Rear Window

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Rear Window
Rear Window film poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Screenplay by John Michael Hayes
Based on"It Had to Be Murder"
1942 story in Dime Detective
by Cornell Woolrich
Produced byAlfred Hitchcock
Cinematography Robert Burks
Edited by George Tomasini
Music by Franz Waxman
Patron Inc.
Distributed by Paramount Pictures [N 1]
Release dates
  • August 4, 1954 (1954-08-04)(New York City)
  • September 1, 1954 (1954-09-01)(United States)
Running time
111 minutes
CountryUnited States
Budget$1 million
Box office$37 million [3]

Rear Window is a 1954 American mystery thriller film directed by Alfred Hitchcock and written by John Michael Hayes based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story It Had to Be Murder . Originally released by Paramount Pictures, the film stars James Stewart, Grace Kelly, Wendell Corey, Thelma Ritter, and Raymond Burr. It was screened at the 1954 Venice Film Festival.


Rear Window is considered by many filmgoers, critics, and scholars to be one of Hitchcock's best, [4] as well as one of the greatest films ever made. It received four Academy Award nominations, and was ranked number 42 on AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies list and number 48 on the 10th-anniversary edition, and in 1997 was added to the United States National Film Registry in the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant." [5] [6]


In the mid-1950s, while recuperating after breaking his leg, professional photographer, L. B. "Jeff" Jefferies, is confined to a wheelchair in his apartment in Greenwich Village, Manhattan. His rear window looks out onto a courtyard and other apartments. During an intense heat wave, he watches his neighbors, who keep their windows open to stay cool, including a traveling costume-jewelry salesman. Lars Thorwald, with a bedridden wife.

James Stewart as L. B. Jefferies Rearwindow trailer 1.jpg
James Stewart as L. B. Jefferies

Jeff is visited regularly by Lisa Fremont, his socialite girlfriend, and by a nurse, Stella. One night, Jeff, alone, hears a woman scream and the sound of breaking glass. Later that night, during a thunderstorm, he observes Thorwald making repeated excursions carrying a suitcase. Later, after Jeff dozes off, Thorwald leaves his apartment along with a woman. The next morning, Jeff notices that Thorwald's wife is gone, and sees him cleaning a large knife and handsaw. Thorwald also has moving-men haul away a large trunk. Jeff becomes convinced that Thorwald has murdered his wife, and tells Lisa and Stella, who believe him when they notice that Thorwald's wife isn't in bed anymore. Jeff calls his friend and war buddy Tom Doyle, a New York City Police detective, and asks him to investigate Thorwald. Doyle finds nothing suspicious. Soon after a dog is found dead in the courtyard, its alarmed owner yells, drawing the attention of everyone, except Thorwald who sits silently in his dark apartment. Jeff lures Thorwald away from his apartment to allow Lisa and Stella to investigate Thorwald's flower bed where the dog was digging. Nothing is found, but Lisa climbs through Thorwald's window and begins to search for evidence.

Jeff and Stella are distracted watching a neighbor considering overdose and call the police. As they wait, Thorwald suddenly returns and catches Lisa. The police intervene and, during their questioning, Lisa signals to Jeff that she is wearing Mrs. Thorwald's wedding ring. Thorwald sees this and realizes Jeff is watching his apartment. Jeff phones Doyle and leaves an urgent message while Stella goes to bail Lisa out of jail. Thorwald locates Jeff's apartment and attacks him. During the scuffle, Doyle and other officers storm the courtyard and arrest Thorwald just as he drops Jeff out the window. Thorwald confesses to his wife's murder.

A few days later, life in the apartment complex has returned to normal. Jeff broke his leg in the fall and now has both legs in a cast. He sleeps as Lisa reads the fashion magazine, Harper's Bazaar.


James Stewart and Grace Kelly Rearwindow trailer 2.jpg
James Stewart and Grace Kelly


Cast notes



In Laura Mulvey's essay "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema," she identifies what she sees as voyeurism and scopophilia in Hitchcock's movies, with Rear Window used as an example of how she sees cinema as incorporating the patriarchy into the way that pleasure is constructed and signaled to the audience. Additionally, she sees the "male gaze" as especially evident in Rear Window in characters such as the dancer "Miss Torso;" she is both a spectacle for Jeff to enjoy, as well as for the audience (through his substitution). [8]

In his 1954 review of the film, François Truffaut suggested "this parable: The courtyard is the world, the reporter/photographer is the filmmaker, the binoculars stand for the camera and its lenses." [9]


