Down 2,217 this week

The Night of the Hunter (1955)

Approved  |   |  Crime, Drama, Film-Noir  |  24 November 1955 (Argentina)
Your rating:
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 -/10 X  
Ratings: 8.1/10 from 60,478 users   Metascore: 99/100
Reviews: 374 user | 168 critic | 8 from Metacritic.com

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 »
Watch Trailer
0Check in

Watch Now

From $2.99 on Amazon Video

Top Rated Movies #239 | 1 win. See more awards »



Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Touch of Evil (1958)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A stark, perverse story of murder, kidnapping, and police corruption in a Mexican border town.

Director: Orson Welles
Stars: Charlton Heston, Orson Welles, Janet Leigh
Diabolique (1955)
Drama | Horror | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

The wife of a cruel headmaster and his mistress conspire to kill him, but after the murder is committed, his body disappears, and strange events begin to plague the two women.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Simone Signoret, Véra Clouzot, Paul Meurisse
The Third Man (1949)
Film-Noir | Mystery | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.3/10 X  

Pulp novelist Holly Martins travels to shadowy, postwar Vienna, only to find himself investigating the mysterious death of an old friend, Harry Lime.

Director: Carol Reed
Stars: Orson Welles, Joseph Cotten, Alida Valli
Crime | Drama | Film-Noir
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

A private detective takes on a case that involves him with three eccentric criminals, a gorgeous liar, and their quest for a priceless statuette.

Director: John Huston
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Mary Astor, Gladys George
La Strada (1954)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A care-free girl is sold to a traveling entertainer, consequently enduring physical and emotional pain along the way.

Director: Federico Fellini
Stars: Anthony Quinn, Giulietta Masina, Richard Basehart
The Big Sleep (1946)
Crime | Film-Noir | Mystery
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Private detective Philip Marlowe is hired by a rich family. Before the complex case is over, he's seen murder, blackmail, and what might be love.

Director: Howard Hawks
Stars: Humphrey Bogart, Lauren Bacall, John Ridgely
High Noon (1952)
Drama | Western
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A marshall, personally compelled to face a returning deadly enemy, finds that his own town refuses to help him.

Director: Fred Zinnemann
Stars: Gary Cooper, Grace Kelly, Thomas Mitchell
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A psychotic socialite confronts a pro tennis star with a theory on how two complete strangers can get away with murder - a theory that he plans to implement.

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Farley Granger, Robert Walker, Ruth Roman
Notorious (1946)
Drama | Film-Noir | Romance
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A woman is asked to spy on a group of Nazi friends in South America. How far will she have to go to ingratiate herself with them?

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Stars: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman, Claude Rains
Adventure | Drama | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.2/10 X  

In a decrepit South American village, men are hired to transport an urgent nitroglycerine shipment without the equipment that would make it safe.

Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Stars: Yves Montand, Charles Vanel, Peter van Eyck
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

A bitter aging couple with the help of alcohol, use a young couple to fuel anguish and emotional pain towards each other.

Director: Mike Nichols
Stars: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal
The Killing (1956)
Crime | Film-Noir | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 8.1/10 X  

Crooks plan and execute a daring race-track robbery.

Director: Stanley Kubrick
Stars: Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards


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, figuring that someone in the family knows where the money is hidden. Despite vowing not to remarry, 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 (287) »


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?


A scene depicting the townsfolk going into the Spoon store after watching a movie is the only complete scene that was actually shot and later completely discarded. See more »


(at around 1h 22 mins) A wire is clearly visible on the owl before it catches the rabbit. See more »


[Pearl reaches to touch Powell's switchblade]
Rev. Harry Powell: No, no! Don't you touch that, little lamb. Don't touch my knife, that makes me mad. That makes me very, very mad.
See more »


Remade as The Streets of San Francisco: River of Fear (1975) 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

Overrated in the extreme
18 August 2008 | by (New York City) – See all my reviews

Ben Harper (Peter Graves) steals $10,000 and leaves the money in the keeping of his children, John (Billy Chapin) and Pearl (Sally Jane Bruce), hoping they might one day find their way out of the economic trauma of the Depression-era South. John knows where the money is hidden, but Harper has sworn him to secrecy, a move John quickly resents when posing preacher Harry Powell (Robert Mitchum) comes to town. Powell shared a cell with Harper, who, immediately after hiding the money, was arrested for murder and armed robbery. Ben is executed, and the wicked Powell, released from jail, moves in on Willa (Shelly Winters), Harper's gullible widow, hoping to draw out the secret of the money's location. As tensions mount, it becomes progressively clear that the only hope for the children's salvation rests with regional matriarch and philanthropist Rachel Cooper (Lillian Gish) who always keeps her doors open for displaced youngsters.

