A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
The importance of a fair trial is shown throughout. Being knowledgeable and good at your job, and using these qualities to do good.
Positive Role Models
Sir Wilfrid Roberts is a grumpy barrister who ignores doctors' orders to drink, smoke, and take on a stressful murder case. He is excellent at his work, professional, and his attitude is revealed to be more jovial than harmful. Miss Plimsoll is a nurse tasked with keeping Sir Roberts healthy. She is confident, assertive, and good humored. Leonard Vole is on trial accused of murder and his wife, Christine, is called as a witness. Their stories are revealed throughout the movie.
The cast is entirely White. A character makes a xenophobic remark. But the remark is quickly shot down and they are made to look foolish. The women in the film are strong-willed, confident, and competent.
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Violence & Scariness
Character "jovially" threatens to hit their nurse on a few occasions. Gunfire shown in a Western movie playing in a movie theater. Soldiers shout lewd comments and rip the trousers of a bar singer, resulting in a scuffle and arrests. Character who has a scar on their face explains that their lover cut them. A character is stabbed in the stomach and killed but no blood is shown.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Flirting and innuendo. Lewd comments made.
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The word "damn" is used on several occasions. A character makes a negative remark about the behavior of "foreigners."
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
A plot point involves a character smoking cigars and drinking brandy against doctors' orders. A wartime bar is packed with people smoking and drinking alcohol. Two characters drink sherry together.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Witness for the Prosecution is a superb Oscar-nominated mystery drama adapted from an Agatha Christie play. It tells the story of the grumpy but excellent barrister Sir Wifrid Roberts (Charles Laughton), who goes against doctors' orders to defend a man accused of murder. The murder is shown on-screen, but with no blood or injury detail. Being an Agatha Christie story, there are thrilling twists and turns. The 1957 movie has a typically all-White cast, lots of smoking, and some drinking. A character that makes a negative comment based on someone being "foreign" is made to look foolish by a German character played by Marlene Dietrich. There is some innuendo and during a flashback to a wartime club, soldiers shout lewd comments at a singer and rip her trousers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
During the end credits of this superb mystery drama, an announcer requests that the audience don't tell their friends the ending. This 1950s attempt to cap spoilers for Witness for the Prosecution still stands, as to experience the film's twists with no prior knowledge is something special. But the end is just one of many things that make this movie brilliant. From the start, director Billy Wilder balances comedy and mystery masterfully and the audience leans in further with each new revelation.
Given its elements, it'd be near impossible for Witness for the Prosecution to fail. There's a master director in Wilder (Sunset Boulevard, Some Like It Hot). Agatha Christie dreamt up the twisted tale. Laughton as Sir Wilfrid Roberts is in a perfect adversarial double act with Elsa Lanchester as his nurse. And as for Tyrone Power and his wife -- played by Marlene Dietrich -- getting to the bottom of their story is a blast. Dietrich is striking, enigmatic, unreadable, and utterly thrilling. Part comedy, part thrilling courtroom drama and a mystery until the very end, this is a quiet classic. Case closed.
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.