My first interaction with Cool Hand Luke was actually about ten years ago, watching an episode of MTV’s Jackass that recreated the famous “50 eggs” sequence. Probably for everyone’s own good, I couldn’t find it on YouTube – it’s not an accurate recreation. Unlike the cast of Jackass, Luke manages to consume 50 hard-boiled eggs without throwing up. This is but one of the incredible feats he achieves, and each one entertained me more than the last.
Each fan of this film probably enjoys it for a different reason – there’s a lot to it, and what an audience latches on to probably varies by generation. No doubt its original 1967 success can be attributed to the dawn of the disenchanted anti-hero in American culture. And though integral to the rest of the film this characteristic is, it isn’t what grabbed me. (It actually made me think that Luke was a bit of a douche for the first twenty minutes or so.)
I love prison films because they’re forced to make wrong-doers relatable – done by creating a feeling of brotherhood, and finding that middle ground between hopelessness and happy ending. Cool Hand Luke walks that line with clinical precision, incorporating everything I value in those stories. So maybe my reason for liking this film isn’t as well-founded as the generational appeal, or as “film theory” as all the religious imagery, but it’s still put Cool Hand Luke firmly in the list of films that have moved me.