Cool Hand Luke (4K UHD Blu-ray Review)

Warner Bros is celebrating its 100th birthday in 2023. And lucky for us physical media collectors, they are doing so with some boffo new 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray releases of many of their classics. Films coming to the format for the very first time. We’ve already seen Training Day to kick things off but more are on the way from seminal astute staples like East of Eden to beloved genre fare like the Christopher Reeve-led Superman films. On April 4th, these get a big kick to the engine as The Maltese Falcon, Rebel Without A Cause and Cool Hand Luke all debut on the format. Gorgeous restorations and classic bonus features abound, these are all available to order at the click of a button at the end of the review. This particular review will cover 1967’s icon Paul Newman feature – Cool Hand Luke. A film that delivered the all time cinematic line of “What we have here is failure to communicate.”


His crime: nonconformity. His sentence: the chain gang. Paul Newman plays one of his best-loved roles as the loner who can’t bend to the arbitrary rules of his captivity. A fine cast, including George Kennedy in his Oscar-winning role and the indelible Jo Van Fleet, gives Newman solid support. Strother Martin is the captain who taunts Luke with the now-legendary line “What we’ve got here is…failure to communicate.” With rich humor and vibrant storytelling power, Cool Hand Luke succeeds resoundingly.

Cool Hand Luke is the apex of prison dramas. Its the one they all strive to be, even to this day. Many of the personalities, tropes, narratives and such start right here in this Paul Newman-led film. Many actors found themselves with a start, breakout or career highlight in a film that winds up being one of the best for star Newman as well. You’ll find this one parodied, referenced or borrowed from in the likes of both television and film in the years that follow. Even something like Batman: The Animated Series had itself a Cool Hand Luke episode in its run.

As much as its Newman’s iconic role, George Kennedy goes all in here and it was he who wound up with the acting Oscar for this movie. Kennedy pulls off one of those roles of a character you can’t stand at first but then come around to find yourself quite enamored with and rooting for. He’s a rather simple man and you watch as Luke sort of wins him over by playing to what might impress him, only to have him unknowingly handing over the reigns as the alpha of the group.

Watching the film now, we are lucky the film didn’t come out during the social media era at all. You know exactly what I’m talking about. We’d be seeing an overabundance of the “Cool Hand Luke challenge”. In term, there’d be so many stories of kids getting sick or being hospitalized from trying to eat 50 hardboiled eggs. This harmless movie would then be labeled a danger and probably considered “controversial” for something so silly.

Often imitated and rarely having its success repeated, just popping in Cool Hand Luke, as much as the movie stays with you forever, it still connects. Perhaps the movie that took what this movie did right and did its own this is One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Where’s the 4K for that, Warner?). It borrows the skeleton of what this movie had and found its own footing as opposed to something straight doing the prison thing again like The Shawshank Redemption. Nonetheless, there can be more than one good prison movie, but there also can only be one Cool Hand Luke.


Disclaimer: Screen captures used in the review are from the standard Blu-ray disc, not the 4K UHD Blu-ray disc.

Encoding: HEVC/H.265

Resolution: 4K (2160p)

Aspect Ratio: 2.55:1

Layers: BD-66

Clarity/Detail: Cool Hand Luke arrives on 4K better than ever. This is quite the upgrade over the standard Blu-ray disc, showcasing a lot more depth and filmic quality here. Its a crisp, clean picture that shows off the rather polished looking cinematography quite well. For a movie that’s rather, brown, gold and blue, its quite pretty and finely textured to see play out.

Depth:  Depth of field is pretty strong, with good pushback in the barracks and a nice scale on display outside. Motion is smooth and filmic with no issues arising from any rapid actions causing blur or jitter.

Black Levels: Blacks are deep and natural and really do nicely with nighttime and shadows in the daylight or night. There’s good saturation as you can make out every pattern, follicle and texture on the darker surfaces No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction: Colors take a little bit a of a slightly washed tone to give the feel of the worn heat in the film. Thought its well saturated with pretty decently pronounced blues with greens being the next up in the order. HDR comes into play with street lights, lamps, car lights and flames.

Flesh Tones: Skin tones are natural with a slight golden sheen to them. Facial texture and details are incredibly impressive. There are a lot of hairy, sweaty me in this movie and you see every follicle and drop as well as their acne scars, lines and wrinkles.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean


Audio Format(s): English 2.0 Mono DTS-HD MA, French 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, German 2.0 Dolby Digital, Italian 2.0 Dolby Digital, Spanish (Castilian) 2.0 Mono Dolby Digital, Spanish (Latin American) 2.0 Dolby Digital, Czech 2.0 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, German SDH, Spanish (Castilian), Spanish (Latin American), Danish, Norwegian, French, Italian SDH, Dutch, Czech, Finnish, Swedish

Dynamics: This is a pretty fresh sounding mono track attached to the film. Cool Hand Luke does lack somewhat in the low frequency end of things (Most of its best stuff comes in the bass of the score), but this is a clean track. There’s good space and layering in the effect, vocals and music that make for a nice airy and natural sounding presentation.

Height: N/A

Low Frequency Extension: N/A

Surround Sound Presentation: N/A

Dialogue Reproduction: Vocals are clear and crisp.


Cool Hand Luke comes with the standard Blu-ray edition and a redeemable digital code. With exception to the commentary, all bonus material is found on the standard Blu-ray disc.

Audio Commentary

  • by Eric Lax

A Natural-Born World-Shaker: Making Cool Hand Luke (SD, 28:46)

Trailer (SD, 2:48)


Cool Hand Luke is one of the finest all male dramas ever made and perhaps the most influential ever made for prison genre of movies. Warner Bros celebrates it in its 100 year birthday with a pretty fine looking 4K Ultra-HD Blur-ay that has a rock solid presentation in the original theatrical mix. Extras are light, but have always been for this one. Its a rather timeless film and one that demands to be on any film collector’s shelf.

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Brandon is the host, producer, writer and editor of The Brandon Peters Show (thebrandonpetersshow.com). He is also the Moderator/MC of the Live Podcast Stage and on the Podcast Awards Committee for PopCon (popcon.us). In the past 10 years at Why So Blu, Brandon has amassed over 1,500 reviews of 4K, Blu-ray and DVD titles.

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