John Fawell notes in Dennis Perry's book Hitchcock and Poe: The Legacy of Delight and Terror that Hitchcock "recognized that the darkest aspect of voyeurism . . . is our desire for awful things to happen to people . . . to make ourselves feel better, and to relieve ourselves of the burden of examining our own lives." [10] Hitchcock challenges the audience, forcing them to peer through his rear window and become exposed to, as Donald Spoto calls it in his 1976 book The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures, the "social contagion" of acting as voyeur. [11]

In his book Alfred Hitchcock's "Rear Window", John Belton further addresses the underlying issues of voyeurism which he asserts are evident in the film. He says "Rear Window's story is 'about' spectacle; it explores the fascination with looking and the attraction of that which is being looked at." [12]

In an explicit example of a condemnation of voyeurism, Stella expresses her outrage at Jeffries' voyeuristic habits, saying, "In the old days, they'd put your eyes out with a red hot poker" and "What people ought to do is get outside and look in for a change."

With further analysis, Jeff's positive evolution understandably would be impossible without voyeurism—or as Robin Wood puts it in his 1989 book Hitchcock's Films Revisited, "the indulging of morbid curiosity and the consequences of that indulgence." [13]


Stewart, Kelly, and Hitchcock on set Stewart, Kelly & Hitchcock Rear Window.jpg
Stewart, Kelly, and Hitchcock on set


The screenplay, which was written by John Michael Hayes, was based on Cornell Woolrich's 1942 short story It Had to Be Murder . However, in 1990 the question as to who owned the film rights of Woolrich's original story went before the Supreme Court of the United States in Stewart v. Abend . [14] Although the film was copyrighted in 1954 by Patron Inc. by a production company set up by Hitchcock and Stewart, a subsequent rights holder refused to acknowledge previous rights agreements. As a result, Stewart and Hitchcock's estate became involved in the Supreme Court case. Its outcome led to the litigant, Sheldon Abend, becoming credited as a producer of the 1998 remake of Rear Window.


The film was shot entirely at Paramount Studios, which included an enormous indoor set to replicate a Greenwich Village courtyard. Set designers Hal Pereira and Joseph MacMillan Johnson spent six weeks building the extremely detailed and complex set, which ended up being the largest of its kind at Paramount. One of the unique features of the set was its massive drainage system, constructed to accommodate the rain sequence in the film. They also built the set around a highly nuanced lighting system which was able to create natural-looking lighting effects for both the day and night scenes. Though the address given in the film is 125 W. Ninth Street in New York's Greenwich Village, the set was actually based on a real courtyard located at 125 Christopher Street. [15]

In addition to the meticulous care and detail put into the set, careful attention was also given to sound, including the use of natural sounds and music that would drift across the courtyard and into Jefferies' apartment. At one point, the voice of Bing Crosby can be heard singing "To See You Is to Love You," originally from the 1952 Paramount film Road to Bali . Also heard on the soundtrack are versions of songs popularized earlier in the decade by Nat King Cole ("Mona Lisa", 1950) and Dean Martin ("That's Amore", 1952), along with segments from Leonard Bernstein's score for Jerome Robbins' ballet Fancy Free (1944), Richard Rodgers' song "Lover" (1932), and "M'appari tutt'amor" from Friedrich von Flotow's opera Martha (1844), most borrowed from Paramount's music publisher, Famous Music.

Hitchcock used costume designer Edith Head on all of his Paramount films.


Although veteran Hollywood composer Franz Waxman is credited with the score for the film, his contributions were limited to the opening and closing titles and the piano tune ("Lisa"). This was Waxman's final score for Hitchcock. The director used primarily "diegetic" sounds—sounds arising from the normal life of the characters—throughout the film. [16]


Original trailer for the 1968 re-release of Rear Window (1954)

On August 4, 1954, a "benefit world premiere" was held for the film, with United Nations officials and "prominent members of the social and entertainment worlds" at the Rivoli Theatre in New York City, [17] with proceeds going to the American–Korean Foundation (an aid organization founded soon after the end of the Korean War and headed by Milton S. Eisenhower, brother of President Eisenhower). [18]

During its initial theatrical run, Rear Window earned $5.3 million in North American box office rentals. [19]


Drive-in advertisement from 1954 Encina Drive-in Ad - 13 October 1954, Santa Cruz, CA.jpg
Drive-in advertisement from 1954

