Hal Ashby was an American film director who rose to prominence in the 1970s with a series of critically acclaimed films that tackled social and political issues with humor and sensitivity.

His films are known for their thoughtful and humanistic approach, as well as their strong performances, inventive storytelling, and evocative soundtracks.

Some of Hal Ashby’s best-known films include “Harold and Maude” (1971), a darkly comedic love story between a young man and an elderly woman; “The Last Detail” (1973), a searing drama about two Navy officers escorting a young sailor to prison; and “Being There” (1979), a satirical fable about a simple-minded gardener who becomes an unwitting political hero.

Other notable Hal Ashby films include “Shampoo” (1975), a satirical drama about the sexual and political mores of the 1960s; “Coming Home” (1978), a powerful drama about the effects of the Vietnam War on soldiers and their families; and “Bound for Glory” (1976), a biographical drama about the folk singer Woody Guthrie.

Best Hal Ashby Movies

Hal Ashby’s films are distinguished by their intelligence, sensitivity, and humanistic values, as well as their willingness to tackle complex social and political issues with humor and insight.

His work has had a lasting impact on American cinema and remains influential to this day.

1. The Landlord (1970)

“The Landlord” is a 1970 comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby, with a screenplay by Bill Gunn based on the novel by Kristin Hunter.

The film stars Beau Bridges as Elgar Enders, a wealthy white man who decides to buy a run-down tenement building in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Brooklyn, with the intention of evicting the tenants and renovating the building for his own purposes.

However, as Elgar becomes more involved with the tenants and their lives, he begins to question his own privilege and assumptions about race and class.

The film deals with themes of gentrification, racism, and the complexities of identity and social status.

One of the key strengths of “The Landlord” is its deft handling of complex and sensitive issues, using humor and satire to shed light on important social and political concerns.

The film’s sharp script, strong performances, and inventive direction make it a standout of the New Hollywood era.

The film also features a talented cast, including Lee Grant, Diana Sands, and Louis Gossett Jr., who bring depth and nuance to their roles.

Bridges is particularly effective as Elgar, capturing the character’s growth and transformation over the course of the film.

Overall, “The Landlord” is a thought-provoking and entertaining film that tackles important social issues with wit and insight

. Its themes of gentrification, race, and class remain relevant today, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring relevance and impact.

The Landlord (Special Edition) [Blu-ray]
  • Beau Bridges, Lee Grant, Pearl Bailey (Actors)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

2. Being There (1979)

“Being There” is a satirical comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby and released in 1979. The film tells the story of Chance (Peter Sellers), a simple-minded gardener who has spent his entire life tending to a wealthy man’s estate.

After his employer dies, Chance is forced to venture out into the world, where he is mistaken for a brilliant and insightful political advisor.

The film is notable for its sharp satire of politics and media, as well as for Peter Sellers’ acclaimed performance as Chance.

Sellers is praised for his subtle and nuanced portrayal of a character who is simultaneously naive and perceptive, and whose lack of worldly knowledge becomes a source of wisdom and inspiration for those around him.

“Being There” is also celebrated for its witty and insightful script, which explores themes of identity, perception, and the power of language.

The film’s satirical take on politics and media continues to be relevant and thought-provoking today, making it a classic of American cinema.

Being There (1979)
  • Amazon Prime Video (Video on Demand)
  • Peter Sellers, Shirley MacLaine, Jack Warden (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director) - Jerzy Kosinski (Writer) - Andrew Braunsberg (Producer)
  • English (Playback Language)
  • English (Subtitle)

3. Harold and Maude (1971)

Harold and Maude is a 1971 American romantic black comedy directed by Hal Ashby and written by Colin Higgins.

The film tells the story of Harold (played by Bud Cort), a young man who is obsessed with death and attends funerals for entertainment, and his relationship with Maude (played by Ruth Gordon), an eccentric 79-year-old woman who teaches him to embrace life and find joy in living.

One of the defining characteristics of Harold and Maude is its unconventional approach to storytelling and themes.

The film’s exploration of death, love, and personal identity is done with a sense of humor and whimsy, which makes it both entertaining and thought-provoking.

The chemistry between the two lead actors, Bud Cort and Ruth Gordon, is another standout feature of the film.

Their unconventional and heartwarming relationship is at the center of the film, and their performances make it a truly memorable viewing experience.

Harold and Maude has become a cult classic over the years and is regarded as one of the most innovative and influential films of the 1970s.

