest of the film will lie less in its plot, characterisations, or "right stuff" message, than in the atmosphere and thrills of the races which the movie graphically captures.
14 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
This film reveals how bad the Hollywood action movie has become 30 years later.
bjeffreysmith5 August 2005
I watched this movie today on AMC and loved it. I don't know how well the film was received upon release, but in light of the current Hollywood narrative for action movies, Last American Hero deserves appreciation. It should definitely be considered an American classic.

The movie is a docu-drama based on the few years in the life of Junior Johnson, a famous stock car racer. A young Jeff Bridges brings the main character to life with a great performance, inspired and entertaining. The supporting cast is also excellent with Gary Busey as the brother and Valerie Perrine as the love interest.

All the elements of a great movie that time forgot: thrilling racing scenes, three-dimensional characters, humor, a complicated plot, and so on.. It's a shame that action movies today don't sacrifice some of the explosions, blood, and high-tech props for the type of entertainment and engrossment that Last American Hero delivers.
25 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The Cradle of a Nascar driver
justinmgodell28 March 2009
This movie is what any NASCAR fan should see.

From the simple fact that not every driver comes with a clean background. You have to do what it takes to live. With that in mind and not giving the story away Jeff Bridges character Junior Jackson does what it takes to make the money. And that of course but racing. From the lower circuits to the higher ones This is kind of a fast pace movie, but its kind of dry. For the viewer that can sit threw the slow times and watch a movie for how a movie should be (for the story) you will enjoy it.

A good underrated movie, and I recommend you see it.
8 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Americana at its best and most nostalgic
jeffhill129 March 2002
Why is it that the only people commenting on "Last American Hero" do not live in America? Even when the film was first released in 1973, the panoramic view of Jeff Bridges' fast moving car swirling up the autumn leaves of the American wooded hills accented by Jim Croce's engrossing song of "I've Got a Name" gave "Last American Hero" an overwhelming nostalgic and "American" feel, at least to those of us who saw it in theaters overseas. And for both sheer physical appearance and charisma of the human personification of "American", nothing could beat Jeff Bridges and Valerie Perrine, especially when they stood out against the secondary American characters played by Gary Busey, Ned Beatty, and William Smith. For me one of the most inspiring piece of movie banter of all time is presented in the film when Jeff Bridges as Elroy meets his father in jail and in reference to Elroy's somewhat whiny note of "What are we going to do now?", the father angrily yells at him, "What's your name?!" "Elroy Jackson Junior!" Jeff Bridges yells back. "You'll find a way," the father responds in a confident, reassuring, American tone.
19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Good Bridges performance
jmorrison-224 June 2005
Very good acting performance by Jeff Bridges. He hit just the right note as the naive, in-over-his-head, but determined and aggressive stock car driver, Junior Jackson.

His performance as a young country kid, trying to break into the big time, with small-time resources, is memorable.

Valerie Perrine is equally good as Marge, the man-starved woman who takes a liking to Junior. She senses he's someone who may be on the way up, while her current beau, successful driver Kyle Kingman, is probably on the way down. To hedge her bets, she makes sure to warm both their beds, to ensure she will be with the guy in the winners circle.

The movie looks, feels and sounds woefully dated, and the production and direction leave something to be desired. There are decent stars in this movie, but it looks like it was made on a shoe-string budget.

Bridges, Perrine, William Smith (as Kingman) and Ed Lauter (as Burton Colt, Junior's car owner) make this work with excellent performances.

