Muscle contraction is driven by the cyclical interaction of myosin with actin, coupled to the breakdown of ATP. Studies of the interaction of filamentous myosin and of a double-headed proteolytic fragment, heavy meromyosin (HMM), with actin have demonstrated discrete mechanical events, arising from stochastic interaction of single myosin molecules with actin. Here we show, using an optical-tweezers transducer, that a single myosin subfragment-1 (S1), which is a single myosin head, can act as an independent generator of force and movement. Our analysis accounts for the broad distribution of displacement amplitudes observed, and indicates that the underlying movement (working stroke) produced by a single acto-S1 interaction is approximately 4 nm, considerably shorter than previous estimates but consistent with structural data. We measure the average force generated by S1 or HMM to be at least 1.7 pN under isometric conditions.