Murder on the Orient Express (1974)

Movie review by
Andrea Beach, Common Sense Media
Murder on the Orient Express (1974) Movie Poster Image
Wonderfully glamorous, classic whodunit still entertains.
  • PG
  • 1974
  • 128 minutes

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 9+
Based on 2 reviews

A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

Agatha Christie's usual strong messages about bringing criminals to justice are blurred here. The movie strongly suggests that the murder victim deserved to die, and that justice is best served by letting his killer (or killers) go free. One of the characters is a missionary in Africa who refers to the children she teaches as "little brown babies more backward than myself."

Positive Role Models & Representations

Hercule Poirot isn't very likable, and fortunately isn't at all interested in being liked. He's only interested in using his genius to bring criminals to justice, but this time he leaves that decision to someone else. One of the great characters of detective fiction, he's a good role model for never giving up, being a keen observer, and paying attention to detail. All the other characters are both good and bad, and most are clearly hiding something.

Violence

The backstory is revisited many times and involves the kidnapping five years earlier of a young child, possibly a toddler, who eventually is killed. Four other tragic deaths related to the aftermath of the kidnapping are also mentioned with emotional intensity. Newspaper-type photos show startling images from that previous crime scene, suggesting violence without being bloody or gory. Reenactments show someone being hit on the head from behind. The main plot involves a murder by stabbing; blood dripping from the mouth, bloody stab wounds, and bloody sheets are briefly visible. A reenactment shows reaction shots while the crime is being committed but the actual stabbing is offscreen. A bloody dagger is held up. A punch in the face. A man points a gun at another. Mention of a premature, stillborn birth and that the mother died as a result of the birth. Mention of past suicides by shooting and jumping out a window.

Sex

A couple kisses a few times. A man asks another if the book he's reading is about sex.

Language

"Frog" as derogatory slang for a French person.

Consumerism
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Many characters and background characters smoke cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. A few scenes show meals with wine glasses, and once Poirot is shown having a strange, green, after-dinner drink. Characters suggest having cognac. Toasting with champagne. Several mentions of sleeping aids, sedatives, and powder, probably poison, being poured into a drink.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Murder on the Orient Express is an adaptation of the classic Agatha Christie novel featuring Hercule Poirot. The case involves a murder by stabbing; some bloody wounds, bloody bedsheets, and a trickle of blood from the mouth are briefly shown. A reenactment shows the crime with the actual stabbing offscreen. An important backstory involves the kidnapping and murder of a young child, and several other tragic deaths as a direct result of that incident. Reenactments of the past crime are dark, with intense music and some startling photos simulating newspaper coverage. Lots of characters smoke cigarettes, pipes, and cigars, so it's a good chance to talk to kids about how attitudes have changed about smoking, and about the role movies have played glamorizing it. Adults drink alcohol. People mention taking sedatives to help them sleep. A drink being poisoned is shown. It's a good opportunity to talk to kids about the racism behind Greta's attitude toward "the little brown babies."

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byAmy Y. June 9, 2018

An excellent film!

This was a great film. The information provided regarding the sensitive content is clear enough except for the language. Aside from the French derogatory term,... Continue reading
Parent of a 10 and 12 year old Written byHendo H. U December 30, 2017
Teen, 14 years old Written bymovielover735 November 8, 2017

Wonderful, tame film keeps the audience guessing

Content: Sex 1/5: A woman is wearing a dress that reveals some cleavage. A man is reading a book, and another man asks if the book is about sex. --- Violence 2/... Continue reading
Kid, 10 years old March 3, 2018

Great movie

It's always fun to feel the suspense of "Who did it" with the whole family and this movie is full of it.

What's the story?

Famous detective Hercule Poirot (Albert Finney) gets a last-minute ticket to MURDER ON THE ORIENT EXPRESS when he's suddenly called back to London from Istanbul. When the train has to stop and wait for snow to be cleared from the tracks, the body of the unlikable Ratchett is discovered. Poirot has no fewer than a dozen suspects to choose from (Lauren Bacall, Ingrid Bergman, Sean Connery, Anthony Perkins). The head of the railroad wants the case solved before the train gets to the next station, so Poirot will have to work quickly to solve the case. Of course, Poirot's more than up to the task. But is justice served?

Is it any good?

Acclaimed director Sidney Lumet's version of this Agatha Christie classic is as much a loving tribute to old Hollywood glamour as it is a riveting adaptation of one of the all-time great mysteries. Murder on the Orient Express brings together fantastic acting from what in 1974 was the crème de la crème of both Hollywood and the London stage, gorgeous costumes, a beautiful setting, and one of the best surprise solutions in the genre.

Younger kids may be frightened by the backstory, with its reenactments of a child's kidnapping. Otherwise the violence is mild; some blood is briefly shown, and the murder on the train is reenacted without showing any actual blood or gore. But tweens and up old enough to enjoy sinking their teeth into a good murder mystery, and especially those who enjoy a highly glamorized look into the past, will have fun laughing at Poirot's mustache as they marvel at his brilliant solution to the crime.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about justice in Murder on the Orient Express. Do you think justice was served? Why or why not?

  • Why are murder mysteries so popular? What makes a good one? Which are your favorites, and why?

  • Have you read the book, or any other Agatha Christie mysteries? If not, would you like to now? If you did, how does the movie compare? Which did you like better?

Movie details

Themes & Topics

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