A simply made movie, with outstanding characters.
13 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A Real Legendary Movie
Paul-3086 October 2004
This is what the Dukes of Hazzard could have been,or at least this help inspired the Dukes.Junior Jackson drives a Mustang fastback,he runs moonshine in it,he outruns the revenoors in it,he races it on the track (sorta like the General Lee?).When his racing ambition outgrows the Mustang,he buys a Chevy (ugg) and proceeds to move on to an established team.This is the story of Junior Johnson,long time NASCAR racer and car owner.His family runs moonshine,but is trying to conform to modern tastes.Juniors talent makes him a star,and catches the eye of cute in the face V Perrine.A very southern story,a very southern feel,a great big slice of a time gone by.Bridges is excellent as Junior.Don't think anybody could have done as well.His smirks and facial expressions (or lack thereof) are classic.Very underrated film.Should have been given more attention.
13 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
A great insight into the grassroots of Nascar
toquestyle14 December 2004
Jeff Bridges did a great job as Jr. Jackson(Johnson). It was after reading an old interview with Jr. Johnson and him referencing the movie that I sought it out to see. And I was not disappointed. Gary Busey also did a great job. From the moonshine runs, to the demolition derbies there was a lot of truth. To those who've never experienced the deep south and some of it's uniqueness, especially for the era, this was dead on. Here it is more than 30 years later and Nascar hasn't changed all that much. The grooming of drivers has, so movies like "The Last American Hero", help with the preservation of a simpler time and people. Yet the altruism in the seeking to gain another dollar still reigns today, some thirty years later. There aren't many movies you can say that about.
8 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
"It's the old saying about..."
moviedude131 December 2008
Jeff Bridges stars in this fact-based movie as Junior Jackson, a former moonshine runner who goes straight from the back roads of the Carolinas to the muddy dirt tracks of NASCAR in an era when the sport was hardly known north of the Mason-Dixon line and the drivers liked their cars fast and their women even faster.

There was an old saying that NASCAR never did condone fighting amongst the drivers, but I can see where they got the saying that, "If you have to do it, though, make sure it's at the start-finish line." I did a little research on Jackson's career and the story here holds to the fact that he wasn't one of the "cleanest" drivers in NASCAR, but it does help to have that little bit of controversy among your driver(s) when it comes to putting butts in the grandstands. I was fortunate enough to visit the Legends of Racing Museum in Daytona a few weeks ago and met Jack Anderson, a former driver from that era, and I listened to some of the stories surrounding the times and it seems that everything holds true, which makes this a film portrayed very well in every sense of the word. If you're a fan of stock car driving at any level, this movie is for you! 8 out of 10 stars!
7 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Hard Driver
motornature5 September 2011
This is one of my favorite gear head movies.Some really great footage of 311 Speedway and Hickory Speedway.In 1993 I visited 311 Speedway for my first time with a sprint car team to race there.I couldn't believe how I knew just about every inch of the property because of the Last American Hero movie.It was a great experience.This movie captures the vibe that was alive in the early 70's of muscle cars and the will to make it to Winston Cup Racing.It's a fantastic,laid back,country folk,style movie that builds to a dream ending dream!Sam Ard's #00 gets a lot of attention as well as Bobby Allison's #12 owned by Junior Johnson gets a lot of footage as well.Enjoy if you can.I have since 1973....
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
A prophecy of today's Nascar?
RanchDude26 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
Well, I guess I'll be the first Yank to comment on this "American" story. It's a good story. The film is loaded with some of my favorite offbeat actors: Bridges (Jeff, not the striaight man Bo), Gary (YeeHaw) Busey, Ned ("now take off dem panties") Beatty and Ed (The Venerable Prick) Lauter. I'm not much of a Nascar fan, nor country music fan, but I do bridge the gap between "The Eisenhower Era" (My folks) and today's ubiquitous Commerical Amerika. Not to be a spoiler...but this IS YOUR FATHER's Richard Petty (SENIOR), this IS about real tried and true American Rednecks passion for something. It's no Garth Brooks and seeing it 30 years after it was made, reminds of a time gone by...<sigh> I digress. If you're a nascar fan of today, or a REAL Nascar fan. RENT THIS. If not, catch on Cable and it's good story, good enough acting and technical attributes.
7 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Excellent race car drama with a splendid Jeff Bridges performance
Woodyanders8 February 2006
Warning: Spoilers
Jeff Bridges gives a typically splendid, boyishly affable and charming performance as Elroy "Bobcat" Jackson, Jr., a cocky, rebellious, recalcitrant, trouble-making hot dog hillbilly moonshine runner who becomes a professional stock car racer and demolition derby driver in order to raise enough cash to get his dear ol' crusty, mule-headed pappy (a marvelously gruff Art Lund) out of jail. Assisted by his loyal, but hot-tempered brother Wayne (the always fine Gary Busey) and against the wishes of his staunch, worrisome mother (a wonderfully indomitable Geraldine Page), Elroy aspires to achieve champion driver status in the ferociously competitive world of professional stock car racing, thus having both his stubborn pride and homespun integrity put to the ultimate test in the process.

