Rear Window



Hitchcock masterpiece stars peeping Jimmy Stewart.
Popular with kids
  • Review Date: April 9, 2007
  • Rated: PG
  • Genre: Thriller
  • Release Year: 1954
  • Running Time: 112 minutes

What parents need to know

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

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.


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.


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.

Not applicable

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.

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. 

What's the story?

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?


Whole college courses have centered around Alfred Hitchcock's fiendish, compact, and sometimes lighthearted REAR WINDOW. The tension gets so exquisite that viewers unaware of this film's reputation might almost miss the cinematic gimmick that made Rear Window quite an achievement: it never leaves Jeff's room. Not once. 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!

Families can talk about...

  • Families can talk about 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?

Movie details

Theatrical release date:August 1, 1954
DVD release date:March 6, 2001
Cast:Grace Kelly, James Stewart, Wendell Corey
Director:Alfred Hitchcock
Studio:Universal Studios Home Entertainment
Run time:112 minutes
MPAA rating:PG

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Kid, 12 years old July 21, 2011

Mind twisting

I liked it, but twiste your mind.
What other families should know
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
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 word. Not meant for children less than, I'd say 10.
What other families should know
Too much violence
Kid, 9 years old September 9, 2009


What other families should know
Too much violence


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