Bosley Crowther of The New York Times called the film a "tense and exciting exercise" and deemed Hitchcock as a director whose work has a "maximum of build-up to the punch, a maximum of carefully tricked deception and incidents to divert and amuse." Crowther also noted that "Mr. Hitchcock's film is not 'significant.' What it has to say about people and human nature is superficial and glib, but it does expose many facets of the loneliness of city life, and it tacitly demonstrates the impulse of morbid curiosity. The purpose of it is sensation, and that it generally provides in the colorfulness of its detail and in the flood of menace toward the end." [17] Variety called the film "one of Alfred Hitchcock's better thrillers" which "combines technical and artistic skills in a manner that makes this an unusually good piece of murder mystery entertainment." [20] The film ranked fifth on Cahiers du Cinéma's Top 10 Films of the Year List in 1955. [21]

Time called it "just possibly the second-most entertaining picture (after The 39 Steps ) ever made by Alfred Hitchcock" and a film in which there is "never an instant ... when Director Hitchcock is not in minute and masterly control of his material." The reviewer also noted the "occasional studied lapses of taste and, more important, the eerie sense a Hitchcock audience has of reacting in a manner so carefully foreseen as to seem practically foreordained." [22] Harrison's Reports named the film as a "first-rate thriller" that is "strictly an adult entertainment, but it should prove to be a popular one." They further added, "What helps to make the story highly entertaining is the fact that it is enhanced by clever dialogue and by delightful touches of comedy and romance that relieve the tension." [23]

Nearly 30 years after the film's initial release, Roger Ebert reviewed the re-release by Universal Pictures in October 1983, after Hitchcock's estate was settled. He said the film "develops such a clean, uncluttered line from beginning to end that we're drawn through it (and into it) effortlessly. The experience is not so much like watching a movie, as like ... well, like spying on your neighbors. Hitchcock traps us right from the first ... And because Hitchcock makes us accomplices in Stewart's voyeurism, we're along for the ride. When an enraged man comes bursting through the door to kill Stewart, we can't detach ourselves, because we looked too, and so we share the guilt and in a way we deserve what's coming to him." [24] In 1983, reviewing the film Vincent Canby wrote "Its appeal, which goes beyond that of other, equally masterly Hitchcock works, remains undiminished." [25]

The review aggregator website Rotten Tomatoes reports an approval rating of 98% based on 130 reviews, with an average rating of 9.30/10. The critics' consensus states that "Hitchcock exerted full potential of suspense in this masterpiece." [4] At Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of a very rare perfect 100 out of 100 based on 18 critics, indicating "universal acclaim". [26] In his 2012 review of the film, Killian Fox of The Guardian wrote: "Hitchcock made a career out of indulging our voyeuristic tendencies, and he never excited them more skilfully, or with more gleeful self-awareness, than in Rear Window". [27]

Awards and nominations

AwardDate of ceremonyCategoryRecipientResult
Venice Film Festival August 22 to September 7, 1954 Golden Lion Alfred Hitchcock Nominated
National Board of Review Awards December 20, 1954 Best Actress Grace Kelly Won
NYFCC Awards January 1955 Best Actress Grace KellyWon
Best Director Alfred Hitchcock2nd place
DGA Award February 13, 1955 Outstanding Achievement in Feature FilmAlfred HitchcockNominated
Writers Guild of America Awards February 28, 1955 Best Written American Drama John Michael Hayes Nominated
BAFTA Award March 10, 1955 Best Film Rear WindowNominated
Academy Awards March 30, 1955 Best Director Alfred HitchcockNominated
Best Adapted Screenplay John Michael HayesNominated
Best Cinematography – Color Robert Burks Nominated
Best Sound – Recording Loren L. Ryder Nominated
Edgar Allan Poe Awards April 21, 1955 Best Motion Picture Screenplay John Michael HayesWon
National Film Preservation Board November 18, 1997 National Film Registry Rear WindowWon
Online Film & Television Association Award2002OFTA Film Hall of Fame – Motion PictureRear WindowWon


In 1997, Rear Window was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant". By this time, the film interested other directors with its theme of voyeurism, and other reworkings of the film soon followed, which included Brian De Palma's 1984 film Body Double and Phillip Noyce's 1993 film Sliver . In 1998 Time Out magazine conducted a poll and Rear Window was voted the 21st greatest film of all time. [28] In the British Film Institute's 2012 Sight & Sound polls of the greatest films ever made, Rear Window was ranked 53rd among critics [29] and 48th among directors. [30] In the 2022 edition of the magazine's Greatest films of all time list the film ranked 38th in the critics poll. [31] In 2017 Empire magazine's readers' poll ranked Rear Window at No. 72 on its list of The 100 Greatest Movies. [32] In 2022, Time Out magazine ranked the film at No. 26 on their list of "The 100 best thriller films of all time". [33]

