A WW2 U-boat crew is stranded in northern Canada. To avoid internment, they must make their way to the border and get into the still-neutral USA.



(original story and screenplay), (scenario) | 1 more credit »

Watch Now

$0.00 with Prime Video

Won 1 Oscar. Another 2 nominations. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Drama | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

A 'Land Girl', an American GI, and a British soldier find themselves together in a small Kent town on the road to Canterbury. The town is being plagued by a mysterious "glue-man", who pours... See full summary »

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Eric Portman, Sheila Sim, Dennis Price
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

When Nazi anti-aircraft fire damages a British bomber, its crew bails out and seeks help from the Dutch underground.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Godfrey Tearle, Eric Portman, Hugh Williams
Certificate: Passed Comedy | Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

From the Boer War through World War II, a soldier rises through the ranks in the British military.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Roger Livesey, Deborah Kerr, Anton Walbrook
Hour of Glory (1949)
Drama | Romance | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

As the Germans drop explosive booby-traps on 1943 England, the embittered expert who'll have to disarm them fights a private battle with alcohol.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: David Farrar, Jack Hawkins, Kathleen Byron
Drama | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

Joan Webster is an ambitious and stubborn middle-class English woman determined to move forward since her childhood. She meets her father in a fancy restaurant to tell him that she will ... See full summary »

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Wendy Hiller, Roger Livesey, George Carney
Comedy | Drama | Fantasy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A British wartime aviator who cheats death must argue for his life before a celestial court.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: David Niven, Kim Hunter, Robert Coote
Night Ambush (1957)
Action | Adventure | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.6/10 X  

Led by British officers, partisans on Crete plan to kidnap the island's German commander and smuggle him to Cairo to embarrass the occupiers.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Dirk Bogarde, Marius Goring, David Oxley
Fantasy | Music | Musical
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A melancholy poet reflects on three women he loved and lost in the past: a mechanical performing doll, a Venetian courtesan, and the consumptive daughter of a celebrated composer.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Moira Shearer, Robert Rounseville, Ludmilla Tchérina
Blackout (1940)
Adventure | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7/10 X  

Early in World War II, Danish sea captain Andersen, delayed in a British port, tangles with German spies.

Director: Michael Powell
Stars: Conrad Veidt, Valerie Hobson, Hay Petrie
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8/10 X  

After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension - both with the natives and also within their own group - as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Deborah Kerr, David Farrar, Flora Robson
The Red Shoes (1948)
Drama | Music | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

A young ballet dancer is torn between the man she loves and her pursuit to become a prima ballerina.

Directors: Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger
Stars: Anton Walbrook, Marius Goring, Moira Shearer
Certificate: Passed Drama | History | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

A way of life is dying on an Outer Hebridean island fishing port, but some of the inhabitants resist evacuating to the mainland.

Director: Michael Powell
Stars: Niall MacGinnis, Belle Chrystall, John Laurie


Cast overview, first billed only:
Richard George ...
Eric Portman ...
Raymond Lovell ...
Lieutenant Kuhnecke
Niall MacGinnis ...
Peter Moore ...
John Chandos ...
Basil Appleby ...
Johnnie - the Trapper
The Factor
Ley On ...
Nick - the Eskimo
Anton Walbrook ...
Charles Victor ...
Frederick Piper ...
Philip Armstrong Scott


In the early years of World War II, a German U-boat (U-37) sinks Allied shipping in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and then tries to evade Canadian Military Forces seeking to destroy it by sailing up to Hudson Bay. The U-boat's Fanatical Nazi captain sends some members of his crew to look for food and other supplies at a Hudson Bay Company outpost. No sooner than the shore party (lead by Lieutenant Hirth) reaches the shore, the U-boat is spotted and sunk by the Canadian Armed Forces leaving the six members of the shore party stranded in Canada. The Nazi Lieutenant then starts to plan his crews' return to the Fatherland. He needs to reach the neutral United States or be captured. Along the way they meet a variety of characters each with their own views on the war and nationalism. In this film Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger show their ideas of why the United States should join the Allied fight against the Nazis. Written by Steve Crook <steve@brainstorm.co.uk>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

nazi | u boat | canada | seaplane | fight | See All (43) »


THE MIGHTEST MANHUNT THAT EVER SWEPT THE SCREEN! (original poster-all caps) See more »


Drama | War | Thriller


Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:





| |

Release Date:

15 April 1942 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

49th Parallel  »

Box Office


£132,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


| (TV)

Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Mirrophonic Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.37 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Peter Cushing had gone to Hollywood before the war, but things hadn't worked out too well and he ended up doing a variety of odd jobs, which is how he came to be making props (not acting) on this film. One day he had the job of making flags for model boats to be pushed around a map, and he made a lot of swastikas and laid them out in his digs. They were found by his landlady, who promptly called the police. See more »


The woman heard over the Factor's radio (the wife of the man he plays chess with via radio) speaks with a thick Brooklyn accent ("sub*moige*"), when in fact she lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. See more »


[first lines]
Prologue: I see a long, straight line athwart a continent. No chain of forts, or deep flowing river, or mountain range, but a line drawn by men upon a map, nearly a century ago, accepted with a handshake, and kept ever since. A boundary which divides two nations, yet marks their friendly meeting ground. The 49th parallel: the only undefended frontier in the world.
See more »

Crazy Credits

(Spoken introduction) "I see a long straight line athwart a continent. No chain of forts, or deep flowing river, or mountain range, but a line drawn by men upon a map nearly a century ago, accepted by a handshake and kept ever since. A boundary which divides two nations yet marks their friendly meeting grounds, the 49th parallel, the longest undefended frontier in the world." See more »


Prelude: The New Commonwealth
Composed by Ralph Vaughan Williams
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Subtle and intelligent analysis of liberal democracy
2 July 2001 | by (Grimsby, England) – See all my reviews

Although 49th Parallel was conceived as a wartime propaganda film, and is predictably heavy-handed in places, it is more often surprisingly subtle and ambivalent. Michael Powell's creativity, individuality and directorial skill lift the film above the standard flag-waving banality which might be expected from the genre.

