North by Northwest (1959) - Rotten Tomatoes

North by Northwest (1959)



Critic Consensus: Gripping, suspenseful, and visually iconic, this late-period Hitchcock classic laid the groundwork for countless action thrillers to follow.

Movie Info

While having lunch at the Plaza Hotel in New York, advertising executive Roger O. Thornhill (Cary Grant) has the bad luck to call for a messenger just as a page goes out for a "George Kaplan." From that moment, Thornhill finds that he has stepped into a nightmare -- he is quietly abducted by a pair of armed men out of the hotel's famous Oak Room and transported to a Long Island estate; there, he is interrogated by a mysterious man (James Mason) who, believing that Roger is George Kaplan, demands to know what he knows about his business and how he has come to acquire this knowledge. Roger, who knows nothing about who any of these people are, can do nothing but deny that he is Kaplan or that he knows what they're talking about. Finally, his captors force a bottle of bourbon into Roger and put him behind the wheel of a car on a dangerous downhill stretch. Through sheer luck and the intervention of a police patrol car and its driver (John Beradino), Roger survives the ride and evades his captors, and is booked for drunk driving. He's unable to persuade the court, the county detectives, or even his own mother (Jesse Royce Landis) of the truth of his story, however -- Thornhill returns with them to the mansion where he was held, only to find any incriminating evidence cleaned up and to learn that the owner of the house is a diplomat, Lester Townsend (Philip Ober), assigned to the United Nations. He backtracks to the hotel to find the room of the real George Kaplan, only to discover that no one at the hotel has ever actually seen the man. With his kidnappers once again pursuing him, Thornhill decides to confront Townsend at the United Nations, only to discover that he knows nothing of the events on Long Island, or his house being occupied -- but before he can learn more, Townsend gets a knife in his back in full view of 50 witnesses who believe that Roger did it. Now on the run from a murder charge, complete with a photograph of him holding the weapon plastered on the front page of every newspaper in the country, Thornhill tries to escape via train -- there he meets the cooly beautiful Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint), who twice hides him from the police, once spontaneously and a second time in a more calculated rendezvous in her compartment that gets the two of them together romantically, at least for the night. By the next day, he's off following a clue to a remote rural highway, where he is attacked by an armed crop-dusting plane, one of the most famous scenes in Hitchcock's entire film output. Thornhill barely survives, but he does manage to learn that his mysterious tormentor/interrogator is named Phillip Vandamm, and that he goes under the cover of being an art dealer and importer/exporter, and that Eve is in bed with him in every sense of the phrase -- or is she? ~ Bruce Eder, Rovimore
Rating: Unrated
Genre: Mystery & Suspense, Classics
Directed By:
Written By: Ernest Lehman
In Theaters:
On DVD: Aug 29, 2000
Turner Entertainment


Cary Grant
as Roger O. Thornhill
Eva Marie Saint
as Eve Kendall
James Mason
as James Vandamm
Leo G Carroll
as The Professor
Jesse Royce Landis
as Clara Thornhill
Jessie Royce Landis
as Clara Thornhill
Philip Ober
as Lester Townsend
Josephine Hutchinson
as Handsome Woman
Adam Williams
as Valerian
Edward Platt
as Victor Larrabee
Les Tremayne
as Auctioneer
Philip Coolidge
as Dr. Cross
Patrick McVey
as Chicago Policeman
Pat McVey
as Chicago Policeman
Ken Lynch
as Chicago Policeman
Edward Binns
as Capt. Junket
John Beradino
as Sgt. Emile Klinger
Nora Marlowe
as Anna the Housekeeper
Alexander Lockwood
as Judge Anson B. Flynn
Stanley Adams
as Lt. Harding
Lawrence Dobkin
as Cartoonist
Harvey Stephens
as Stock Broker
Walter Coy
as Reporter
Madge Kennedy
as Housewife
Tommy Farrell
as Elevator Starter
Jimmy Cross
as Taxi Driver
Baynes Barron
as Taxi Driver
Harry Seymour
as Captain of Waiters
Frank Wilcox
as Weltner
Robert Shayne
as Larry Wade
Carleton Young
as Fanning Nelson
Ralph Reed
as Bellboy
Paul Genge
as Lt. Hagerman
Robert B. Williams
as Patrolman Waggonner ...
Maudie Prickett
as Elsie the Maid
Sally Fraser
as Girl Attendant
Maura McGiveney
as Girl Attendant
Susan Whitney
as Girl Attendant
Doris Singh
as Indian Girl
Ned Glass
as Ticket Agent
Howard Negley
as Conductor
Jack Daly
as Steward
Tol Avery
as Detective
Tom Greenway
as Detective
Malcolm Atterbury
as Man on Road
Andy Albin
as Farmer
John Damler
as Police Lieutenant
Len Hendry
as Police Lieutenant
Sara Berner
as Telephone Operator
Taggart Casey
as Man With Razor
Bill Catching
as Attendant
Frank Marlowe
as Dakota Cab Driver
Harry Strang
as Assistant Conductor
Alfred Hitchcock
as Man Who Misses Bus
Olan Soule
as Assistant Auctioneer
Patricia Cutts
as Hospital Patient
Sid Kane
as (uncredited)
Hugh Pryor
as (uncredited)
Charles Postal
as (uncredited)
Show More Cast

News & Interviews for North by Northwest

Critic Reviews for North by Northwest

All Critics (65) | Top Critics (8)

Hitchcock breezes through a tongue-in-cheek, nightmarish plot with a lightness of touch that's equalled by a charming performance from Grant.

Full Review… | June 19, 2009
Time Out
Top Critic

Smoothly troweled and thoroughly entertaining.

Full Review… | April 23, 2009
TIME Magazine
Top Critic

A great film, and certainly one of the most entertaining movies ever made, directed by Alfred Hitchcock at his peak.

Full Review… | March 27, 2009
Chicago Reader
Top Critic

At times it seems Hitchcock is kidding his own penchant for the bizarre, but this sardonic attitude is so deftly handled it only enhances the thrills.

Full Review… | March 26, 2009
Top Critic

All in all, an improbable classic.

Full Review… | January 26, 2006
Time Out
Top Critic

...a tenuously engaging thriller that could've used a few more passes through the editing bay...

Full Review… | December 30, 2012
Reel Film Reviews

Audience Reviews for North by Northwest

Gave it a go because it's Hitchcock's, add to it the high IMDb rating. Turned out to be highly disappointing. It's poor in almost every department, be it the plot, the dialogues, the casting, the performances..... A chimpanzee might have been more suitable for the role of Thornhill. All in all, just another classic that I should have rather skipped. 0/5.

For the want of rating, 0.5/5. Actual rating: 0/5.

familiar stranger

Super Reviewer

Awesome spy adventure flick.

Christian C

Super Reviewer

I can see how Hitchcock was such a famed director!

Thomas Johnston

Super Reviewer

North by Northwest Quotes

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– Submitted by Joakim A (7 months ago)
– Submitted by George P (2 years ago)
– Submitted by Richard H (2 years ago)

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