Up 108 this week

The Desperate Hours (1955)

Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 7.6/10 from 5,593 users  
Reviews: 55 user | 21 critic

Glen, Hal and Sam are three escaped convicts who move in on and terrorize a suburban household.



(screenplay), (adapted from the novel and play by), 1 more credit »
0Check in

User Lists

Related lists from IMDb users

a list of 40 titles
created 07 Feb 2011
a list of 25 titles
created 03 Jun 2012
a list of 35 titles
created 05 Oct 2012
a list of 32 titles
created 10 months ago
a list of 28 titles
created 8 months ago

Connect with IMDb

Share this Rating

Title: The Desperate Hours (1955)

The Desperate Hours (1955) on IMDb 7.6/10

Want to share IMDb's rating on your own site? Use the HTML below.

Take The Quiz!

Test your knowledge of The Desperate Hours.
3 wins. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Certificate: Passed Thriller | Film-Noir | Drama
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

An embittered, vengeful POW stalks his former commanding officer who betrayed his men's planned escape attempt from a Nazi prison camp..

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Stars: Van Heflin, Robert Ryan, Janet Leigh
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A writer meets a young socialite on board a train. The two fall in love and are married soon after, but her obsessive love for him threatens to be the undoing of both them and everyone else around them.

Director: John M. Stahl
Stars: Gene Tierney, Cornel Wilde, Jeanne Crain
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A private eye escapes his past to run a gas station in a small town, but his past catches up with him. Now he must return to the big city world of danger, corruption, double crosses and duplicitous dames.

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Jane Greer, Kirk Douglas
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A religious fanatic marries a gullible widow whose young children are reluctant to tell him where their real daddy hid $10,000 he'd stolen in a robbery.

Directors: Charles Laughton, Robert Mitchum, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Robert Mitchum, Shelley Winters, Lillian Gish
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.8/10 X  

A war-veteran-turned-truck driver attempts to avenge the crippling and robbing of his father at the hands of an amoral produce scofflaw.

Director: Jules Dassin
Stars: Richard Conte, Valentina Cortese, Lee J. Cobb
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

Whilst on the telephone, an invalid woman overhears what she thinks is a plot to murder her.

Director: Anatole Litvak
Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Burt Lancaster, Ann Richards
Niagara (1953)
Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

As two couples are visiting Niagara Falls, tensions between one wife and her husband reach the level of murder.

Director: Henry Hathaway
Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Joseph Cotten, Jean Peters
The Prowler (1951)
Drama | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

When Susan Gilvray reports a prowler outside her house police officer Webb Garwood investigates and sparks fly. If only her husband wasn't in the way.

Director: Joseph Losey
Stars: Van Heflin, Evelyn Keyes, John Maxwell
Tight Spot (1955)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.7/10 X  

Sherry Conley, a street tough and cynical woman with an unhappy family background, is taken from prison to a hotel, where the DA tries to convince her to testify against a mobster. Sherry ... See full summary »

Director: Phil Karlson
Stars: Ginger Rogers, Edward G. Robinson, Brian Keith
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.9/10 X  

A multinational group of train passengers become involved in a post-World War II Nazi assassination plot.

Director: Jacques Tourneur
Stars: Merle Oberon, Robert Ryan, Charles Korvin
Possessed (1947)
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A dazed woman walks the streets of Los Angeles looking for a man named David. After collapsing in a diner, she's taken to the psychiatric ward of a nearby hospital. Flashbacks reveal her ... See full summary »

Director: Curtis Bernhardt
Stars: Joan Crawford, Van Heflin, Raymond Massey
Drama | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

The secretary of an affably suave radio mystery host mysteriously commits suicide after his wealthy young niece disappears.

Director: Michael Curtiz
Stars: Claude Rains, Joan Caulfield, Audrey Totter


Complete credited cast:
Deputy Sheriff Jesse Bard
Ellie Hilliard
Hal Griffin
Chuck Wright
Mary Murphy ...
Cindy Hilliard
Richard Eyer ...
Robert Middleton ...
Sam Kobish
Tom Winston
Sheriff Masters
FBI Agent Carson
State Police Lt. Fredericks


After escaping from prison, Glenn Griffin, his brother Hal and a third inmate Sam Kobish randomly select a house in a well-to-do suburb of Indianapolis in which to hide out. The home belongs to the Hilliard family, Dan and Ellie who live there with their 19-year old daughter Cindy and their young son Ralph. They plan on staying only until midnight as Griffin is awaiting his girlfriend who will meet them with some money he had stashed away. When she doesn't arrive, their stay stretches out to several days. Dan Hilliard plays their game knowing that if he makes any attempt to contact the police, his family could be caught in the crossfire. Written by garykmcd

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis


A reign of violence sweeps the screen


Approved | See all certifications »




Release Date:

13 February 1956 (Sweden)  »

Also Known As:

The Desperate Hours  »

Box Office


$2,388,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


The first black and white movie in VistaVision. See more »


Before Glenn asks Eleanor if she could make a phone call without crying, he puts his left hand in his pocket. When she stands up and walks to the phone, he puts the same hand in the pocket again. See more »


[first lines]
[the morning newspaper hits the front door]
Eleanor Hilliard: I'll get it, darling.
Dan Hilliard: Some morning I'm gonna catch up with that kid.
See more »