Although the general point of the film, particularly aimed at the Americans, is that the Nazis are evil and should be opposed, Nazis are in fact the central characters, and it could be argued that Lt. Hirth (Eric Portman) is the hero. Although he is clearly not a nice person and displays many of the cliched trappings of the stereotypical evil Nazi, he is portrayed sympathetically in some ways. It is possible to sympathise with him and his men because they are lost and alone in a foreign country which they cannot comprehend and where no-one can comprehend them. The war is shown not as a simple battle between absolute good and absolute evil, but as a clash of cultures. Hirth belongs to a German tradition of loyalty, obedience and service to the state which is much older than Hitler. He genuinely cannot understand the concepts of democracy, liberalism and individualism, and is completely bewildered by the lifestyle of the Hutterite community, asking not only "who is your leader?" but "what's the salute?". He is an idealist who believes that he and the rest of the Nazis know what is best for everyone. In Powell's view, the war is not just about democracy against dictatorship, but also liberalism against authoritarianism, individualism against conformity and, above all, pragmatism against idealism.

The way the conflict is illustrated through the German sailors' encounters with diverse Canadians is subtle, intelligent and highly effective. The Canadians are not portrayed as heroes. They have very human failings. They are mostly complacent, ignorant, and hypocritical. They try to bury their heads in the sand and pretend the war isn't happening until they are forced to make a decision by their unexpected encounters with Hirth and his men. Johnny, the French-Canadian fur trapper (Laurence Olivier, horribly miscast), comes across as arrogant and obnoxious, and seemingly has little interest in the war. Scott (Leslie Howard) is appallingly smug, hypocritical and self-absorbed, avoiding involvement in the war by retreating to the Rocky Mountains. Although he is fashionably disdainful of the Nazi leaders, he is unmoved by what they have done in Europe. He is only shaken out of his complacency when the Germans vandalise his books and paintings! Significantly, Hirth crows that " we kicked him out of the Reich years ago" as he burns Thomas Mann's latest book. Scott must have been aware of the sufferings of Thomas Mann and others in Nazi Germany, but felt no need to do anything about it.

The overall result is that although the individual Canadians are not heroic, they eventually make up their minds and join the fight against Nazism (as Powell hoped the Americans would). They each have their own reasons for this, reasons which are often selfish, ambiguous and prosaic. In this, they are the antithesis of the disciplined and idealistic Hirth. It is made clear that those who oppose the Nazis are not merely fighting out of blind loyalty to their countries, but nor are they fighting for any abstract ideal. Democracy is not portrayed as an ideal, but as a pragmatic solution: the worst system apart from all the others. The liberal democratic society of the western world is shown up as a mess, but it is a reasonably happy mess. It is superior to the nightmare of Nazi Germany precisely because it is pragmatic, flexible and individualistic. People are free to live their lives as they choose without an authoritarian government telling them what is best for them. For these reasons, 49th Parallel has an enduring resonance.

Vogel's defection to the Hutterites emphasises the humanity of the Germans and the fact that they were not all enthusiastic Nazis. But ironically, in leaving the Nazis, Vogel loses his sense of duty and becomes as hypocritical and self-obsessed as the Canadians. Although Vogel is not sympathetic to the Nazi cause and shows remorse for his involvement with it, he is not proposing to fight against it. He merely wants to hide from reality with the Hutterites and carry on baking bread, regardless of the outside world. His wish to go back to "how things used to be" is essentially the wish of an adult overwhelmed by reality to return to childhood. In this sense, as well as in the more literal military and legal senses, he is a deserter.

Overall, this is an exceptional film, despite some wooden acting and poor continuity, which gives the impression of drastic and ill-advised cuts. For example, in one scene the Germans are stealing a car, and in the next scene they are on a train, with no clue given as to what happened in between. It is not properly explained how the remaining two escaped from the crowd in Banff, and it seems far too easy for Hirth to get on to a plane and fly to Ontario. The scenery is magnificent (and magnificently shot) and the action is genuinely exciting, although the ending is completely absurd. 49th Parallel works as art and entertainment as well as propaganda, in contrast to Nazi films of the same era. The propaganda element is subtle and intelligent, making wider points which are still relevant today. The ultimate testament to the superiority of western liberal democracy is the fact that this film was made in the way it was and allowed to be shown. In an authoritarian dictatorship, Powell would most likely have been shot for treason for making a "propaganda" film so ambivalent and unflattering to the cause it was meant to promote. Narrow minded Nazis (like Hirth) would have been unable to grasp the deeper truths and humanist values at its heart.

63 of 99 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Baker Chris398
If in western Canada why go back to Niagara Falls? SashaDabinski
Winnipeg Aerial Shot Avalon123
Just Saw this Movie tripRworld
I talk about this film... adzrussell
Locations - Etc smoner1
Discuss 49th Parallel (1941) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: