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The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  24 November 1955 (Argentina)
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Ratings: 8.1/10 from 59,372 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 361 user | 168 critic | 8 from

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.


, (uncredited) , 1 more credit »


(from the novel by), (screen play), 1 more credit »
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Complete credited cast:
Evelyn Varden ...
Sally Jane Bruce ...
Gloria Castillo ...
Ruby (as Gloria Castilo)
Rest of cast listed alphabetically:
Emmett Lynn ...
Birdie Steptoe (scenes deleted)


It's the Great Depression. In the process of robbing a bank of $10,000, Ben Harper kills two people. Before he is captured, he is able to convince his adolescent son John and his daughter Pearl not to tell anyone, including their mother Willa, where he hid the money, namely in Pearl's favorite toy, a doll that she carries everywhere with her. Ben, who is captured, tried and convicted, is sentenced to death. But before he is executed, Ben is in the state penitentiary with a cell mate, a man by the name of Harry Powell, a self-professed man of the cloth, who is really a con man and murderer, swindling lonely women, primarily rich widows, of their money before he kills them. Harry does whatever he can, unsuccessfully, to find out the location of the $10,000 from Ben. After Ben's execution, Harry decides that Willa will be his next mark, he figuring that someone in the family knowing where the money is. Despite vowing not to get remarried, Willa ends up being easy prey for Harry's outward... Written by Huggo

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

widow | preacher | children | money | doll | See All (286) »


The wedding night, the anticipation, the kiss, the knife, BUT ABOVE ALL... THE SUSPENSE! See more »


Approved | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:



Release Date:

24 November 1955 (Argentina)  »

Also Known As:

Die Nacht des Jägers  »

Box Office


$795,000 (estimated)

Company Credits

Production Co:

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:

(Western Electric Recording)

Aspect Ratio:

1.66 : 1
See  »

Did You Know?


Charles Laughton reportedly worked well with the boy playing John, but did not get along with the girl playing Pearl and shouted at her on occasion. As Laughton had the camera continue to roll after the scenes were finished, the camera often caught her reacting to him. Some of these "out-takes" were used in the final editing process as reaction shots to the Preacher's character. See more »


The back cover of the movie magazine Harry buys for Ruby is completely blank. See more »


Rachel Cooper: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit. Neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Wherefore by their fruits, ye shall know them.
See more »


Spoofed in Mister Smile (1999) See more »


Leaning on the Everlasting Arms
(1887) (uncredited)
Music by Anthony J. Showalter
Text by Elisha A. Hoffman
Sung a cappella by Robert Mitchum often
Also sung a cappella by Lillian Gish
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

6 November 2005 | by (Melbourne, Australia) – See all my reviews

I was lucky enough to see this in a cinema with a restored print. I had previously caught a snatch of it while channel surfing cable TV, and saw enough in about 30 seconds to realise that this was worth watching through if I got the chance.

I could barely speak at the end of the film. Pauline Kael called it one of the scariest movies ever made, and she was absolutely right. Robert Mitchum becomes the embodiment of evil, and his pursuit of the children is so relentless, and so menacing, that it becomes impossible to believe that they can escape. The images are brilliant; there's a depth to black and white that colour somehow lacks, and it is used superbly here to create a sense of brooding terror.

I didn't mind the homily at the end. Like everything else in the film, it is done with utter conviction, and this makes it work. Charles Laughton saw it as the indispensable conclusion to the film, and the strength of his belief makes it indispensable.

The images are so much part of the film that it must lose a great deal on the small screen, although my minimal exposure to it in that environment showed that it was still well worth watching, but if you get a chance to see it in a cinema, jump at it.

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