Referenced in My Mother the Car: Desperate Minutes (1966) See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

The Badges Of Madison County
23 December 1999 | by (London, England) – See all my reviews

Dan Hilliard and his family are perfect Americans, corresponding admirably to the bourgeois ideal. The two children are bright, good-looking and obedient. Cindy is about 20 and is going steady with an attorney who owns a sports car. Ralphy is eight or so, all plaid shirts, jeans and attitude. He has a baseball mitt and a bicycle. Ellie, Dan's wife, runs their spotless home with quiet efficiency. Everything is in its place. Trash collectors call at fixed times. Breakfast is a serene family ritual. The Hilliards' home life is as balanced, as regular and as dull as the barometer on the wall. As for Dan Hillier himself, he has attained that mythic status to which all 1950's bourgeois males aspired - he is an executive. The middle classes don't want adventure in their lives, they want predictability. And this is the perfect, dream-like state in which the Hilliards pass their anodyne existence, secure in their suburban womb - until the American Nightmare is unleashed upon them.

What if members of The Underclass, with their dirty, unshaven physicality and their sagging, torn clothes should irrupt into the suburbs? What if, by some catastrophic failure, the police and the prison service can't keep The Underclass in its designated containers? How will nice folks like the Hilliards cope if confronted by these alien beings?

There has been a jailbreak. The citizens of Indianapolis have been warned to watch out for three desperadoes - the two Griffin brothers and their accomplice Kobish. Little do the Hilliards realise as they go about their tranquil suburban lives, but the fugitives are about to choose the Hilliard home as a place to hole up ...

Like "Suddenly", made a year earlier, this is a 'bad guys invaded my home' movie. The downside of bourgeois affluence is the fear that the disenfranchised masses will come to take away your goodies.

Humphrey Bogart was in his late 50's and clearly ailing when he played the part of Glenn Griffin, the leader of the fugitive trio. He would make only two more films in the short time that was left to him. Dewey Martin, 26 years his junior, plays his kid brother Hal.

More than anything, "The Desperate Hours" is a film about social class. "You can't play ball with savages like that," opines a Madison County detective. Glenn holds his social superiors in equal contempt, calling them "smart-eyed respectable suckers". He warns Hal not to expect any favours from the class enemy: "Guys like Hilliard ever give you a fair shake?" Much play is made of linguistic markers which separate the educated from the rest ('whom' instead of 'who'), and contrasts in table manners between the refined Hilliards and their thuggish captors. Glenn lashes out against the tea tray, that emblem of middle-class gentility, and the virginal Cindy, whom he urges Hal to 'take'.

Dire though the Hilliards' predicament may be, they are not alone. They are exactly the kind of people the forces of law and order exist to protect and serve, and it is not long before Madison County's finest and the FBI are closing in on the fugitives. And the cops have science on their side. They can tap the phone of Glenn's girlfriend in Pittsburgh, and tail her across America as she heads for the rendezvous. In the police station, the humming wires never rest as technology narrows down the bad guys' options.

Middle-class sensibility is all-pervasive. Chuck and Cindy argue near the sports car, but break off abruptly when two people pass by. No matter how deeply the emotions may run, it isn't seemly to fight in front of the neighbours. Dan's secretary can tell, from nuances of his behaviour, that something is very wrong. Similarly, the trashman senses that things are amiss with Ellie by the quality of her chat. We see Cindy admiring her curves in front of the hallway mirror, because it is important that she be sexually desirable (so that the fugitives will regard her as a chattle). Chuck, however, has to remain sexually thwarted, because his behaviour is bound by rigid bourgeois restrictions. We see him raise the arm-rest in his sports car in the hope of a grappling session with Cindy, then lowering it dejectedly when he realises that his luck is out. Dan's wave to Chuck to cross the threshold is a symbolic acceptance of him as a son-in-law. He has made it into The Family.

Light represents goodness. Cindy comes home after another chaste date with Chuck and is bathed in bright light on the doorstep. Dan and Ellie declare their love for each other, their bodies lit intensely in an otherwise black bedroom. The searchlights of the police, and the bad guys' vain attempts to eradicate them, show us figuratively what we yearn to see - that good will always triumph over social disruption.

The overpowering of Ellie, the smashing of Ralphy's toy plane and the collapse of Cindy all happen on the same spot and are all filmed from the same low angle. These dramatic incidents show the Hilliards at bay, and the unusual vantage-point stresses the 'wrongness' of what is happening.

Implausibilities abound throughout the movie. How likely is it that the front door would be left unlocked, that Chuck would reach the house ahead of the cops, or that Dan would insist on carrying a gun, then empty its clip? Why would he hesitate to call the police in, once he got the upper hand? Why would everyone leave the family unattended, moments after the conclusion of a violent and dramatic siege?

And yet it works. Glenn's love of his brother breaks through his tough-guy facade, and after he gives his guns away he undergoes a tragic 'King Lear' moment of self-realisation. These are powerful moments in a powerful film.

17 of 25 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
Questions about plot, etc. profprimbud
The House bob827
Firewall? tbcaudle
Cindy and Chuck beardouk
climatic scene : bogie vs march onleft23
Chuck's car mabandon
Discuss The Desperate Hours (1955) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page

Create a character page for: