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Cool Hand Luke movie cover Movie Locations Guide

Where was Cool Hand Luke filmed?


City Locations

San Joaquin River Delta, California; Gainesville, Florida

Location Types

NatureScapes, Ranch, Rustic, Tudor, Police/Jails, Diners/Coffee

Location Styles

Americana/Anywhere America, Bus, Classic Car, Dated/50's-60's-70's Building, Rustic

About Cool Hand Luke

In the opening Cool Hand Luke scene, Luke Jackson is placed under arrest for removing public parking meters while inebriated. He is given a sentence of two years to be served on a chain gang under the stewardship of a tough warden known as Captain and his assistant Walking Boss, Godfrey. He is informed that even a small infraction of the rules will incur a “night in the box.”

Luke refuses to fall in line with the prisoner hierarchy and lands himself in trouble with the prison leader, Dragline. The two get into a fight. Luke’s opponent is far bigger than him, but he refuses to give in. Dragline decides to end the fight, but Luke’s strength and courage earn him great respect from his fellow prisoners.

The prisoners play poker, and Luke wins with a bluff, hiding a hand that contains nothing of value. Luke responds by saying, “Sometimes nothing can be a real cool hand,” a statement that earns him the nickname of “Cool Hand Luke” from Dragline. Luke continues to provoke the Captain and guards, but his sense of humor and spiritedness makes him well-liked by the other inmates.

On one occasion, Luke finds a rattlesnake in a ditch and grabs it, holding it for Godfrey to kill. After Godfrey shoots it, he throws the snake at him. He is advised to show more respect by Dragline. Luke screams at the sky, provoking God, and shortly thereafter, his mother, who was ill, dies.

The Captain worries Luke may try to escape to be a part of his mother’s funeral, so he throws him into the box. But somehow, Luke escapes. The police find him and return him to the prison where he is bound with leg irons.

Luke continues to aggravate the guards and makes another escape attempt. He mails Dragline a photo that shows him enjoying the company of two women. He is found, returned to the prison, and beaten, then fitted with more leg irons. The Captain informs him a third escape attempt will mean the end of his life.

Luke is punished by the guards until he finally relents, and it appears his spirit is broken. The prisoners lose respect for him. Luke and Dragline steal Godfrey’s truck, and the two escape the prison. Luke tells Dragline they should go their separate ways but the police end up finding them.

Luke takes a bullet to the neck, and Dragline brings him outside and offers himself up for arrest. Luke runs to Godfrey and tries to strangle him and is beaten. Luke is put in the Captain’s car, and Dragline begs for them to be merciful to him. The Captain takes Luke to the prison hospital, knowing he will die during the journey.

Cool Hand Luke Locations

Filmed in 1967, Cool Hand Luke is a prison drama directed by veteran filmmaker Stuart Rosenberg. The film’s main character is played by Paul Newman in a role that earned Newman an Oscar. The movie is based on a 1965 book by Donn Pearce.

Cool Hand Luke was considered to be both a critical and commercial success. The film is credited with launching Paul Newman to superstardom. Cool Hand Luke was included in the United States Library of Congress National Film Registry which preserves movies that are deemed culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.

The filming locations for Cool Hand Luke are primarily found in California’s San Joaquin River Delta and Gainesville, Florida. Are prison dramas among your all-time fave films? If so, why not plan a trip to visit the filming locations for Cool Hand Luke? You’re sure to have an amazing time!

Fun Fact:

The author of the novel Cool Hand Luke, Donn Pearce, is an ex-convict himself. He went to prison for counterfeiting currency in France.

Luke is introduced to the prison rules scene in Cool Hand Luke

Tavares Road Prison (Lake County Jail), 551 W Main St, Tavares, FL

Luke arrives at the prison and is introduced to the prison rules. In one of the best scenes in Cool Hand Luke, the night guard Carr shares this information.

“There’s no playing grab-*ss or fighting in the building. If you got a grudge against another man, you fight him Saturday afternoon. Any man playing grab *ss or fighting in the building spends a night in the box. The first bell is at 5 minutes of 8, the last bell is at 8. Any man not in his bunk at 8 spends a night in the box. There’s no smoking in the prone position in bed. To smoke, you must have both legs over the side of your bunk. Any man caught smoking in the prone position in bed spends a night in the box. You get two sheets. Every Saturday you put the clean sheet on the top and the top sheet on the bottom. The bottom sheet you turn into the laundry board. Any man turns in the wrong sheet spends a night in the box…”

To visit this Cool Hand Luke location by public transit, it is best to travel on bus line 1. Though prison officials do not allow spectators on the prison compound found here, it is possible to see the outside of the facility and the surrounding area which is also seen in several different Cool Hand Luke production scenes throughout the film.

The inmates spot a beautiful woman in the chain gang scene in Cool Hand Luke

San Joaquin Valley, CA

The men are hard at work on the chain gang, digging a deep ditch. They notice a beautiful woman, exiting her home with a large bucket full of water. The lady places the bucket by her car and gets ready to wash the vehicle while the men stare lustily at her. Dragline takes a long look at the gorgeous blonde and makes this comment in one of the most funny scenes in Cool Hand Luke, “Taking ‘em {his sunglasses} off here, Boss. D*mned things is blocking the scenery.”