Its themes of individualism, non-conformity, and self-discovery continue to resonate with audiences today.

The film’s unique blend of humor and pathos, coupled with its strong performances and visual style, make it a must-see for fans of independent cinema and offbeat love stories.

Harold and Maude
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Ruth Gordon, Bud Cort, Vivian Pickles (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director) - Colin Higgins (Writer)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

4. Coming Home (1978)

“Coming Home” is a 1978 American drama film directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern.

The film follows the story of a woman named Sally Hyde (Fonda) whose husband, a Marine Corps captain, is deployed to Vietnam.

Feeling lonely and unfulfilled, Sally becomes involved in an anti-war group where she meets Luke Martin (Voight), a wounded veteran who has become paralyzed from the waist down.

As Sally and Luke grow closer, they develop a deep bond that transcends their physical limitations and offers a sense of purpose and connection in the midst of the turmoil of the Vietnam War. The film explores themes of love, loss, and the impact of war on soldiers and their families.

“Coming Home” received critical acclaim upon its release and was nominated for eight Academy Awards, winning three, including Best Actor for Jon Voight and Best Actress for Jane Fonda.

The film was praised for its powerful performances, emotional depth, and its honest portrayal of the impact of the Vietnam War on American society.

The film’s iconic soundtrack features songs by artists such as The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Bob Dylan, adding to the film’s emotional resonance.


“Coming Home” remains a powerful and moving film that offers a glimpse into the personal and social effects of war on individuals and communities.

Coming Home [DVD]
  • Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, Bruce Dern (Actors)
  • Greg Carson (Director) - Nancy Dowd (Writer)
  • English, Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

5. The Last Detail (1973)

“The Last Detail” is a 1973 comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby, based on the novel of the same name by Darryl Ponicsan.

The film stars Jack Nicholson, Randy Quaid, and Otis Young as three Navy sailors tasked with escorting a young sailor named Meadows (played by Randy Quaid) to a military prison after he is found guilty of stealing forty dollars from a charity box.

The film is notable for its sharp script, which captures the camaraderie and banter between the three sailors as they travel from Virginia to New Hampshire.

The film is also notable for its excellent performances, particularly from Nicholson, who gives a career-defining performance as the rebellious and irreverent sailor named “Badass” Buddusky.

“The Last Detail” is a poignant and thought-provoking film that explores themes of authority, loyalty, and the nature of justice.

The film is also notable for its commentary on the Vietnam War, with the characters expressing disillusionment and frustration with the military and its role in the conflict.

Overall, “The Last Detail” is a powerful and memorable film that remains relevant today, with its themes of justice and rebellion resonating with audiences decades after its release.

The film is a testament to Ashby’s skill as a director and the talents of the cast, and it remains a classic of the New Hollywood era.

The Last Detail [DVD]
  • Jack Nicholson, Otis Young, Randy Quaid (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director) - Gerald Ayres (Producer)
  • None, None, None, None, None (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

7. Bound for Glory (1976)

“Bound for Glory” is a biographical drama film directed by Hal Ashby and released in 1976. The film tells the story of Woody Guthrie (David Carradine), an iconic American folk singer and songwriter, as he travels across the United States during the Great Depression, playing music and speaking out against injustice and inequality.

The film is notable for its stunning cinematography, which captures the stark beauty of the American landscape during a time of great hardship.

It also features a strong performance by David Carradine as Guthrie, who is portrayed as a passionate and idealistic artist whose music becomes a powerful voice for the disenfranchised.

“Bound for Glory” is celebrated for its authentic portrayal of American history and culture during a pivotal period in the country’s history.

The film’s themes of social justice and the power of art to inspire change continue to resonate with audiences today, making it a timeless classic of American cinema.

Bound for Glory [DVD]
  • David Carradine, Ronny Cox, Melinda Dillon (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director) - Robert Getchell (Writer)
  • Spanish, French (Subtitles)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

8. Let’s Spend the Night Together (1982)

Let’s Spend the Night Together is a 1982 concert film directed by Hal Ashby, featuring the Rolling Stones performing at the Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe, Arizona during their 1981 North American tour.

The film includes performances of 25 songs, including classic hits such as “Start Me Up”, “Brown Sugar”, and “Satisfaction”.

One of the key features of Let’s Spend the Night Together is the energy and charisma of the Rolling Stones themselves.

The band’s dynamic stage presence and musical talent are on full display, and the film captures the excitement and electricity of a live Rolling Stones concert.