It's not often that I'm stumped by the question of why a classic is a classic, but thanks to Night of the Hunter, I know it's not unthinkable. Yes, the cinematography is amazing, even by the standards of film noir, but the pace is rushed, the plot is a walking disaster, and the characters – if we can call them that – more closely resemble flotsam.

The movie opens with Gish's disembodied head floating on a backdrop of stars, the drifting heads of children listening with rapt attention to her formulaic Bible-talk. Even if we grasp the intended irony of the moment – a dreamy segue into a deadly nightmare – there's no escaping how God-blastedly cheesy the image looks, how it feels more like a presage to Sesame Street or an eighties sit-com than a purportedly moving work of horror. As an intro, it destroys any precedent for subtlety. We're less than a minute into the movie and it's already abundantly clear that our storytellers have absolutely no faith in our ability to figure anything out for ourselves.

The trend continues with the introduction of Harry Powell. Eschewing what could have been a very creepy experience – encountering the dark side of Powell in a slow, subtle, and action-driven manner – Powell hits us over the head with a string of didactic monologues, our occasion for discovery smashed right at the outset. Ben Harper, by contrast, is dispensed with so quickly we're barely aware of his presence. He's a completely wasted opportunity, a perfunctory McGuffin for an even more perfunctory plot. The movie would have been much more powerful if John had gone through the story haunted by the memory of a loving father who died in a desperate act to provide for him. Instead, Harper's only function is to set the story in motion, and as soon as he does this, he disappears from view and from memory.

Willa Harper is even more obnoxious. A pivotal factor in the story, Willa's fanatic devotion to Powell is the main instigation of everything else that follows, but because we never get a sense of who Willa was prior to Powell's arrival, her devotion feels unfounded, her behavior seems unreasonable, and, as a consequence, everything else in the story feels like it's balancing on thin air. Why is this woman so easily brainwashed? Why does Powell consistently come out on top? Every single plot-point is, at best, the product of characters acting mysteriously, and at worst, the product of characters behaving in a manner completely opposed to reason. How an entire town can get swept up in the patently obvious lies of a figure like Powell is beyond me, especially to the extent that they side against their own. There's nothing particularly strategic about Powell's methods, nor is he notably charismatic or even all that bright. He constantly loses his temper, performs actions so rash and brainless you'd expect immediate rejoinder, and holds among his many beliefs the bone-headed conviction that the best way to track down a fugitive is to ride through open country and sing at the top of his lungs. Yet Powell always gets way, because the rest of the universe is too stupid to stop him, and it's precisely this idiocy that drives the story forward, not the heroes, and certainly not the villain.

Which brings me to the last point: acting, i.o.w. what the devil is everyone smoking? I respect Robert Mitchum a great deal, but his performance as Powell is woefully over-the-top, in-your-face, and not the least bit compelling. Gish is great, but the credits start rolling before she's even gotten her feet on the ground. Shelly Winters is a tremendous actress, and she does her best as Willa, but again, the character is so poorly written that she comes across feeling like a mariner who's been thrown off the edge of a ship, floundering for all she's worth, but no match for the dead-weight of the screenplay, which drags her to the bottom and feels no remorse. Worst of all is Chapin as John, suffering from prolifically delayed reaction time, always lagging at least a second-and-a-half behind whatever he's supposed to be responding to. Expressions of shock and anger seem to come out of nowhere, a clear indication of his being taught to look and act in a particular way at a particular moment without anyone telling him why. I'm not blaming the kid for this. I'm blaming Charles Laughton, who found children so dislikable he dumped them all on Mitchum, who did his best to direct them, but was clearly not up to the punch.

All in all, I'm at a loss as to why this movie continues to garner such widespread acclaim, save the unfortunate reality that the herd mentality of movie criticism discourages any kind of dissension, so we continue trumpeting the virtues of fossils, long after they've outlived their usefulness.

29 of 43 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Message Boards

Recent Posts
How did Mitchum know... matteo_raw3000
Who would be a good Harry Powell in a remake? Koolio06
It just fell apart ath-11
8.2 Rating? Did I miss something? cann85
Not impressed Normal-Bates
Anyone else notice that Pearl was useless.... appleseiter15
Discuss The Night of the Hunter (1955) on the IMDb message boards »

Contribute to This Page