Film Review: In the Heat of the Night

Updated on May 12, 2016
Film Frenzy profile image

Written by: Jason Wheeler, Film Frenzy Senior Writer & Editor.


In 1967, Norman Jewison released In the Heat of the Night, based on the 1956 novel of the same name by John Ball. Starring Sidney Poitier, Rod Steiger, Warren Oates, Lee Grant, Larry Gates, James Patterson, William Schallert, Beah Richards, Peter Whitney, Kermit Murdock, Larry D. Mann, Quentin Dean, Anthony James, Arthur Malet, and Scott Wilson, the film grossed $24.3 million at the box office. Nominated for the Academy Awards for Best Director and Best Sound Editing, the film won the awards for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Film Editing, Best Sound, and Best Adapted Screenplay as well as the Golden Globe Awards for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Motion Picture Drama and Best Screenplay.


After visiting his mother, Philadelphian Virgil Tibbs is arrested on suspicion of the murder of a prominent factory owner in Sparta, Mississippi. However, Tibbs is a homicide detective in Philadelphia and is told by his superiors that he should assist the locals in solving their case. Now, partnered by the racist Police Chief Bill Gillespie, Tibbs displays his prowess in finding the murderer, causing Gillespie to eventualy respect him.


Winning over many other good films for Best Picture, In the Heat of the Night is a great and well-made film, especially in how the characters feed off each other. On one hand, there’s Chief Gillespie. He may be a casual racist, but he’s also probably the only reasonable authority figure in Sparta. He gets reasonably upset at how his men just arrested a cop. Further, the man flat out acknowledges that Tibbs is an expert in identifying murders and Gillespie even begs him for his help. What’s more is that even when he wanted Tibbs to leave in the first place, he does do the right thing and rescues him from an angry mob halfway through the film. The film also shows how notable he is as a character simply because he’s serving a town that, in his own words, “don’t want me.”

On the other hand, there’s Tibbs, a man that doesn’t take anything from anyone, seen when he returns a slap from Endicott, a rich white bigot, with a slap all his own. His tenacity is also shown early on when asked what people call him in Philadelphia and he responds that “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” The film also shows just how much of a way with words, Tibbs has when he’s able to talk his way out of a second mob by getting the leader to realize just why his sister went to the home of an abortionist. However, the film doesn’t put Tibbs on a high pedestal as it shows that he’s bigoted towards rich white people, seen when he calls Endicott a “fat cat” and tells Gillespie that he can “bring him right off this hill.” This exchange also shows Gillespie that he and Tibbs really aren’t so different.

The film also does something a bit interesting with how, aside from Gottlieb and Tibbs, it essentially treats police as useless. However, that’s for a very good reason. The police force in Sparta are usually great at the things they usually do, such as covering their beats and tracking people down, seen when the dogs are chasing after the guy attempting to flee into Arkansas. However, they’re not too great at solving a murder case and even arrest the wrong guy in doing so. But it really isn’t their fault since Sparta hasn’t had a murder in a long time and the tactics the police force were using were ones employed by a small town and didn’t befit a case of that magnitude. The reason Tibbs is so good at figuring everything out is because he’s an office in a much larger city, one that’s probably used to having several murder cases going at once.

It’s also very entertaining in how there are multiple red herrings when it comes to who really did it, with multiple people wrongly accused, such as Tibbs because he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. There’s also Oberst, suspected as he was caught with the victim’s wallet but was cleared because he was left-handed and the victim was murdered by a weapon used by the right hand. The film also offered up Officer Sam Wood as another who is falsely accused due to not wanting to reveal his being a Peeping Tom but was cleared because Tibbs noted he couldn’t have driven the victim’s car as well as his own squad car.


    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment
    • Discordzrocks profile image


      4 years ago from Aw Man

      Wow, nice hub comparing the good, the bad and the ugly of this film.


    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

    Show Details
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)