In addition to the concert footage, the film also includes behind-the-scenes glimpses of the band members and their crew as they prepare for the show.

This provides a unique look into the inner workings of a major rock tour, and adds an extra layer of depth to the film.

Let’s Spend the Night Together is a must-see for fans of the Rolling Stones, as well as for anyone who appreciates great live music performances.

The film is a testament to the enduring legacy of one of the greatest rock bands of all time, and a reminder of the power of music to bring people together and create unforgettable experiences.

The Rolling Stones: Let's Spend The Night Together [DVD]
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Rolling Stones (Actor)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

9. 8 Million Ways to Die (1986)

“8 Million Ways to Die” is a 1986 American crime drama film directed by Hal Ashby and starring Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, and Andy Garcia.

The film follows the story of Matthew Scudder (Bridges), a recovering alcoholic and former Los Angeles police officer who becomes a private investigator in order to escape his past and find redemption.

When Scudder is hired by a prostitute named Sunny (Arquette) to help her escape her dangerous and abusive pimp, he becomes embroiled in a world of drugs, corruption, and violence.

With the help of his friend and former partner Chance (Garcia), Scudder navigates the seedy underworld of Los Angeles in his quest to bring the criminals to justice.

“8 Million Ways to Die” received mixed reviews upon its release, but has since gained a cult following for its gritty and atmospheric portrayal of urban crime.

The film showcases Ashby’s talent for exploring complex and flawed characters, as well as his ability to create a moody and intense atmosphere through his use of lighting and camera work.

Jeff Bridges delivers a powerful performance as Scudder, a man struggling with his own demons while fighting to help others.

The film also features strong supporting performances from Rosanna Arquette and Andy Garcia, who bring depth and nuance to their respective roles.

Overall, “8 Million Ways to Die” is a stylish and engaging crime drama that offers a dark and captivating glimpse into the criminal underworld of 1980s Los Angeles.

8 Million Ways to Die
  • Jeff Bridges, Rosanna Arquette, Andy Garcia (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director)
  • English (Subtitle)
  • Audience Rating: R (Restricted)

10. Beverly Hills Buntz (1987–1988)

“Beverly Hills Buntz” is a television series that aired from 1987 to 1988.

It is a spin-off of the popular police drama series “Hill Street Blues” and focuses on the character Norman Buntz (Dennis Franz), a former detective from the Hill Street precinct who has relocated to Beverly Hills to start his own private detective agency.

The series follows Buntz and his team as they take on a variety of cases, from investigating cheating spouses to tracking down missing persons

. Along the way, Buntz must navigate the ins and outs of the Beverly Hills elite, who often prove to be more trouble than they’re worth.

Despite the popularity of “Hill Street Blues,” “Beverly Hills Buntz” struggled to find an audience and was cancelled after just one season.

However, the show remains a cult favorite among fans of police procedural dramas, and is notable for its offbeat humor and quirky characters.

11. Second-Hand Hearts (1980)

“Second-Hand Hearts” is a romantic comedy-drama film directed by Hal Ashby and released in 1981.

The film tells the story of a divorced couple, the recently released prison inmate Henry (played by Robert Blake) and the lonely and sensitive Willa (played by Barbara Harris), who embark on a road trip together to start a new life.

As Henry and Willa travel through the American West, they encounter a colorful cast of characters, including a hitchhiking cowboy and a wealthy widow, and face a series of comical and touching adventures that challenge their assumptions about love, life, and happiness.

“Second-Hand Hearts” is characterized by its offbeat humor, quirky characters, and playful tone. The film is also notable for its beautiful cinematography, which captures the stunning landscapes of the American West.

While “Second-Hand Hearts” was not as well-received as some of Hal Ashby’s other films, it remains a charming and entertaining romantic comedy-drama that showcases Ashby’s skill at blending humor and heart.

The film is praised for its warm and affectionate portrayal of its characters, as well as its uplifting message about the power of love and human connection to heal and transform.

Second-Hand Hearts
  • Factory sealed DVD
  • Robert Blake, Barbara Harris (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG (Parental Guidance Suggested)

12. The Slugger’s Wife (1985)

“The Slugger’s Wife” is a 1985 romantic drama film directed by Hal Ashby, based on the novel of the same name by Neil Simon.

The film stars Michael O’Keefe as Darryl Palmer, a talented baseball player for the Atlanta Braves, and Rebecca De Mornay as Deborah “Debbie” Palmer, a singer-songwriter who becomes Darryl’s love interest.


