The Captain from "Cool Hand Luke"

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.
~ The Captain's most famous line.

The Captain is a sadistic and brutal prison overseer and the main antagonist of the critically acclaimed live action film, Cool Hand Luke. He maintains order with an iron fist and uses psychological and physical torture to try and force the obedience of Luke Jackson.

He was portrayed by the late Strother Martin.


After Lucas "Luke" Jackson is sent to a Florida Chain Gang prison as punishment for decapitating parking meters during a bender, he quickly runs afoul of the head of the institution, a sadistic control freak known only as "The Captain". The Captain maintains order through fear and brutality, and Luke's easygoing personality and sense of humor quickly irritate him. 

After Luke's mother dies, the Captain has Luke imprisoned in the "Punishment Box" to keep him from breaking out to go to her funeral. This begins a series of attempts on Luke's part to escape the prison, all of which are met with failure followed by physical abuse from the Captain and his men. Eventually, the Captain takes to forcing Luke to dig a grave-sized hole in the prison yard, fill it up again, and then be beaten. Luke does this several times before finally succumbing to the torture, at which point the Captain decides to stop it, satisfied that he has seemingly broken Luke. However, Luke escapes one last time, and before his death ironically repeats a line said by the Captain earlier: "What we have here is failure to communicate".


  • His status as a sadistic warden who lords over his inmates through fear and intimidation bears some resemblance to Warden Samuel Norton from The Shawshank Redemption.
  • He is also similar to Nurse Ratchet from One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, being an outwardly pleasant but inwardly sadistic and evil control freak who rules over the inmates under his "care" with an iron fist, brutally punishes the protagonist for defying him, and legally gets away with all of his crimes. Unlike Ratchet, however, he also gets to keep his power over his docile prisoners, making him effectively victorious.
  • His character served as an inspiration for Toy Story 3 villain Lots-O' Huggin' Bear, particularly his thick southern accent, status as a gaoler, and punishing insubordinates by throwing them in a place called "The Box".
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