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M (1931)

Not Rated  |   |  Crime, Drama, Thriller  |  31 August 1931 (Sweden)
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Ratings: 8.4/10 from 90,166 users  
Reviews: 276 user | 188 critic

When the police in a German city are unable to catch a child-murderer, other criminals join in the manhunt.



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Ellen Widmann ...
Inge Landgut ...
Theodor Loos ...
Gustaf Gründgens ...
Friedrich Gnaß ...
Fritz Odemar ...
Paul Kemp ...
Theo Lingen ...
Rudolf Blümner ...
Georg John ...
Franz Stein ...
Ernst Stahl-Nachbaur ...
Gerhard Bienert ...


In Germany, Hans Beckert is an unknown killer of girls. He whistles Edvard Grieg's 'In The Hall of the Mountain King', from the 'Peer Gynt' Suite I Op. 46 while attracting the little girls for death. The police force pressed by the Minister give its best effort trying unsuccessfully to arrest the serial killer. The organized crime has great losses due to the intense search and siege of the police and decides to chase the murderer, with the support of the beggars association. They catch Hans and briefly judge him. Written by Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


Crime | Drama | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





Release Date:

31 August 1931 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

M  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$6,123 (USA) (15 March 2013)


$28,877 (USA) (31 May 2013)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (2004 Criterion DVD edition) | (2000 restored) | (re-release)

Sound Mix:

Aspect Ratio:

1.19 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Filmed in only six weeks. See more »


Judge: [last lines, about to pronounce sentence] In the name of the people...
Grieving Mother: This won't bring back our children. One needs to... keep closer watch... over our children. ALL OF YOU!
See more »

Crazy Credits

All of the original credits appear only in the beginning with no music. See more »


Featured in The Eternal Jew (1940) See more »


Le Halle du Roi de la Montagne
in "Peer Gynt Suite No.1, Op.46" (1876)
Written by Edvard Grieg
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Moments of menace..

The economy, austerity and directness of the films of Fritz Lang made him one of the most profound, and precise filmmakers...

Lang, a master of the German expressionist film, shot his first talkie, a crime drama considered a landmark in the story of suspense movies... It was a shocking idea for its time, based on the real-life killer Peter Kurten, headlined as the Vampire of Düsseldorf...

'M' is about a terrorized city, and a plump little man with wide eyes (often chewing candy) who is a pathological child-killer, unable to control his urge for killing...

The film embodies several Lang themes: the duality between justice and revenge, mob hysteria, the menacing anticipation of watching a helplessly trapped individual trying fruitlessly to escape as greater forces move inexorably in, and, for probably the first time in the cinema, it adds a new dimension to suspense: pity... For the killer is clearly mentally sick... He cannot overcome the overwhelming compulsion of his murderous disease, and yet, we see him hunted down and almost lynched as a criminal, rather than treated as a sick man...

Early in the film, the killer is heard whistling the Grieg theme from 'In the Hall of the Mountain King'. This theme inexorably becomes imbued with menace... And when we see no more than a girl looking in a shop window, the melody on the sound-track told us chillingly that the murderer is there, just out of sight...

The Murderer is played by Peter Lorre in a virtuoso performance that has barely been matched in all the thrillers he has made since 'Casablanca,' 'The Maltese Falcon,' and 'The Mask of Dimitrios.' When the photographs of his victims, all little girls, are shown to him, he jumps back and twitches with horror...

With powerful visuals, Lang's motion picture is Lorre's first film... His performance as the corpulent, hunted psychopath is a masterpiece of mime and suggestion... Lorre is the archetypal outsider-outside the law and society because of his compulsive crimes, outside the balancing society of the underworld because he is not a professional criminal... He had only twelve lines of dialog...

In the most famous of all about a pathological killer - Alfred Hitchcock's 'Psycho' - Anthony Perkins lacked not only the threat of the tortured Peter Lorre, but also the dimension of invoking our incredulous sympathy...

'Psycho' reeked with blood and horror, whereas the suspense of 'M' is subtle... A child's balloon without an owner, a rolling ball, are enough to tell us that another murder had been committed... The audience, trapped in its seats, torn by ambivalent feelings towards the killer, watched him trapped as the net is pulled tight...

134 of 160 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

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