The film explores themes of ambition, success, and the challenges of maintaining a romantic relationship in the public eye. It also features a memorable soundtrack, with original songs written by Carly Simon.

While “The Slugger’s Wife” received mixed reviews upon its release, it has since gained a cult following for its quirky characters, offbeat humor, and heartfelt romance. The film also features strong performances from O’Keefe and De Mornay, who bring depth and nuance to their roles.

Overall, “The Slugger’s Wife” is a unique and engaging film that showcases Ashby’s skill as a director and Simon’s wit as a screenwriter. Its themes of love and ambition remain relevant today, and its enduring popularity is a testament to its enduring charm and appeal.

The Slugger's Wife [DVD]
  • Michael O'Keefe, Rebecca De Mornay, Martin Ritt (Actors)
  • Hal Ashby (Director) - Ray Stark (Producer)
  • English, Spanish (Subtitles)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • Audience Rating: PG-13 (Parents Strongly Cautioned)

3 Characteristics of Hal Ashby Films

Hal Ashby was a celebrated filmmaker known for his unique approach to storytelling and his commitment to exploring complex social issues through his films. Here are three characteristics that are often associated with his work:

Authenticity: Ashby was known for his commitment to portraying authentic human experiences on screen. He often used real-life locations, and his films were filled with characters who felt genuine and relatable.

He had a talent for capturing the quirks and idiosyncrasies of everyday people, and his films were often praised for their realism.

Social commentary: Ashby’s films were often deeply political, and he used them as a vehicle to comment on social issues and injustices.

He was particularly interested in exploring the counterculture movements of the 1960s and 1970s, and his films often dealt with themes of rebellion, activism, and social change.

Quirkiness and Humor: Despite dealing with serious subject matter, Ashby’s films often had a quirky and offbeat sense of humor.

He had a talent for finding the humor in even the darkest of situations, and his films were often filled with unexpected moments of levity. This sense of humor helped to balance out the serious themes of his work, making it more accessible to audiences.

3 Reasons Why You Should Watch Hal Ashby Films

Hal Ashby was a highly influential American film director, known for his unique and unconventional approach to storytelling. Here are three reasons why you should watch his films:

Innovative storytelling: Hal Ashby’s films are known for their innovative and unconventional approach to storytelling.

He often tackled difficult subjects such as death, mental illness, and social justice issues, and approached them with a unique sensitivity and insight. His films were often characterized by their quirky humor and unexpected plot twists, which made them both entertaining and thought-provoking.

Strong character development: Ashby was a master at creating memorable and fully realized characters, and his films often explored the complexities of human relationships and emotions.

His characters were often outsiders or misfits, struggling to find their place in the world, and his films were marked by a deep empathy and understanding for their struggles.

Social commentary: Hal Ashby’s films often tackled important social issues, and were unafraid to explore controversial or taboo subjects.

He was a powerful voice for social justice and equality, and his films often provided a critique of the prevailing social and political norms of his time.

His films continue to resonate with audiences today, and serve as a reminder of the importance of speaking out against injustice and oppression.

Best Hal Ashby Films – Wrapping Up

Hal Ashby was a critically acclaimed filmmaker who directed several notable films during the 1970s, a period considered the golden age of American cinema. Here are some of his best films:

“Harold and Maude” (1971): A dark comedy about a young man who forms an unlikely bond with a much older woman. This film has become a cult classic and is considered a masterpiece of American cinema.

“Coming Home” (1978): A drama about the impact of the Vietnam War on soldiers and their families. The film received critical acclaim and won several Academy Awards, including Best Actor and Best Actress.

“Being There” (1979): A satirical comedy about a simple-minded gardener who becomes an unlikely political advisor. The film features a brilliant performance by Peter Sellers and is considered one of Ashby’s best works.

“The Last Detail” (1973): A comedy-drama about two Navy petty officers who are assigned to escort a young sailor to prison.

The film features strong performances by Jack Nicholson and Randy Quaid and is known for its sharp writing and powerful themes.

“Shampoo” (1975): A comedy-drama set in the late 1960s about a Beverly Hills hairdresser who navigates a series of complicated relationships

. The film features an all-star cast, including Warren Beatty, Julie Christie, and Goldie Hawn, and is known for its insightful commentary on American society.

Overall, Hal Ashby’s films are known for their powerful themes, nuanced characters, and unique visual style. His films continue to inspire and entertain audiences today and remain an important part of American cinema history.