Dial M for Murder



Classic Hitchcock thriller is tense but not graphic.
  • Review Date: July 1, 2011
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1954
  • Running Time: 105 minutes

What parents need to know

Positive messages

No matter how clever, it's almost impossible to execute a "perfect crime."

Positive role models

An English police inspector passionately seeks justice and works hard trying to outwit a clever killer. Reflective of the time in which it was made (1954), the heroine is fragile, dependent, and hardly capable of making a decision for herself.


There is one scene in which an intruder attempts to strangle a woman in her home; a fierce struggle ensues and someone is stabbed to death with a pair of scissors. Suspense is heightened because the audience knows beforehand that a murder has been ordered.


Two characters are in a long-term extra-marital romance. They kiss in two scenes.

Not applicable
Not applicable
Drinking, drugs, & smoking

Characters consume alcoholic beverages in numerous social settings, and on one occasion a drink is offered to soothe the victim of a traumatic experience. There is no drunkenness. Smoking is frequent: cigarettes, a pipe, and a cigar.

Parents Need to Know

Parents need to know that while the movie is a typical Alfred Hitchcock thriller which carefully builds suspense, the action itself is restricted to one violent struggle in which there is an attempted strangulation and the victim uses a pair of scissors to defend herself. The rest of the film takes place almost entirely in an apartment in which characters intricately plan, bargain, bluff, blackmail, spar, and attempt to outwit one another. Two leading characters are revealed to have been adulterous lovers for several years. Set in 1954, alcohol is offered at the beginning of almost every scene as a form of hospitality and friendship. Most people smoke: cigarettes, a cigar, a pipe. Other than young film buffs, there's not much that would appeal to kids here.

What's the story?

Wily, dilettante tennis pro Tony Wendice (Ray Milland) is aware that his wife Margot (Grace Kelly) is in love with an American writer (Robert Cummings). Dependent upon her money and fearful that she'll leave him, Tony spends months planning the "perfect crime" and blackmails an old college classmate into carrying out Margot's murder. When things go awry, the diabolical Tony comes up with another brilliant way to get rid of Margot. Only the presence of an equally clever London police detective threatens to stop Tony from having his way.

Is it any good?


While not in the pantheon of Hitchcock's greatest achievements, DIAL M FOR MURDER is still considered a classic by many. Its intricate plotting, carefully built tension, and the scheming nature of its debonair would-be murderer keep the talky film moving despite its singular, interior setting.

This is the first Hitchcock-Kelly pairing and the film is credited with making her a star. Curiously, Warner Bros. insisted that the film be produced in 3D, though it was never widely released that way. The film will appeal mostly to Hitchcock fans and old-fashioned "drawing room" mystery lovers.

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about the difference between movies made in this era and movies made today. How is violence portrayed differently? Why is there so much less smoking in movies today?

  • With scenes almost entirely in one room and based mostly on dialogue, how did Hitchcock build the suspense in this movie? Was it effective?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:May 29, 1954
DVD release date:September 1, 2009
Cast:Grace Kelly, Ray Milland, Robert Cummings
Director:Alfred Hitchcock
Studio:Warner Bros.
Run time:105 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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  • Good: Pretty engaging; good learning approach.
  • Fair: Somewhat engaging; OK learning approach.
  • Not for Learning: Not recommended for learning.
  • Not for Kids: Not age-appropriate for kids; not recommended for learning.

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What parents and kids say

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Adult Written byDr3w November 17, 2011

Killer Movie

Dial M for Murder is not one of Hitchcock's greatest movies, but it's still pretty good. My main gripes with the film are a few long talking sequences early on where not much happens and that in general I couldn't find anyone to root for. Grace Kelly's character is a married woman having an affair with the leading man (although all that is shown is some mild kissing) and her husband is a cold-hearted man who is seeking to kill his own wife. This isn't a spoiler by the way, the dvd box tells you that much. There are really only two things parents should be aware of with this film. The first, obviously, is the adulterous relationship (which overall is handled tastefully) which the film never really condemns as wrong. In fact, because of the wicked husband's actions you are almost inclined to root for the adulterers. The second is a tense murder scene at the beginning in which (without giving too much away) someone is nearly strangled and someone is stabbed with a pair of scissors (no blood, but still intense as the scissors are seen actually going into the person's back). SUMMARY: Well-crafted Hitchcock film is not one of his greats, but still makes for an interesting two hours. The film is a bit slow-moving, but no major content problems.
Teen, 13 years old Written byTiger13 June 16, 2015
Good Movie and good plot. Also has regular old murder plots. It gets kind of old after awhile, but overall. Good movie...
What other families should know
Great role models
Too much violence
Adult Written bysarge123 January 24, 2015

Fantastic Hitchcock thriller is violent and dark. 14+

What other families should know
Too much violence


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