In the 1973 classic “The Sting,” directed by George Roy, you’re in for a wild ride with Paul Newman and Robert Redford as the main con artists. Set in 1936, the movie follows the story of Henry Gondorff (played by Newman) and Johnny Hooker (played by Redford), two slick swindlers with a plan. They’re out to trick a big-shot mob boss who’s not only a crook but also responsible for the death of their friend. Fans love “The Sting” for its mind-bending plot full of surprises and its old-school ambiance, with sets and styles straight out of the early 20th century.

Film buffs still can’t get enough of “The Sting.” When it hit theaters, it wowed critics and secured seven Academy Awards, including the big ones like Best Picture and Best Director for George Roy Hill and Best Original Screenplay for David S. Ward. Paul Newman’s brilliant portrayal of Henry Gondorff and his partnership with Johnny Hooker are what really shine in this film.

What really grabs the audience about “The Sting” is how it transports you back in time with its spot-on costumes, sets, and dialogue, not to mention the unforgettable music that’s like another character in the movie. Even today, “The Sting” remains a masterpiece, especially for its clever story, top-notch cast, and classy style that never goes out of fashion.

The Sting (1973) Plot Summary & Film Synopsis:

The Sting kicks off with Hooker and Luther pulling off a slick con, scoring $5,000 from a guy who turns out to be related to the ruthless mob boss Lonnegan. Little did they know, they just stepped into a hornet’s nest. Hooker heads to a poker game. Well, luck isn’t on his side, and he ends up losing all the cash. Meanwhile, Lonnegan finds out about the con and his missing $11,000. Needless to say, he’s not happy. He’s out for blood, putting a target on Hooker and Luther’s backs.

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Why did Lonnegan’s men kill Luther?

After losing all the cash, Hooker stops by Luther’s place. Luther’s wife, Ava, used to be a renowned con artist back in the day. Luther’s not thrilled to hear about Hooker’s bad luck and suggests that Hooker learn from Henry Gondorf, a legendary con artist from Chicago, as Luther’s ready to hang up his con hat. While strolling down the street, Hooker and his friend Erie run into Lt. William Snyder. Snyder roughs up Hooker and demands a cut of their con money and takes most of the cash, and walks off. However, when Snyder leaves, Hooker reveals he handed Snyder counterfeit money.

The Sting (1973) Movie Ending Explained
A still from “The Sting” (1973)

When Hooker gets a hunch that something’s not right, he tries calling Luther, but there’s no answer. When he gets to Luther’s place, he discovers Luther dead. Erie helps Hooker make a quick exit to Gondorf’s place. Meanwhile, we find out that Luther was killed by Lonnegan’s crew. Luther and Hooker are tight, like family, and Hooker feels responsible for not being there to help. Hooker is burning with a desire for revenge. So, he turns to the wise old Gondorf for help and guidance in pulling off “The Big Con.”

How Hooker and Gondorf Set up Lonnegan for Defeat?

After Hooker and Gondorf team up, they are dead set on avenging Luther’s death. Gondorf gives Hooker a makeover and rounds up a bunch of skilled cons to pull off their big con against Lonnegan. They plan every move meticulously, breaking down their scheme into easy-to-handle steps. Their crew, which is made up of various con artists, join forces to take down Lonnegan. Lonnegan happens to be a crafty Irishman who made his fortune cheating at poker. Despite his ill-gotten gains, he is fiercely protective of his reputation and full of himself. He fancies himself the smartest cheat around until he meets his match in Henry Gondorf. When Gondorf outsmarts him, Lonnegan’s pride takes a serious hit.

To reel in, Lonnegan, Hooker, and Gondorf had to make their setup look like a sweet deal for him. They hop on the same train as Lonnegan and set up a card game. As the game begins, Lonnegan, thinking he’s slick with his cheating, starts bleeding cash. Gondorf, on the other hand, keeps raking in the cash, leaving Lonnegan $15k lighter and a whole lot more wary.

