Parents' Guide to

The Maltese Falcon

By Nell Minow, Common Sense Media Reviewer

age 12+

Classic film noir has mature themes, drinking, smoking.

Movie NR 1941 101 minutes
The Maltese Falcon Poster Image

A Lot or a Little?

What you will—and won't—find in this movie.

Community Reviews

age 11+

Based on 2 parent reviews

age 11+

Classic noir has shocks, twists and a gut punch ending!

When you're a film buff, and are exploring the genre of the film noir, one of the grandaddy's has to be "The Maltese Falcon," a John Huston picture starring Bogie and Mary Astor. I read the novel it was based on, wrote an essay on it, and then watched it today (on Christmas 2014!) so I was very familiar with the text. They did not stray at all, leading to a nearly perfect film mystery where you kind of in the back of your mind know who did it the whole time. Who better to be the hardboiled Sam Spade than Humphrey Bogart, who similarly killed it as Phil Marlowe in "The Big Sleep." With his lightning fast dialogue and abrasive charisma, you can't keep your eyes off ol' Bogey, even with the femme fatale near by, Ms. O'Shaugnessy. Rounding out the cast is a creepy Peter Lorre and an Oscar-nominated Sidney Greenstreet, both interesting villains who use their verbal skills more than their weapons. The movie is all about murder, talking fast, and that amazing vocabulary they had in the 40s (I heard the phrase "cracking foxy" and nearly died). The novel is naturally more gritty and explicit, this was during the time of censorship after all, but if you can follow the plot you're golden, and the soundtrack at the very end makes it one of the most dramatic finales of all time.

This title has:

Too much violence
Too much drinking/drugs/smoking
age 11+

A Suspenseful and Thoughtful Thriller...

THE MALTESE FALCON is a great, thrilling movie, and a prime example of how great stories never fade with age. It's a great one to show kids who like thrillers or appreciate classics. There are some tense scenes, and one man is shot onscreen. Another is seen after he's been shot, but there is no blood or gore. Sam is said to have an affair with his partner's wife, it is implied that he and Brigid O'Shaughnessy slept together. There is a lot of drinking and smoking, and several characters double-cross each other and have criminal motives, though the Bogart character always stays straight.

This title has:

Too much drinking/drugs/smoking

Is It Any Good?

Our review:
Parents say (2):
Kids say (3):

One of the most interesting aspects of this classic movie is the way that Sam Spade thinks through the moral dilemmas. When he's deciding whether to tell the police about Brigid, he's very explicit about weighing every aspect of his choices. It's not an easy decision for him; he has no moral absolutes. On one hand, he loves her, and he didn't think much of his partner. On the other, he doesn't trust her, he doesn't think she trusts him, and he knows that they couldn't go on together, each waiting to betray or be betrayed. If he turns her over to the police, he loses her. But if he doesn't, he loses a part of himself, his own kind of integrity.

When this movie was made, moviegoers were used to cool, debonair detectives (like Philo Vance and Nick Charles, both played by William Powell), a sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes and Fred Astaire. But Sam Spade, created by Dashiell Hammett based on his experiences as a detective, was a modern-day version of the cowboy, a loner with his own sense of honor.

Movie Details

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