The Maltese Falcon

Movie review by
Nell Minow, Common Sense Media
The Maltese Falcon Movie Poster Image
Excellent, but too mature for the littlest kids.
  • NR
  • 1941
  • 101 minutes

Parents say

age 11+
Based on 2 reviews

Kids say

age 10+
Based on 3 reviews

A lot or a little?

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

Positive Messages

Subtle prejudice against less-than macho Joel Cairo and Wilmer, who are (in the mildest 1940 terms) implied to be gay.


Some suspense, scuffles, threats of violence.


Implication that Spade was having an affair with Archer's wife.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this crime drama has some intense scenes and a little drinking. While there's little in the way of objectionable content, this film noir is too dark for little ones.

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User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Adult Written byBestPicture1996 December 25, 2014

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... Continue reading
Parent of a 13-year-old Written byTsion May 23, 2009

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 thril... Continue reading
Teen, 17 years old Written by_____________ August 29, 2015
Kid, 11 years old July 2, 2009


It was a good movie in general but they had some bad role models.

What's the story?

In this classic film noir, private detective Sam Spade (Humphrey Bogart) gets a visit from Ruth Wonderly (Mary Astor), who asks him to help find her sister. Sam sends his partner, Miles Archer (Jerome Cowan) to follow her when she meets Floyd Thursby, the man she thinks her sister is with, and both Archer and Thursby are killed. It turns out that the woman is really Brigid O'Shaughnessy, and it turns out it is not her sister she is seeking, but a small, jeweled statue of a falcon, and she's mixed up with some people who will do anything to get it. One of those people is Joel Cairo (Peter Lorre), who comes to see Sam to insist -- with a gun -- that he be allowed to search Sam's office to see if it is there. Sam is not at all intimidated by Joel, but allows him to search. Also after the statue is Mr. Gutman, "the fat man" (Sidney Greenstreet), with his "gunsel," Wilmer. They alternately threaten and attempt to bribe Sam, while Brigid appeals to his protective nature and his heart. But Sam turns them all over to the police, including Brigid, whom he loves.

Is it any good?

One of the most interesting aspects of this classic movie is the way that Sam Spade thinks though the moral dilemmas. When he is deciding whether to tell the police about Brigid, he is very explicit about weighing every aspect of his choices. It is 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 could not 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.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about what Sam means when he says the statue is "the stuff dreams are made of." Where is Sam faced with moral conflicts? How does he resolve them? What are his reasons?

Movie details

Our editors recommend

For kids who love suspense

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