Director: John Schlesinger
Stars: Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Sylvia Miles
Plot: Texas greenhorn Joe Buck arrives in New York for the first time. Preening himself as a real 'hustler', he finds that he is the one getting 'hustled' until he teams up with a down-and-out but resilient outcast named Ratso Rizzo. The initial 'country cousin meets city cousin' relationship deepens. In their efforts to bilk a hostile world rebuffing them at every turn, this unlikely pair progress from partners in shady business to comrades. Each has found his first real friend.
Before Dustin Hoffman auditioned for this film, he knew that his all-American image could easily cost him the job. To prove he could do it, he asked the auditioning film executive to meet him on a street corner in Manhattan, and in the meantime, dressed himself in filthy rags. The executive arrived at the appointed corner and waited, barely noticing the "beggar" less than ten feet away who was accosting people for spare change. At last, the beggar walked up to him and revealed his true identity.
Dustin Hoffman put in so much effort portraying one of Ratso's coughing fits that one time he actually ended up vomiting.
The film was rated "X" (no one under 17 admitted) upon its original release in 1969, but the unrestricted use of that rating by pornographic filmmakers caused the rating to quickly become associated with hardcore sex films. Because of the stigma that developed around the "X" rating in the ratings system's early years, many theaters refused to run "X" films and many newspapers would not run ads for them. The film was given a new "R" (children under 17 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian) rating in 1971, without having anything changed or removed. It remains the only X-Rated film ever to win the Oscar for Best Picture, be shown on network TV (although the R reclassification had taken place by then), or be screened by a sitting U.S. President, Richard Nixon.
Dustin Hoffman kept pebbles in his shoe to ensure his limp would be consistent from shot to shot.
On the occasion of the film's 25th anniversary in 1994, Dustin Hoffman revealed on Larry King Live (1985) that, when the movie was first previewed, the audience started to leave in droves during the movie theater gay encounter scene between Jon Voight and Bob Balaban.
John Wayne was dismayed when this film won the 1970 Best Picture Oscar. He told Playboy magazine, "Wouldn't you say that the wonderful love of these two men in Midnight Cowboy, a story about two fags, qualifies as a perverse movie?".
The movie's line "I'm walking here! I'm walking here!" was voted as the #27 movie quote by the American Film Institute (out of 100).
A long time aid to John Schlesinger reported that the director wanted to include an overt sex scene between Jon Voight and Dustin Hoffman, but was overruled.
Mike Nichols, director of The Graduate(1967) tried to persuade Dustin Hoffman not to do this film. He said, "Are you crazy? I made you a star. This is an ugly character. It's a supporting part to Jon Voight. What are you doing? Why are you sabotaging?"
Dustin Hoffman spent a considerable amount of time in the New York slums observing tramps and street people and studying their physical movements and behavior.
According to Schlesinger his inspiration to make the movie came from the 1967 Yugoslav film When I Am Dead and Gone by a Serbian director Živojin Pavlovi?.
The line "I'm walkin' here!" is often said to have been improvised, but producer Jerome Hellman disputes this account on the 2-disc DVD set of Midnight Cowboy. However, Hoffman explained it differently on an installment of Bravo's Inside the Actors Studio. He stated that there were many takes to hit the traffic light just right so that they wouldn't have to pause while walking. In that take, the timing was perfect, but a cab came out of nowhere and nearly hit them. Hoffman wanted to say, "We're filming a movie here!", but decided not to ruin the take
Sylvia Miles was nominated for Best Supporting Actress, in what is one of the shortest performances nominated (clocking at about five minutes of screen time)