The Sugarland Express (1974)

 ●  English ● 1 hr 49 mins

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Inspired from true life, this thrilling tale follows the fluctuating fortunes in the life of Lou-Jean Poplin, a bold young woman. When she finds out that her infant son may be seized by the government and placed under foster care, she convinces her husband, Clovis, to escape from a minimum security prison, in a desperate move to keep their family together. As the young couple try to flee to safety the couple take rookie Texas State trooper Maxwell Slide hostage, and head across the state in his patrol car. Pursued by dozens of police cars, their only real friend may be trooper Captain Tanner, who struggles to find a peaceful end to the situation. How will the police chase end?
See Storyline (May Contain Spoilers)

Cast: Ben Johnson, Goldie Hawn, Michael Sacks

Crew: Steven Spielberg (Director), Vilmos Zsigmond (Director of Photography), John Williams (Music Director)

Rating: A (India)

Genres: Crime, Adventure, Comedy

Release Dates: 05 Apr 1974 (India)

Tagline: A girl with a great following.

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Did you know? Unable to find a child who looked like he might be the offspring of Goldie Hawn and William Atherton to portray Baby Langston, co-producer Richard D. Zanuck cast his own son Harrison Zanuck, whose mother is Linda Harrison of Planet of the Apes (1968) fame. Read More
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as Captain Harlan Tanner
as Lou Jean Sparrow Poplin
as Officer Maxwell Slide
as Mr. Alvin T. Nocker
as Big John
as Hunter
as Buster Daniels - Drunk
as Attorney
as Local Cop
as Russ Berry
as Jelly Bowl
as Logan Waters
as Reporter
as Gas Jockey
as Mr. Sparrow
as Hubie Nocker
as Mashburn
as Hot Jock #2
as Baby Langston
as Mark Fenno
as Mrs. Nocker
as Deputy
as Standby #1
as Mrs. Looby
as Mr. Vern Looby
as Judge Peter Michael Curry
as Dispatcher
as Dybala's Kid
as Hot Jock #1
as Mechanic
as Officer Ernie Jessup
as Dietz
as Clovis Michael Poplin
as Station Man


First Assistant Director
Second Assistant Director


Production Company
Unit Production Manager

Camera and Electrical

Director of Photography


Music Director


Sound Designer


Art Director


Makeup and Hair

Makeup Artist

Special Effects

Special Effects Coordinator


Stunt Coordinator
Film Type:
Feature Film
Colour Info:
Sound Mix:
Frame Rate:
24 fps
Aspect Ratio:
2.35 : 1
A girl with a great following.
The true story of a girl who took on all of Texas...and almost won.
Every cop in the state was after her. Everybody else was behind her.
Crew/Equipment Visible
In the final chase when one of the patrol cars crashes a camera is clearly visible.

Crew/Equipment Visible
When the helicopter with Lou Jean's father lands at the stadium, although he is seen leaving the helicopter in the close shots on the ground, in the wide shot of it landing, he is not there. Instead, a cameraman is visible in the father's seat, holding a 35mm movie camera, shooting the father's POV footage of the landing.

Errors in Geography
The 'Texas' of this film is a figment of the filmmakers' imagination. The trip from just outside Houston to Sugar Land takes two days, and Sugar Land is a few miles from the Mexican border. In fact, Sugar Land is a municipality southwest of Houston, not much more than an hour from anywhere in the Houston metro area. And Houston is on the Texas Gulf Coast, two days' drive from the border.

During the first chicken eating scene, the chicken bucket is with LouJean. In the next scene inside the car, Slide asks for something and LouJean pulls something (WetNap?) from the bucket and gives it to him. The next scene has the bucket between Slide and Clovis. Time between shots doesn't allow for this because the background song, When my Blue Moon Turns to Gold Again, is playing uninterrupted.

Throughout this film, Captain Tanner's unmarked blue Dodge Polara is shown to have full-size factory hubcaps. When he is crashed into by the local sheriff trying to "76" the hijacked patrol car, Tanner jumps out and the car now has typical police dog dish hubcaps.

Although this story is set in 1969, there are a slew of early 1970's model automobiles used in the film, including most of the police cars.

There is an Exxon station shown near the prison. The movie is based on events of May 1969. Standard Oil did not change Esso to the Exxon brand until 1973.

In 1969, dashed center lines down the road would have been white not yellow. MUTCD introduced all yellow striping in late 1971 and between then and 1975, the roads would be repainted. Texas had white lines up until around the middle of 1973, but the film was made after the conversion to MUTCD '71 hence yellow striping on the roads in the area.
This film marked the beginning of Spielberg's friendship with John Williams. As of 2016, Williams has scored every Spielberg-directed theatrical film except The Color Purple (1985), Bridge of Spies (2015) and the anthology film Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).

Based on the events of May 1969 when fugitives Robert and Ila Fae Dent kidnapped Department of Public Safety trooper Kenneth Crone, commandeered his car and led police and other law enforcement officials on a chase from outside Port Arthur, through Houston, up to Navasota and on to Wheelock, where Ila Fae Dent's mother lived. At one point a motorcade of more than 150 police cars and reporters joined the pursuit. FBI agent Bob Wiatt (who retired in 2004) confronted them at the mother's home and was forced to shoot Robert Dent, who was armed, in the neck, killing him. Wiatt wrestled Ila Fae to the ground and handcuffed her.

Although the events of the film occur over a couple of days, in reality the events were over with in just a few short hours.

This was the first theatrical feature film directed by Steven Spielberg to be given a wide release. His previous theatrical film, Firelight (1964), was only shown once at one theater and is partly lost.

California's Panavision Corp. chose this movie for the launch of its then new Panaflex, a compact camera that enabled Steven Spielberg to shoot complex shots inside a patrol car.

The hijacked Texas Department of Public Safety patrol car featured in the film is a 1973 Dodge Polara, which Steven Spielberg bought after filming himself, bullet holes and all.

Unable to find a child who looked like he might be the offspring of Goldie Hawn and William Atherton to portray Baby Langston, co-producer Richard D. Zanuck cast his own son Harrison Zanuck, whose mother is Linda Harrison of Planet of the Apes (1968) fame.

It is noteworthy that this was the first movie to feature a tracking shot (front seat to back) and a 360-degree pan with dialogue from within a car.

The prison pre-release center used at the beginning of the movie is a real center located near Sugar Land, TX.
Movie Connection(s):
Referenced in: Swordfish (English)
Referenced in: Back to the Future Part III (English)