148 user 76 critic

The Jerk (1979)

2:32 | Trailer
A simpleminded, sheltered country boy suddenly decides to leave his family home to experience life in the big city, where his naivete is both his best friend and his worst enemy.


Carl Reiner


Steve Martin (screenplay), Carl Gottlieb (screenplay) | 3 more credits »
4,780 ( 682)
1 nomination. See more awards »





Cast overview, first billed only:
Steve Martin ... Navin / Cat Juggler (as Pig Eye Jackson also)
Bernadette Peters ... Marie
Catlin Adams ... Patty Bernstein
Mabel King ... Mother
Richard Ward ... Father
Dick Anthony Williams ... Taj
Bill Macy ... Stan Fox
M. Emmet Walsh ... Madman
Dick O'Neill ... Frosty
Maurice Evans ... Hobart
Helena Carroll Helena Carroll ... Hester
Renn Woods ... Elvira (as Ren Wood)
Pepe Serna ... Punk #1
Sonny Terry Sonny Terry ... Blues Singer
Brownie McGhee Brownie McGhee ... Blues Singer (as Brownie McGee)


Navin is an idiot. He grew up in Mississippi as the adopted son of a black family, but on his 18th birthday he feels he wants to discover the rest of the world and sets out for St. Louis. There everyone exploits his naivete, until a simple invention brings him a fortune. Written by Tom Zoerner <Tom.Zoerner@informatik.uni-erlangen.de>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


He was a poor black sharecropper's son who never dreamed he was adopted. See more »




R | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »

Did You Know?


A sandwich shop in Oregon named their jerk chicken sandwich the "Navin R. Johnson." See more »


When Navin fills up the tank of the lowriders' car, he leaves the hose in the car and walks away. When he returns, the hose has been replaced back on the gas pump. See more »


[first lines]
Navin R. Johnson: Huh? I am *not* a bum. I'm a jerk. I once had wealth, power, and the love of a beautiful woman. Now I only have two things: my friends, and... uh... my thermos. Huh? My story? Okay. It was never easy for me. I was born a poor black child. I remember the days, sittin' on the porch with my family, singin' and dancin' down in Mississippi...
See more »

Crazy Credits

Pig Eye Jackson - Cat Juggler (Steve Martin) See more »

Alternate Versions

Generally, commercial-TV prints that edit Navin's dog's name to "Stupid" and show Navin on the amusement-park ride "so broken-up that he had to spin," also include extended dialogue with Navin elaborating with Mr. Hartounian about making $1.10 an hour; these prints also have close-up camera angles to avoid showing Billy's profane T-shirt, and most of Patty's sexual-reference dialogue is cut. See more »


Referenced in Joe Dirt (2001) See more »


Tonight You Belong To Me
Sung by Bernadette Peters and Steve Martin
Music by Lee David
Lyric by Billy Rose
See more »

User Reviews

Odd, clever humor makes "Jerk" lovable
7 August 2008 | by Movie_Muse_ReviewsSee all my reviews

"The Jerk" is an easy watch, something you can take in quickly and get plenty of good laughs from. While it's not a comedy that strings together laugh-out-loud moments, it has its unique brand of humor grounded in both absurdity and plays on words. It's the kind of humor that's either a hit with someone or doesn't quite do it for them. The more you look back and recall lines and moments from this film, however, the more it grows on you. It's not about the big laughs, but the little things that make "The Jerk" special.

Steve Martin stars as Navin Johnson, a man who grew up thinking he was black and eventually sets out to find his greater purpose. Johnson is naive, stupid, ignorant, but lovable guy, and the film shows how the people around him turn him into...a jerk. This is easily Martin's best character role. He does such a great job handling the subtlety of the humor without playing the absurd moments too over-the-top. He really carries this film.

The odd humor manifests itself through jokes like when Johnson tells his girlfriend Marie (Bernadette Peters) what their time together has felt like, describing first day as feeling like a week, the second day felt like two days, etc. and when he writes home to his family and says "remember when I dreamed about having a big house with _____?" and then he describes with great detail all the absurd rooms in his mansion he could never have actually dreamed of as a child. It's all very original and will definitely appeal more to people who appreciate what makes each joke funny.

So the writing, which is mostly Martin and the acting, which is mostly Martin, are the aspects of the film most worthy of praise. None of the other characters are really written well enough to add anything significant to the comedy, so its the Steven Martin Show. In fact, if you'd told me he did it based on a Saturday Night Live character I would have easily believed you. Either way, this is an odd but easy to love, easy to watch comedy. It's truly different and definitely stands out.

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Release Date:

14 December 1979 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Easy Money See more »


Box Office

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,935,025, 16 December 1979

Gross USA:


Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

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Company Credits

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Technical Specs


| (Super 8-version in 2 parts)

Sound Mix:




Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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