Rear Window

Movie review by
Charles Cassady Jr., Common Sense Media
Rear Window Movie Poster Image
Hitchcock masterpiece stars peeping Jimmy Stewart.
  • PG
  • 1954
  • 112 minutes
Popular with kidsParents recommend

Parents say

age 12+
Based on 6 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 23 reviews

We think this movie stands out for:

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Mixed-messages. Though the ethics of eavesdropping and spying are topics of the characters' conversation in a number of scenes, the outcome eventually validates the act of eavesdropping and spying. And though the protagonist at times seems nosy, interfering, and is very much a Peeping Tom, the behavior is validated when he becomes a hero.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Traditional 1950s roles: men are photographers, cops, salesmen; women are caregivers, ballerinas, and work in the fashion industry. The female lead tries to break the mold and take part in the action, however, she ends up having to be rescued. The only person of color in the film is a stereotypical African-American voice at the other end of a phone call.

Violence

Several suspenseful scenes when characters get too close as they investigate a possible murder. One scary stalking sequence results in a scuffle during which the hero's life is violently threatened. A dog that the audience has come to know is found dead, its neck broken. After a crash and scream are heard, there's talk of possible murder and dismemberment.

Sex

Many romantic kisses, embracing, cuddling -- no nudity or actual sexual activity. A ballerina, in scanty clothing obliviously frolics in her apartment as men observe her on numerous occasions. It is implied that a newlywed couple makes love from dawn till dark.

Language
Consumerism

Life Magazine, General Motors.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

As was typical of movies made in the 1950s, there is an easy, unquestioning consumption of alcoholic beverages in various social situations: at dinner, while visiting, at parties, and while relaxing alone. Two minor characters are shown drinking excessively. Several characters smoke.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Rear Window, considered a classic Alfred Hitchcock mystery, reflects the social and ethical values of the 1950s when it was made. Characters drink and smoke frequently; the men often leer at pretty women; and the film is set in an all-white urban neighborhood. The theme of the film, however, has currency. It's about voyeurism -- spying on unaware neighbors, jumping to conclusions about those neighbors, and acting impulsively. One suspenseful scene finds the wheelchair-bound hero in physical jeopardy from an attacker who may be a murderer who dismembered his wife. A dog is found dead with its neck broken. 

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 13 year old Written byTsion February 25, 2009

A Thrilling and Old-Fashoined Thriller!

If your kids want to see a cool thriller, but you are cautious around big-budget slasher flicks, rent this from Blockbuster and watch it together on a Friday ni... Continue reading
Adult Written byUnknown Agent November 20, 2015

Great

Great movie. Nudity: A woman appears only with her bra and panties for a few seconds. Violence: Some mild Violence. 12+
Teen, 13 years old Written byBestPicture1996 December 6, 2009

No "Rebecca" or "Vertigo" by any means

But I still was very much held in suspense. It is a marvelous thing, all these Hitchcock movies, and how all of them were nearly perfect in all senses of the wo... Continue reading
Kid, 9 years old September 9, 2009

GO ALFRED

YOU ROCK I KNOW YR DEAD BUT YOU STILL ROCK AND I LOVE YOUR MOVIES AND THIS IS ONE OF YR BEST YET YOU RULE (THROWS CONFETTI FOR ALFRED HITCHCOCK)THE SUSPENSE IN... Continue reading

What's the story?

In REAR WINDOW, Jeff (James Stewart), a photojournalist, is confined to a wheelchair after breaking his leg shooting a car race. Now he recuperates in his Greenwich Village flat, getting occasional visits from his gorgeous model-girlfriend Lisa (Grace Kelly) and putting up with a visiting nurse. Bored by immobility and equipped with an arsenal of binoculars and telephoto SLR lenses within reach, Jeff amuses himself by spying on his neighbors across the courtyard, from his rear window. Jeff finds that each tenant, some lonely, some oversexed, embodies a different pathology of male-female relationships. At first it's funny to Jeff, seeing a newlywed woman wearing down her husband with frequent lovemaking and a solitary bachelorette going dateless night after night. But then there's a burly guy named Lars (Perry Mason's Raymond Burr), unhappily married to a nag. Jeff becomes convinced that Lars has just snapped and murdered his wife, then possibly dismembered her body in packing cases. But is Jeff correct? And how can he convince someone? And what if the menacing Lars discovers he's been watched?

Is it any good?

The tension gets so exquisite in this film that viewers unaware of its reputation might almost miss the cinematic gimmick that made it quite an achievement: it never leaves Jeff's room. Not once. Whole college courses have centered around Rear Window, Alfred Hitchcock's fiendish, compact, and sometimes lighthearted film.The POV outside Jeff's rear window into the other windows is like looking into an array of TV screens (or comic-strip panels), the little New York stories unfolding in each one, often simultaneously (and, yes, that's Ross Bagdassarian, creator of the cartoon characters Alvin & the Chipmunks, as a songwriter). 

Throughout his career James Stewart was an a boyishly all-American good guy, though there were a few exceptions, and Hitchcock especially likes to tap into an inner darkness using the wholesome actor. Though he's partially a victim of his disability, Jeff does seem to enjoy being what could be called a "peeping Tom," and there's a question of whether his new pastime of voyeurism is a healthy one or not -- never mind the crime-solving fringe benefits -- and what's the deal with him enjoying looking at strangers, but avoiding intimacy with the beautiful, accommodating Lisa? If wanting to watch makes Jeff some sort of pervert, what does that make us, the audience? We're watching him -- watching them!

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about how Rear Window shows the alienation of urban life, about people living on top of one another in high-rises, yet remaining strangers.

  • Jeff and his motivations are a big part of this movie's intrigue. As a photographer, he has to compose images for a living. When his broken leg means he can't do his job, can he be excused for continuing to habitually watch ordinary people?

  • What would be different if this movie was made today?

  • How do TV, Web sites, video blogs, and especially reality TV add to the movie's theme about the ethics of scrutinizing real people for entertainment?

  • Do you consider Jeff a role model in Rear Window? Is he curious or nosy? Why is curiosity an important character strength?

Movie details

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