Rear Window was restored by the team of Robert A. Harris and James C. Katz for its 1999 limited theatrical re-release (using Technicolor dye-transfer prints for the first time in this title's history) and the Collector's Edition DVD release in 2000.[ citation needed ] [34]

American Film Institute included the film as number 42 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies, [35] number 14 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Thrills, [36] number 48 in AFI's 100 Years...100 Movies (10th Anniversary Edition) [37] and number three in AFI's 10 Top 10 (Mysteries). [38]

Rear Window was remade as a TV movie of the same name in 1998, with an updated storyline in which the lead character is paralyzed and lives in a high-tech home filled with assistive technology. Actor Christopher Reeve, himself paralyzed as a result of a 1995 horse-riding accident, was cast in the lead role. The telefilm also starred Daryl Hannah, Robert Forster, Ruben Santiago-Hudson, and Anne Twomey.

Rear Window has directly influenced plot elements and themes of numerous Brian De Palma films, particularly Hi, Mom! (1970), Sisters (1972), Dressed to Kill (1980), and Body Double (1984). [39] [40] [41]

Disturbia (2007) is a modern-day retelling, with the protagonist (Shia LaBeouf) under house arrest instead of laid up with a broken leg, and who believes that his neighbor is a serial killer rather than having committed a single murder. On September 5, 2008, the Sheldon Abend Trust sued Steven Spielberg, DreamWorks, Viacom, and Universal Studios, alleging that the producers of Disturbia violated the copyright to the original Woolrich story owned by Abend. [42] [43] On September 21, 2010, the U.S. District Court in Abend v. Spielberg, 748 F.Supp.2d 200 (S.D.N.Y. 2010), ruled that Disturbia did not infringe the original Woolrich story. [44]

Rear Window has been homaged and spoofed in numerous episodes of television, including the Pretty Little Liars episode How the 'A' Stole Christmas and season four episode seven of 9-1-1 .

In February 2008, the film was referenced as a part of Variety's The 2008 Hollywood Portfolio: Hitchcock Classics spread, with Scarlett Johansson and Javier Bardem as Lisa and Jeff, respectively. [45]

Rear Window has been referenced multiple times by Taylor Swift. In the music video for her single "Me!", Swift wears a dress similar to one of Edith Head's designs worn by Grace Kelly. [46] Swift has also stated that the voyeuristic elements of the film inspired the storytelling of her album Folklore. [47]

Home media

On September 25, 2012, Universal Studios Home Entertainment released Rear Window for the first time on Blu-ray as part of the "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection". This edition included numerous supplemental features such as an audio commentary from John Fawell, excerpts from Hitchcock's interview with François Truffaut, two theatrical trailers, and an interview with the film's screenwriter John Michael Hayes. [48]

On May 6, 2014, Universal Pictures Home Entertainment re-released Rear Window on Blu-ray with the same supplemental features. [49]

See also

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Informational notes

  1. After the film's release, Paramount transferred the distribution rights to Hitchcock's estate, where they were acquired by Universal Pictures in 1983. [1] [2]