When it’s time for Lonnegan to settle up, he tries to weasel out by claiming he left his wallet behind. Gondorf, being smooth as silk, sends Hooker to fetch it from Lonnegan’s room. Once Gondorf has his cash, he makes himself scarce, leaving Lonnegan to confront Hooker. In a bold move, Hooker reveals everything and admits to cheating and even offering to team up with Lonnegan for a good cash prize. He also points Lonnegan to a betting booth run by Gondorf. To sweeten the deal, Hooker and Gondorf also cook up a scheme for Lonnegan to win thousands of dollars on a fixed horse race. They make it look like Hooker had gone rogue, tipping off Lonnegan about the winning horse behind Gondorf’s back.

The Sting (1973) Movie Ending Explained
Another still from “The Sting” (1973)

Lonnegan takes the bait and starts trusting Hooker with the inside scoop on Gondorf’s wire. Since the train game, Lonnegan has been nursing a grudge against Gondorf, so he is hell-bent on getting revenge. He even greases Hooker’s palm for information on a big race where he can place a monster bet to ruin Gondorf. The big day rolls around, and Lonnegan goes all in and drops half a million dollars on the horse Hooker had tipped him about. Little did he know that Gondorf had rigged the race for that horse to lose. In the end, Lonnegan is out half a million dollars, and Gondorf has the last laugh.

The Sting (1973) Movie Ending Explained:

How did Hooker escape the FBI and manage to bring Lonnegan down?

As Hooker gears up for payback, the cops send an FBI agent after him. This agent has a sneaky proposal that involves turning in Gondorf, and they’d let Hooker off the hook. Hooker isn’t interested in it, not even when the agent threatens to arrest Ava, Luther’s wife and a legendary con artist herself. Instead, Hooker and Gondorf join forces and cook up a master plan, and flip the script on Lonnegan.

After losing half a million dollars, Lonnegan isn’t about to take it lying down. To ensure he didn’t come looking for payback, Gondorf and Hooker stage a little drama. Gondorf pretends to shoot Hooker, and then the FBI agent shoots Gondorf. Later, the cops arrive and arrest Lonnegan, thinking they’d wrapped up the case. However, in reality, Hooker and Gondorf aren’t really shot and dead. It’s all part of the plan. As soon as Lonnegan is out of sight, they both come back and reveal that the FBI agents are also their men and have been in on the plan from the start. They take down Lonnegan, avenge Luther, and walk away with half a million dollars in their pockets, plus a nice payday for everyone else in on the con.

The Sting (1973) Movie Theme Analysed:

“The Sting,” released in 1973, remains a timeless classic cherished by many. It’s packed with themes like revenge, the art of the con, and, most importantly, friendship. The bond between Luther, Gondorf, and Hooker is a shining example of true friendship. Luther acted as a mentor and friend to Hooker, supporting him until his untimely death. After Luther’s passing, Hooker abandoned everything to team up with Gondorf. Their mission is to exact revenge on Lonnegan, the man responsible for Luther’s demise. Together, Gondorf and Hooker execute their cons, systematically dismantling Lonnegan’s empire.

In “The Sting,” the mob boss Lonnegan is a cocky, cheating man who falls right into Gondorf and Hooker’s trap by appealing to his ego. Their plan goes smoothly as they set up traps to lure Lonnegan deeper into their con. While it may seem like they’re seeking revenge, Gondorf makes it clear at one point that it’s all about the money for him. The most interesting character arc belongs to Hooker. At the start, he is motivated by money and wants to grab as much cash as he can, but by the end, when Gondorf offers him his cut of the big con, Hooker turns it down, realizing he’d only squander it all.

Read More: 20 Best Hollywood Movies with an Ensemble Cast

Trailer:

The Sting (1973) Movie Links: IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes, Wikipedia, Letterboxd
Cast of The Sting (1973) Movie: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
The Sting (1973) Movie Genre: Comedy/Drama | Runtime: 2h 9m
Where to watch The Sting

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