The 1967 winner for Best Picture was the racially charged drama "In the Heat of the Night." To truly appreciate the importance of this award, we need some historical perspective. Previous Best Picture winners in the 1960s included "My Fair Lady," "Lawrence of Arabia," "The Sound of Music" and "A Man for All Seasons." Great films, but they hardly reflected the tenor of the times in America.
"In the Heat of the Night" was the "Do the Right Thing" of its time. A film that asked some tough questions about the state of our nation at a key point in our history.
Sidney Poitier gives one of the most important and memorable performances in American film history as Virgil Tibbs. Poitier’s declaration of "They call me Mister Tibbs" became one of the most famous lines ever. It was a statement of dignity that transcended this one role in this one film.
Tibbs plays a Philadelphia homicide detective who visits his mother in the rural South and is initially a suspect in a wealthy white man’s murder. His main crime is being black. But once Tibbs is exonerated, he teams up with Rod Steiger’s police chief to investigate the crime. Twenty years before films such as "48 Hours," and "Lethal Weapon," a black cop and a white cop team up to solve a crime and discover mutual respect and friendship in the process.
Social importance aside, "In the Heat of the Night" works as a buddy film and as a tense thriller. It spawned sequels and a TV series. And it won 5 Oscars, including a Best Actor for Rod Steiger, and Best Picture.