There are several different bus lines you can take to reach this Cool Hand Luke filming location including bus routes 120, 21, 46, and 47.

Luke and Dragline fight scene in Cool Hand Luke

Stockton, CA

Luke has been spending his time aggravating the guards and his fellow inmates and trying to rise to the highest position in the prison hierarchy. His antics draw the ire of the prison leader, a man known as Dragline and the two decide to fight. In a brutally bloody fistfight, it is obvious that the larger Dragline has the advantage.

Yet Luke refuses to surrender. Though ultimately, Dragline refuses to continue the fight, Luke’s tenacity earns the respect of the other inmates and draws the attention of the guards. In one of the best action scenes in Cool Hand Luke, this dialogue unfolds.

Inmate #1: Just lay down, Luke. He’s just gonna knock you down again, buddy.

Inmate #2: It’s not your fault. He’s just too big.

Inmate #3: Just let him hit you in the nose and get some blood flowing. Maybe the bosses will stop it before he kills you.

Luke: No, I don’t want to frighten him.

Tavares Road Prison was replicated in a film shoot location that was constructed in Stockton, California. The outdoor fistfight scenes were filmed here. To reach this former Cool Hand Luke film set from nearby Modesto, take A-99 N, traveling for approximately 31 miles until you reach the town’s limits.

Luke proposes a difficult challenge scene in Cool Hand Luke

Warner Brothers Studio, 4000 Warner Blvd, Burbank, CA 91522

In this Cool Hand Luke scene, the men are inside their bunkhouse during a rainstorm. Dragline addresses the inmates, and the following conversation takes place.

Dragline: You calling me a liar?

Antagonizing inmate: No, not a liar. You just have a common, unlikeable tendency towards exaggeration.

Dragline: Ooh, ooh, ooh. That there is the champion hog gut in this camp {pointing at Luke.} H*ll, I seen him eat ten chocolate bars and seven cold drinks in fifteen minutes. He can eat busted bottles and rusty nails, any d*mn thing. If you’d be so kind as to let me cut off your Yankee head, he’ll even eat that.

Luke: I can eat 50 eggs.

Dragline: Nobody can eat 50 eggs.

Inmate #2: You just said he could eat anything.

Dragline: You ever eat 50 eggs?

Luke: Nobody ever ate 50 eggs.

Inmate #3: Hey, bubaloobas! We got a bet here!

Dragline: My boy says he can eat 50 eggs, he can eat 50 eggs!

The best way to reach this former Cool Hand Luke film set is by taking bus lines 222, 501, or Pink or by boarding the Subway’s B Line Red.

The captain shares infamous speech with prisoners and Luke scene in Cool Hand Luke

Lodi, CA

The men are working on the chain gang, digging a particularly challenging ditch. The work is hot and grueling. Luke is returned to the work site in shackles after his last escape attempt. He is beaten but still very defiant as he is marched out to the ditch by the Captain. Leg shackles are placed around his feet, and his hands are also then bound.

Captain: You’re gonna get used to wearing these chains after a while, Luke. But you’ll never stop listening to them clinking. Cause they gonna remind you of what I’ve been saying for your own good.

Luke: I wish you’d stop being so good to me, Captain.

Captain: Don’t you ever talk to me that way again.

The Captain begins to viciously strike Luke until he is knocked off his feet and rolls down the hill into the ditch.

Captain: What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach. So, you get what we had here last week. Which is the way he wants it. Well, he gets it. I don’t like it any more than you men.

To visit the site where this scene was shot, travel CA-99 N from Stockton for just over 16 miles. A passenger vehicle is the most efficient mode of transportation; however, bus and taxi services are also available.

The final scene in Cool Hand Luke

Jacksonville, FL

In the final scene in Cool Hand Luke, Luke and Dragline have escaped. Though Luke tells Dragline he should separate from him for his own safety, Dragline stays nearby as Luke enters a church to have a discussion with God whom he blames for all the hardships in his life.

The police stand outside the church. A smiling Luke mocks The Captain by quoting his infamous line back to him when he says, “What we have here is a failure to communicate.” Luke is then shot in the neck. Dragline carries him outdoors, surrendering them both and begging that the officers show mercy to Luke.

The decision is made to take Luke to a hospital that is further away than the local hospital, an act that will intentionally cause his death.

Jacksonville has its own international airport, and this is the best way to access the city in which this iconic Cool Hand Luke scene was shot. From the airport, you can take a shuttle bus, a taxi, or travel by passenger vehicle to the outskirts of the city where this scene was filmed.


Cool Hand Luke is a classic prison drama that has earned accolades from critics and viewers alike. A timeless movie that is still beloved today, the landscape in this film spans from coast to coast in the United States, including some of the most picturesque properties from Gainesville, Tavares, and Jacksonville, Florida to Lodi and the San Joaquin Valley in California.

Considering taking a different kind of vacation this year? Why not plan a trip to visit the filming locations for Cool Hand Luke? You’re sure to have a great time!