In The Heat Of The Night

Made three years after the introduction of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and against the backdrop of continuing racial discrimination in the Deep South, Norman Jewison’s In the Heat of the Night was groundbreaking for its direct approach to the subject of bigotry in an oppressive Mississippi town. The inimitable Sidney Poitier plays Virgil Tibbs, arrested for murder at the film’s outset for no other reason than the colour of his skin. When Police Chief Bill Gillespie, played by Rod Steiger, discovers Tibbs is a homicide detective passing through on his way home to Philadelphia, he not only drops the charges but compels him to stay in town to help him and his outfit of incompetent officers find the culprit. Director Norman Jewison splices incisive social commentary into this thrilling police procedural with the two indelible lead performances; a career-defining display of seething indignation and moral authority from Poitier and an Oscar-winning master class in Method acting from Steiger. Winner of five Academy Awards, including for best picture, In the Heat of the Night remains as powerful and pertinent as it was upon release.


Shirley Clarke

Academy Awards Best Actor
Academy Awards Best Film Editing
Academy Awards Best Picture
Academy Awards Best Screenplay Based on Material from Another Medium
Academy Awards Best Sound

Black Screen: Cinema and Racism