Inspired by a Tom Wolfe "Esquire" article on flamboyant real life racing legend Junior Johnson (who worked as a consultant and technical adviser on the film), this spunky little number offers both a glorious celebration and a compelling exploration of rugged individualism and that great quintessentially all-American desire to be somebody in life. Lamont Johnson's sharply perceptive direction, ably complimented by George Silano's lively, breathtaking cinematography and Charles Fox's twangy country score (Jim Croce's blustery "I Got A Name" makes for a fantastic life-affirming theme song), astutely pegs the rowdy, boisterous, danger-ridden, and testosterone-soaked macho atmosphere of the racetrack milieu (the race scenes are suitably wild and thrilling) and delivers a rich, flavorsome evocation of humble, dirt poor, strongly family-oriented Southern backwoods America. William Roberts' acidulous script affects a cynically barbed and askew point of view in its penetrating portrait of America's love for do your own thing outlaw nonconformists and how winning inevitably comes with substantial unavoidable attachments. The stand-out supporting cast includes Valerie Perrine as a sweetheart racetrack groupie, William Smith as a formidable rival driver, Ed Lauter as a sleazy corporate sponsor, Ned Beatty as an oily demolition derby manager, and Lane Smith as an antsy, burnt-out driver. A terrifically tart'n'smart slice of pure Americana story of the guts and stamina it takes to actively pursue making your dreams come true.
5 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Fast fun
presumin_ed9 July 2000
The great American movie - fast cars, fast women (okay, woman), fast cutting. The American dream... and it happens to be true, as well! The performances had the realism I love in these classic movies from the '70s and the locations, thanks to Lamont Johnson's almost-documentary approach, are like time-travel back to those days; a by-God record of US social history. Yes, sir.
8 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
5/10
Not especially deep, but more provocative than it had to be...
moonspinner555 April 2007
Lamont Johnson directed this critically-lauded, though under-appreciated stockcar drama (often referred to as "Hard Driver") concerning a young hellion (Jeff Bridges) in North Carolina who's into racing cars and "hot doggin' the law!" It isn't Shakespeare, though the William Roberts script (adapted from Tom Wolfe's short stories) is literate and bracing, and the film has built up a cult-following in the last thirty years. Performances by Bridges, Valerie Perrine and Gary Busey are all solid, with Bridges' powerful scene in a recording booth the emotional centerpiece of the film. The soundtrack prominently features Jim Croce's song "I Got a Name". Interesting, well-made lower-budget item marketed as a quickie B-flick but actually offering something more substantial. **1/2 from ****
4 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Okay, but not much more than that
grantss14 February 2020
Decent, but not spectacular, car-racing movie. Solid enough plot and direction. Just lacks something special. Doesn't seem overly profound or engaging.

Good performance from Jeff Bridges in the lead role.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
backwoods racing world
SnoopyStyle10 January 2016
Elroy Jackson Junior (Jeff Bridges) drives fast along the back roads of North Carolina delivering moonshine whiskey for his father (Art Lund). Their still explodes and father is sent to jail. Junior starts racing dirt tracks and demolition derby for small time operator Hackel (Ned Beatty) to raise money for his father's legal defense. He builds his own cars. His brother Wayne (Gary Busey) tries to get him a garage mechanic job and his mother is worried about safety. He meets sweet Georgia peach Marge (Valerie Perrine) working one of the races. The races get bigger and bigger.

This has a great sense of the backwoods world of racing. Bridges is terrific as a man waiting to explode. It's got good car sequences. It also has the great Jim Croce song "I Got a Name". The story needs a bit more drama. Junior needs to overcome something insurmountable. It all feels rather predetermined but it's compelling nevertheless.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
4/10
Don't Give A Bad Name for Hero-Anything But **
edwagreen10 March 2010
Warning: Spoilers
We all know what a hero is. What makes the Jeff Bridges character a hero here?

Forced to go into car racing to help his jailed father, Bridges emerges as a race car winner. This tale could have been told in about half the time. The racing scenes are what you would expect in a typical Paul Newman film on this subject.

What was Geraldine Fitzgerald thinking of when she made this film? Her British accent comes through her southern drawl and besides, she is given so little to do here. Ditto here for Gary Busey. He smiles here and that's about it for him.

The one poignant scene where the father tells the sons that he wants something better for them other than prison is wasted. We never really know why the father was jailed for selling the whiskey. Was it moonshine?
1 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews


Recently Viewed