North by Northwest
By David Gurney,
Common Sense Media Reviewer
Common Sense Media Reviewers
Witty Hitchcock thriller piles on suspense and innuendo.
A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The transformation of the main character sends the message that people can change for the better and that sometimes there's more to someone's character than first appears. Themes include integrity, perseverance, and courage.
Positive Role Models
Thornhill is a twice-divorced ad exec who spouts his philosophy at the beginning of the movie as "In the world of advertising there's no such thing as a lie, there's only expedient exaggeration." When he's set up we see a big shift in his character -- he risks his own life for the truth and then for love. The CIA is shown as unscrupulous, willing to let Thornhill die to cover their tracks. Eve is played as mysterious and cunning and joked about as promiscuous -- but she's a damsel in distress ready to be saved by Thornhill in the end.
Violence & Scariness
Roger Thornhill is kidnapped at gunpoint, then force-fed a bottle of bourbon (not shown) and put behind the wheel of the car, which he almost crashes numerous times on a windy road. A character gets knifed in the back. A crop duster fires shots and chases Thornhill, later exploding when it hits a truck. A death is faked by shooting and more shots are fired at the main characters as they dangle from a great height.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Violence & Scariness in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some kissing with clothes on and the implication that Thornhill and Eve slept together in a train bed. Lots of forward sexual banter along the lines of "what can a man do with his clothes off for 20 minutes?" after Thornhill sends his suit to be pressed.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Sex, Romance & Nudity in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
"Treacherous little tramp" is as strong as the language gets.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Language in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Plenty of hard liquor drunk and mentioned. Some smoking typical of the era, including a matchbook with Thornhill's initials used to seductively light Eve's cigarette. Thornhill is force-fed bourbon then drives drunk to evade the bad guys, ending in a "funny-drunk" scene at the police station.
Did you know you can flag iffy content? Adjust limits for Drinking, Drugs & Smoking in your kid's entertainment guide.Get started
Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that North by Northwest is a Hitchcock classic that includes suspenseful scenes such as a forced drunken car chase on windy roads and a crop duster chase with shooting and an explosion. Typical of the era, there's drinking of hard liquor and smoking, with a seductive lighting-up featured in one scene. More seductive elements include forward sexual banter and some kissing -- the clothes stay on but there's a mention that the main characters slept together in their train car. It's also worth noting that the main character undergoes a big transformation, from fast-talking and unscrupulous ad exec to a man who risks his own life to find out the truth that will exonerate him.
To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Where to Watch
Videos and Photos
North by Northwest
Based on 6 parent reviews
A true classic, unlike Citizen Kane
Report this review
Report this review
What's the Story?
In NORTH BY NORTHWEST, Cary Grant stars as Roger Thornhill, an advertising executive who is mistaken for a spy named George Kaplan. When his life is turned upside down, Thornhill decides the only way to get his life back is to track down the real Kaplan himself.
Is It Any Good?
Sure to entertain viewers with even the most diverse of tastes, the film is a true cinematic pleasure with an impressive pedigree. North by Northwest is consistently light and comic. Some sort of silly comment or joke relieves even the tensest scene. Cary Grant is superb as Thornhill. The character demands large tonal shifts, from mama's boy to suave sophisticate, from terrified man on the run to indignant pawn of the government, and Grant pulls it all off convincingly. Eve Kendall (Eva Marie Saint) is a perfect foil for Thornhill's man under pressure. She's cool and mysterious, leaving Thornhill unsure of whether to trust her for much of their time together.
Talk to Your Kids About ...
Families can talk about the lasting appeal of Hitchcock movies like North by Northwest. What makes this film a classic? What are some techniques that he uses that you've seen used in other movies?
Talk about who Roger Thornhill is at the beginning and the end of this movie. Has the experience made him a better person? What is the underlying message of the movie?
How do the characters in North by Northwest demonstrate integrity, perseverance, and courage? Why are these important character strengths?
- In theaters: July 17, 1959
- On DVD or streaming: September 7, 2004
- Cast: Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason
- Director: Alfred Hitchcock
- Studio: Warner Bros.
- Genre: Classic
- Character Strengths: Courage, Integrity, Perseverance
- Run time: 131 minutes
- MPAA rating: NR
- Last updated: April 4, 2023
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.
Suggest an Update
Where to Watch
Our Editors Recommend
Thriller Books for Teens
Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.See how we rate