Teen Volunteer Review: In the Heat of the Night

Boston Public Library's teen volunteer program has gone remote! As part of this program, local high schoolers will be sharing their thoughts on books, movies, and more on our blog. Recently, Boston Latin School student Elizabeth Choi watched the 1967 classic In the Heat of the Night. Check out her thoughts on the film below!

In the Heat of the Night is a murder mystery and an Academy Awards Best Picture winner. It focuses on a Black homicide expert, Virgil Tibbs (Sidney Poitier), who is accused of murder at the beginning of the film. After proving his innocence and intelligence, he works with racist police chief Bill Gillespie (Rod Steiger) to solve the case. Along the way, the two confront their prejudices and form an unlikely friendship.

Tibbs’s shrewdness impressed me throughout the film; I watched with satisfaction as he gained Gillespie’s respect. I liked how both characters discovered that they were more similar than they had thought. The racial tensions in the deep South were also interesting to learn about. Concerning the whodunit aspect, I incorrectly guessed the killer, which resulted in a pleasant shock of realization at the end.

My main critique is that some of the conversations were a little repetitive. This pertains especially to those about Tibbs leaving for Philadelphia. I felt like I was listening to the same discussion again and again: Tibbs wants to leave, Gillespie wants him to stay, Gillespie wants him to leave, Tibbs wants to stay. However, this wasn’t a major part of the movie and it arguably added to the evolution of both characters. For me, though, it was a less engaging part compared to the rest of the movie.

I would recommend this movie, if only for the iconic line, “They call me Mister Tibbs!” Combined with the excellent acting from Poitier and Steiger, In the Heat of the Night won’t disappoint.