  1. McGilligan, Patrick (2003). Alfred Hitchcock: A Life in Darkness and Light. Wiley. p. 653.
  2. Rossen, Jake (February 5, 2016). "When Hitchcock Banned Audiences from Seeing His Movies". Mental Floss. Retrieved September 9, 2020.
  3. "Rear Window (1954)". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved April 12, 2012.
  4. 1 2 "Rear Window (1954)". Rotten Tomatoes . Fandango Media . Retrieved August 13, 2019.
  5. "Complete National Film Registry Listing". Library of Congress . Retrieved May 8, 2020.
  6. "New to the National Film Registry (December 1997) - Library of Congress Information Bulletin". Retrieved August 6, 2020.
  7. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 Rear Window at the AFI Catalog of Feature Films
  8. Mulvey, Laura (1975). "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema" . Screen . 16 (3): 6–18. doi:10.1093/screen/16.3.6.
  9. Truffaut, François (2014). The Films in My Life. New York, NY: Diversion Books. p. 123. ISBN   978-1-62681-396-0.
  10. Perry, Dennis (2003). Hitchcock and Poe: the Legacy of Delight and Terror. Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, Inc. pp. 135–153. ISBN   978-0-8108-4822-1.
  11. Spoto, Donald (1976). The Art of Alfred Hitchcock: Fifty Years of His Motion Pictures . Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday & Company, Inc. pp.  237–249. ISBN   978-0-385-41813-3.
  12. Belton, John (2002). "Introduction: Spectacle and Narrative". In Belton, John (ed.). Alfred Hitchcock's 'Rear Window'. Cambridge University Press. p. 1. ISBN   978-0-521-56423-6. OCLC   40675056.
  13. Wood, Robin (1989). Hitchcock's Films Revisited . New York: Columbia University Press. pp.  100–107. ISBN   978-0-231-12695-3.
  14. Stewart v. Abend , 495 U.S. 207 (1990)
  15. "The Greenwich Village Building With a Starring Role in Hitchcock's Rear Window". April 29, 2024.
  16. DVD documentary
  17. 1 2 Crowther, Bosley (August 5, 1954). "A 'Rear Window' View Seen at the Rivoli". The New York Times.
  18. "Statement by the President on the fund-raising campaign of the American–Korean Foundation". University of California, Santa Barbara.
  19. "1954 Boxoffice Champs". Variety. January 5, 1955. p. 59. Retrieved September 13, 2020 via Internet Archive.
  20. "Film Reviews: Rear Window". Variety. July 14, 1954. p. 6. Retrieved September 13, 2020 via Internet Archive.
  21. Johnson, Eric C. "Cahiers du Cinema: Top Ten Lists 1951-2009". Archived from the original on March 27, 2012. Retrieved December 17, 2017.
  22. "Cinema: The New Pictures" . Time. Vol. 64, no. 5. August 2, 1954. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  23. "'Rear Window' with James Stewart, Grace Kelly, and Thelma Ritter". Harrison's Reports. July 15, 1954. p. 115. Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  24. Ebert, Roger (October 7, 1983). "Rear Window (1954)". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 13, 2020 via
  25. "'Rear Window' - Still a joy". New York Times. October 9, 1983.
  26. "Rear Window Reviews". Metacritic . CBS Interactive . Retrieved June 10, 2019.
  27. Fox, Killian (July 25, 2012). "My favourite Hitchcock: Rear Window". The Guardian.
  28. "Top 100 Films (Readers)". AMC . American Movie Classics Company. Archived from the original on July 18, 2014. Retrieved August 17, 2010.
  29. "Critics' Top 100". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2012. Archived from the original on February 7, 2016.
  30. "Directors' Top 100". Sight & Sound. British Film Institute. 2012.
  31. "The Greatest Films of All Time".
  32. "The 100 Greatest Movies". Archived from the original on July 6, 2018. Retrieved March 20, 2018.
  33. "The 100 best thriller films of all time". Time Out. March 23, 2022.
  34. Harris, Robert, and John Belton. Getting It Right: Robert Harris on Colour Restoration. Film History.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  35. AFI 100 Years...100 Movies
  36. American Film Institute's 100 Years, 100 Thrills (winners)
  37. "AFI 100 Years...100 Movies". Archived from the original on April 14, 2014. Retrieved July 14, 2021.
  38. "AFI's 10 Top 10". American Film Institute. 2016. Retrieved August 23, 2016.
  39. Brody, Richard. "Hi, Mom!". The New Yorker. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  40. Hoberman, J. "'Sisters' Isn't 'Psycho,' but It's a Lacerating Spin on Hitchcock". The New York Times. Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  41. Starkey, Arun (August 13, 2022). "How Alfred Hitchcock influenced Brian De Palma". Retrieved February 19, 2024.
  42. Edith Honan (September 8, 2008). "Spielberg ripped off Hitchcock Classic". Reuters. Archived from the original on January 22, 2012. Retrieved September 8, 2008.
  43. Chad Bray (September 9, 2008). "2nd UPDATE: Trust Files Copyright Lawsuit Over Disturbia". CNN Money. Retrieved September 8, 2008.[ dead link ]
  44. "Rear Window copyright claim rejected". BBC News. September 22, 2010.
  45. Vanity Fair photograph
  46. Gibson, Kelsie (April 26, 2019). "Taylor Swift's "Me!" Music Video Includes Quite a Few Nods to Iconic Movies". Popsugar. Retrieved April 16, 2024.
  47. Brodsky, Rachel (September 10, 2022). "Taylor Swift Talks Cinematic Influences, Metaphorical Scarf At Toronto Film Fest". Stereogum. Retrieved April 16, 2024.
  48. Universal Pictures Home Entertainment (June 21, 2012). "From Universal Studios Home Entertainment: Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection" (Press release). PR Newswire . Retrieved September 13, 2020.
  49. "Rear Window Blu-ray". March 18, 2014. Retrieved September 13, 2020.

Further reading